The Bulls have a chance to get to .500 Friday night in Memphis. I have a chance to get to .500 in fans' opinion since I got ripped plenty for my answers last week. Hope you like this batch and keep the questions coming.
K.C., why Tyrus and Joakim are not getting the minutes? They're the workhorses underneath and why coach Del Negro deprived their playing minutes? Is there a problem? --Renato Rosuello, Manila, Philippines
Manila, we have a problem. It's detailed , and reporters who cover the team on a regular basis are still in shock at how direct, blunt and strong coach Vinny Del Negro was in assessing why minutes have disappeared for Thomas and Noah. Del Negro's style thus far has been almost always positive, rarely admitting anything is wrong. But his answers to fairly softball questions about minutes dropping for Thomas and Noah--after all, we've seen this before--brought on answers for which Scott Skiles would've been proud. One thing Del Negro hasn't hesitated to do in his brief tenure is to send messages via lack of playing time. You have to respect that.
Here is a trade for you to think about. Dallas sends Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to the Bulls for Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha. --James O'Dell, Queen Creek, Ariz.
Stackhouse is available, although I'm not sure what adding another perimeter player does for the Bulls. Granted, Stackhouse gets to the rim a lot but he also would expect to play and you'd be sending the one perimeter player who isn't playing right now in Sefolosha to Dallas. Also, I don't know for sure, but I'd doubt Dallas would part with Bass.
I can't help but wonder if the Bulls would consider making a trade now! rather than waiting for 2010 for, say, Chris Bosh, what do you think of Hinrich, Thomas, Noah, and Thabo for Bosh? The Bulls seem to be competing as of late and winning games. So why not make a run this year and see what happens. Imagine Rose, Gordon, Hughes, Deng and Bosh. --N.K., Las Vegas
Toronto is trying to make a trade to keep Bosh, not get rid of him. If you want expiring deals like Anthony Parker or Kris Humphries, Toronto is your team. If you want Bosh, you'll get a dial tone.
Dear K.C., why does Vinny Del Negro always sit Derrick Rose and Drew Gooden at the beginning of the fourth quarter? I don't think it's my imagination that NBA coaches blindly follow this unwritten rule that you must rest your best players for the first three to four minutes of the last quarter. It seems analogous to baseball, where managers feel they have to use their best reliever for the last three outs, even if the turning point in the game is the eighth inning. There have been several games this season where the Bulls have been leading going into the fourth and then the momentum shifts as our best players watch from the bench. I know we ride Rose hard but can't he get his rest at other points of the game and just play the entire fourth? --David Holland, Evanston, Ill. (Beloit College '03, ETHS '98)
Del Negro has been giving Rose rest like the Bulls used to with Jordan, taking him out slightly before quarters end so he gets the entire quarter break and then the early stages of the next quarter. I like that philosophy. That you don't--and that you went to such two spectacular schools--is beyond me.
Just kidding. Rose plays virtually the entire second half each game, so he's got to rest sometime. I think that's a good time.
I thought Del Negro was a fan of Tyrus Thomas when he was with Phoenix and wanted him that year in the draft. So why is he treating Tyrus like he's Kornell David? I mean Tyrus is better than Nocioni defensively as well as Bagaric-sans-athleticism Gray. I have no use watching pro basketball when waddles, Aaron Gray, is our starting center. --Charles Armstrong, Harbor Springs, Mich.
Remember when Tyrus was putting up double-doubles with consistency during the preseason? Man, how about those days? I know preseason hoops is waaaaaay different, but I thought, as did many around the Bulls, that Tyrus had turned a corner. The coaching staff, obviously, feels differently.
What has surprised me about Tyrus' latest trip to the doghouse is that it comes on the heels of fairly solid back-to-back games. I asked around to see if Tyrus had done something nutty like blow off a practice or a shootaround or something and was told no. All I can go by is what people tell me. From what Del Negro said following Wednesday's practice, he takes issue with Thomas' lack of focus and professionalism.
As for Gray, he might be the second-most polaziring figure on the team behind Hinrich in terms of fan e-mail I receive. Plenty of people love him. Others feel the same as you, although perhaps not as humorously. It is shocking that Gray, a second-round pick, is playing ahead of lottery picks like Thomas and Joakim Noah, but that tells you what the staff thinks of Thomas and Noah.
Professor, please compare and contrast Tyrus Thomas and Stromile Swift. Regards. --Rev. F., Coopersville, Mich.
