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If an NBA point guard were to take 100 uncontested three-point shots (say in practice), how many would go in? I always maintain that 80-90 would go in and my friend thinks it would be way lower. Aren't these guys incredible shooters? With all the time in the world and no one guarding them, wouldn't they make most of these shots? --Carlos P., Chicago

Well, maybe not Chris Duhon or T.J. Ford, but it's way higher than most think. There have been some remarkable stories of players coming into draft workouts, like Miami's Jason Kapono, who supposedly hit something like 70 straight threes. Ben Gordon had one of those workouts for the Bulls, which pulled him up to a No. 3 pick when his size and lack of point guard skills suggested otherwise. People don't often realize how good these guys are. I remember when Michael Jordan was in his prime and he'd challenge friends, not pro athletes, to games. He'd say they'd play to 10 and wouldn't get a shot off. Not him winning 10-0, but he wouldn't let them even get an attempt off. And I'd hear he'd do it. Because people play sports and then watch pro players make it look so easy, they don't think it's as hard as, say, the spelling bee for kids. But these guys also are so good on defense that it is difficult to shoot a high percentage despite the canard that NBA players don't play defense. Left alone, the best shooters regularly can make 30 or 40 in a row in practice.

The Bulls have several free agents this summer (P.J. Brown, Malik Allen, Michael Sweetney, Andrees Nocioni, and Ben Gordon). Yet the Bulls have no cap room to make a move this summer? I'm confused, I understand the Bulls will be offering Luol Deng, Gordon and Nocioni extensions but the rest of those players will possibly be off the books. What factor am I missing to see how this really works? --Shawn Rice, Glendale, Ariz.

At one time, the NBA had rules that said you could replace a player with another, so if P.J. Brown's salary of about $9 million went away, you could go get a $9 million player. That changed long ago. Now, you have to be under the total salary cap to pursue a free agent. Even if the Bulls wait and don't offer extensions to Deng and Gordon, Nocioni is a free agent whom they have to deal with. They can match an offer or if they hang onto him as free agency begins, his so called salary cap hold exceeds his $4 million salary. Plus, Kirk Hinrich's extension kicks in after this season and starts high, so he'll be on the books for more than $11 million. And the No. 1 draft pick will go on the books for about $3 million. With Ben Wallace at about $16 million, the Bulls will be at the salary cap of about $53 million already and unable to make anyone a major offer.

So they'll probably go over to have the salary cap exception of about a $5 million starting salary. But it's unclear if they'll use it with all the extensions coming up because they won't want to be in position to go over the luxury tax threshold of about $65 million. They could, but it's generally been their choice not to. The short answer is free agency was last summer. Trades could be this summer.

For starters I am a fan of Tyrus Thomas, but his game is so out of control. It seems that every game he is called for goal tending or offensive basket interference. Granted when he does block shots it is awesome, but he seems awfully out of control at times. Not only the goal tending but sometimes he attempts to lead breakaways only to fumble the ball away. Do the Bulls have anyone specifically assigned to work with him? It just seems like with a little more basketball IQ he could go from an up-and-down rookie to a solid NBA player. --Josh Stapleton, West Jordan, Utah

Yes, they work with Thomas all the time, but it shows the big difference between the NBA and playing a year in college. Thomas is starting to show why the Bulls thought so highly of him. He does what no one else on the roster can with his jumping ability and explosiveness. His attitude, which caused him some embarrassment and criticism with his indifference toward the slam dunk contest and low level staff members and NBA personnel, can also be a plus because he really does think he's better than Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. It is, I think, why he appears out of control so often. He does think he can block every shot, take the ball full court and dunk and score on anyone. So he is often out of position and fouls a lot.

He needs to understand that classic cliché of letting the game come to him. He should just be concentrating on defense for now and eventually will be the successor to Wallace with a better offense game -- or actually having one. But he's a hard-headed kid and tough to get to for the staff, it seems clear.

Going into last year's draft, Player A was being compared to Chris Bosh with maybe a touch of Kevin Garnett. Worst case scenario, he's Drew Gooden. Player B was being compared to Stromile Swift with a touch of Shawn Marion and Theo Ratliff. Worst case scenario, he actually turns into Stromile Swift. So why did the Bulls trade away LaMarcus Aldridge again? --Jesse Miller, Washington, D.C.

