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K.C. Johnson's Bulls mailbag
It's 72 degrees and sunny without a hint of humidity in LA. And I'm sitting in a dark, greasy diner downtown answering your questions.
ust to clarify: I'm drinking black coffee, not something stronger.
But, yes, some might call me loopy. I prefer to look at it as the never-ending loop of your questions demands answers. Here's a shot.
Considering how abundantly and splendidly JNo has improved this season, has he joined DRose as the only untoucha-Bull (sorry, I couldn't resist) on the roster when it comes to trade talks? I have to admit I audibly groaned on draft night when the Bulls picked him, but now I really think he could turn out to be our best big man since Horace Grant. -- Robert Bresson, Leeds, Ala.
You think you groaned. Remember the Tribune's headline? "You must be Joakim." Although, in defense of our fine editors, that was a play on words about the seersucker suit and bow tie Noah wore on draft night.
JNo, huh? The way he's playing, we might need to come up with a better nickname. I don't think there's any question Noah is playing himself into a longterm contract extension when his rookie contract ends. I keep coming back to this about Noah, too: The way he plays, the longtime knock against the Bulls not having a true lowpost scorer gets far less important. Noah fits great with Rose moving forward in that he can run, catch and pass. And he's obviously been a beast on the boards.
Did the Bulls give up too quickly on Thabo Sefolosha? He seems to be thriving as a perimeter defender on a rising Oklahoma City team and has even developed an accurate 3-point shot. Who do you think the Bulls would rather have at this point: Thabo or Taj Gibson? Dan Brecher
I go with Taj.
Thabo always seemed to be the odd guard out and wouldn't he be again? From my view, he'd still be the fourth guard behind Rose, Salmons and Hinrich. And how much does Jannero Pargo play?
The Bulls, like a lot of organizations, try to help players who aren't fitting into their longterm plans and found Thabo the perfect home where he can play a lot of minutes and grow as a player. It freed up some money that they might've needed had they, say, traded Hinrich and tried to re-sign Gordon. And when they decided to keep Hinrich, they drafted a player who looks like he can have a solid, if unspectacular, NBA career. Just like Thabo probably will.
I'm originally from Chicago and miss the beef goulash and the congested traffic. Anyway, who do you think will have a better career, Brandon Jennings or DRose? To me, it seems like Jennings has a sense of urgency and is more of a leader than Rose. Can this determine how their careers will end up? Ivan C. Sheboygan, Wis.
You're originally from Chicago and I played with four college teammates from the Sheboygan North basketball program. Small world. And that's why I printed your question representative of, say, the 10 I received comparing Rose to Jennings.
C'mon people. Jennings has a chance to be great. Rose has a chance to be great. It's early. (Does everybody already forget Rose in Game 1 of last year's playoffs?) Yes, Rose is off to a slow start. Give him time.
I do think people with natural leadership qualities can have an edge over players who are more reserved and subdued. But I also think Rose will be just fine.
It is obvious that Rose, so far this season, is not the same player as last season. I am sure the ankle has something to do with it. However, it also seems that the sets that the Bulls run restrict Rose's ability to control the ball and the game. It just appears to me that VDN's style does not allow Rose the same freedom that is allowed other elite PGs around the league--i.e. Paul, Williams, Rondo or even Jennings in Milwaukee. Am I right about this or do my eyes deceive? Eric Harrell, Crownsville, Md.
I think your eyes mostly deceive. Do you see how many screen-and-rolls the Bulls run for Rose? Also, part of this falls on Rose. The coaching staff has been imploring him to become more aggressive in transition, where he was dominant at times last season. Yes, there are times where Rose hands the ball off on the wing and runs to the corner. But you can't call every play or give every shot to Rose. Salmons and Deng need their perimeter touches too.
Who is the offensive coach for the Bulls? Who makes up the play where Derrick Rose dribbles past the timeline and passes it off and goes and hides in the corner, while Noah or Miller operate the offense from the high post? The Bulls seem to run that play 30 percent of the time. I have never seen Chris Paul, Deron Williams, DWade or any other explosive player run a play like that. It doesn't take a basketball genius to realize the utter stupidity of this play. Tony, Memphis, Tenn.
Perfect timing there, Tony, given my above answer. Vinny is the main offensive coach.
Again, don't other players need touches? A lot of these actions showcase Deng coming off a screen and slashing into the lane. And if the Bulls don't call those plays, then people ask why Deng isn't slashing into the lane. You can't please everybody all the time.
