Is a college player forced to declare himself eligible for the draft in order to make the NBA? In other words, could Oden or Durant end their college years, then become free agents and sign for big money and for a title contender? And if they can't, how can that happen in the Land of Freedom? --Jon Puy, Spain

They could play in Spain if they'd like. When the founders of our country decided to create the world's first great democracy and defeat the occupiers of Great Britian, they elected to leave out the constitutional right to play in the NBA. I'm told it was that crabby John Adams again. Businesses are permitted to collectively bargain rules with their employees, which the NBA did with the draft. No player has to play in the NBA. But if he wants to, he has to adhere to its rules. A team holds the rights to a player when he is drafted and if he doesn't sign after a year, he goes back in the draft. Just to make sure what you suggest doesn't happen. If you want to be in the NBA, you go into the draft. Players overseas can become free agents after going through a draft and not being selected or when they turn 22 and aren't drafted.

Is David Stern ever going to get the playoff seeding system right? This will be the second time in three years the Bulls will have finished with the third best record in the East and the second time they haven't gotten the third seed. Will Stern wise up and just give the division winners auto bids, if you will, and just seed them according to their record, even if Toronto is giving the Atlantic some respectability? --Mark, Berlin, Vt.

The problem has been much discussed--and criticized-- by me since its inception because of the expansion to three divisions in each conference. The NBA setup is by conference and most newspapers now run the standings that way so people will understand. Stern is known to be awfully stubborn and hates the idea that we all are right and he is wrong. Though in the end, you have to win and win on the road to be a champion. At least the team with the better record gets home court in every matchup, so no one should really have an excuse.

With the season almost over what do you think about the Bulls two big moves in the off-season -- trading Chandler to bring in Wallace and Curry for Thomas? I don't mind the Curry for Thomas trade, he looks like he might be a good player. The Chandler trade, though, come on? They basically gave a young player away to sign Wallace who really has not done much this season. Chandler will be in this league for another 10 years. How many does Big Ben have left? --Dougie, Scotland

I actually approve as even though Chandler will have a longer career than Wallace and be more effective in the coming seasons, I didn't see it happening with the Bulls given his nature and the demands of coach Scott Skiles. Though I have been no big fan of Wallace's, he seems to be exhibiting more effort of late and it was time for the Bulls to make a move in the playoffs. I think they have a better chance these next two seasons with Wallace.

When Skiles is going to figure out that next to Wallace, Ben G is the last person you want dribbling the ball for any period of time? He's better off just getting the ball and shooting/driving immediately. --Rex, Las Vegas

Well, I don't think they want anyone dribbling for that long. Sometimes Ben does get carried away looking for his shot. He's really not a classic catch-and-shoot guy, but he can make that strong dribble and step into his shot as well as anyone. It really is remarkable the number of 30-point games he can have at his size and without drawing that many fouls and getting to the line. Perhaps he's not the greatest with the ball at times, but he does need a few dribbles to get into his rhythm.

It was very tough to see the Bulls lose to the Cavs. What I don't understand is why Skiles continues to set up a play for the last shot of the game that gives Ben Gordon the ball right away and requires him to create something off the dribble. BG's strength is his shooting, NOT his dribbling. Does Skiles not know this by now? Even when BG does beat his man off the dribble, the defense collapses on him knowing full well that he is not going to pass the ball to his four other teammates, who by the way just happen to be wide open. BG has now missed I think 7 of 8 last-second shots this season. Let Hinrich have the ball for the last shot. He is a much better dribbler and passer off the dribble. For all the excessive turnovers that BG continues to make and his lack of defense, I feel he is hurting this team more than he is helping it. Considering he probably won't accept a sixth man position, I would not mind at all to see him traded after the season. --Steve Anderson, Lake City, Colo.

