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So how about that stretch run to eighth? With the attention to the NCAA tournament the last few weeks, I get the sense fans are growing more excited about the possibilities for two No. 1 picks, and perhaps the No. 1 overall. Though the Bulls will get a good player if they get that top pick, I expect them to make a big effort to deal it and a player to maybe shake someone like Kevin Garnett loose. You can see him inching toward a trade demand and with a little creativity, the Bulls could put together a good enough package for Minnesota and still have a team that could compete in the East. Shaq probably has one good season left and you're never going to convince me about the Nets. This could be a very exciting summer for the Bulls. As for what you've been thinking:
If you were the Bulls GM this summer whom would you choose with the first of the two picks in the first round: Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, UConn's Rudy Gay, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison or someone else? After watching the NCAA tournament I would pick Thomas, who seems to be a perfect athletic PF/SF for the Bulls. --Justin DuBois, River Falls, Wis.
Here's the problem. Thomas probably is only about 6-8. Aldridge is much taller, and let's remember first we're not sure either is coming out. Thomas reminds scouts more of a Shawn Marion type athlete who can block shots, though not quite the power player of an Amare Stoudemire. The Bulls would like to have size along with Tyson Chandler and Aldridge fits that. My guess, in the end, if they have the No. 1 pick is they go for Florida's Joakim Noah, who has size, intangibles and the work ethic they admire. I don't see a great star in this draft, especially among the big men, so take a guy who can help right away and for a long time and who fits what you are trying to do.
How about a trade for Carlos Boozer? It appears he and Utah are not happy together, so I think the Bulls might not have to give up too much to get him. If he's healthy, he could provide low post scoring the Bulls badly need plus he actually gets the idea of team defense and rebounding unlike Eddy Curry. --Al Garcia, Aurora, Ill.
Interesting idea. It's possible he ends up with the Lakers, where he was rumored to be going before getting hurt last year. He's come back strong and while not a classic low post, back-to-the-basket type, he runs the court well and gives an additional scoring dimension. He's a little smallish at his position, perhaps 6-8, though Karl Malone wasn't the tallest guy. One of the Bulls' key options is to use their cap room less for this weak free-agent market than to take on a contract a team might want to get out from. Boozer seems to qualify for that category with his uneasy relationship with management and series of injuries. He'd be better for the Bulls than anyone on the free-agent market and could turn out to be part of a legitimate deal with the Bulls giving Utah a role player like Michaal Sweetney.
In your previous Q&A, you mentioned how the Bulls "missed on Tyson Chandler" because it was hard to evaluate him since he had only played against high school level talent. How do you explain them "missing" on him again when the wrongly decided to give him a $60+ million contract? Living in LA and watching Elton Brand is a painful reminder of that awful trade. --Mark, Los Angeles
Easy on Tyson. Maybe he's not what everyone wants him to be, but he does try and does care. I'd long felt if I had to pay one of them, I would have paid Chandler over Eddy Curry because of Chandler's work ethic. No, he's never going to become a proficient offensive player. There are a lot of reasons: small hands, nerves, poor fundamentals. But I believe he'll get better and develop a passable jump shot eventually. Hey, Ben Wallace still can't make a free throw and nobody's throwing him back. Once a guy gets paid you have to forget the money and judge his value as a player. Chandler can do some things. He can rebound, block and change shots. The measure of a coach is to take what a player can do and try to limit or avoid what he cannot. The Bulls have tried to do that with Chandler and I believe he'll eventually reward them with a better offense, if not a polished game. Remember, a few years ago he was out almost all season injured and this summer sat and waited for his contract. With some security, health and a work ethic, I expect him to improve the next two seasons. He's no Elton, but that's not his fault.
When is the last time you saw Michael Jordan? How did he react to you? Do you have any rapport with him, or is he still upset about the books? --John Sastry, Webster Groves, Mo.