This is a nice spinoff from one of my favorite questions of this young season, asking me to compare and contrast Joakim Noah and Brad Sellers. Like that one, this one needs little response and is merely included for its sheer hilarity. (Although I do predict Thomas will last longer in the league than Swift.)
Have you noticed a power struggle between BG and DRose? Ben Gordon is reluctant to give DRose the ball when he calls for it towards the end of the game; he just seems to wave him off and go the other direction. I've noticed this twice. Has VDN specified who his go-to guy is in those critical times during the game? And what are your thoughts on who that player should be. --Dalton, Chicago
Rose, Rose and then Rose again.
I've received this question a lot about a power struggle, and all I can say is BG doesn't really discriminate. He takes shots when other players are open pretty much with everybody, not just Rose. He's a scorer and that's the mentality he's always had. I don't see Ben taking that many worse or outlandish shots than he did during his rookie season, when everybody loved him. You also have to admit that he can make some ridiculous shots. I know Ben drives people crazy with his decision-making and I'm not saying he's the perfect player. I'm just saying as a scorer, you have to give him some leeway.
But if I'm coaching, Rose has the ball in his hands all the time and every time when you have a crucial possession.
I have a debate going with my imaginary friend, Phil Perdue, about what the initials in your name stand for. I say it's for Kris Carlton. Phil says Kenneth Chandler. Please, K.C., Phil and I have to know before we die! By the way, I can't believe that no other Bulls fan has asked what your initials stand for. I hope this lets you know that there is at least one diehard fan who cares about you and doesn't just regard you as an e-mail answering monkey. --Kyle Minx, Garland, Texas
K.M., You're sweet to ask. Kenneth Carl Johnson, so now you know why I go by K.C. Actually, my college friends call me Kenny Carl. And my parents named me knowing they'd use initials since birth. Thanks for the love.
With the recent poor play of Joakim Noah and the grief a lot of Bulls fans give Paxson, I was wondering if you believe there is a better player now who was drafted lower than Noah whom the Bulls should have taken. The only names that interest me are Thaddeus Young and Al Thorton. However those players seem to play three position which the Bulls already have a glut of players. --Mike, St. Charles, Ill.
Agreed on Young and Thornton. The big debate is whether you'd rather have Noah or Spencer Hawes, whom the Bulls considered. Hawes battled injuries and playing time issues last season but is quietly having a strong season for a horrible Kings team. As of this writing, he's shooting 47.9 percent and averaging 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. Noah, if you'll recall, probably would've gone top three had he come out a year earlier. He certainly looks like he's regressing from his rookie to second season while Hawes appears to be going the other way, so that argument is valid.
I like Rodney Stuckey's game, but he's a guard and the Bulls have too many of those. To me, the only debate is Noah or Hawes.
What do you think about maybe trading Nocioni for Antoine Walker or Hughes and Nocioni or possibly throwing Tyrus Thomas in the deal since Memphis wants a youth movement? Memphis was interested in Noce in the summer of 2007 when the Bulls re-signed him and Walker can post up for the Bulls and hit the long range shots. He's not the traditional big man but he can give the team some high percentage shots. He's wasting away in Memphis and I think at 32 years old he can be fairly close to the player he was in his first stint with the Celtics. --Warren Hunte, Suitland, Md.
I think Antoine's best days are long gone and his three-point shooting ability dropped considerably the last two seasons in which he actually played. No thanks.
If Allen Iverson makes the All-Star over Derrick Rose, that's wrong, right? --Shams, Chicago
Hello, after the Bulls game with the Wizards and during the postgame interview, Vinny asked you to stop laughing in front of a Chicago TV audience. What was going on man? --Fred, Mount Prospect, Ill.
Vinny joked that 31 assists is a normal game for the often-selfish Bulls. I laughed like a second-grader. He good-naturedly called me on it. And to think: I hadn't even had a postgame beer yet.
You insist that GMs do not factor in fans' preferences and thoughts on personnel decisions. But it is the fans who pay for personnel, including the GM, more so than Jerry Reinsdorf. Should the GMs listen to fans in close calls? --Bulls Scuds, Lake Forest, Ill.