How many double-doubles did Noah have last year? How many does he have this year? When people vote for a defensive player of the year, what stat do they look at? It's too early to predict anything. But I think Noah and Thabo Sefolosha should be first team all-defensive. Thabo shuts down almost all the best players in league (Roy, Kobe, Wade, and other shooting guards). Noah, no question. MN, Thailand
That's JNo to you. Noah posted eight double-doubles his rookie season, nine last season and has seven this season as of this writing, done hours before the Lakers' tipoff.
As for Defensive Player of the Year, I typically have a vote and I look at the obvious statistical categories (blocks, steals, deflections) as well as just how players guard. I also talk to players about who the best defenders are. For instance, Ben Wallace in his prime blocked shots but he also played great help defense because the Pistons allowed him to roam so much.
I don't place Noah at that level yet. But he's undoubtedly improved and a big reason why the Bulls are better defensively.
Beloved K.C. Danka sees the problem, the solution AND the future. Rose is a great athlete, good shooter, and when healthy gets to the rim often. But we NEED a floor general who controls the ball and the pace. That is not Derrick. He's out of position yet no one ever told him. Much of what ails the team offensively would be bettered with Rose at the 2 guard. His quiet nature and lack of true ball-handling skills begs for it. I shudder at the thought of Derrick taking top shooting guards, but I also shudder at him taking fire hydrants. In the current NBA there are 3x the amount of quality PG's as SG's, so Derrick would catch a break at SG. We lack floor leadership and someone who gets us into rhythm, makes his teammates better. Derrick generally brings the ball up, gets rid of it quickly, and the rest of the possession he's not even playing "PG." If we were really looking at Johnny Flynn pre-draft, is it because Bulls brass sees what Danka sees? Now let me channel my inner-Sam Smith to find the type of PG I envision. You have a very disgruntled Chris Paul in New Orleans and a team drowning in financial woes. Some combo of Chin-Ups Tyrus, Cap Space Brad, Wesley Snipes Salmons, our No. 1 pick, and even Captain Kirk(if you must)...WHATEVER it takes that doesn't include Rose, Deng and Noah. In Chris Paul you land the STUD No. 1 player and leader we lack and will not find in our current group. Danka and K.C. have lived through the Ron Mercer and ERob era...we KNOW DWade, Bosh and Lebron are not coming, but CP3, Rose, Deng, Noah & Taj Mahal= young, sickly-talented ring contenders in league for years to come. "Gar Forman...line 1...you have a Danka Shane calling..." Danka Shane, The Deliverer of Solutions
OK, now it is time to switch to drinking something stronger. First of all, I see New Orleans trying to move David West before Paul. Second, I know you're shooting for the moon, but Paul makes just over $13 million so you'd only have to send Miller and one other part to make salaries match. I know New Orleans is looking to cut costs, but no way they're trading CPaul for Miller and change.
I'm sure your mailbox is flooded with questions and comments on the recent talk of should the NBA retire No. 23 or not. In my opinion, it weighs the same as the NHL retiring Gretzky's number. It would be the ultimate way to appreciate Jordan's legacy. There are several Hall of Famers, but only one Greatest Of All Time -- the one way to truly separate him from the best. It's great for the league, why not? What do you think? Matt Koza, Philadelphia
I say no. It's a diss to Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, etc. Plus, retiring jerseys, in my opinion, should be a team-by-team decision. Miami retired Jordan's No. 23. If other teams want to do so--including Cleveland in a way to placate LeBron--go nuts. But baseball retiring Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is different because of Robinson's social significance. Hockey retiring Gretzky's No. 99 is different, too, in the sense that Gretzky is credited with helping that league expand by making hockey relevant in warm-weather cities. Jordan just won championships and made great commercials. That sounds harsher than I mean it to be, but my point is: Jordan surely might be the Greatest of All Time but not so definitively to get this honor.
Why not think LBJ to Chicago? Here is the reasoning: (1) Cleveland is going to disappoint once again this year and they have no long-term answers. (2) LBJ gets the big endorsement bump if he goes to Chicago, LA or NY. LA has no cap space. NY has no superstar and isn't in position to compete. Chicago has a budding superstar in Rose and great players to put around LBJ, like Deng, Salmons and Noah. (3) Unlike NY, LBJ to Chicago would make the Bulls a contender. (4) Chicago is close to his hometown. (5) We have the cap space. (6) Chicago is a great place to live! Scooter, Hoffman Estates
Can I get an Amen on No. 6?