Michael hasn't always been happy with me, but he's always dealt with me professionally. After "The Jordan Rules" was published in 1991, he was upset with me, though less, I think, about what was in the book since there was nothing particularly embarrassing or harmful. He never once has spoken to me about the book or mentioned it. I'd had a good, professional relationship with him and back then, since the media traveled with the players, we spent some time together with an occasional dinner. I believe he felt I'd broken some sort of code by writing about him, though, I always told him anything that went on in basketball was fair game. I said I'd keep his family and personal life out of my writing and always did. We had some brief, not unfriendly conversations when he was with the Wizards, but always only on basketball. He always treated me, no matter how he may have felt, with respect in public situations and answered my questions as he would anyone else's. I never walked by to chat as some reporters did and as I once did when he was with the Bulls. He rarely speaks to reporters anymore and I've only seen him in passing at a few Bulls games. I always liked him and found him a man's man type who was fun to be around because of that legendary competitive nature as everything from a conversation to your favorite movie was a contest. I don't believe he thinks about me anymore. He seems to have done pretty well for himself.
Sam, what's the Bulls best move this off-season? Trade their two picks in a package for a star forward like Garnett or Brand (whom I'd love to see back), or keep the picks and go for the best two players available? --Simon, Brisbane, Australia
As Luc Longley would say, let's throw a shrimp guard on a bar-b-que. Heard that one, eh mate? No wonder Americans can't figure out the rest of the world. By the way, I've gotten several questions from Australia, where former Tribune editor Howard Tyner now lives and may be sending questions under various aliases. And the Bulls like Luke Schensher. I expect he'll at least be with them this summer. I believe they'll make a run for an available star with Garnett first on the list and becoming increasingly upset, and then listen regarding Jermaine O'Neal, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, if they become available. Though in the end I see them proceeding slowly through the draft, going for a big man first like Aldridge, Thomas, Duke's Josh McRoberts or Noah and then hoping the Knicks collapse again next season and they can swap No. 1's under terms of the Curry deal and end up with Greg Oden, who'll be the next great NBA player.
If the Bulls could (hypothetically) have any player in the NBA, who would you choose for them and why? I'm a big fan of Hinrich's, why do you think he's such an underrated player in the league and the media? --Sara Feola, Rockville, Md.
Even though we're operating hypothetically, I cannot include everyone, though Tim Duncan would be the obvious answer. The Bulls need size, especially an inside guy who can draw a double team. That would make them an instant contender. Which is why I've long talked about Kevin Garnett. I don't honestly see LeBron James leaving Cleveland, Chris Bosh leaving Toronto or Dwyane Wade leaving Miami. As for Hinrich, I think he'll get his due once the Bulls become a winning team. The Bulls get more trade inquiries about him than any of their players.
After watching the Portland pathetic excuse for an NBA franchise, I realized the only legit player they have is Zack Randolph. They are clearly in rebuilding mode. That being said, with the Bulls having major cap room, two draft picks and some young talent, do you think Pax has even considered acquiring Randolph in an off-season trade? He would satisfy our need for a big man! --Jeremy Lynn, Wheeling, Ill.
Not mine. I think Randolph is a problem and selfish player. He has talent, but isn't that big, maybe 6-8 or 6-9, and stops the ball to make his moves. Everyone ends up standing around watching and Skiles doesn't coach that kind of system. With a long contract, I don't see Randolph buying in. The Bulls can and will do much better, even in the draft.
I live in Belize City, Central America. We have a big debate going on in the gym where I work out about who is the better ball player between Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. In your opinion, according to statistics, who is better of the two? Secondly, is Kobe considered the best ballplayer in the NBA today? --Kevin Cadle, Belize City, Belize
Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA. Steve Nash may be the MVP and Dirk Nowitzki may get more wins and LeBron James more highlight clips, but Kobe is the best combination of ferocious competitor and overall skill. Wade is terrific, but doesn't have the perimeter shooting game yet nor the experience and success in truly big games.
