In the absence of Kirk Hinrich, it has become clear that Ben Gordon can run the point, and in fact, is more comfortable in that position. So let's trade Hinrich. If we cannot get Garnett, then I suggest getting a true shooting guard to start with Gordon. Any ideas? I wonder if we could get Michael Redd from Milwaukee, who wanted to sign Hinrich next year if the Bulls couldn't get an extension. -- Ryan Gustafson, Chicago
I don't think Milwaukee did. I think they'd just like to bring back their own guy, Mo Williams, who'd be cheaper. And it's a franchise having financial issues and not likely to be a big free agent market player. The bigger question is the sudden large number of e-mails I get seeking a trade of Hinrich. Even before Monday's 1-11. I know Gordon can score, and that's a very nice talent to have in the NBA. Likewise with Deng. I'll include several of these e-mails, but I find it interesting the way so many have changed on Hinrich. He has not been as sharp this season, which may be due to playing this past summer for USA Basketball and to both Gordon and Deng looking for their shot more given they are in contract years. I'm not saying they're selfish, but the ball doesn't always move around as much. Also, I think Hinrich is pressing to show he deserves the big contract extension he got, which eventually spelled the end for Tyson Chandler last season. But Hinrich has been the team's best all-around player the last three seasons and has averaged more than 20 in the playoffs both seasons. It hardly seems this is a guy to give up on, though I find myself on the defensive on this position more than Hinrich is in games.
Is Ben Gordon (offensively) the Bulls best point guard? He was most effective his rookie year in the 4th quarter when he attacked with the ball. Now when he plays point, he also breaks the defense down and creates for the rest of the team in addition to scoring more. He does a lot of things Isiah Thomas used to do. -- Raghu Pulluru, Naperville
It's an interesting comparison. I know Ben would like to be that kind of player, though it didn't appear he would be his first two seasons though the Bulls seemed to give him plenty of opportunities. But he has learned to get to the basket and take the hit, though the new rules that almost prevent any contact on the perimeter have opened up things in a great way for Ben. I do think the Bulls are going to have an interesting decision to make after this season; I think Ben is intent on being a scoring point guard like Baron Davis.
I think Ben Gordon deserves more minutes and to be in the starting lineup and he is the one who should stay in Chicago for a long time. Why don't the Bulls give Ben more minutes than Kirk Hinrich? They start Duhon but they don't start Ben Gordon. Why? -- Jake, Carol Stream
Ben is getting starter's minutes and finishing the games. I suppose he would have come along anyway, but every time he's started, he has come out as a passer more and turned the ball over. He's as good a sixth man who's come along since John Havlicek was in the role for Boston. I don't see a reason to change for now.
I'm a huge Hinrich fan, but as this team matures I think it becomes increasingly clear that he's the expendable piece in any potential deal for Garnett. His 'poison pill' status aside, he's a great young player whom the Wolves would have to consider as a cornerstone of a deal, yet his contributions to the Bulls can be largely replaced by Chris Duhon. The KG deal may never happen, but if it does, Captain Kirk is the more obvious chip to consider moving. -- Aaron, Los Angeles
Now that's the interesting question. I'm convinced the Timberwolves will keep Garnett, but if they did make him available and wanted Hinrich, I'm sure the Bulls would seriously consider it. I doubt any one player would stand in the way of a Garnett deal. Also, it seems the Bulls have put themselves in position to eventually do something as Hinrich's extension starts high and goes down every season, meaning in later years he'll be easier to trade.
OK, here it is ... this one has to make sense and has to work. Should wake up the square-shouldered McHale to give KG up for Nocioni, PJ Brown, overrated Kirk Hinrich, and a 1st round pick in '08. Kirk is no point guard. He is brutal on fast break, he has no penetrating ability and mopes around too much. Let's do this trade now! -- M. Khan, Morton Grove
More Hinrich bashing? If Minnesota wanted to do that deal, I wouldn't object, though if Kirk is that bad, why would they want him? It's really not much of a deal for Minnesota, which would need bigs of some sort to give up Garnett. Who, as I said, probably will remain there.
