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K.C. Johnson's Bulls mailbag
It's my turn for a question: How in the name of James Naismith can Bucks guard Luke Ridnour more than double Derrick Rose's vote total in All-Star balloting? OK, I feel better now. Time for some answers.
Have you brought up Ben Gordon's comments about there being no offensive structure to Vinny Del Negro? I'm curious on how Vinny feels about that. To me it seems like a dig. -- Angela; Lombard, Ill.
This is one of those examples where what Ben said on the printed page translated stronger than how he said it/what he meant. I probably should've done a better job of framing Ben's comments that way in the story, although the story clearly focused on the positive. But, yes, taken separately, Gordon's comments looked like a dig. They weren't meant to be. He merely was trying to make the point that Vinny allows his players lots of freedom--a good thing in Ben's world--and that it's on the players not to abuse that freedom. And that because he, Kirk and Lu have the most experience, it's up to them to play the right way. Trust me: I know controversy. I've covered it countless times. This story wasn't controversial.
What's your take on Noah and Thomas? They get bad mouthed so often from our impatient fan base, and that goes back to Paxson who gets pegged for choosing them over other talents. Do you think they will become future stars or not? -- Jamesudesky, Tokyo
I don't think either player will be a perennial All-Star, which would be my definition of a future star. I do think Thomas has the potential to be a very good player, but he makes so many mental mistakes and also remains inconsistent. I think Noah projects to be merely a solid role player over the course of his career.
You mentioned last week that you covered the Jordan years. Phil Jackson has quite a reputation for handling difficult players, particularly Dennis Rodman and Kobe Bryant. I was wondering if you could give an insight into the strategies that Jackson employed to help players like Rodman stay focused and just play ball, and are they strategies that VDN could employ with players like Noah? -- Lincoln, Australia
I wouldn't give all the credit to Phil for handling Rodman. Surely, he deserves some, if not a lot. It's hard to put a percentage on it. But Jerry Krause also helped keep Rodman focused and perhaps the person who deserves the most credit is Michael Jordan. That's the dynamic that people sometimes forget about Jordan, why I think he always will be the greatest to play. Not only was his talent superior but his practice habits and competitiveness and leadership were as well. Jordan didn't accept antics. Also, Rodman, for all his off-the-court oddities, was actually an incredibly focused practice player and competitor. I think Noah's work ethic is actually improving as this season is progressing. I just think he loses focus at times. All Vinny can do is keep communicating to Noah, which I know he does.
I'm far in the minority here, but I gotta say I feel a little sorry for Larry Hughes. The guy has complained a bit, true, but he only wants to earn his massive salary. And I'm sorry, but Sefalosha has had plenty of chances to prove his worth, but he's nothing more than a decent reserve for defense and rebounding. His offensive game is very weak. But you can't tell me that the Bulls wouldn't have won a couple of the past few games with Hughes on the floor. I'm not saying we don't get rid of Hughes, but why not Sefalosha while he's worth something? And Noah too, while they're at. -- Elijah; Chicago
I thought Hughes played extremely well when he first came back from injury. He moved the ball well, took shots within the context of the offense and defended above average, even if he still takes too many risks in passing lanes. Then, when his shot stopped falling with as much regularity, he started forcing shots a bit and the offense bogged down more. Not all his fault, but he was an accomplice. I don't think there's any question Hughes is a better NBA player than Sefolosha. But here's the obvious problem: Hughes has no future with this team. Thabo might. You have to find that out.
I'm not part of the "Fire Pax" posse. But would you agree that two of his worse moves were 1. Trading Tyson because Skiles didn't like him. And 2. Not keeping J.R. Smith when we have had a need for a athletic two guard since he became GM? -- Mike; South Holland, Ill.
No. Tyson never would've accomplished here what he is accomplishing with New Orleans. I'd go with drafting Tyrus Thomas over Aldridge or Roy and then not parlaying P.J. Brown's expiring contract into a larger deal. Hadn't thought about J.R. Smith in awhile. Not sure how I feel about that. At that time, the Bulls were on their "have to practice hard" kick with Skiles and Paxson demanding accountability. Word was Smith was horrible practice player.
Why does Vinny call the same plays at the end of every close game? It is always a pick-and-roll with Rose, which turns into an isolation. Teams already know that he has not developed a jump shot yet, so they are stacking the paint. It's almost the same thing with Gordon after his rookie year. -- Lamar; New York
I think the end of the Knicks' game disputes your point at least once. And that shot by Gordon will assure you'll see more of the high pick-and-roll for Rose. I do think you're right that Rose still typically beats his man but is facing heavy traffic in the lane. I'd like to see a bit more penetration and kick-outs, particularly in these late-game situations.
Can you explain to me why the Bulls won't trade Larry Hughes for Bobby Simmons and Maurice Ager/Sean Williams? This seems like an absolute gift from New Jersey in terms of stats, locker room, potential, etc. Isn't Williams supposed to have great athletic and shot-blocking skills? -- Kenneth A Liu; Murrieta, Calif.
Bulls would do Simmons-Ager. They don't want Williams, who had some drug issues in college. The Nets are the ones stalling on the decision.
