Well, that was quick again. I know everyone got all misty and sentimental about those hard-working, never-give-up, hope-your-kid-is-like-those Bulls. But the reality is this: Twice out in the first round in six games and you're not that close. You need big-time players to make plays at big times, and again the Bulls didn't have that. They need that. Whether they can get that is the question and isn't going to be easy.
There are a few true stars in the NBA, and the teams they play on aren't going to give them up easily. Andres Nocioni isn't going to get to play against Antoine Walker all the time. So hold up on the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. That said, I truly believed the Bulls could beat Miami, and Game 1 against the Nets only convinces me more. It didn't happen because the Bulls still don't have a closer ,and the question is how you get one. Though in that third quarter of Game 5, you wouldn't have bet on the Heat. So now it's draft time and soon free agent time and the Bulls will have to do well. It ought to be entertaining.
Tyson Chandler being the next coming and all this Chandler trade talk is free throws. Free throws were a major sore spot this season. If you changed nothing else but the free throws for the first three and a half quarters, when most of the end game strategy is decided, if the Bulls just improved by an average of five per game, based on their season, they would have at least won 6 of the 13 losses (either in OT or by 1 - 3 points), let alone the additional seven games they lost by 4-6 points. Chandler and Sweetney missed more than their share. With the Bulls scoring capabilities in Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni and even Songalia and Sweetney (if he can loose weight and get quicker), everyone would be praising Chandler for the defense and energy he brings, instead of dwelling on his offensive liabilities. Now, he will never be a Wilt Chamberlain, but with the Bulls' current makeup, he does not need to be. A good 8-10 PPG, with 4-5 offensive rebounds a game will be very loved by the fans. I would be very happy with two or three Tyson Chandler type players in the middle. --Jeff, Madison, Wis.
It's always nice when Tyson's family writes. Actually, Chandler gets more than his share of blame. Though with his salary jumping to $9 million next season, I think he's OK with it all. Part of the problem is we judge everything by money. Not that it is completely unfair since what you pay one player affects what you can pay others. I believe what hurt Chandler the most this season was the loss of Eddy Curry. It was unavoidable the way things worked out last summer, but Curry was the lightning rod and allowed Chandler to just play. Chandler is too sensitive for his own good and is bothered by the criticism. I believe it's one reason he panics during games. It's the self-fulfilling prophesy. He worries about mistakes, so he becomes tentative and makes them, mostly bad shots or passes he runs away from. Curry drew defenses so Chandler was able to roam around on the weak side and get offensive rebounds or on defense block a shot as teams concentrated going at Curry. The Bulls admitted losing Curry would be a step back, and they were right. The point was the draft picks and salary cap room would give them a chance to recoup this summer, and if they can with size it will aid Chandler. As for the free throw shooting, I often think the Bulls play so relentlessly that they are tired when they come to the line and their concentration wanes.
I am a Chinese. I liked Tyson, but I think he is overestimated and overpaid. He has a disappointed season this year. He is just like an amateur. Most of Chinese professional basketball players are better than this guy. So I think the Bulls should trade him. --Neil Chen, Nanjing, China
Ouch! I don't think Tyson realizes he's not respected throughout the world. Trading Tyson could be a problem as he is a base-year player with his new contract coming in this season and thus hard to trade. I believe the Bulls will wait, see if they can get a few big players this summer and if they will work out, and then they look to deal him after next season. Though if trading him sooner will help relations and trade issues between our countries I believe the Bulls will look into it.
Regardless of the outcome, it was great to watch the Bulls play all out in the playoffs. I really like the direction the team is heading but wonder if there is a hidden gem out there for the Bulls. While it is fun to dream of blockbuster trades or the next superstar draft pick, a "value" trade, or free agent can also have a tremendous impact on a team. I am thinking of the Pistons trade for Ben Wallace whose numbers and career really blossomed when he got to Detroit or Boris Diaw who languished in Atlanta and now thrives in Phoenix. Do you have any ideas for undiscovered gems that could thrive on the Bulls? Morris Peterson from Toronto would be a great 2 guard for the Bulls. He is big, athletic, can score, shoot threes, came from MSU (a quality program) and played for Sam Mitchell, who makes Skiles seem reasonable.
Separately, I have noticed that international players like Nocioni, Brezec and Diaw need a year or two to acclimate to the NBA. I am curious if you agree with this observation. Do you have any thoughts on another international player who is on the verge of a breakout as they are maturing? Perhaps Mickael Pietrus falls into this hidden gem category for the Bulls to consider though I have seen less of him than I have Peterson. --Peter, San Francisco
That's my guy, Pietrus. I think he's been underutilized in Golden State and never can get a chance with all the perimeter gunners they have. I've mentioned dealing for Jason Richardson, but I think the price will be too steep. I'd make a run at Pietrus. The Bulls considered him in the Hinrich draft for his defense and while he's not a great shooter, I think he could improve. The Raptors are unlikely to deal Peterson, whom I think would be good, but I think you can put together something for Pietrus. The Warriors probably would like to dump some salaries and I think the Bulls could go for a package with Troy Murphy, whom they've had interest in over the years.
