K.C. Johnson on the Bulls

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K.C., are any of last year's 2nd round draft choices (Mario Austin, Matt Bonner & Tommy Smith) distinguishing themselves in Europe (or wherever they are playing)? --Mark Siegel, New York

Bonner got traded to Toronto on draft night for a future second-round pick. Austin had a wild saga in which he signed with a team in Moscow, suffered a collapsed lung, didn't like the care he received and came back to The States, thereby creating a contract snafu. The Moscow team is trying to hold him to the contract. He wants to be released to pursue domestic opportunities, including summer league with the Bulls. The Bulls still own his rights but can't play him until he is released from that other deal. It's a mess. Smith is averaging 14 points for Split Croatia, the team that Toni Kukoc played with. Of the two, I think Austin has the best chance---albeit slim---of wearing a Bulls uniform at some point.

Jamal Crawford has been lacking on the defensive side yet has shown signs ofhow streaky of a shooter he can be. I think he would be the perfect sixthman if the Bulls can find a way to bring in a solid two-guard and a scoringsmall forward. Jamal is a combo 1-2 but can shoot the lights out when hot. Iwould rather see him come off the bench with that energy, and on thedefensive side you can always put him on the cold shooter or the strugglingguy on the other team. Comment? --Charles, Maywood, Ill.

I think Jamal is a starter in this league, but I do think he's better suited to be your No. 2 scorer as opposed to the No. 1 scorer. This might help his occasionally poor shot selection and also give him more energy on the defensive end, where he has the skills to be a decent defender.

K.C., do you think big time free agents will still be reluctant to come toChicago in the near future, even though there has been a regime change?Also, can you give me your opinion on why the top stars have been so againstcoming to Chicago? Was it all Krause? Or was it something else as well?--Rocco, Elmhurst, Ill.

You need cap room to have them come, and the Bulls won't have any this summer. But they will have a mid-level salary cap exception and Scottie Pippen signing for that last summer should answer your first question. If and when the Bulls do have some cap room, I think they can get whomever they want. As for the second question, the summer where the Bulls had a ton of cap room has been written and talked about ad nauseum. The Bulls were on the short end of a bad chain of events, starting with the fact that a lot of players wanted to play in their hometowns. Looking back, I still think the only major error they made was wasting time chasing Grant Hill and Tim Duncan when they might've been able to get Tracy McGrady had they focused on him first.

K.C., where do you rank Kirk Hinrich based off of his defense and alsooverall as far as point guards go in the NBA? I think he is by far the toprookie defensively and top 5 overall. My co-worker says he will just be ascrawny, no name, average NBA player. --Dan C., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

You're smarter than your co-worker. I definitely think he's the best rookie defensively and you'd have to put him in the top five overall along with LeBron, Carmelo, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. I think this kid is for real.

With the influx of international players, do you think we'll see aninternational coach in the NBA in the next 20 years (not necessarily as ahead coach) like in soccer? --Russell, Seattle

Yes. Probably coaching an international team, to boot. Who that is, I don't know. But Stern---or his successor---will see to it if and when they accomplish their goal of making this league international.

We're all dying to know...how's Chandler's back holding up? Does it looklike he's good to go or is this going to continue to stall his career? --Matthew Quinn, Denver, Colo.

He seems sound for this season. Only time will tell if it holds up for the long haul---and management is still cautiously optimistic. But he is doing well ever since he returned.

Where do all the sportswriters get their trade information? They (youincluded) always talk about trades such as the one you talked about withJerome Williams going to Philadelphia for Aaron McKie and Amal McCaskill. --Matt Silver, Lake Forest

I can't tell you that. I'd have to kill you. Just kidding, of course. We talk to people in the organization we cover, people who work in other organizations, agents and other writers from around the country.

If the 76ers really want to get rid of Allen Iverson, why aren't the Bullsjumping at the opportunity to grab him? And please don't say it's because ofhis attitude! Despite that attitude, he is still the best competitor in theleague and offers a bonafide superstar to the team. Offer Crawford and thefirst-round pick, which is useless for the Bulls given the flux of big menavailable. If that's not enough, offer more! --Howard, Schaumburg, Ill.

I agree with you about acquiring Iverson at all costs. He's my personal favorite player in the league. But this was too small of a window for Philly to trade him. Look for something to happen this summer---and for the Bulls not to be a part of it.

I realize you might ridicule me with your answer, but I'll ask anyway. Isthere ANY possibility of the Bulls pursuing Kobe Bryant? Never mind if Kobewould come, but are the Bulls even THINKING about it? Is there cap space? --Chris Han, New York

I don't ridicule people who are that self-aware. The first answer is no, there isn't cap space. That renders all other answers moot.

K.C., I think you fumbled the question by Jim Dunstan about the differingimpacts head coaches have in the NFL and NBA. Simply put, Marvin Lewis andother football coaches have a lot more power because football players'contracts aren't guaranteed. In the NBA, almost every contract isguaranteed. Isn't that the main difference? --Vince Galloro, Chicago

Good pun with the fumbling the question reference. But I respectfully disagree. I don't think there's any difference between Skiles and, say, Marvin Lewis, as I said in my original answer. Skiles is going to get his message across and if the players don't like it, they won't be around. That's because Skiles has Pax's backing. That's why a recent column by my esteemed colleague, Sam Smith, rang true: This may be one time where a franchise fires the players and not the coach.

Thanks for your questions. Talk to you next week,
K.C.

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