If the Bulls had extended their losing streak to six with a loss the lowly Clippers, I might've been out of answers. Thankfully, here's another batch.

If the Bulls fail to turn their season around, who's a likely casualty at the end of the year, Paxson, VDN or both? And if the plug is pulled on the VDN experiment, who would be the leading candidates to teach and take advantage of the talents of Derrick Rose? --Greg, Chicago

Welcome to this week's mailbag, huh? I've been wrong countless times before, but I don't get the sense firings are imminent. For starters, let's all remember that Del Negro was hired after Paxson signed off on the hirings of Mike D'Antoni and Doug Collins. The reasons why neither of those hirings played out have been recounted ad nauseum, and I still maintain if D'Antoni had waited a bit longer and seen the Bulls win the draft lottery, he'd be coaching the Bulls. But I digress.

The Bulls knew a learning curve came with Del Negro, who has a three-year deal. And team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf never has enjoyed paying coaches who don't work for him. As for Paxson, Reinsdorf rarely gives on-the-record interviews. But in the last one I had with him--in the wake of the D'Antoni debacle--I asked him specifically about Paxson.

Here's what Reinsdorf said last May 12: "John's one of the better decisions I've made," Reinsdorf said. "I have total confidence in John. He's done a great job and he's an even better person."

Word is, Reinsdorf's view hasn't changed. His history also shows that he is loyal to management and views such figures as long-term commitments.

I have to ask, is Vinny incompetent or is he trying to lose? Friday against Toronto, Ben Gordon was having a terrible night shooting through the first three quarters. In the first 8:27 of the fourth, he scored 9 points. With 3:33 left in the game and the Bulls down by 8 but shooting a free throw, Vinny pulls Gordon, undoubtedly his best scorer. After Gordon was pulled, The Raptors scored 12 points and the Bulls 2. Sunday against Minnesota, with the Bulls holding a 2-point lead with the Ball and 1:10 left in the fourth quarter, Rose takes matters into his own hands, ignoring open teammates, to make three wild drives, tossing the ball at the backboard with no real chance of scoring. One is fortunately rebounded by Noah, the other turns into a Timberwolves basket to tie the game. With 23.9 seconds left, Rose holds the ball too long and then throws up a prayer. As a rookie, I assume his instructions to shoot himself, even though others were more open, came from Del Negro. Obviously we missed and lost in OT. I repeat, is Vinny incompetent or is he trying to lose? --Bill Wayne, Fitchburg, Wis.

Something tells me this mailbag isn't going to be very positive. I think Vinny's substitution patterns have been one of his inconsistencies this season. As I've said in other mailbags, I think his ability to hold players accountable with playing time--and do so in a non-punitive manner by giving players second chances quickly--has been a strength, particularly for a rookie coach. But I think his inexperience, plus all the injuries the Bulls have had, have prevented him from finding a consistent rotation. And, yes, the Gordon decision was noticed by more than just you.

As for the Rose plays in Minnesota, I have zero problem handing the ball to the team's best penetrator and most dynamic offensive player. I would like to see more creativity on play calls, though, and apparently the final play of regulation was going to feature something other than a high screen-and-roll. But Rose dribbled the wrong way, negating whatever play we were going to see with Gordon flaring. That's not on Del Negro. That's on Rose.

This fourth quarter garbage is really starting to tick me off. Every time Del Negro calls a timeout to design a play (which obviously is not Vinny's strongpoint) he's been calling Rose's number. I don't know if he keeps wanting Rose to take the last shot to help with his development or if he thinks that will win the game. It's not just the fourth, it's every quarter all season. He hasn't called Gordon's number to take buzzer beater all season. If he's doing it for Rose's development it's not very smart on Vinny's part because Vinny probably won't be around to see Rose bloom. I think Vinny should be taking every game as a must win. Your thoughts, Almighty One? -Gabe, Lakewood, N.J.