Players, in my opinion, have the responsibility of being professional, maximizing their talent and playing as hard as they can because organizations pay them and fans support them and help pay their salaries. (Remember that teams make money through corporate sponsorships and the like as well, not just ticket revenue.) General managers have the responsibility of putting the best product possible on the court because owners pay them and fans help pay their salaries. But nowhere do I feel GMs have the responsibility of considering fans' input when it comes to personnel decisions. Players play, coaches coach, general managers manage and fans care, one way or the other.
If Amare Stoudemire wants out of Phoenix, and the Bulls desperately need a scorer in the post (such as Amare Stoudemire), why isn't Paxson trying to do anything possible to get him? He has future free agents to trade (Gordon and Gooden), big contracts (Hughes), Suns-type players (Deng, Tyrus, Hughes again). Stoudemire has three years left at about $15/mil a year, but shouldn't this be a no-brainer? --Matty P., Los Angeles
Phoenix's acquisition of Jason Richardson from Charlotte is a direct olive branch to Stoudemire and a sign Phoenix will do everything it can to keep him around.
KC, it seems like the Bulls play best when they are small. Should they follow Golden State's lead as far as playing small? --David, Mishawaka, Ind.
I've liked just about every time Vinny has gone really small, particularly in that home Wizards win. As I've said many times in this feature, the Bulls are not and probably won't be a very good defensive team. So play some zone. Front the post. Throw a bunch of small guys out there and try to outscore the other team and make them match up to you. Granted, you can't do it all game. But I'd like to see more of it.
As a transplanted Chicagoan in the Washington, D.C. area, I rarely get to watch the Bulls (which in some ways is a good thing). But I was able to see their game against the Wizards, and I noticed one thing about Rose's game I would like you to comment on. While I love the guy, he appears to just stand in one place watching the action when the ball isn't in his hands. It's the only time he's easy to guard. With as quick as he is, I think he'd get a ton of points on quick cuts to the basket. It would also tire out his defenders, and it would help the other Bulls players, by making those defenders watch Rose rather than the person with the ball. Have you noticed this issue? --Graham, North Bethesda, Md.
I've noticed it but don't have as much of a problem with it. Typically, he's standing there when Gordon or Hughes have the ball up top and he's supposed to stand there. The Bulls are keeping the middle open at almost all cost in this year's offensive system. There are exceptions, but not many. Even Luol Deng isn't slashing or making those dive cuts he used to make as frequently as he used to.
After some trepidation about the draft, I'm happy to see Derrick Rose was indeed the right choice. He looks like everything people thought he would be. But the last team built around a point guard to win an NBA championship was the Detroit Pistons with Isaiah Thomas. Look at the greatest point guards of the past 20 years -- Jason Kidd, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Steve Nash -- and none of them won a championship. So what is the Bulls road to a championship team? I can't see it right now. I wouldn't count on the 2010 free agents. We went through that in 2000, remember? Rose is going to need another star on the team, and it doesn't look like Deng will ever be more than a solid NBA player. So it's hard to see how they get to the promised land. --Jeff Reece, Jacksonville, Fla.
As currently constructed, you're right on. And the teams that look like they will have the best shot at a title this season--Lakers, Celtics, Cavs--aren't built around a dominant point. That said, rules changes have allowed teams with dominant points to enjoy huge regular-season success. It's a different game now than when Thomas played. There's no question the Bulls need to add another star to play with Rose, though.
You can't discredit Paxon for everything that has gone wrong. He has made some boneheaded mistakes, but what GM hasn't? There are no guarantees in the draft, and as you said hindsight is 20/20. He should not be given a complete pass on what he has done, but give him a chance to make up for it. He already has brought us some good players through the Ben Wallace trade, and even that signing appeared to be great at the time. He has already made up for some of his mistakes, and let's see where he goes from there. I agree with you that Tyson Chandler wasn't cutting the mustard with the Bulls. Sometimes players need a change of scenery in order to reach their true potential. Don't blame the GM for how the players decide to play (or in some cases of players in a Bulls uniform, not play). Definitely if this continues then he should be gone, but at least give him some more time to get something done. --Dan H., Chicago
We're equal opportunity answerers here in this space. I've printed plenty of emails calling for Paxson's job, so it's only fair to print one that comes from the other point of view. I've used this sound bite often in radio and TV hits: The Bulls have been given a gift with winning the draft lottery and Rose. Now it's up to them not to waste it.