With the recent play of Hinrich and Duhon, I must admit that I would be all for a trade that sends Hinrich. Duhon is an effective point guard, and very skilled at running the offense and playing defense. I think his offensive shortcomings would be offset by the addition of Ben Gordon to the starting lineup. With the development of Thabo, I think one of those three must go in the next year or two, and I'd pick Hinrich in order to keep Duhon and Gordon. What do you think? Is that a possiblity? -- Ben Sigwarth, Iowa City, Iowa
I hope not. I think this all is some overreaction to a great run by Gordon and a slump by Hinrich. Hinrich's defense hasn't been as good this season and he hasn't always taken the toughest guy this season. Sometimes Duhon does. I know there's lots of support for Sefolosha, which strikes me as the backup quarterback thing. Gordon is really good, but I think great in that sixth man role. Kirk's a better decision-maker and point guard even if he may not be the perfect point guard. And Kirk remains a good defender even if he's not at his best this season. Duhon seems to me valuable as a trade piece, though I think his shooting is too inconsistent to rely on him for the long-term.
Although I now live in MD, I am from Chicago, a former Bulls season ticket holder and "bleed" Bulls red. I follow every Bulls game on WGN and/or my NBA Ticket and I would like to know when will the majority of people around the Bulls stop giving Hinrich "a pass?" I will give him credit for hustle, defense and grit. However, he, otherwise, is much too overrated. Too often, he cannot finish a layup, he is too streaky of a shooter (currently, he can't throw it in the ocean) and, to me, most importantly, when he plays the point and/or when he is the primary ballhandler, he makes too many bad decisions with the basketball (too much dribbling, really dumb passes like his favorite one-hander off the dribble, shooting ill advised/quick shots instead of getting the ball to the players on a roll, bad fouls, etc.), especially in situations that can be game changing, either killing rallies or keeping the other team in the game. Based upon what I see every game, unless there are thoughts of trying to trade him next year when it is easier to do, his value to the team needs to be toned down a few decibels. -- Eric Harrell, Crownsville, Md.
I feel like I'm out here waving an umbrella at a tornado. What happened to last season when Kirk was the next Steve Nash? Even Steve Kerr kept saying that in the playoff broadcasts against Miami. Actually, this is a lot like the commentary I heard in Dallas when Nash was traded there. I think Kirk is learning to become a Nash-like player the way he takes the ball into the lane and comes out the other side looking for someone. Rather than overdribbling, I think he helps keep the offense moving. I don't like guys who pound the ball, but I think he does this with a purpose. I'm giving him more time to come out of it and believe he will.
Where did all these Hinrich haters come from? Hasn't anyone else noticed that he guards guys 4 inches taller and spreads the floor? I love Du, but if someone has to go from the back court, I think it's him unless you can get a post scorer and a big guard for Gordon and spare parts. -- Jim, La Grange
Just what I was wondering. I guess when you stand back, assuming you don't need glasses, the talent is awfully similar among the core players and the things Gordon and Deng do are less subtle. If the Bulls were to make Hinrich available, they'd have no shortage of interest. If he could get you Garnett, sure, but I doubt that. And much less would be a mistake.
Okay, is anyone else getting tired of Ben Gordon or is it just me? I always thought that the role of the point guard was to run the offense ... not be the offense. Perhaps his ego is so inflated that it interferes with his basketball judgment. PASS THE BALL, BEN! -- Cindy, Farmington Hills, Mich.
It is mostly you, at least among Bulls fans. But you have a point. But that's why Ben is ideal as a sixth man. He likes to shoot and is good at it.
Explain the comparison about T-Mac with Scottie Pippen. -- Magic, Guangzhou, China
Scottie was a much better defender, though McGrady could have been good. McGrady decided to concentrate on offense and is much better as a shooter and penetrator. Scottie played harder and was much more committed, though. Interestingly, both had back issues. The fact that Pippen got surgery and McGrady never did suggests Pippen worked to help fix his and McGrady never did. Both were prized projects of Jerry Krause.