They liked Aldridge. It was a close call for a time. But they didn't see anyone being a major factor for them this season. I agreed, other than Brandon Roy, whom I wrote I favored. But the Bulls are solid at the perimeter and Roy never would have had a chance to do what he's doing in Portland if he were with the Bulls. The Bulls' major need was up front, with size and athleticism, and Thomas may address that in a big way. Aldridge has played well for Portland, which is going nowhere. He wouldn't have gotten the minutes in Chicago, and Thomas seems the tougher guy, if more difficult to deal with. It's a gut feeling the Bulls had and they have done pretty well identifying talent in the draft. So give it some time.

This offseason could, and in my opinion should, be among the biggest in Bulls history. Assuming they go hard after the low-post scorer they desperately need, but it will have to come through a trade. With P.J. Brown and his expiring contract off the books after this season, what combination of players would Paxson have to come up with in order to make the numbers work for a Pao Gasol or Kevin Garnett deal? Also do you think Luol Deng will still be the deal breaker in any potential trade? If not him than who? --Jerry, Vernon Hills, Ill.

I think it's clear they're not dealing Deng in any deal. So forget that. The Gasol and Garnett scenarios are interesting because it would seem the Bulls no longer have the pieces to make either deal. The key with Gasol was the expiring contracts, which are gone. They'd have to give too much straight up. Garnett has an opt out after next season. It would be one thing to have him for two playoff runs. If he could leave after next season, it would make no sense for the Bulls anymore to give up much for him. But, the Grizzlies remain for sale and terrible. Plus, you hear they are down on Gasol and want him out. Though he played reasonably well against the Bulls last week, he appears mostly to be going through the motions and it's hard to see how that will get much better. And Minnesota looks like it'll miss the playoffs yet again and how can it finally not begin to rebuild? Both teams would have to take less than before, but will they?

Assuming for a moment that Scottie Pippen's knees are as healthy as he says, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Bulls to bring him back now for a playoff run. I liked Andre Barrett in the preseason but this is playoff time. Is Barrett really going to help considering that the Bulls have enough small guards? Plus, there's no guarantee that Nocioni will return in time. Scottie gives you experience, ball handling, size, rebounding and defense. All the things the Bulls could use. Even if Nocioni does come back, with Scottie that's 12 more fouls between the two of them. There aren't many more regular season games left and the Bulls wouldn't be asking him to play heavy minutes. Could Scottie help against James, Bosh, and Rasheed Wallace? If they play the Heat again, he could be an enforcer against Posey. If he got tossed from a game because of Posey who cares? It's better that he gets tossed as opposed to Deng, Hinrich, or Nocioni, for example. --Joseph Austin, Oak Park, Ill.

It all sounds good, but Scottie is a stubborn and proud guy and not about to be cannon fodder for the Bulls. It doesn't appear like he's going to make that comeback since he hasn't worked out anywhere, and the whole point was to be with a team that looked like a favorite to get to the Finals and a chance at that seventh championship ring. I doubt Pippen would see that with the Bulls and my guess is he's holding out for the Heat should Dwayne Wade not be able to return.

Is it me or is Ben Gordon lackadaisical on offense? He seems too passive most of the time and shows his killer instinct once in a blue moon. He's our best option on offense but doesn't always aggressively looks to score. Also, why does he fall down so much especially on fast breaks? --I. Dibble, Chicago

Ben does remind you, at times, of one of those inflatable boxing dolls you'd hammer and would bounce back up. He's got a solid base like they do as well. The intriguing thing with Gordon is he does drift in games. It was an issue with him all through his college career and one he admitted to. It would take a strong hand from the coach, Jim Calhoun, to arouse him, and one of the things Calhoun warned the Bulls about. Ben simply seems to daydream at times, and I understand as it was part of my days in high school and college for many years. But when he snaps back he can be the most amazing scorer in the league.

During the last game verus the Sixers, Scott Skiles pulled out Ben Gordon immediately after he fell asleep and his man hit a wide open layup. Skiles does this often no matter how early into this game. Isn't this a little too extreme doing that to a veteran player? It's more understandable if Gordon is a rookie but to me, it's dis-respectable when Skiles does this only couple minutes into the game. No other coaches in the league seems to do that. --Jayson Choi, Glenview, Ill.