As a lifelong Bulls fan, I am excited about Rose, but frustrated too. If you watch the games closely, you will see NUMEROUS times that he misses, Thomas specifically, on obvious pick and roll/lob opportunities. If this was Chris Paul, Thomas would have five dunks a game and numbers better than Chandler and every Bulls fan would shut up about the drafting of Thomas over Aldridge. Right now, he is still a little shoot first (even though he is shooting it well). Just watch the pick and roll clearly, if he gets the hang of the passes that are there, he will make the Bulls much more dangerous, especially now that teams are jumping out on him. Are the coaches pointing this out to him in film study, like my poor wife has to watch me do for her on Tivo? --J.P., Sea Bright, N.J.
Ah, the poor wives. Why do they marry us again?
Not only are Bulls using his own play as film study, Rose watches pick-and-roll situations with Nash and Stoudemire and Paul and Chandler and Kidd and whoever all the time. I agree that as good as Rose has been, he can get even better. And I'm surprised he and Thomas haven't played better together to this point.
KC, where's the love? You guys never post my comments. Do I smell or is my breath kickin' like Bruce Lee? Seriously, despite Nocioni's poor shooting slump, wouldn't he be better fit holistically starting in place of Deng. Deng has OK numbers, but he gets his stats in sleepy increments and is not always aggressive at crucial moments of the game. With Nocioni at least he is always aggressive (albeit sometimes on the loose) and plays inspired basketball. Plus the guy is like Derrick Rose, fearless. I think if the Bulls want to be more successful they don't need the best starters, just the ones that can emanate a will to win and a samurai spirit of aggressiveness to our team and on to the court. --Maximo, Portland, Ore.
With a name like that and the incredible city in which you live, I have no idea why I've missed you before. Welcome. But of course I disagree with you. First of all, Deng actually does a lot of his damage in the first quarter. So you'd lose that in bringing him off the bench. I do agree that Deng sometimes gets his stats in sleepy increments--and may steal that line--and needs to be more aggressive, particularly in attacking the rim and not always settling for midrange jumpers. He's been doing that better lately. But Nocioni, to me, is the perfect backup. His energy is always consistent, even if his play isn't.
I read all the questions and replies last time. I guess I'll have to be in the minority. When I see Ben Gordon play, everyone else stands around while waiting to see what he is going to do. You mentioned his defensive deficiencies, but accept them, saying defense is not a strong point for this team. In games where his shots don't go down, the team suffers. We are not talking MJ here. We need a team effort at both ends of the floor or this team is going nowhere. I suggest Gordon as trade bait, since you have stated the Bulls really don't have much to offer to others. --Wondering, Manteno, Ill.
No, we're not talking MJ. But we are talking the team's leading scorer for three straight seasons. Somebody has to score. This team is more gifted offensively, but he's still the leading scorer. Ben has a unique ability to score. He's not a great player, but he is a great scorer. As for your other point, he can't be traded without his consent.
I know Sam Smith is typically the "what-if" trade guru, but I'm interested in hearing your opinion of a different 2010 strategy. Would it be possible to package a deal either at the deadline or the end of this season for either Bosh or Stoudemire? I know it's risking that they might bolt in 2010, but if we played our chips right, we might also be able to persuade Wade or James to move to Chi-town. With Rose running the point, Wade or James on the perimeter, and Bosh or Stoudemire in the paint, the Bulls could be very dangerous. The key I think, is trading for the post-player, first, to leverage Wade or James to sign with us. I don't know if it's possible cap-wise, and I don't know if we could make a convincing package to either the Raptors or the Suns, which is why I'm submitting this question to you. What do you think, is it possible, and who would you trade for Bosh or Stoudemire (or better yet, what player package would make the most sense)? --Jon H., Richmond, Va.
I don't need to be Sam Smith to know there is no way the Raptors or Suns would trade Bosh or Stoudemire for any package on the Bulls that doesn't include Rose.
I keep reading about how the Bulls made a better offer for Kevin Garnett in the summer before he was actually traded to the Celtics. You recently wrote that Paxson offered Tyrus, Deng and a No. 1 pick. The trade offer is obviously meaningless since Garnett wasn't available that summer, but I'm wondering what Paxson offered the following offseason when the Celtics got him. It seems odd that people are patting Paxson on the back for making a great offer in the summer before Garnett was traded, yet no one seems to talk about what was offered when Garnett was actually on the market. Do you know what the offer was? --Bob, Highland Park, Ill.