Do you see any way the NBA can make the regular season more watchable? It seems so pointless as so many teams make the playoffs now. We haven't even hit the halfway point of the season and we are already discussing lowering Ben's minutes to save him for the playoffs! I really cannot watch much regular season NBA so help us find a way to make it more interesting and not a sit and wait to see who is injured before the playoffs come. -- Brian, Mundelein
I know this is the major problem with me, but I love the regular season. To me, there's a drama in every game of who can produce, who plays poorly, what mistakes the coach or players make, who is playing someone to showcase him, who is playing for his job. Of course, I also enjoyed the Beverly Hillbillies and consider it a great Saturday night discussing a weak-side back door with Jeff Van Gundy.
Is it really worth it to trade a young stud like Deng or Gordon for a veteran like Garnett or Gasol when it is very clear from the last few weeks that the best is yet to come from D&G? We already have a closer in Gordon -- we don't need anyone else. Unless the Bulls can pull off a deal of Nocioni, TT and the Knicks' pick for a veteran do you really think its worth it? -- Ehud Shir, Jerusalem, Israel
It's looking dicey these days, though I'd go for Garnett with any one core player since I think he gets you to the Finals and then anything can happen, as it did with Miami when Dallas self-destructed. With Dwyane Wade's help. You never know what is going to happen regarding injuries, and Ben Wallace isn't here for the long-term.
Please use your vast influence to convince Wayne Larrivee that the Bulls/Cleveland match was not as he excitedly said, "This is playoff basketball!" That was "the" most boring game I have seen in a long time. Watching Lebron isolate and then just pull up was ridiculous. Also I am getting tired of Lebron's exaggerated looks: agony, suave, surprise, perturbed. His ego is bigger than Oprah's hair on Thursdays. -- Norman Kozlarek, Evergreen Park
I've got to start watching on Thursdays. There may not be a worse offense with a better player in the game. I heard even Mike Fratello was offended.
I have been watching the Bulls over 25 years and I have never seen a great scoring player come into the NBA playing good "D." I don't understand why Scott Skiles is so hard on Ben Gordon; from what I see he is the only player that draws a double-team. Other stars are able to learn on the job and work through their mistakes without feeling they are going to be pulled. -- Arnold Turner, Chicago
Scott is pushing him to be the best he can be. Remind me to run that one by Ben. I know people think Skiles is way tougher on Gordon than Hinrich, though not in practice from what I've heard. Hinrich doesn't take the demands as well as Gordon does, like Phil Jackson with Pippen and Grant. He knew Horace could take it and Pippen would pout.
Victor Khryapa. Does he have value as a trade piece, especially to a Western Conference team? I mean, he was a starter last year, right? You'd think some Western Conference team looking for scoring (and, depending on his contract situation, some financial relief) would like him. Is there anyone out there fitting that mold? -- Jim Hecimovich, Oxford, England
Oh, Khryapa. Almost forgot about him. Like Scott Skiles. I know Khryapa is upset about his situation and probably would like to get out, but to his credit hasn't said much. The point for the Bulls is you don't just give away a guy because he's unhappy. You can't play everyone and Khryapa has the bad fortune to be playing behind Deng and Nocioni. The Bulls probably need to hold onto him for a while because he has a low salary and would be a nice piece in a trade if a big one comes up. As the players like to say, it's a business.
Sam, in 1987, Krause drafted Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. For some reason the drafting of Thomas and Thabo reminds me of that '87 draft. Did the '87 draft influence John Paxson, who of course was a member of the '87 Bulls' team, to head that direction in the draft? Thomas is about the same size as Grant but more athletically gifted. Thabo isn't a small forward but shares similar physical characteristics as Pippen, and in fact, seems to have that Pippen savvy on the court. I guess I'm just curious as to whether or not it is coincidence that Paxson seemed to draft two players that could be very similar players as the two "Doberman pinschers" the Bulls' took in 1987. -- Josh Herren, Eglin AFB, Fla.