Sam, what is your opinion of Memphis' Rodney Carney? If the Bulls are able to fill some of their needs down low by signing a Nene, Al Harrington or Nazr Mohammed, would he be worth taking with our No. 1 pick from the Knicks? Carney has unbelievable athletic ability, plays good defense, and, judging by what he says, he appears to be a team-first guy. He seems to have a huge upside and may even become a star player, kind of like a Vince Carter. Plus, a 3-guard lineup (which seems to be gaining in popularity in the NBA) with Hinrich, Gordon and Carney would be one of the best in the league. If we were able to land him and a post-guy like Sheldon Williams with our next pick, we will have filled some major holes with quality guys. Your thoughts? --Joe O'Malley, Warrenville, Ill.
I believe there's some interesting combinations out there for the Bulls, though the problem with adding two draft picks is adding two draft picks: Young teams don't go far in the NBA. Yes, I believe they'll sign someone from among the free agents you mention, though all are really role players. It's probably the way they'll go for now with a Pistons-like team of good players who work hard and defend. As for Carney, I have my doubts and certainly not with the top pick. He's probably more a small forward and the whispers are he is a little on the wild side and not the kind of heady player the Bulls prefer.
Sam, I always appreciate reading your column. What can I say, I enjoy a good laugh. I sure wish you would stop encouraging people everywhere to get excited about your "brilliant" trade proposals. I know you need to come up with something to write but you are sadly mistaken if you think a trade is the solution. The best team in the NBA for arguably the last three years has been the Pistons. Why? Because they play "team" basketball. They are not a bunch of selfish guys trying to pad stats, they only care about winning. If you only watched the Bulls play one time you should recognize how special their young players are. They fight hard for each other every single night and never give up, a trait they share with the Pistons. You would be crazy to trade any of these guys, especially Hinrich or Gordon, who are just flat out special. You draft the best big post player you can get like Texas' Aldridge, who has a wingspan over 7 feet, and then get your tall guard with the second pick. Problem solved. You have to realize that winning a championship isn't about making changes when things aren't broken. The Bulls are young, talented, and will only get better. Patience is a virtue, one you and many of your readers don't possess. With the addition of Aldridge and a guy like Brewer to defend and rebound off the bench the Bulls will be vastly improved, and the most exciting young team in the league. You don't trade guys away who have the "it" factor, so please stop talking about trading Gordon, all of you. You're all crazy people. Have fun watching these young guys and stop expecting a championship to come immediately. Geez how many years was it before Jordan's first championship? We all need to calm down and enjoy the journey these young guys are taking, I know I'm going to. --R. Steffen, Q. Creek, Ariz.
Is this really John Paxson? The truth is I don't completely disagree with you. Yes, I believe the Bulls are putting together a talented group, but I know you need, as Phil Jackson always said, men to win in the NBA. You point to the Pistons and the way they built were trades for Richard Hamilton, Rasheed and Ben Wallace and the free-agent signing of Chauncey Billips, who went through several teams. Same with Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. It takes time for players to grow, and the Bulls could expedite that process with a high-level veteran or two. The Bulls needed Bill Cartwright for young Charles Oakley to make that final step. The history of the NBA is filled with big-time veterans joining the starting lineups of young teams to take that next step to a serious competitive level. Why be satisfied with just trying to make the playoffs?