Bulls mostly were on the fringe in these talks as most league executives say Kevin McHale was intent on trading with Danny Ainge because he had the young big man in Al Jefferson he wanted plus future draft picks. The Bulls talked about sending the first-round pick that became Joakim Noah along with a future first-round pick and short-term contracts. P.J. Brown could've been resigned to a large expiring deal to make it work too.
Since you've explained several times the Bulls lack of trade options, and outside of Rose, the lottery hasn't helped the Bulls a whole lot, is the Bulls' best chance of improving if Derrick Rose making the All-Star game? Let's say Derrick makes it, and with actual talent around him, he runs the East's offense at an elite level with other NBA All-Stars having a wonderful time playing alongside him, all the while realizing how much better Rose can make them as an individual. Would Rose then become Chicago's biggest chip in recruiting a free agent? Might he be, even without the chance to shine at the All-Star game? Any chance of this scenario playing out, and if so shouldn't the Bulls be vigorously working on a grass roots campaign to get Rose in the game? Is there any reason Paxson shouldn't be on NBA.com right now voting under the 15,137th yahoo account he created this week? --Cleetus, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Cleetus, you rule.
OK, K.C., hopefully you will answer this question since over the past couple of years I have tried this and have yet to see any of my questions answered by you! Why hasn't Vinny Del Negro installed a screen and roll with Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas that would let Tyrus roll to the basket when Rose penetrates and he can throw Tyrus an alley-oop. Similar to what Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler do in New Orleans. I would think with Rose being able to take anyone to the hole and Tyrus' athleticism that it would be a really good play to run. Any takes? --Dennis Bonner, St. Paul, Minn.
I forgot to ask somebody from the coaching staff to get a more inside answer but didn't want to diss you again and this is getting posted as the Bulls travel to Memphis. So here's my theory: Because it didn't work much during preseason and because Tyrus is barely playing now. As I mentioned earlier, it has surprised me that Rose and Thomas haven't clicked more. I can tell you for sure that the reason the staff had Rose watch so much game film of Nash and Stoudemire was with this play in mind. It hasn't materialized. In fact, a lot of the time you see Noah setting the screen. Noah is not a scorer.
Tyrus Thomas should be moved before the trading deadline. If I were Vinny I would not play this kid. What a bonehead!!! The worst shot selection I have seen out of any player on the Bulls. Do you agree? --Matthius, Romeoville, Ill.
There's a reason teams leave him open.
Is there any hope of Cedric Simmons becoming a rotation player at some point? I can't decide if he reminds me more of Granville Waiters or Jeff Sanders. --Ned Ryerson, Punxatawney, Penn.
If you had phrased this as compare and contrast: Cedric Simmons or Jeff Sanders, I would've loved you more.
First off why didn't you throw in Jordan playing in the All-Star Game as a rookie just to mention the talent it takes as a rookie to make it? You could have gone back 24 years you know. What is hindering Noce this year? He was such a great player and he is struggling this season. I never wanted to trade him, and I hoping he gets back to old form. --Kevin F., Van Nuys, Calif.
I think Jordan's legacy will survive. Noce always goes through a stretch like this every season. His three-point percentage actually is higher than his career mark. I'd like to see him get to the rim a little more to get through this stretch, rather than always settling for the outside shot.
K.C., you have said that the last thing the Bulls need is another lottery pick and you have also said that you believe the Bulls will not make a trade this season. Therefore, what do you envision happening this offseason? I agree with you that Paxson could make a move just to make one but that is asinine. Nothing too specific but a general idea. I love your posts and your insights but oftentimes, in regards to trade speculation, it seems you shoot down suggestions rather than add your own. Do you see them making a deal before the draft for a player like Stoudemire or Bosh -- a big with an expiring contract who is unhappy with their situation? Granted, it may take more than the Bulls have to offer but a high first round pick in the 2009 draft and 2010's pick along with some players could make it happen. Who do you see on this team next year? --Matt, Cary, Ill.
I don't have a lot of speculative ideas. Unlike Sam Smith, one of my favorite all-time writers, I don't play GM. I like covering the NBA for the games and the nuances each season presents--the chemistry issues, the funny stuff that happens behind the scenes, the controversies, the relationships. I don't sit around cooking up ways to make Bulls better. That's John Paxson's job. And Sam Smith's. Not mine, and I don't mean to sound defensive when I write that. I just cover the team differently than Sam, which is why I thought we made a fun pairing when he worked at the Trib.
Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you next week, K.C
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