Hey, Sam, I have just seen Chicago for the first time this season and was really impressed. I love the way Skiles has them playing. They are always moving without the ball trying to get those cuts to the basket for easy shots. But I noticed that they lacked inside presence. Sweetney looks good but doesn't have the height. I think instead of gambling on a college player were you have to wait a few years, trade the picks and maybe Chandler and Gordon for a re-signed Chris Bosh. Unless they can get Garnett, which I think they have a shot no matter what people in Minnesota say I think Bosh would be better than Jermaine O'Neal. --Michael Bennet, Scotland
And we thought all you guys did was play golf and stand on the Swilken Bridge and sing "Auld Lang Syne." I agree Minnesota should deal Garnett and probably won't, but I don't see Toronto letting Bosh go, or more so Bosh playing out his contract for two years to be a free agent. All the kids want security and I expect Bosh to re-up this summer. As for O'Neal, I believe they'll try to deal him, but will want him out of the East and for an All-Star. I believe the Bulls will try to make a big hit, but the fallback is players who can fit the rotation and contribute and I believe that's the most likely possibility.
Sam, I know you've gone over this multiple times, but can you address the Kevin Garnett rumors? Whether a trade is likely to happen, what is a realistic deal we would make to get him? Paxson certainly would not give up too much and risk losing its core. I figure Tyson Chandler has to be included to make salaries match, plus a draft pick (our first or second?), and an expendable player with value, maybe Gordon or Deng? Chandler, Gordon, and our second pick, then we draft Brandon Roy? What is the likelihood? --Mike, Downers Grove, Ill.
I believe the Bulls can make a serious run at Garnett. Look, it's nice to have a hard-working team, but I believe you need some star talent to make a move in the playoffs. I know Garnett hasn't, but if you can keep Hinrich and Nocioni or Deng and then go into free agency for one player and have one pick, you may have enough to make a move now. The East is deep only through one team, Detroit. I don't see why with one big move the Bulls can't move up to second in the East next season. But I don't see it with adding just picks and a role-playing free agent. It's nice to keep your core together and grow, but the question is just who will emerge from this Bulls group as that player. If there was one, I'd say keep it as it is. But it still looks like a good complementary core needing one player to make it work.
Hey, Sam, what do you think of us trading our two picks for Jason Richardson? Or how about going after Latrell Sprewell. I know, I know...but still! And then get Nazr or Pryzbilla for some inside size. --Shariq Shafi, Lisle, Ill.
It should help season ticket sales. You wouldn't pay to watch Sprewell and Skiles? NO chance, of course, even if Sprewell decides to play again. Golden State probably isn't going to move Richardson and if they do, it will be for an All-Star or All-Star level big man. Mohammed and Przybilla certainly are possibilities.
A lot has been written and said regarding Kobe's three-shot performance in Game 7 of the Phoenix series. Kobe and Phil Jackson claim that they wanted to win the right way, employing the pass-first mentality that won them three games earlier in the series. While Kobe's tendencies to sabotage have been well documented, I think it's unlikely that Kobe would actively sabotage things at such a key juncture in his career, having come so far this year. What are your thoughts? --A. Arain, Lombard, Ill.
This is what I think happened and it is Jordanesque. I don't buy that sabotage thing. Bryant had 23 by halftime and was on the way to 50 and the Lakers were in trouble, down 15 and going nowhere. So knowing Phil Jackson, he told Bryant the first four games they went inside and distributed the scoring and got up 3-1, that was their only chance. Kobe has been buying in and did so early in the series. So he does in Game 7 and the plan doesn't work and they're down 30 and can't guard the mop kids. It's over, so Kobe packs it in. If he shoots crazy now they lose and he's blamed for being selfish. So he shuts it down. Jordan did something similar in the 1989 conference finals against the Pistons. The Bulls were losing and the Pistons were double and triple-teaming Jordan, so Doug Collins told Jordan to move the ball and not shoot so much. OK, you think those guys can win! Jordan took eight shots in 46 minutes. Michael Jordan could get eight shots off on anyone getting off the bus. The Bulls couldn't recover and Jordan just stopped shooting. It was Game 5 of a six-game series loss. But Kobe is a villain and lightning rod too so much of the blame goes to him. I don't think he was deserving of so much criticism.
Sam, surprised no one has mentioned this, which probably means it's a real stupid question, but here it goes: Would Chicago consider A.I.? I've heard Philly really wants to move him. Couldn't Chicago use a guy that averages 30 a night and can take over in the clutch? I know there's the whole "practice" thing, but maybe he's grown up a little. If it didn't work, they could always call up Isiah Thomas and trade him for three first-rounders.--Jon, Fort Town, Fla.
Good one. I'm on board on the Bulls' character thing. It's not so much that their players would collapse if a bad guy were around, but bad character guys infect a team. Not to say Iverson is a criminal. I don't see that. It's his basketball behavior. He still doesn't practice and I'm not sure he even can any more with all his injuries and the way he plays. Plus, he monopolizes the ball and the best thing about the Bulls is the way they move and share and keep the defense off balance. Iverson is the anti-Bull and I don't even see the team discussing him.