I don't believe Gordon minds that much and enough worrying about their delicate and fragile egos. Perhaps that tactic can wear on veterans, and Skiles did have some issues with it in Phoenix. But all the evidence thus far remains that this Bulls team continues to respond to his demanding ways. As I said, Gordon does need some jump starts on occasion. Jerry Sloan has long done some of that along with Pat Riley, at least when Riley hasn't had all veterans. It's more difficult with a veteran team, but as Skiles likes to note, what has this group ever done? Of course, he hasn't done much, either, so we'll see how it goes.

I don't understand why the Easter Conference is treated as ridiculous by most of the media. Sure they don't have the same quality game as the West but they are efficient. Didn't the Pistons and the Heat beat West teams when it really mattered? --Otavio, Brazil

Yes, it's a good point and worth mentioning now. The East has won two of the last three championships and if not for a Rasheed Wallace meltdown and mental error against the Spurs in 2005, it would probably be three straight. Detroit went into Phoenix and won last week and played Dallas even, though losing, without Chauncey Billups, their most important player. The Bulls have beaten the Spurs, Mavs and Suns and the Cavs are 18-9 against the West, better than they are against the East. The Finals will be no walkover, especially the way the Mavs, Suns and Spurs could be beating up each other.

What was with the Bulls' offer of Sweets to Houston for Bonzi? Wells might have been a great fit for the playoff run (providing a high-scoring option in the post, albeit a shrimpy one) but why even bother making such a ridiculous offer? I understand that Wells and your very good friend Jeff Van Gundy aren't exactly in love with each other, but Paxson was seriously asking for a player with Bonzi's playoff history and offering nothing more than a guy about to eat his way out of the league? He couldn't have tossed in a second-round pick or Victor Khryapa, anything? Or were the Rockets, in the thick of the playoff hunt themselves, really ready to give up on Wells for so little? I thought the Bulls had the chance to be the recipients of the Tim Thomas Effect for a change. --Jason, Chicago

That's an interesting story I don't fully know, though in the end I heard the Rockets backed off. There was considerable ambivalence on the Bulls side about taking on Wells given his erratic behavior at times. There were rumors he threatened to kill Mike Fratello in Memphis. Though at the time, it seemed as if it could have been a conspiracy.

There was worry about the risk, but I would have taken a shot since he's going into another contract summer and was very good that way last spring in Sacramento. I heard the Rockets did want Sweetney for a low-post option and the Bulls, as you can see, are done with him. But the deal was supposedly contingent on another deal and when Houston didn't make it, their desire for anyone from the Bulls declined.

I have been tough on Jeff at times for his style of play, but he's adapted this season and the game has not passed him by. He's been very good.

Seeing as the Knicks are pulling out tight games and will either make the playoffs or barley miss, the Bull will end up with a draft pick somewhere between 10 and 15. What are the chances Pax falls in love with Greg Oden and/or Kevin Durant, and decides to package the pick with a few other pieces to move up to No. 1 or 2? --Jesse, Plainfield, Ill.

We're all in love with them. You couldn't package Deng, Gordon and Hinrich and get one of them. The reason is teams look for players to build a championship around. It appears you may be able to with both. Oden, certainly, given his defensive presence and size and Durant given that Dallas has build a contender around Nowitzki. It was like when Boston lost out on Tim Duncan in 1997 and then coach Rick Pitino offered every draft pick they had and every player on the roster. The Spurs said no and have become a dynasty while Boston has basically run in place for a decade and are right back at the bottom. In the end, you almost always have to find a transcendent star.

I am from Scott Skiles' home town and played basketball for the same coach as he did. When I watch the Bulls play team defense it is just like I'm watching Plymouth high school basketball. With all the help defense, jabbing and recovering, the Bulls are the rare NBA team that you could sit a kid down to watch and they could learn good fundamentals. How do you rate Skiles as a defensive coach among other NBA coaches? --Cameron Collins, Plymouth, Ind.

You explained it pretty well, though perhaps the Bulls should have hired the Plymouth coach. Better the original? Skiles is a terrific defensive coach, though you only need to see the statistics because the Bulls could become one of the few teams ever to lead in defensive field goal percentage three straight years. We know Skiles is demanding, but he, as you know, also has a system of play, which is underrated. Players need that comfort zone to fall back on. Most teams have basic defensive principles, but Skiles is insistent on his and demanding and few teams front the post as well, which takes far more work.