Interesting take, though since Jerry Krause drafted them, I doubt Paxson saw the correlation. He and Krause never were on great terms, though perhaps Paxson is more like him than he'd ever like to admit. Saying that probably assures he'll never speak to me again. But Krause, despite all the criticism, had a pretty good eye for young talent and so does Paxson. Krause did spot Tracy McGrady early, though perhaps the Curry and Chandler thing didn't go as well as he'd hoped. I think Thomas and Sefolosha will be nice pieces if the Bulls don't make any big trades.
Reports out there say Ron Artest wants out. What do you think about trading for him, most likely little Ben and PJ. He would fit very well in coach Skiles defensive system plus add some scoring to the starting lineup. -- Tony Harty, Lake Zurich
I've taken a while to answer this one because I have trouble writing an answer through all my laughing. I keep picturing Skiles and Paxson, no headbands, etc., with Artest, no logic or discipline. I keep thinking of Skiles lecturing Artest on his shot selection and Artest asking Skiles for shrimp with lobster sauce and an egg roll. Yes, Ron has some anger issues, but the biggest problem is his idea of the game plan differs from everyone else's. A game plan is mere theory to Ron. Ron shoots when he feels like it wherever he is and no matter the situation. He makes up for it with inspired defense, but drives everyone nuts. You may recall the Bulls had him once and couldn't wait to get rid of him. Like the Pacers and now the Kings. Doesn't that tell you something? Many things will happen on the Bulls before a trade for Artest, among them Skiles wearing a headband after getting hair plugs.
How about start off by leveraging the Clippers' woes to right a past wrong. I propose the Bulls send Luol Deng, Chris Duhon, a protected #1 pick, P.J. Brown, Mike Sweetney and Malik Allen for Elton Brand and Sam Cassell. The Clippers are not going anywhere, and this trade lets them run the floor with Livingston, Maggette, Deng and Tim Thomas together while freeing up cap room to get a big man through free agency, their own lottery pick and the Bulls' pick (unless it is #1 overall - then the Bulls keep it and surrender something else). For the Bulls, this gets them the low post scorer they need and clears up logjams at point guard and small forward, -- Marc Blumer, Chicago
Artest we don't back. Brand we can't get back. Most people here would love to have Elton back, though things like that don't happen. Plus, what the Bulls saw once remains an issue. Elton is 6-8 at power forward. He's terrific and I'd love to have him on any team I have, but the Bulls' biggest issue remains the lack of size on the front line and Elton doesn't address that. Plus, I doubt you could get him from the Clippers for anyone on the Bulls because they love him so much. And that group would run the floor to about 25 wins a season.
The Bulls have a need at the power forward position, and a lack of available quality PFs. What about someone not on the radar? What is Karl Malone up to these days? I am sure he wouldn't mind a legitimate chance at a ring ... assuming he has kept himself in good shape. -- Javier, Chicago
Nice thinking, though Malone was about done and finally breaking down on his last run with the Lakers in '04. He's been fishing, driving trucks and generally been out of basketball shape. You don't get guys to fill a hole for a team looking at a championship with guys who aren't playing in a watered-down league. If you can play much at all, it's hard not to be in the NBA these days.
Let me start by saying I am a big Scott Skiles fan. With that made abundantly clear, I question the way he handled the Suns game. It would seem that the Bulls played Suns' ball for the first half and beat them at their own game - West Coast run and gun. Why wouldn't Skiles have slowed things down (dramatically) in the second half? I didn't see any remarkable change in the pace and thought that slowing things down would have made the Suns play catch-up on our terms. -- Todd Fulton, Portage Park
I've gotten a couple of questions like this and side with what Skiles did. What you describe is the NFL prevent, and we know what usually happens when teams start waiting for the clock to expire. You got the lead playing aggressively and you keep doing so. I've always felt teams that do that don't believe they are good enough to win. The Bulls got beat by a great shot at the end. It happens in the NBA. I thought the Bulls handled that game right except for the final two seconds.
