The Bulls were sure of it, so sure that the Hinrich pick, which was a good one, came with about 10 minutes of discussion after the Heat took Wade. That's one of those Bulls urban legends we'll never know for sure. I do know this: For months before the draft, Paxson was set on Wade, far more than anyone in the NBA and certainly the Heat. Given Wade's size and playing for a smaller school, he wasn't that highly regarded until his play in the tournament. And even then the belief was he'd be there at 7.
Paxson gets too much credit, granted Hinrich, Gordon, Duhon and Deng were great moves, but here are a list of failures:
Eddy Curry -- He would have been the missing piece for this team, a inside presence.
Tyson Chandler -- Better, younger, longer and taller than Ben Wallace.
Tyrus Thomas -- Brandon Roy could have made it possible to trade Gordon for Gasol.
JR Smith -- Waive him, why???
Ben Wallace -- In two seasons he will be killing us contact-wise, while Chandler will be going for his second DPY!
Tim Thomas -- This was a Skiles combo mistake. He could have really help in the playoffs last season. --Machine, Chicago
Hey, no one is perfect. On the whole, Paxson has done a very good job. There is no perfect GM. Jerry West is often regarded as the best, but he's made some miserable moves. Of all you mention, I probably would have gone for Roy, but they do have too many guards now and play too many and needed a big guy. Tyrus Thomas could prove to be very good. Often players do better in another environment, and I believe that's the case for Curry and Chandler. As for Tim Thomas, I wonder what the Clippers are thinking about their $24 million investment now. I try to judge an overall work, and the Bulls' has been among the best thus far. I checked and I may even have made some mistakes, as incredible as that seems.
I know he did a great job getting the Bulls from laughing stock to respectability, but John Paxson has turned the Bulls into Jerry Krause's worst nightmare: mediocre. I have to fault him for creating a very frustratingly inconsistent little-engine-that-could team made up of hard-working but undersized overachievers. --Dan Brecher, Scarsdale, N.Y.
That is why this next summer or season or two will be vital for the Bulls' development. Paxson has done an excellent job of putting the Bulls in position in the East, and I believe they still can get to the conference finals or Finals given all the injuries in the East around them. Of course, they could also lose in the first round with a bad matchup and without home-court advantage. They are nowhere near a contender with the Western teams, so they are not near championship level on talent. They still need that one big piece, which is why I pushed for Gasol. But Garnett could be in play, though I doubt it. Maybe Gasol again. Maybe they luck out in the draft. There's still time as this team really has been only making its move for two years.
Why wasn't Isiah Thomas included on the Dream Team? He clearly was one of the best players of his time. Was it because Jordan getting back for the '85 All-Star snub? Were there any ultimatums from Jordan put to keep Thomas off the team? --Alex, Chicago
Another of the great untold legends of the NBA. It's probably the pettiest thing Jordan ever did. People have heard this different ways, but back then in the NBA players took competition more seriously and didn't pray together after games and hug one another. The Bulls-Pistons battles were some of the bitterest ever, and Jordan did remember that alleged freezeout in the '85 All Star game supposedly led by Thomas and Magic Johnson, though Johnson and Jordan had worked it out. Plus, they didn't compete in the playoffs every year. Jordan was holding out in '92 and saying he wouldn't play, and there wasn't about to be a Dream Team without him. Plus, Jordan's agent David Falk and Thomas were at odds over distribution of money for the salary cap when Thomas the players' association president. Thomas actually was the Democrat, trying to enlarge the pot for lesser players against the efforts of Falk, who was trying to steer more money to his high-level players. Word supposedly was sent back to the Olympic committee that Jordan might not play if Thomas were on the team. Jordan supposedly never made it a condition, but apparently to insure they wouldn't offend Jordan, Thomas wasn't given an invite. Shame.
Could you give an analysis of the two rookies, Tyrus and Thabo? --Brad Bowling, Albuquerque, N.M.
I'd put them in a package if I could get someone like Garnett, but I doubt there's any chance of that anymore, so I'd keep them. I think they will both be very good players. Thomas is more raw, an exceptional athlete who has the potential to be like a Shawn Kemp, though he has to become tougher because he likes to fall down a lot and seem to feign injury. But he does compete hard when he seems to feel OK. Thabo is more mature and developing some shooting range. I see elements of a Scottie Pippen in him the way he runs a team, though not on defense. I believe they will become part of the team's eventual core.
Are the Deng/Pippen comparisons even worth the talk? --Andrew, Toronto
Scottie was a point guard who grew, which is why he was such a good ball handler with a feel for the game. Deng is long like Pippen, but a far better shooter. Not as good a defender and not as explosive and probably more a four now than a two. I think with Deng's length and ability to develop a post game he'll play more inside.