"Double, double, toil, and trouble...." as a plan for guarding Shaq. I laughed out loud. Anyway, do you see one of the lottery teams willing to swap their pick for the Knicks' pick the Bulls own and a player (say, Duhon or Nocioni)? Could the Bulls then turn around and trade that pick with another player for Pau Gasol or an inside scorer? Also, any free agents out there, who, in your opinion, fit the inside scoring need? I'm beginning to think like you (trades all the time). Heaven help us all. --Jim H., Oxford, England

I was afraid of that. The only one to catch my reference to Shakespeare last week was a guy from Oxford. I heard the IQ level for Britain went up dramatically after the revolution. I weep for my country. We can be so dumb. But, hey, you bought our story on Iraq. I guess because we're concentrating too much on trades and fantasy basketball. I expect the Bulls to be considering those kinds of options and to make another run at Gasol and Garnett, even if it seems unlikely. Yes, Nocioni probably will be trade bait as he already has been quoted in the international media about being traded. With Deng eating up the minutes at that position and Thomas coming on, it probably makes the most sense. Would Nocioni and, say, No. 10, move you up to six? Maybe, but then giving up another player and six would be too much. Players like Nazr Mohammed and Drew Gooden, available at the trading deadline, seem most likely to be mentioned again.

Who are your all-time favorite players to talk to in Bulls history and who is the easiest interview with this current team? --Bill, Skokie, Ill.

This is an unusual team in that it basically is filled with nice guys who are quiet and somewhat shy. I think it's why there's often talk of a lack of leadership and Skiles having to take that role. The players do complain among themselves, like the rest of us about our jobs. But they don't go public and seem mostly to have the cliché rap down from "Bull Durham." You get comments and winks from Deng and Gordon to let you know they know more than they say and have more to say but don't. I have gotten to know Hinrich the best since he's been here the longest, so I talk to him more. He tends to be quiet, but once you get to know him he's got a wonderful sense of humor and is entertaining to be around. He became a favorite of the NBA guys at the World Championships last summer.

The easiest interview? Ben Wallace always is available and cordial, but never has much to say. I'd say Gordon is probably the easiest interview as he's the most likely to offer something more interesting and always makes himself available to the media. He's a very likeable guy. Deng probably is right up there as well.

But there was nothing like the old guys, and not just because us old timers think everything used to be better. I don't, and the game was not so much better when guys used to take months to get into shape since they did nothing in the offseason. Jordan was fabulous before he became too famous, available every game for hours before the game, talking to everyone and anyone about anything, funny, challenging, interesting. Pippen, Grant, Cartwright all were terrific to sit down with. Oakley was a ball, Brad Sellers was great.

I wasn't around for the '70s teams, but got to know them and have spent great times talking with Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Chet Walker. Even in the bad times, Reggie Theus was fun and entertaining as well as guys like Dave Corzine, whom I remember going into the locker room after one brutal loss in which he'd had one rebound and he looked up and said, "Yep, one more than a dead man."

Do the Bulls players generally get along with one another? Or do some players not like others as might be expected in any group setting? --Willie Rodriguez, Chicago

The players do seem to like one another, and when I wrote some tough columns on Tyrus Thomas, Hinrich came up to me afterward and said, "He's really a good kid." He wasn't' mad, just explaining. But they don't hang out as a team. They usually seem to go out in small groups of two or three, at most, for dinner because in this era with the money many have friends who meet them on trips or are in cities where they have been. That's pretty common among NBA teams now, though there are a few you do see around going out in large, raucous groups. The Bulls are not one of those.

Would you trade Ben Gordon to Charlotte in the offseason for Gerald Wallace? It seems like a logical trade to add scoring to Charlotte and size to Chicago. --KC, Dallas

Probably not, though you'd have to consider him in a package if you could get a big-time scorer up front. And at one time, I was intrigued by a defensive player with size and athleticism like Wallace, not that he's generally considered available. I probably suggested such deals. But Gordon grows on you. He has made himself such a valuable asset, even if it's still difficult long term to have him playing with a small point guard who has to defend the bigger scoring guard. I'd like to be able to hang onto him and have him in a three-guard rotation with a bigger, defensive guard, which Sefolosha could become. Mostly, though, I don't see Charlotte making such an offer as Wallace plays more forward for them and they also don't want to downsize in the backcourt.