What was Ben Gordon doing in the game against Phoenix on the last possession? Ben had 5 fouls, and Thabo's extra 9 inches of reach would have impeded Barbosa's game-winning shot. Did Skiles acknowledge this mistake? -- Keith Z. M., Cincinnati
I think he might have missed that one, though I admit I didn't think of it at the time given Ben seemed to be out there by himself on offense.
Who's the locker room leader of the Bulls? I see Chris Duhon being a great teammate but not dominant enough as a player to command that kind of respect. Kirk Hinrich's body language, the slumped shoulders and reserved demeanor doesn't show signs of a leader. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are playing like all-stars but neither looked like leaders on the floor. Ben Wallace leads in his play but I don't see him as the leader either. -- Keith Z. M., Cincinnati
The leader is Skiles. Yes, it's a quiet team and there isn't much rah rah stuff. I think that's way overrated, anyway. We hear about it when teams win. Bad teams just have meetings. Plus, it's hard to be that kind of leader unless you've accomplished something. Ben Wallace is the only one who has and no one really knows him yet. From what I've seen, John Ligmanowski is the true locker room leader because everyone is always asking for him. He's the guy who cleans the uniforms and gets everyone extra socks.
I have watched as many games as possible lately and Big Ben is getting run over in a lot of games as of late. Remember Malik Allen's play in the Cavs game? He needs to play more. Wallace's numbers are very bad since the two 20-plus rebound games. What will it take for Skiles to see this as a problem? -- Mark Ludden, Cape Coral, Fla.
Though I've been tough on Ben, I think he's doing now about what the Bulls expected: Remain active, disrupt the opponent offense on occasion, get a big rebounding game here and there. The Bulls don't have the big forward to back up Ben, and even he's mentioned that in saying he missed Rasheed Wallace. You don't hear that much. Yes, Ben gets beat by bigger guys a fair amount because he's not the jumper he was. But I still think overall it's a good signing for these next few seasons.
Do you think it is about time to bury the hatchet with Big Ben? I understood your dislike for Wallace at first, but after the infamous "Headband Incident" he has played well and is a reason for the Bulls success. However, even though he has elevated his play, the criticism from your Q and A seems to be constant. His numbers aren't spectacular, but they are similar to his performance last year, plus they have been on the incline since the beginning of December. Maybe not worth the 16 mil, but it is definitely what we were looking for when we gave him the contract. -- John, Normal
I thought you'd commend me for pushing him, though he's about as responsible for the Bulls success as Dennis Rodman was for the 72-win season. The offense has been much better than the defense, especially Gordon and Deng, though at least Wallace finally stopped hurting the team. It's clear -- for whatever reason -- that he didn't come into the season to play hard. That's all he is. So I got on him some. I don't say that affected him, though no one likes to be criticized. Plus, I had been hearing from Pistons players how little Wallace thought of his Bulls teammates at a time he was hardly playing. So I thought a little attention made sense.
I coached against Eddy Curry in AAU. I always said he was a stiff then, a stiff with the Bulls, and will ALWAYS be a stiff. Am I now the stiff? Isiah must be a genius to get this effort out of Curry? And when I saw a loose ball and the opponent hit the deck and got it and Ben just stood there and watched I said, "Uh oh." He looks pathetic in the post: No shot, no moves, no feet, no pass, no algorithmic skills, free throw air balls???, but a lovely head band. He is a master at deception and psychology. What a joke. -- Norman Kozlarek, Evergreen Park
Isiah for coach of the year? Algorithmic skills? I'm running that one by Ben.
Do you have any influence with the organist at the Stadium? Can you work on her/him to introduce some new musical chant-alongs? It is so depressing to hear that same "de-fence/de-fence" and similar worn-out musical exhortations. This Bulls team deserves something new, and if the team doesn't, the fans certainly do. -- Terry, Schaumburg
Actually, I've been requesting Neil Diamond stuff for a long time. I believe the guys would be pumped up on defense with Sweet Caroline.