Sam, I'm a dreamer just like you. I loved it when the Bulls traded for Tyson. I stood up and yelled "Hallelujah" when the Bulls acquired Jalen Rose. And I still think that Jerry Krause was a good GM because, for all his faults, he had a vision and he pursued it, sometimes with reckless abandon. Now it's been about three years or so since Pax took over and I've got to say, he's put together a pretty solid group of young players with the chance to get better in time. But we all know the Bulls lack a true talent with the potential to become a star. And with the Bulls holding, at worst, a top 5 selection in the upcoming draft, this worries me. Although I do not disagree with the Bulls selections in recent drafts, it cannot be overlooked that in each instance the Bulls have erred on the side of caution, opting for the more known quantity over one with greater potential. So I ask you, Sam, what is your vision because I worry that at this rate the Bulls will never advance beyond being just good, I want them to be great. --David, Philadelphia
This is a good contrast with the last letter since not everyone sees the same events the same way. Yes, I offer lessons in life as well. Of course, it's easier for us to be aggressive since we don't have to answer to anyone. It's also one of the best parts of sports to raise issues for discussion. Yes, Paxson has been somewhat conservative, but what's been best about him is that he's had a vision of the kind of team he wants and has followed it for the most part. Hinrich, Deng and Gordon are players who will work hard and compete no matter the circumstances. I think they'll make a good pick or two if they have that second draft pick and don't trade it. I think they're a little more uncertain about free agency because teams generally overpay for free agents and with a limited class this summer, it's hard to see getting your money worth if you pay much for anyone available.
Any chance the Raptors would actually be willing to give up Chris Bosh for the Bulls' two lottery picks? --Anuj Lal, Peoria, Ill.
No. The Bulls would love to have Bosh. Everyone believed the Raptors would have to trade him because players haven't wanted to go to Canada as many believe with the exchange rate you get only 80 percent credit on your statistics. Now with the change to Bryan Colangelo as GM and a full-court press on Bosh to stay with every imaginable perk until he resigns, I don't see them trading him for anyone short of LeBron.
Do you think if the Bulls had drafted Dwayne Wade with Scott Skiles as head coach, would we had been able to witness his greatness, knowing Skiles' history of pulling players just when they're getting hot? --Dennis Gilliam, College Park, Ga.
Skiles' proclivities and quick hook remain an interesting issue for fans. You're right, he doesn't suffer fools or mistakes well, but he's no fool. He wants to win the games. When his 2000-01 Suns team won 51 games, Jason Kidd averaged 39.8 minutes per game. Skiles even played nonchalant Rodney Rogers almost 30 minutes per game. Of course, Kidd then got mad at him. Skiles is a very good coach, in part, because of the demands he places on players to play hard, care and execute. Right now, with a reserves group of players, he's the leader. I continue to hear opposing coaches commend the Bulls more for their relentless play than about any team in the league. I believe Wade would have been perfect with Skiles because Wade is a competitor, like Skiles, who won't quit. The Bulls' problem may be they are trying to find players like that for Skiles, and there aren't enough of them.
What are the Bulls' chances of getting Dee Brown from Illinois when he goes pro? He is exciting to watch and would look great in red and white. Will John Paxson take a look at him? --Todd Orton, Albuquerque, N.M.
I think it would be against league policy to get another small guard unless the league changes to 6-5 and under rules. I don't believe Dee helped himself in the NCAA tournament and he probably will be a second-round pick. Not sure how he fits in the NBA at his size. He'd have to be with a big-time player who draws a double, like LeBron James, and then maybe a game changer like Earl Boykins. With the wrong team, he'll be a bust.
With commentary about Adam Morrison's stock falling faster than his tears I wanted to ask you whose stock you think has fallen or risen so far in the tournament. In my view, Brandon Roy's moved up seeing his team fall apart against UConn without him in the game and Noah with solid play throughout. Moving down are Aldridge who puts up huge numbers against weak front lines but didn't look great against LSU which has one of the better front courts. Also, Rudy Gay, a talented player who falls short of his potential and paled in comparison to Brandon Roy when the Huskies matched up. --Peter, San Francisco
Funny. Morrison is the most intriguing figure in the draft. A month ago most everyone had him No. 1. You can see him going No. 1, if someone like Charlotte gets the pick and they want a scorer. You also can see him falling out of the top five with concerns being raised about what else he can do but score and who he'll guard in the NBA. Of the shooting guards, I like Roy and, like you, I'm not that high on Gay. He doesn't seem to impact the game much and big-time players have to do that at some level. It's why I had doubts last year about Marvin Williams. Big players make plays no matter who they play with. That's what the pros watch for. The problem is some get caught up in athletes too much and, in the end, you need basketball players.