K.C. Johnson on the Bulls

Why are people talking about Jamal Crawford as a "building block" or franchise player? I don't see him doing anything that Ron Harper couldn't do early in his career, which might have been enough for some big nights and an All-Star game, but not enough to win a championship until he was demoted to 4th option. What do you think? --Andrew, Providence, R.I.

I think you think the same way management does. Management wants to see more consistency from Crawford, which is why it didn't extend his contract last summer. Management wants him to be more of a winner/leader. I think some nights Crawford is a franchise player. His talent is unquestioned. He just needs to be more consistent.

All we keep hearing about is how we need to "bulk up" Tyson Chandler. If my memory serves me correctly, he once mentioned he hopes he doesn't need to add weight because it would take away from his game. If this is the case, why doesn't the team move him over to the small forward spot where he won't get banged up as much and use his athleticism and height to create mismatches? Then trade Antonio Davis and the ill-picked Marcus Fizer for a much better power forward! --David Taroyan, Chicago

Even if Chandler plays small forward, he needs to bulk up because his back is too unstable for him to handle the pounding of an NBA season. The need for him to bulk up has less to do with his position and more to do with his condition. Chandler also doesn't have the necessary ball-handling skills to play small forward. Although Skiles and Paxson have talked about how intriguing it would be to play lineups like Curry, Chandler and Davis or Curry, Chandler and Williams once everyone gets healthy.

I have been following Kirk Hinrich every game since he was a freshman at Kansas. His style of play and tenacity are Jordan-esq. Unless some unforeseen circumstance occurs, I have to believe he will be one of the top three point guards in the league by his third year (this includes defense, as well as his offensive game). Wouldn't you agree? -- K.J. Hartman, Overland Park, Kan.

It doesn't matter what I think. Just listen to Skiles, who calls him one of the best defensive point guards in the Eastern Conference----right now. I think Kirk needs to be a more consistent jump shooter. And he still needs to take a little better care of the basketball. But in terms of defensive intensity and court presence, he is rock (chalk, Jayhawk) solid. (Is that how that silly chant goes?) I never see Hinrich being a huge scorer in this league. But if his shot becomes more consistent, there's no reason why he can't average 15 points and 5-6 assists. Couple that with his defensive ability and there's a chance you could be right about him being one of the top three point guards.

I caught a bit of the Bulls-Knicks game on radio. The New York announcers were lavishing praise on Curry -- "light on his feet like Shaq" and "great physical talent." Such praise doesn't come lightly in New York, believe me. If New York City can see Curry's talent, how come the Chicago fans can't? -- Rick W., Bayport, N.Y.

Six seasons of rebuilding can make someone a little jaded, you know? But seriously, I think it's more that Chicago fans see Curry more consistently and thus know that his inconsistency drives them batty. Curry looked great in that New York game, very active and making huge plays down the stretch. Other games, he looks tentative and foul-plagued. That drives Chicago fans nuts.

A more abstract question: What virtues make a good basketball player? Which of these do the Bulls need most? Skiles says hard work and professionalism. Your own writing suggests maturity and commitment. I vote for humility as well, especially after watching Jamal Crawford come down on those who doubted him after a mere two decent games. What do you think? --Brad, Dalat, Vietnam

First of all, I don't think maturity and commitment are that far off from the qualities of hard work and professionalism. Secondly, talent, of course, is more important than anything. But beyond all that, I think the most important quality for an NBA player to have is a short memory. It is a long season, full of highs and lows. You have to put the great stuff in the past quickly, as well as the bad stuff, and move on. Tomorrow, or the day after, brings another game.

I'm disturbed at the continuing trend of players that leave Chicago and become stars very quickly after leaving the team. What is your reason for this? The losing mind-set in the locker room? How about a curse of Jordan, similar to that of the Babe? --Jason Blanshine, Lewes, Del.

I'm guessing you're referring to Ron Artest, Elton Brand and Brad Miller. Fred Hoiberg doesn't play enough and Trent Hassell doesn't score enough to be anything other than solid role players. Artest is a borderline star, but he's wacko. Miller would look good in a Bulls uniform, but I still think that trade was a good one: How much would Curry be playing if Miller were still in Chicago? As for Brand, he's the toughest of all to see go, especially now that Chandler's health raises so many question marks. But who knows? What if, in five years, Curry and Chandler are both dominant players? Will anybody remember those who left then? That's the risk that Krause took. He banked the Bulls' future on Curry and Chandler. You can ask me if it worked out in this spot in five years, but I'll probably be covering the state badminton championships or something.

The Clippers lost Michael Olowokandi, Lamar Odom, and Andre Miller, yet seem to be a better team this year. There's clearly something to be said for reducing the logjams and giving only a few young players consistent minutes. If you were the Bulls GM, and forced to chose only one, would you keep Jamal Crawford or Kirk Hinrich? Eddy Curry or Tyson Chandler? Now this is certainly a tough question, so good luck. --Brad Nathan, Washington, DC

Ha, but I'm in charge, so I say your question is invalid because those four players are currently playing different positions. Crawford and Hinrich start together in the backcourt, and I think Jamal is adjusting well to shooting guard. And Curry and Chandler play center and power forward, so no choices here for me.

Is it just me or has Eddie Robinson improved a lot since Scott Skiles [was hired]? Also, I've heard that Skiles thinks that E-Rob has one of the best mid-range jump shots in the league. Is there any truth to this? What's your take on E-Rob's ability? -- Matt Silver, Lake Forest, Ill.

My take on ERob is that he is what he is. His contract created huge hopes for him, but he's basically a solid, 15-18 minute energy guy off the bench who can stick the open jumper and make the athletic defensive play here and there. I like ERob personally a lot. He's funny. He cares, in an odd way. But he'll never be a star. Skiles indeed said that ERob has one of the best medium-range jumpers in the league. While I can think of four people---quickly---who have better, ERob does have a good shot, especially in transition. (Allan Houston, Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, Shawn Marion.)

K.C., I have been most disappointed in Antonio Davis. He was supposed to provide toughness and he was supposed to provide an inside presence. He has provided some toughness but not the "knock you down" type toughness or veteran toughness, the way a Van Lier would play. I must have been wrong, but I expected him to come in and use his "veteran savy" to bang at opposing centers. I think Paxson traded for a heavier, more expensive version of Corie Blount. Are you happy with the play of Davis? Do you think Paxson is happy with him? --Kevin Kong, Hanover Park, Ill.

Management loves Davis, and I'm surprised you don't. Forget the contract. That's not the Bulls' fault, and taking it on allowed Paxson to get rid of Jalen Rose, his No. 1 priority. Davis' game isn't pretty to watch. He certainly has lost a step and is creaky at times. But he's professional. He puts up a double-double here and there. And he's a great example for the younger players as far as work ethic and professionalism.

Hey K.C., have you had a chance to play NBA Live 2004? For the most part its pretty realistic...the Bulls will get up by about 15 and slowly blow it in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Eddy Curry tends to attempt layups instead of dunking, Jamal Crawford gets lucky every once in a while when he is wide open and Kirk Hinrich is actually pretty good. I'm not one to turn the game off when I lose and have compiled a 5-2 record. This is one flaw of the game--the Bulls are decent. --Dave Anderson, Omaha, Neb.

This sounds like an example of art imitating life. Can we call video games art? I don't know. I live in the stone age. My wife and I don't have cable television and only recently purchased a VCR. It's a wonder I know how to answer these questions on a computer each week.

Thanks again, people. Talk to you next week, K.C.