K.C. Johnson on the Bulls

Chicago BullsColleges and UniversitiesBen GordonJoe JohnsonRay AllenBobby SimmonsTim Thomas

What was Scott Skiles thinking by not playing Ben Gordon in the entire fourth quarter of Game 6 in Washington? --Mitchell Cohen, New York

I received this question a surprising amount, both professionally and personally from friends and colleagues. Did anybody watch the game? Ben couldn't even make a simple entry pass. Now, I understand that Skiles broke from form by not playing him the fourth quarter because several times during the season, Gordon looked like he was on skates through three quarters and then found a phone booth and turned into Superman in the fourth. Skiles even would be consistently quoted as saying, "Ben has earned the right to appear in the fourth, no matter what he did in the first three quarters." But I personally agreed with Skiles' decision given how shell-shocked and ineffective Ben looked this time. I thought this situation transcended the norm. That I've received this question so often obviously shows that other people don't agree. And now we have all offseason to debate it.

I watched a clip on the Comcast Web site about the Bulls chances next year, and how they made a quick jump to success probably a year too early. Who is key to the Bulls' success next year? --Neil Kirpalani, Newark, Del.

The second-year players. Since John Paxson doesn't expect to make major off-season acquisitions to save salary-cap space for the summer of 2006, improvement must come from within. That means Deng must rehabilitate from wrist surgery, Gordon must improve his ball-handling and defensive skills, Duhon must be re-signed and Nocioni must discover decaf.

I recently read an article in ESPN Magazine about former Bull Jay Williams. It said Williams would like to be in Bulls camp and compete for a roster spot. Are the Bulls going give him a tryout? --Frank, Orland Park, Ill.

Right after they look at you and me first. The last thing the Bulls need is another undersized guard. Management wishes Williams all the best in his long-shot attempt at returning to the NBA. But after giving him $3 million that they didn't have to in the form of a contract buyout, it ended their association with Williams.

I think we all agree that the Bulls will do whatever is necessary to keep their core together. It has been predicted that if the Bulls want to add anyone, it would be a big guard who can shoot and play defense. To that end, how much salary would John Paxson have to dump to be in the ballpark for a Ray Allen, Joe Johnson or Bobby Simmons? --Mike Fonck, Goshen, Ind.

All more than the Bulls are willing to spend this summer. It's clear that Paxson's plans are to make minor tweaks to the roster this summer, let the core of young talent develop for another year and then make a big run at free agents in the summer of 2006, when the contracts of Antonio Davis and Eric Piatkowski and the buyout figure for Eddie Robinson comes off the books. Ray Allen will get huge money, Joe Johnson, I believe, is a restricted free agent and Bobby Simmons probably earned himself the mid-level exception with his fine season. So all three players will be out of the Bulls' price range for this summer.

I see that the Bulls are saving cap space for 2006. Who will be free agents next year? --Jay, De Pere, Wis.

Thought you'd never ask. Here's a partial list of some of the players who will be up that summer -- Tony Battie, Nazr Mohammed, Chucky Atkins, Ben Wallace, Tim Thomas, Michael Finley, Cuttino Mobley, Al Harrington, Jason Terry and Matt Harpring. Other possible restricted free agents are Yao Ming, Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince.

In an earlier version of this story, I included four other players in the above group -- Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki. They are all after the 2006-07 season.

I know this might be hard for people to swallow, but the Bulls have too many point guards and now is the time for them to strike on a trade for a superstar named Kevin Garnett. He is disenchanted in Minnesota and hopefully now is open to returning to his hometown. What would it take to get Garnett? Probably a player coming into his own such as Tyson Chandler and a star in the making in Ben Gordon. Imagine Garnett, Curry, Hinrich and Deng playing together for the next six years or so. --J.T. California, North Hollywood, Calif.

Only if Minnesota throws in Fred Hoiberg.

Why does Scott Skiles, a young coach, look and dress like Gene Keady from the 70s? Just because he has a young team doesn't mean he needs to look like a college coach. The comb-over? C'mon Skiles, shave it and get a new tailor! This is Chicago! --Dan, Chicago

Not sure about all that, but I do know that Scott certainly contributed to Keady's baldness by lighting him up a few times in college.

I've noticed a direct correlation with the Bulls and my love life. During the "dark years" I was experiencing my "dark-player years" in college, but since finally maturing this year and finding the "value" of meaningful relationships with girls, the Bulls have been winning. During the playoffs, my favorite girl stopped talking to me and then the Bulls lost three straight. Well, she hasn't gotten back to me and I have finally said forget her. --Brian Laesch, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Maybe you were spending too much time watching the Bulls. Somehow, my wife hasn't left me yet.

Well now the season is over. So, now what? Do you continue your column? There is a lot more to talk about. I hope you will continue reporting and commenting on the Bulls in the offseason. --Craig Dillon, Chicago

There's always a ton of offseason stuff and, barring a lockout, here are the story lines for this summer. Curry's heart condition, Skiles' contract extension, re-signing Curry, Chandler and Duhon and the other roster moves. So don't worry. I'll be busy.

Thanks for all your great questions this season. We'll talk to you down the road.
K.C.

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