John Paxson continues to use the words "effort and energy" when assessing his personnel failures. Doesn't he understand it comes down more to the fact he's just not acquiring (either via draft or FA) top level NBA talent? Kirk Hinrich can give all he has for four quarters but if he's playing against Vince Carter all Carter has to do is amp it up for the fourth and he more than nullifies Hinrich's "effort and energy" for the entire game. -- Von; Indianapolis
I think Rose's arrival has hammered this point home even more strongly. Rose has major NBA talent. He needs to be paired alongside another bonafide go-to player to be truly successful. Those playoff teams under Skiles were so fun to watch because they played collectively and the team effort transcended what the individuals could bring. But I think you make a fair point with the Hinrich-Carter comparison. Hinrich might get him every now and then. But Carter's superior skill would win out more often than not.
Do you think that there is any chance that Paxson could take over for VDN as the head coach of the Bulls like Kevin McHale? It seems to be working well in Minnesota where the Timberwolves are in a similar position of trying to evaluate talent during a rebuilding year and they're off to a great start so far with McHale. Remember that Michael Jordan did offer Paxson a shot at the head coaching position for the Wizards in 2001. -- Michael Noh; Wilmette, Ill.
That certainly would make Sunday's road game in Minnesota more interesting. However, Paxson long has stated he has no desire to coach. It's why he turned Jordan down then and why your theory now, while entertaining, won't happen. Paxson served as an assistant one season under Phil Jackson and discovered he didn't like the lifestyle or job.
I know Larry Hughes wants to be traded and they should trade him, but the Bulls can't just trade him for someone like a Bobby Simmons, a player who doesn't have a future with the Bulls. What do you think? -- Robert; Canton, Ohio
There isn't a lot of value being offered for Hughes, who can still play. One could make the argument his expiring deal next summer might bring back some strong value. But if the Simmons' deal goes down, his number is near $10 million next season so that logic is still somewhat in play. And, sadly, the Hughes' situation has become one that really needs to be addressed because he has no future here. It's one byproduct of the Ben Wallace trade that has been true since the day that deal went down--an unbalanced roster with too many guards.
So is Paxson basically saying that he is not in the 2010 free-agent market? If so, this team is going absolutely nowhere for a long time. The sellouts will be over. Mark my word. The hope of a Dwayne Wade type of player showing up in 2010 is what is keeping them renewing. -- Daniel; Chicago
I'm including this in the slim chance the Bulls check in on our little feature. Actually, I'm including it because I have an answer. I don't think Paxson said they're not in the 2010 free-agent market. I think what he said was that they obviously would try to improve the team sooner than that. If that hasn't happened by the start of next season, I see them projecting out to be major players in the summer of 2010.
First, don't sweat the backpack; it's poised for huge comeback along with tube socks and guys wearing Daisy Duke shorts. Second, I was just wondering if you ever fantasize what "Ask K.C." would have been like in the Bulls glory days with MJ? Does part of you feel unsubstantiated because you'll never be able to shoot down those Craig Hodges/Scott Williams/Cliff Levingston/first-round draft pick for A.C. Green/Sam Perkins questions? Or feel inadequate because you never got to answers concerns on whether Phil Jackson knows what he's doing being a first-time head coach? Or what in world was Jerry Krause thinking drafting Mark Randall instead of Pete Chilcutt or George Ackles? -- Cleetus; Cedar Falls, Iowa
First, my standard response: Cleetus, you rule. Second, a history lesson: The Tribune launched the first feature of this kind in 1996 -- before any sports Web site in the country. Yes, we were pioneers. And I, as a 29-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears reporter, played Daniel Boone. So while I may not have answered the above questions until now -- a) make the trade; b) The Zen Master knew all; c) Mark Randall paved the way for fellow Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich -- I did answer plenty of questions during the second three-peat. And loved every minute of it.
Trade Larry Hughes, Joakim Noah, Cedric Simmons and maybe (just maybe) Ben Gordon to Orlando for Marcin Gortat and some fillers (i.e. cash or draft picks). This way we free up cap space for 2010, get rid of the whiners, get a legit low post threat to play alongside Drew, and lastly, give Florida all the energy it can handle in sending Joakim Noah back. -- Ra Holloway; Chicago
I printed this so other readers could direct you to the trade checker function at www.realgm.com. Also, Ben can't be traded without his consent.
Any chance the Bulls will have a "Look like Vinny Del Negro" contest? I have a friend who is a dead ringer for him. -- Jason; Chicago
Is it Scott Baio?
Wilco? Radiohead? You just lost all credibility. With all of the talk of this Bulls team being a good supporting cast without a superstar, what do you think the chances are that in a few years Rose will be that superstar? -- Dave; Ft. Riley, Kan.
If Rose can be as good as Jeff Tweedy and Thom Yorke, the Bulls will be happy. And, yes, I think Rose will be a superstar, even if our musical preferences don't mesh.
What are your thoughts about people referring to the Bulls as "we," as if they are a part of the team or its management? It's been a pet peeve of mine. Also, where do you like to sit during the games? Finally, are any of the Luvabulls single and would you give them my phone number? -- Paul K; Chicago
I'll never forget the time I went to a Bulls game as a fan back when I covered high school sports for the Tribune and I looked onto the court and realized a woman I took to a high school dance was a LuvaBull. Draw your own conclusion how that date went. There are press seating areas alongside the baseline, just above the player entrance tunnels and also the press box high above the United Center, typically called the hockey press box because, with the ice down, all the hockey writers sit up there. I am fortunate enough to sit in the first row alongside the baseline. Your pet peeve is also an unwritten rule of journalism: Never call the team you cover "we."
Thanks for the ton of questions this week. I didn't get to as many as I would like but will try to make up for it with a huge batch of answers next week from the west coast. Thanks.