Skiles' rotation has been questionable of late. The five he had on the floor in the Memphis game for the end of the first quarter and beginning of second was a garbage-time unit. He's got a knack for that: pulling the starting five for a unit that's worse than the Grizzlies' five on the court does not help the teams chances to advance in the standings. They are playing to their competition because Skiles seems to be substituting to the level of their competition. Are the players tired after two days rest and 10 minutes in the first quarter? I doubt it. --Gary Young, Charlotte, N.C.

This has been an internal question for much of the season, though a common second guess around the NBA. Skiles coaches with the suffer no fools philosophy. Make mistakes and you're out. Sometimes it does result in some odd combinations, and I think he gets caught at times with not enough offensive players on the floor. Skiles does play a lot of players, though Viktor Khryapa would be hard pressed to believe that. One problem is the Bulls lack offensive players, especially up front and Skiles is often caught searching for someone who can make a play inside.

Why, why, why do writers, sportscasters and pundits always compare white players to white players and black players to black players? Take a look at your draft analysis. Everyone one of the comparisons is racially the same. This is a trend I encounter in virtually all sports, but it seems to be far more common in the NBA. If we believe race doesn't matter (and I do) then why can't reporters get over this tendency? Kevin Durant as Larry Bird and Tyler Hansbrough as Horace Grant? Is that too difficult? --Pat Lynch, Indianapolis

You are right. We all tend to do it and it is something I'm aware of. And I'm sure if there is racism in sports as there is in society, the least of it is in the NBA. The issue with a lot of this is we take our connections from the so-called experts. I can give you my opinion and observations on the games, but I don't watch much college basketball since I watch so much pro. So I defer to general managers and personnel people and offer their comparisons. I don't think it's done for racial reasons; more laziness. That's who someone literally reminds them of. If I'm white, I look more like other white people. If you are Asian, you look more like other Asian people. These comparisons are done usually only as a shortcut to make you think of a type of play. No one ever believed Keith Van Horn was Larry Bird. It was just a way of saying versatile, can shoot, handle. Certainly, there are black players who can do many of the same skills, but it's noting personal. It's a just one hint along the way. Plus, Hansbrough can't jump.

Who do you think is the greatest center in the history of the NBA? I will always go with Wilt No. 1 and Kareem No 2. --Mark Zuccarello, Boca Raton, Fla.

Wilt, Wilt, Wilt. Then I think Kareem is fourth. There's always debate about Bill Russell because the Celtics won so much, but no one in the history of the game dominated and changed the game like Wilt. There never was anyone like him, and you must judge people in their time. Plus, Russell played with seven or eight Hall of Famers about every season and the best coach and general manager of his time, if not ever. Wilt could do everything and showed that and on talent and domination, I make him the greatest player in the history of the game.

Hello, I just saw your and you will excuse my patriotism but had to notice how you still don't like much European players. You left out MARCO Belinelli (yes it's Marco, not Mario) when he's probably the best pure shooting guard in the draft. I saw this coming as I noticed how you didn't really like Andrea Bargnani either. So what do you think of him now? You would have never picked him as the first player in the draft but now he's showing why the call was not so bad after all. I think you should give a bit more credit to some of the Europeans. It's true, there are some Milicics or Bagarics sometimes but there are also Petrovic, Sabonis, Nowitzki, Gasol, Parker in there. --Andrea De Lorenzo, Milan, Italy

I agree. It's no excuse, but I never see them play. Of course, there are some terrific players not from the U.S., but it takes longer for me to accept them. Beyond that, I go primarily by what personnel people say, and at this point he's not that high on their radar. He could be as international players tend to come on late. I still wouldn't have taken Bargnani No. 1. Or No. 2 or No. 3, but that's my preference. Nothing personal. And I was lobbying for Gasol. But I do prefer the American style of player more.

Old ugly guys like you should go back to doing what you used to before you thought you should write about gorgeous talented sportsmen. You sound envious to the point of pity. Shut up! --Besty, Drayden, Md.

Was that a question? Is this my wife again?

I do not know who complains more, my 10-year-old cousin, or the whole Detroit Pistons team. --Dude, Chicago

Does your cousin ever stop? We would then have the answer.

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