Can the Bulls sell on Kirk Hinrich while his stock is still relatively high, get a true point guard (maybe from Memphis, who should be looking to deal one), and use the remaining core/expiring contracts to be a desirable destination for LeBron/DWade/Bosh when or if they hit the market? --Tommy, Tulsa, Okla.
I have received a lot of questions like this one and rather than answer all will give my defense of Hinrich. He is being made the scapegoat for the Bulls' poor season by the fans and the coaching staff and I'm not fully sure why and certainly don't agree.
Ben Gordon and Luol Deng turned down, which makes him a third or fourth option player. Had they taken their deals, he would be fourth highest paid player and perhaps fifth by next season.
What I don't quite understand is what is expected of him. He works hard all the time. He doesn't take off for injuries. He plays defense and out of position without complaint. He is not nearly the most physically talented player or an All Star. But the Olympic coaches picked him to tryout and play for the team. They didn't ask anyone else who plays for the Bulls.
Is he a classic point guard? No. He wasn't one in college. He came and did what the Bulls asked of him. He was selected in the draft by the Bulls because Jay Williams got injured and Dwyane Wade wasn't available. He isn't having his best season, but his numbers are generally on par with his career averages, just down from last season. He gets himself in some bad situations with fouls and doesn't always make the perfect pass. So if the Bulls have a better point guard they should play him.
Hinrich can make a shot and shoot with some range. He'd probably be better in a two-guard front setup, but now Larry Hughes has shown up and he doesn't want to handle the ball. Hinrich hasn't always liked the positions he's been put in, but he doesn't complain about it. He'll guard players bigger and stronger and do a decent job. You don't have to hide him on defense and the defense needs to guard him. I don't understand why Jim Boylan seems to be jerking him around and making him appear the scapegoat for the problems the team has been having with these quick benchings. It hardly seems the best way to treat a player who has been the most loyal and hard working in the spirit of what this organization has tried to do for the last few years.
No, Hinrich is not a big star and he's not going to carry a team and maybe is not the ultimate answer at point guard. But he's a competitor and skilled and a guy I'd want on my team. If the Bulls are rejecting players like that, then I think they have real problems.
It seems like you have changed your tune regarding Kirk Hinrich. Your tone used to be much more positive about his skills, now there are lots of comments like "he's not a true point guard", and other non-complimentary quotes. I realize the Bulls aren't playing well this season as a whole, but he is the same player. What's up? Something behind the scenes that we don't know? --Kim, Iowa
See above. You are right that in some sense I have been more realistic about Hinrich, especially as he's struggled with his shooting this season. He is not a classic point guard, though I hardly see that as a criticism. Neither was Danny Ainge and he had a nice career. I see Hinrich in that mold. I think the biggest problem Kirk has is the players the Bulls expected to be better haven't been, so Hinrich has been asked to be more than he is, which is when your flaws are shown. Even more so on what has been one of the league's most disappointing teams, and clearly surprising to me.
I think the smartest trade the Bulls could make would involve Luol Deng. Although he can pad his scoring stats when the game is not on the line, he folds at crunch time, missing easy shots and turning the ball over. His reputation is bigger than what he deserves and I think the Bulls could get a nice player for him. --Dalton Winship, Chicago
They probably could, though it's similar to the Hinrich conundrum. Players look worse with a bad team. You have to be careful making moves with guys when teams are down. Deng looked awfully good last season and fans were furious when I'd mention him in trade possibilities. I believe Deng has a long career with the Bulls. He also has a position, small forward, unlike many players on the team who don't quite fit a particular NBA position. I think the contract situation affected him more than most and showed everyone he is a bit more sensitive than we thought. I believe the Bulls extend him after the season and he returns to form next season.
Why can't they try to make Ben Gordon into more of a point guard? He seems like a very smart young man. Trade Kirk Hincrich for whatever or package him with someone for a trade. BG can share PG and SG duties depending on the game, personnel. --Madhu, Chicago
Repeat after me: Ben Gordon is not a point guard. I assumed we'd passed this stage already. Ben Gordon is a shooting guard. His problem is he's a short shooting guard, which hurts him on defense. He's basically never been a point guard in his life and you don't make those. Either they see the court and the game opening up or they don't. Don Nelson last season told everyone Monta Ellis would be a better point guard because he is a small shooting guard. Sorry, didn't work. No one has ever been made into a real point guard. Ben is a unique NBA player and a very good one. He is a true, rare weapon the way he scores and the lack of fear he has. I like him a lot. But he's not a never will be a point guard.
Do you still think we sneak into the playoffs? Also, with our new players do you think any different trades will open this summer? --Michael, Chicago
With a disguise? I've thought all along they'd make a run and would make the playoffs. I exchange emails and talk with Scott Skiles on occasion. He's thought from the day he was fired the team would make a run sometime. Everytime I ask him about the team, he's reasonably optimistic and has long felt they'd get better. I've felt similarly that they'd put something together, but now since the trade the parts seem to be working even at odds with one another. There's often an adjustment period when personnel changes are made, and you watch the team now and wonder if there's a split between the new guys and old guys and as Deng noted a lot of uncertainty and confusion. It seems unlikely at this point they'll make a run this way when the only thing they've been consistent about is their inconsistency. The home loss to Washington was a killer and demonstrated some of the selfish play we've seen too much of this season. But as we like to note, in the East you never know.
Do you see Scott Skiles in his Indiana basement screaming at the TV when he sees Larry Hughes chucking up three-pointers 5 seconds into the shot clock with no one under the basket or is he smart enough to be watching the Cavs-Piston game? --Jim, Chicago
Yes, we'd love to watch Skiles with Hughes. And since he is a Hoosier at heart, yes, I believe Scott is downstairs in a fake woodgrained place sitting on a plastic bar stool. Hughes is a talented player. No question. He's the big shooting guard the Bulls have longed for. When he cares to, he can defend. With his contract, I believe he'll be with the team at least another season. But I've never been a big fan for just what you see.
I think I understand what he was trying to say in Cleveland Sunday, how Mike Brown squeezes the life out of offense and falls all over himself to accommodate LeBron. Hughes became just a spare part and is a competitor. He wanted to compete. All good things. But to say he didn't care about going to the Finals and was glad to be in a system like the Bulls where he could take losses and average 20 points and get off 20 shots or more, as he usually does now, is an insult to everything the Bulls have stood for the last few years when they were the envy of many around the NBA. That mindset is the first thing the team will have to fix this summer. Hughes is capable of being the right kind of player. It remains to be seen whether he wants to be.
If the Bulls make the playoffs and get knocked off in the first round do you think they will trade up in the draft to get Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley? --Matt, Aledo, Ill.
Sam Smith's NBA mailbag
In which Sam defends Kirk Hinrich
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.