The measure of a great players isn't always making the shot but taking the shot. There are an awful lot of big name players who don't want that responsibility and then have to explain the miss. Despite the revisionist history that Jordan never missed a last shot, he missed plenty. I remember a few classic free throws in Game 4 against the Cavs in '89 before he hit the winner in Game 5. That's the point. You don't shy away. I like that Ben keeps going after it. Sometimes it shows up his flaws, like when the Cavs jumped him, or when a bigger defender gets on him, like the Nets' Jason Kidd. But he's willing to take the shot and answer for the consequences. Not every team even has a player who will do that.

I know there is a star treatment in the NBA when it come to the calls refs make, but weren't they supposed to crack down on getting shown up? I've seen Lebron wave off the refs countless times after he has been called for a foul and not get a technical. Meanwhile, Hinrich does much less and gets T'd up. What's the deal? --John, Iowa City, Iowa

Actually, the refs have been told to back off, and for good reason. People are paying too much for players to be getting thrown out for being mimes. The league wanted to make it a point of emphasis to cut it out and was more penal early in the season. They do that with various rules, like hand checking, and then back off as the season goes on. As for Kirk, occasionally he also offers a verbal commentary. Though what strikes me most was the gap between college and pro officiating watching the NCAA tournament. For all those people complaining about NBA refereeing, just watch one college game. It was embarrassing the way they took Oden and Hibbert out of that semifinal game. It's the equivalent of sandlot ball to the major leagues. The college officiating appears to take no notice of interfering with the game, which the NBA officials are very aware of. They do try to stay out of the way. In college, it looks like they want to be the game.

If Nocioni isn't able to make a return for the playoffs (or even if he does, but at a severely limited capacity), how much does that help the Bulls re-sign him and/or get him at a discount? --Jake Berlin, Chicago

I don't think any of that affects the post-season unless his injury is more severe than we have been told. If the Bulls get to the Finals, you figure everyone is signed and brought back. But size still seems to be the main issue and it's doubtful the Bulls bring back P.J. Brown. Tyrus Thomas is coming along, but also is about 6-8. If the Bulls go out in the first or second round of the playoffs, you figure they'll use Nocioni and perhaps the rights to the Knicks' draft pick to get a big man unless that pick can get them someone like Joakim Noah.

Nocioni is much admired around the NBA for his aggressiveness and with the development of Deng and Thomas, it seems unlikely he could start for the Bulls. As a result with the extensions coming up for Deng and Gordon, the Bulls aren't likely to want to bring Nocioni back at a high salary and he seems to expect to move on.

I'm a huge Suns fan. I love how the NBA has pushed the pedal to the metal. But I'd like to see it go even faster. What do you think of making a new rule that would allow for more fastbreaks? Here's the scenario. A 3-on-2 fastbreak is in progress and the defending team, having realized this fouls the ballhandler before the fastbreak can go any further. I'm suggesting that the NBA implement a sort of "clear path fastbreak foul." So if one were to commit a foul when an obvious fastbreak (with numbers) were in progress, the fastbreaking team would receive a free throw whilst maintaining possession of the ball. --Marlon Umali, Glendale Heights, Ill.

I like the idea and the old English use of whilst. I have been lobbying for some years for something to speed play as well. To me the most out-of-date NBA rule is the 24-second clock. It came in for the 1954-55 season by Danny Biasone of the Syracuse team. He came up with it by dividing the then number of possessions. In this era with bigger and faster players, they don't need 24 seconds to swing the ball around, set up and be over coached. I'd like to see a wider and longer court with the increased size and reach of players, but that never will happen because it would take away expensive courtside seats. I'd go for an 18- or 20-second clock which would help take out the over controlling coaches signaling plays to the point guard all the time and get teams thinking of scoring rather than slowing the game.

I guess you have a lot of respect for David Stern, but let's go back 22 years. If you had undeniable proof that he bent the card that sent Patrick Ewing to the Knicks how would you feel about our good commissioner? --Tracy Campbell, Chicago

We've all had fun at the league's expense on this one, but it's not like the Knicks had many championships to celebrate with Ewing. The urban legend was that one card was frozen so Stern would feel the cold one. But even though Stern is a lawyer, I believe he never would do such a thing. He truly is socially conscious, supporting the WNBA despite it costing the league a fortune.