At least we finally have something positive. And I'm talking about my first reference as a deity of course. (And trust me, if I was almighty, I'd be saving the world, not covering a sub-.500 basketball team.) Sorry to diss you after showing me love, but Gordon took the last shot in the road loss to the Knicks. Larry Hughes won the road Utah game with a buzzer beater. So it's not every time. It's a lot of times, and if I were coaching, it would remain a lot of times. I would like to see Gordon get occasional cracks at it, but off something Vinny draws up and/or Rose penetration. Maybe we'll see that botched play in Minnesota at another time.

Can Hinrich, Gordon and Rose all have good games on the same night or is it cosmically impossible? --Matt Ahrens, San Carlos, Calif.

Just trying to inject a little humor into all the negativity.

I hate piling on Joakim Noah, but I'm just curious what the Bulls staff is doing to help with his defense? After the draft, it was obvious that offense was not going to be a strong suit, but he could at least bring energy and defense. It seems to me, though, that he is always getting owned in the post. Is there any way to toughen him up? -- Neeraj Chhabra, Philadelphia

You won't see too many games where a player posts a double-double with seven blocks and still gets owned defensively. But that's what Al Jefferson's 39 points in Minnesota did to Noah. At least we're past the conditioning questions as the second-year big man truly has worked hard to get in better condition after a serious ankle injury in August and then that eye injury during training camp. Noah actually has bulked up physically from last season but still gets pushed around way too easily. That has to be addressed during the offseason--no matter what team he's playing for.

Allow me an opportunity to vent. Since the return of Hinrich, I am starting to see a trend that is definitely counterproductive to the development of Derrick Rose and a bit disturbing to me as a longtime and staunch Bulls fan. The Bulls best player, Rose, is slowly but surely being taken out of the game, by VDN and/or Hinrich. VDN is starting to sub Rose much sooner and more often. In the Toronto game, Rose was repeatedly yanked in and out of the line-up, especially in the second half. Also, in his first three games back (2 of 3 wins) Hinrich did a good job of playing off the ball and producing. However, since then (last 4 games, all losers) Hinrich is dominating the ball even when Rose is in the lineup. If the Bulls grab a rebound, everyone is looking to outlet or otherwise get the ball to Hinrich instead of Rose. If the other team scores, Rose gets the inbound pass, dribbles over half court, passes to Hinrich and never sees the ball again. Obviously, this does not happen with every play, however, it is definitely predominant and I am starting to see Rose's confidence and aggressiveness begin to wane when Hinrich is in the game with him (the final play of the third quarter in the Toronto game was a microcosm). I thought that Rose was the point guard, leader in training and the "star of the future" for this team. It seems that VDN and Hinrich have forgotten this and I put the blame for that squarely on VDN and Pax (Pax should be reminding his coach of the priorities). They need to remember and not do stuff to screw this kid up or it may be time for me and a lot of Bulls fans to join the "dump Vinny & Pax" crowd. -- Eric Harrell, Crownsville, Md.

Funny. Rose talks about how much he enjoys playing with Hinrich. I'll defer to him.

So let me get this straight, from your answer to my question last week are you claiming to have invented sports on the Internet? If that's the case I'm going to have to build a monument for you, Al Gore (inventor of the Internet), and my friend Chris (who claims to have posted the first naked girl picture on the Internet, discovering its true purpose). If I'm unable to get the funding for a proper monument, you may all have to settle for me micturating your names in the snow, if that's OK. I guess I should ask a Bulls question, so here goes. Do you think the thought of calling a timeout ever enters Vinny Del Negro's head when the other team goes on its inevitable fourth quarter run to put the game out of reach? I mean I've seen him call one when the deficit reaches 13 or 14 points but the games over at the point. I'd love to actually watch an entire game for a change instead of always missing the last two minutes because my remote is sticking out of the TV screen. --Cleetus, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Cleetus, you rule. As for your question, I'd answer but Al Gore and I are currently saving the planet.