Hey, Sam, if the Bulls stay conservative this summer in the free-agent market, do they have a legit shot to make a run at Lebron James in 2008. Seeing as MJ is his idol. --Terry Cvengros, Zion, Ill.
But after spending some time with the Cavs in the conference semifinals last week, I'm wondering. It's not a very good team they've put together around him and they're pretty much locked in with long deals for Larry Hughes, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Those are not players who will get better and didn't help James much in the playoffs. The trend these days has been for the kids all to re-up early to get the big guaranteed money before an injury. But LeBron has banked so much already he may be immune to that.
The worry in Cleveland is the Nets. They're moving to Brooklyn in 2009 or 2010 and James is said to be close with one of their owners, rapper Jay-Z, I think. I know there's a rapper as a minority owner and I know he's friends with James, but I'm still trying to find the location of the next Lesley Gore concert. Also, James is close with this group of friends around him and they supposedly yearn for the big city. LeBron in New York City would be monstrous and might wipe out the Jordan legacy. You don't do that in Cleveland. Sorry, but I don't see him doing that for the Bulls, though I think James underestimates Jerry Reinsdorf's ability to skew younger.
What were the true dynamics of the relationship between MJ and Pip on and off the court? --John Young, Mesa, Ariz.
It was love-hate. It was never close, but also never bad. Pippen yearned to have everything Jordan did (like, who didn't?), but also didn't like the fealty Jordan demanded from those around him. Scottie tends to be a quieter, more remote type though he enjoyed the social scene and benefits of his celebrity as much as Michael. The irony is while Scottie liked the support role on the court, he detested it off the court. They are not close these days, though a mutual disdain for Jerry Krause probably still links them despite Krause really doing more than they'd like to admit for both their careers.
What's it like doing all the traveling to follow the Bulls? I assume you're riding commercial? Flying commercial can be a pain in the butt especially with the back-to-back games. Do you ever ride the team plane? --Scott Gorham, Golden, Colo.
I'm not the fulltime beat writer anymore who covers all the games, though I do about a dozen to help out to add to my primary responsibility covering other NBA games. I know I hate hearing all those "good 'ol days" reminisces from people, but I was lucky because when I did travel with the Bulls fulltime it was the good 'ol days. We all traveled together on commercial flights.
I doubt a player today would even know how to make a reservation. I have to smile listening to players today whine about back-to-backs and being tired. It's a joke. They have chartered aircraft everywhere.
And this wasn't long ago and with Michael Jordan. NBA rules then required you take the first flight out on back-to-backs to make it to the second city. Today teams can leave after the games on flights with captains' chairs and even beds to spread out. The league also required you be at the airport one hour before the flight. That was pre security when you could stroll in 15 minutes before. So there was the whole team sitting at the gate for an hour. The players did get first class, at least the 12 active, but the coaches sat in coach (no pun), and they were mostly former players. Imagine Phil Jackson squeezing into a middle seat. Back then we were all friends. I rode on the team bus and at the team hotel, sometimes a Holiday Inn or airport Sheraton, the team staff would include our luggage with the team's.
Now NBA teams won't even let media see the team plane. No one gets to ride it, or the bus. Back then they'd include us at the team hotel and get us a rate. Now they sometimes won't tell you where the team is staying. So today's travel can be a grind trying to catch up with a team that left the night before. But it's a terrific job. You're not part of the team, but you become part of the extended family. The guys are way, way better than the public believes and if you ever get a chance to spend a season covering the NBA, you'll never forget the experience.
Sam, you must be getting tired of fixing the Bulls. What would you do as GM of the Wizards? What's your judgment on the changes last summer--losing Larry Hughes, trading Kwame Brown for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins and then releasing Atkins; signing Antonio Daniels? --Mike Crosswell, Arlington, Va.
Thanks, as I do really consider myself the league's GM. I thought the Wizards did well in the summer as Hughes wasn't worth that much money given his health history, and he was out again this season. I like Eddie Jordan, but that team needs a kick in the butt. They don't just go under screens, they take detours around highway cones. Your leaders have to set the defensive model, which is their problem.
If Gilbert Arenas wants to be a true star, he has to work at the defense end. He doesn't and it infects the team. I'd get rid of Brendan Haywood first given his indifferent attitude. The Bulls showed you can defend with smaller players. It takes effort. They have enough talent. Is it the coach's job to push them? Or do they have to make up their minds to be more than mediocre? Thus far the Wizards have shown only they're happy with individual stats and general community acceptance. It starts with Arenas, not Jordan. In Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels, they have some players who'll work hard, but your leader cannot be your weak spot on defense.
We love the Bulls and your articles in Switzerland, too! Everybody's speaking about LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas, but I think Andrea Bargnani would be a better pick for Chicago? Can I have your opinion about that? --Mat, Switzerland
I don't think so. The talk is Bargnani has a wink deal to go to Toronto and teams fear he could stay in Europe if he is a lottery pick, which would produce a bigger contract overseas. The Bulls cannot afford their first pick not to come to the NBA, like Orlando last season. But now with Toronto getting No. 1, he should be there, and, again, I doubt the Bulls will be interested.
I live in Austin and have watched LaMarcus Aldridge play. I think he is soft and cuddly, a la Brad Sellers. Do you really think he is worth a No. 1 pick? Surely Brad Sellers is available for less money. --Sean, Austin, Texas
Ouch! That will scare the heck out of Bulls fans as Brad was a Big 10 rebounding leader. Michael Jordan didn't care for Brad and Brad would have been better had Michael not beaten him down so badly. But no one wants to get a look at the next Brad. NBA types are higher on Aldridge than you are, but there is that reputation.