Does it stink having to watch all the Bulls' games for your job when the team is like it is now? --Staszak, Tinley Park, Ill.
No. This may be difficult to believe, but I love watching the Bulls now as much as I did when they were winning championships. I don't enjoy the quality of play as much or the lack of fundamentals. But I do love that game, and I do love the stories behind the game. One of the great advantages of having a job like I have is knowing what goes on behind the scenes and not just the stories or where players go and what they do. I know when there might be issues between players and I will watch to see how they react to one another or what they do. Or don't, like refuse to pass because they might be mad at someone. Basketball is like life, except with more cars. The players have a great talent none of us have. But otherwise they are the same with bad moods, bad days, spouses and kids driving them nuts and petty disputes at the office. Though that's a small part of my enjoyment of the games.
NBA games on satellite and will watch Clippers-Timberwolves to the conclusion. What, that's worse than Dancing with the Stars or American Idol? They all make fools of themselves on some level. I know just about all the players, at least by reputation and ability. So I watch to see what they will do at important times, which is the measure of anyone at their job. Will they make a big shot or play or shy away and not want the ball or pressure? I like to watch what teams are doing, the matchups and which coach is taking advantage. There's a story in every NBA game and every game is a chapter in a season-long book.
I never much root for a team and don't usually care who wins. The only time I really did was the 1991 Bulls, whom I traveled with for several years in the era before charter travel and I knew them well. I felt a part of that team like a family and rooted for them when they had that chance and was truly happy for them. I think I even hugged Jerry Krause in the postgame locker room in L.A. And I didn't regret it.
So it doesn't much matter to me that the Bulls' record is so bad this season. I enjoy watching the response and the story within that. There's always dozens of things that happen in every NBA game I look for and enjoy, and it's no different with these Bulls.
As many of you know by now, I am leaving the Tribune. I need to set the record straight. I am not retiring, just moving on to work elsewhere, though that's not certain where as yet. I've had a great run at the Tribune and while it looks like maybe the best job ever, it has been. I'm grateful for the Tribune to have given me the opportunity to have the job I always wanted. I was among a rare few who can look forward every day to work. When kids ask about professions, I always say to find something you love doing and look forward to and have passion for, and if you can find that, you'll be a success. That's the secret. Of course, I was hoping for Major League baseball player first, but this has been second. But a close second.
I've gotten a wonderful response from readers, and that's one of the things I'll miss most. And what I've discovered over the years is how in tune so many readers are. Sure, there's the occasional suggestion of a Kobe for Chris Duhon trade, but the majority of emails I get are reasoned, knowledgeable and especially passionate. Some are angry and some are accusatory and some say I'm an idiot. So like I haven't heard that at home or in the locker room. I actually enjoy the debate, which is why I try to come up with different ideas and ways of looking at things. What's the fun in sports if everyone agrees?
The fun is when you don't. Sports is never having to say your sorry when you're wrong. Or ever believing you are wrong. So I will miss the debate and conversation with the readers.
With all the recent news of a rift between Mark Cuban and Avery Johnson, is there any chance the Bulls would look to him as a coaching possibility? --Steven Schnakenberg, Waymart, Pa.
I doubt it, and I doubt Avery is going anywhere. I believe he has three years left on his contract, it's not like there are great candidates out there, as I believe the Bulls will find out, and do you think Cuban isn't yelling at everyone? I heard when Avery first signed his deal he was uncertain about working for Cuban, but it wasn't like anyone else was offering him big money and a good team. My guess is if they happen to miss the playoffs, which is possible with Drik Nowitzki hurt now, or go out in the first round, they'll look to see what they can get by moving Nowitzki. There has been speculation about this after the playoff meltdown last spring and Dirk's so called lack of toughness and teams being able to defend him better in the playoffs with smaller players. I believe everything could be on the table for the Mavs this summer with a poor finish.
I think the Bulls should trade Drew Gooden, Ben Gordon(sign-trade), and Andres Nocioni for Jermaine O'Neal. --Steve, Chicago
You mean the diva who rarely plays? Who rarely practices. Who has two seasons left on his contract at more than $21 million a season. Who has become mostly a jump shooter on offense when he has played, which has been 33 games this season after missing 13 last year, 31 the year before and 38 the year before that. Yeah, that should work.
I've had mix emotions about this Bulls team all season long. But after Saturday's loss to Indiana I just felt sad. There are so many problems with this team. Where do you even begin to fix it - the coaching, the players, the front office? In addition, this team is so undeserving of a playoff spot, I think it would actually create longer term problems for them if they get the eighth seed in the incredibly weak Eastern conference. --Kevin O'Neil, North Aurora
As I said, I don't see that. Management is not fooled this time. I'm not saying they were fooled last year because I didn't hear or see anyone predict anything like this. There's going to be a major re-evaluation and I believe a very different team for next season, though as I've been saying all along and believe, they still have some decent pieces and with some more commitment and getting some players in the right position, meaning fewer of these undersized players by position so they get hurt in matchups, I see them back in the mix in the middle of the East next season. Though, yes, that's hardly elite status. But it's back to being a start and winning in the 40s again.
I was at Saturday's game. It's bad enough that Boylan ever has Gordon and Hughes on the court at the same time. How can he keep them on the court in the fourth quarter, with a lead, when neither plays defense or passes? --B. Miller, Chicago
Yes, Gordon and Hughes are a bad mix, which is why one will be gone before next season. Management wants to see some of these guys playing together and there are just too many shooting guards on the team. So you do get caught up with some bad matchups, but that's the price of a team that's made major changes. Look, from where the season started it's a new coach, almost a half dozen different players and little resemblance to any system they had previously.
Is it me or is Jim Boylan really the problem with this team? Way too many fourth quarter collapses, which in my opinion that's comes down to coaching. --Dennis, Minneapolis, Minn.
He's part of the problem, obviously. Yes, when a team loses leads like that in the fourth quarter so often the coach has to share some blame. Some. The NBA is a players' game and it's the players. Look, it's not like Boylan isn't playing the same guys who got that lead. He is. But when they start jacking up bad shots and not dropping back on defense and throwing the ball all over the place, what's he supposed to do, look for JamesOn Curry? He's putting his best players out there and if they can't gather themselves and hold a lead, it's unfair to point to just the coach. We give coaches too much blame and credit.
How about Pat Riley in Miami? He'll be voted into the Hall of Fame this year. Until he left recently to scout, the Heat even with Dwyane Wade playing, and he's better than anyone on the Bulls, failed to compete on any level. Players get the long contracts and big money. When it doesn't work, they can't point fingers at the coach.
Sam Smith's NBA mailbag
In which the Tribune's NBA reporter bows out
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