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.
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