As for No. 1, I agree that you could be right, but nobody knows yet, which is why LeBron doesn't know where he's going. As for No. 2, how much of an endorsement jump does he need? That's overrated. I agree with Nos. 3 and 4, which is why I think the Bulls will seriously make a run at him--provided No. 5 is accurate. And that's not for certain yet. Salmons' player option and Tyrus' cap hold will determine how much salary-cap space the Bulls actually have.
I'm in Iraq, so I barely catch the Bulls. I do know that they are not going to win a title this year, so why won't they play Johnson? And why did the front office deem it necessary to add a 6-foot-1-inch shooting guard to a team in desperate need of some size in the backcourt? EAZY, Iraq
Taj Gibson is starting, so it's not like Vinny won't play rookies who deserve it. Obviously, Vinny hasn't developed the comfort level with Johnson yet that he has with Gibson. I actually think Vinny is using Johnson quite wisely, particularly on this trip. He's getting him some first-half minutes, allowing him to do some positive things on the court to build his confidence and not giving him too much to handle. No, the Bulls won't win a title. But they do have a chance to compete for homecourt in the playoffs and advance past last season, so why not play Johnson at the pace he deserves? As for Pargo, he's a fourth guard. They added size with Salmons.
I really would like to know your honest opinion--no tactful answers K.C.! How much would you blame coaching for the tough losses to the Raptors and Nuggets? How could a team miss 21 shots in 9:30, all jump shots one after another, but not call a timeout to try some different creative offensive schemes for going inside? We all know that the Bulls don't really have any post-up player, but indeed we have slashers and good dribble penetration skills. So don't be blaming on the lack of post-up players now! Again, against the Nuggets, why Noah was guarding Nene instead of bringing help defense to stop Chauncey in the last play from them? Would you fire Vinny or take your chances on him for the rest of the season? In my mind, I have identified him as our Achilles heel. Assad Hussein, Chicago
Coaches don't make or miss shots. And I watched that Toronto game from courtside and the Bulls missed several makeable shots in that stretch. In fact, they missed two layups, a tipin by Noah and a short pullup jumper from Salmons. What's wrong with those shots? Sounds to me like they got the ball inside.
As for the Nuggets finish, I guarantee you Noah is instructed to help in that situation. In fact, on the replay, he's moving that way but doing so late.
Look, I've been quite honest about my opinion on Vinny. I think he struggles occasionally with game management on substitutions and timeouts. I also think he is extremely competitive, cares and works hard. I wrote during the coaching search that I thought a more experienced coach would be better for the Bulls. I still believe that. But don't use the Toronto and Denver games as examples as to why to fire Vinny.
What's with the love affair with Taj Gibson? He's a good role player but fans would be killing Tyrus for posting some of the stats Taj has been posting. Who do you think starts when Tyrus comes back? Kevin Westbrook, Merrillville, Ind.
Other than the reception he received at USC, I haven't witnessed a love affair with Taj. Yes, coaches are pleased with his fundamentally sound play, particularly his ability to communicate, box out and rotate defensively. But I don't think the Bulls have Gibson pegged for anything other than a reliable player who plays beyond his years. As for your last question, that's a fascinating topic and I can't wait to know what the answer is. My guess is they will give Tyrus the job back--and I think they should--but given Gibson's play, there could be a very quick hook.
Somebody has got to tell Vinny this is an 82-game season and not the playoffs. As evidenced by the second half of the Toronto game, this team will fold if he insists on playing basically seven guys. Ron Rybandt, Glendale, Calif.
Since it's not my job to tell him, I'm going to bet Gar Forman did.
Has Rick Morrissey had gray hair since birth? Charlie M. Brookfield, Ill.
The better question would be: Has Rick Morrissey always lacked the ability to beat me in HORSE?
Dear Kenneth Charles: Although I know your first and middle name I don't know how long you've been covering the Bulls. Do you go back to the Jordan years and if so, why didn't he mention you in his vindictive Hall of Fame speech? Surely, having to look at your goofy mug (no offense) every day on the road provided His Airness with extra motivation to completely destroy his opponents, n'est pas? If not, you must have done something to make him hate you, right? Fred C. Dobbs, Sunapee, NH
I covered the Bulls' second three-peat as an Internet pioneer, starting this very same "Ask K.C." feature in 1996. Much of my coverage appeared in the print newspaper as well. But the late, great Terry Armour covered the second three-peat for the newspaper.
I might be the only one MJ didn't flamethrow during his acceptance speech, so, obviously, I'm in the clear. Even if my name is Kenneth Carl.
Thanks for your questions. Talk to you next week,
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