Heck of a race we've got going for the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The way it's looking the Bulls could lose 12 of 15 and finish fifth. Actually, the great majority of the questions I received this week were about the future. I suspect that has a lot to do with the NCAA tournament under way, a general disappointment with how the Bulls season continues to go and the fact most fans have given up on the Cubs. Just joking, boss. Actually, I think this is a safe place to write as the big bosses are older and may not know how to get online yet. As for the Bulls, I sense a feeling of hope, that the team is a few tweaks away from being much more competitive. And the way Shaq looked against the Bulls last Saturday and the rest of the East, it may well be true. So, as Jackie Gleason used to say, "Away we Go!" And, "More pizza."

Sam, in a previous Q&A you said how you don't pitch a trade unless it betters both teams and works under the cap. Could you then please explain why you pushed so hard for the Jalen Rose trade? --Scott Seifert, Vail, Colo.

Oh, that one. I still stand by it, though it didn't work. It's like the Eddy Curry-Tyson Chandler pairing. It was the right theory, two seven-footers, one perimeter and one power. If Jerry Krause were right, the Bulls would be heading for a championship. It was bad scouting. Though, it's so difficult to tell with high school players. It's good the NBA has them out now. The league would be better off if kids stayed in school at least three years, like the NFL, or in the minors like baseball.

The Bulls gave up Ron Artest, whom they knew and were right would have issues. And they gave up Brad Miller, whom they couldn't keep while playing Curry and Chandler and whom the Pacers couldn't even afford. And Ron Mercer. Remember that big free-agent acquisition?

The idea was the Bulls needed a go-to scorer to finish games and Jalen did that in Indiana in leading them in scoring in the 2000 NBA Finals. It made sense for both teams, but didn't work for either. It happens. You have to move on and I have. Hey, Jerry West once traded for Benoit Benjamin.

What do you think about signing Al Harrington in free agency along with drafting Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer and Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter? --Matt, Mullins, S.C.

I think the Bulls will take a hard look at Harrington because he can score some in the post at power forward, which they need. Though he is small for that position. It might work with Tyson Chandler next to him. But there remain rumors of physical problems. I think if he takes a reasonable contract, there's a good chance. If he wants too much, perhaps more than $6 million to $7 million, I think the Bulls will pass and I would as well.

I like Ronnie Brewer because he seems like a prototypical defensive big guard, which fits the Bulls' style. I'm sure they're worried, though, about his shot. I believe they'll have a higher pick, though, and would go for a big man with the Knicks' No. 1 they get from the Eddy Curry deal. It's unprotected and should be top three to five. If they miss the playoffs, they could get Brewer with their No. 1. I doubt Tiago Splitter because of contract problems.

Hi, Sam, I'm a Bulls fan since Michael's first title in 1991. If you want to be remembered as the best G.M. in Bulls history, you have to absolutely push for the next draft pick: Andrea Bargnani from Benetton. Compared to when Dirk Nowitzki was his age, he's far more skilled, athletic and gives an inside-out presence. --Giammarco, Rome, Italy

And I thought the Tribune's Italian circulation was on the near West Side. I don't think the Bulls will take a chance on a European in the first round, and I believe there'll be a backlash from Fran Vasquez staying in Europe after being a Magic lottery pick last season. Being a lottery pick with the option of staying home can be too much risk for NBA teams to take any more, so I believe there'll be a hesitancy to take international players high in the draft.

The fact is most of the good, big international big men are perimeter players and the Bulls are seeking toughness as well as size. Someone could get a steal on Bargnani like the Mavs did on Nowitzki, but I see a draft this year of American players who are a bit more experienced and ready to play.

I didn't see Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant in your list of . After this weekend surely he'd be in the top 25 regardless of whether or not a player is coming out. No? --Aaron, Peoria

Yes, though maybe just barely for now. That's the power of the NCAA tournament. Though the fact that Bradley is where it is shows just how the NBA has strip-mined college. The best talent hasn't gone to college or not stayed long, thus enabling lesser universities of higher scoring to be competitive with the institutions that use education as a minor. Thus all the so-called upsets since the big conferences won't play those so-called mid majors until they are forced to.

The talent level in college now is so poor that it's getting more difficult to evaluate players, especially talented players. It's how the Bulls missed on Tyson Chandler. He was so dominant, but didn't have to do much until he got to the NBA.

With O'Bryant's big weekend, he's moved up and teams will take a harder look, though my Monday mock draft report was labeled an early look and much changes with workouts after the season. A few years back at this time, Maciej Lampe was considered a top 10 pick until everyone got a good look. The pros hadn't seen O'Bryant much since he missed much of the first month and don't believe he'll come out because they consider him too weak for now to play in the NBA. So no one even mentioned him.

In going back to talk to some general managers, they say he might be bottom of the first round now, if he came out. Similarly with Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, though they consider him too slow and probably a second-rounder for now. I'll do another mock draft around the lottery drawing in May and should have more about them then.

Are you concerned that the way the Bulls have treated Tim Thomas (and to a lesser extent Eddie Robinson) by paying them to sit home will hurt the team when it's trying to attract free agents this summer? Will players not want to come if they might get sent home? --Don Gehrich, Roselle, Ill.

Actually, I thought the Bulls treated them pretty well. They paid them and told them to take the year off. Where do you sign up for that job? This is what you have to understand about not only NBA players, but all pro athletes: They are mercenaries. I loved the line from the Seinfeld show that we are rooting for laundry. Terrell Owens now loving Dallas? Bulls fans loving Dennis Rodman after he nearly decapitated Scottie Pippen in 1991 and then was a big part of the walkout before the end of Game 4?

We all love our jobs to some degree, but if we can make more money we will usually change. So will NBA players. Nobody refuses to go anywhere because of the way someone else was treated. They look at it like an opportunity for them. Players chase money and playing time. Their agents chase money. The Bulls have money and generally are considered to have one of the league's most generous organizations regarding the way they travel and their practice facilities. Watch the parade of players coming in here this summer. And without bands at the airport.