Sam if you had to choose 2 out of the 3 players that are up for contract extensions (Deng, Gordon, and Noce), which 2 players would you choose and why? -- Mike Marino, Chicago
I hear the Bulls saying they can re-sign everyone after the season. If so, I'd be somewhat surprised. But I suppose it's possible. If you have to sign only two, Deng and Gordon are the obvious choices since Nocioni is not a true power forward. Maybe Noce gives the Bulls a hometown discount so everyone can come back if there is no major trade.
I thought your comments about "food poisoning" and the "flu" were remarkable. Are you a reporter or a publicist? Fans spending $100-200 or more for tickets are paying multi-million dollar salaries for NBA players. If players can't perform because they're hung over (or worse), shouldn't you report that, not hide it? You give the impression that these games don't really count -- if a player isn't ready to come out and entertain, it doesn't matter. Are you covering something where the games are legit, or professional wrestling or figure skating? If somebody earning $1 or $5 or $10 million a year is too drunk to suit up, we should know. -- B Miller, Chicago
It's nice to know someone who never has gone out and had a drink. I had when I was that age and had some bad days the next day at work. I don't know anyone who hasn't. But I always came to work and as far as I can tell these players do as well. What do you think everyone does after games: Goes home and gets 10 hours of sleep so they can be your hero? Most are kids and still growing up, which usually involves making mistakes and doing things we wish later we didn't do. From what I can see, anyone who goes to Bulls games gets their money's worth the way the team plays. I have never encountered one player in this Bulls group unable to perform because of any partying he might have done. Though I have seen that elsewhere. Though more on law firms and when I covered Congress. The TV stations are paying the salaries, by the way. Your ticket revenues pay for the sweatbands and underwear.
In this week's "Ask Sam Smith," you explain that: (1) "food poisoning" is often used as a euphemism to describe the lingering effects of the late-night activities in which our young basketball players partake; (2) in the 80s and 90s, sportswriters more often called this the "flu"; and (3) you saw few players who were consistently more sick than Michael Jordan. Can you be suggesting that Jordan's famous overcoming of the "flu" to defeat Karl Malone and the Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals was not as honorable as it was made out to be? Surely players take care of themselves during the Finals, of all times. -- Alex Hartzler, Evanston
I could tell you some stories. Oh, right, that's what I'm supposed to do. I believe Jordan had some illness of some sort, though Michael always liked the drama. How many times do you remember him going down in a fall or collision, laying there, the Stadium going quiet, then dragging himself up and dunking over some seven-footer. Only adds to the legend. If you think players are staying in and getting to bed early because it's the Finals, I have some Tribune stock to sell you.
Sam: Did Kirk Hinrich cause Pat Riley's injuries, perhaps by shaking his hand after the Bulls beat the Heat, and if so, will the league suspend him? -- Lester Munson, Alexandria, Va.
Sounds like you may have stumbled onto something. Now Riley's problems are only being called Antoine-itis.
How effective do you think that Michael Sweetney would be if he lost 60 pounds? He has decent instincts, a nice touch, very good hands, and pretty good feet ... Would he gain necessary quickness and second jump, or is his bulk and horizontality his unchangeable game. -- Tom Dean, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
I think he'd be a very nice player to have. But some guys can't get past their problems, whatever they are. And that's a big one for Sweetney.
Whatever happened to Eddie Robinson? I remember the Knicks were trying to get him but he failed his physical I think? He had a lot of talent, how come he's not in the league somewhere? -- Chad, Pana
Interesting you mention that. I wondered myself and found him in the NBDL in Idaho. I called the coach to try to set up an interview, sort of give him some publicity that he's back. He declined the interview request. The coach called back to say Eddie said he was badly treated in Chicago and didn't want to talk to anyone from the city. And I thought he'd be sending bon bons and flowers every day to the organization for that ridiculous contract and then giving him about $15 million not to play. No wonder he's bitter. Hey, with that attitude he should make it back to the NBA.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times