With Kobe Bryant now saying he wants to be traded what are the chances that the Bulls can swing a deal for him, since he was considering the Bulls when he opted out of his contract a few years ago? What would it take? Would you trade Deng to get him? --JP, Los Angeles
The big question of the week was not whether it's Daniel "Bootie" or "Booby" Gibson. It was Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. Forget it, forget it, forget it. Yes, Kobe is frustrated and wants to be in the playoffs. You can't blame him for that, though as I've been commuting between Detroit and Cleveland, I'm not sure that's what he has in mind. The Lakers ARE NOT trading Kobe. No matter what he says and demands or asks for. He doesn't have an opt out until after the 2008-09 season. They didn't trade Shaq to keep Kobe to let Kobe go as soon as things went badly. Plus, Kobe averages more than $20 million per season the next three years and isn't walking away from that. He's not Dave Cowens (old man reference).
Kobe isn't a huge fan of Mitch Kupchak's, and it's not like anyone else is there, either. There's been speculation for some time that Jerry West will go back to the Lakers in some capacity and that's all Kobe wants. Well, he wants Jason Kidd or Kevin Garnett or Jermaine O'Neal, too, but he wants to start somewhere. Kupchak has done a miserable job with signings and Bryant has been patient for three years. He's no less impatient than Michael Jordan ever was. He wants to play deep into the playoffs, and we should respect him for that since the players don't get paid in the playoffs and too many settle for going home early. Bryant doesn't want to. So he's putting the challenge to the Lakers, which is what a great competitor does. And he's not about to lie down. He cares too much about his craft and professionalism.
As for the Bulls, I've mentioned Bryant at times if there were a free-agent situation. There's no way the Bulls could make a deal and not become the Lakers. I'd give up Deng, his family members and his kids when he has them. Bryant is generally considered the best player in the NBA. Deng never has made an All Star team. It would take at least Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas and this year's No. 1. Then Bryant would maybe be a first-round elimination with the Bulls and want to be traded. There's zero chance the Bulls can or will acquire Bryant or the Lakers will let him go. After all, the Lakers are the No. 1 sports attraction in Los Angeles with no NFL and their celebrity, high-paying crowd (their tickets are the costliest in the NBA) come from the entertainment industry, and there's no greater entertainer in the NBA today than Bryant. Are they going to pay those prices for Thabo Sefolosha and Luol Deng? Kobe is jealous of the guys still playing. Good for him. He cares. L.A. cares about him, too, and he's not going anywhere for at least three years.
I know you're partial to the Bulls, but what do you think the Lakers can do this off-season? That's one messed up team. --Uzair, London
Kobe has thrown down the challenge now. The issue is whether they'll trade Andrew Bynum. Kobe wants them to, but ownership, especially new power Jim Buss, doesn't want to. I suspect dad Jerry will intercede on the part of Kobe and Phil Jackson, who also isn't into building. One key is whether Kevin Garnett steps up and demands a trade to the Lakers and the Timberwolves work something out. In the end, I can see the Lakers pulling someone off with the Pacers for Jermaine O'Neal because I think the Pacers would want Bynum. Maybe Lamar Odom also to the Pacers and Troy Murphy or Mike Dunleavy coming back to the Lakers with some others thrown in to balance salaries. The Lakers will do something significant. I'd do O'Neal this summer and with Garnett able to opt out after next summer, I'd work on him as a friend if I were Bryant and get him to sign a short exception deal and then get taken care of down the road by the Lakers, though with nothing actually signed.
What would we need to trade to get Zach Randolph? The ninth pick? Duhon? --Jon, Hinsdale, Ill.
I'd say more courage than assets given his behavioral record. That would do it, but you'd have to match salaries, so it probably would take doing a sign-and-trade with P.J. Brown, whom I'm sure would take the extra big year of money. And Portland would love a stable veteran like him, even for an excessive one-year cost to get him. They'd even throw in Darius Miles and drive him to the Berto Center if the Bulls wanted.
Do you ever find that trade speculation has real effects (other than making Shaq angry)? Maybe an idle thought causing a free agent's stock or putting pressure on their team to keep them? Do agents or teams ever disseminate rumors for their own purposes? --Matt Nelson, Irvine, Calif.
All the time. Where do you think all this stuff comes from? OK, some from my playful mind, but what many don't seem to understand is when I write about this I always make it clear if it's my suggestion or actual talks. When it's my suggestion it's also a way of talking about the needs of both teams and informing fans about that. The unfortunate part are there are so many irresponsible types running some of these basketball Web sites who do little but pirate stuff from the newspapers and then misstate it as fact when it's just speculation and suggestion for debate. What does and has happened with some of these speculative stories is it gets one general manager to call another and ask if such a deal is possible if one side is interested. It sometimes leads to more talks, though most general managers tend to be conservative, operating under the theory that you can be criticized more for doing something wrong than doing nothing at all. As Mel Brooks observed in Blazing Saddles, "Gentlemen, we've got to protect our phony baloney jobs."
With regards to Portland's No. 1 pick, do they have a dilemma of picking a center like Oden, in which they made a mistake of picking a center in the 1984 draft named Mr. BOWIE, and pass up Durant who can be like Mr. Air Jordan? --Melvin, Dubai
I think they'll do fine with the center. The problem then is they took the No. 2 center, Sam Bowie, who'd had serious injuries in college, going with the need over the player. They had Clyde Drexler, who went to the Hall of Fame, and Jim Paxson, an All Star, so they passed on another shooting guard. They wanted to believe Bowie would be their center of the future, which they needed. It, of course, became a huge embarrassment and they did err in going for position over talent. But this time they need a center and Oden is the choice no matter how good Durant becomes. Houston did fine with Olajuwon and was in the Finals within two years.
I am an avid reader of your column. You have fans all the way here from West Africa. Everyone and their mother knows about the Bulls' desperate need for a inside post scorer. Besides Paxson selling his soul to Satan to get Zach Randolph, I have a new candidate to fill this need. What would it take to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz? He is basically a Carlos Boozer in the making and look how he has emerged in the playoffs. --Kofi Dakrwa, Kumasi, Ghana
Actually, I always felt I was bigger in East Africa. It's a nice thought, though he's mostly a nice role player, a little small for his position. It's why he got overlooked in the draft, which is one of the big mistakes NBA scouts too often make. They concentrate on size and projecting players into a position, sometimes at the expense of making plays. Millsap was the national rebounding leader for three years. It does make a difference, especially in rebounding, which often takes as much thinking as jumping. Though I don't believe you can get Millsap away from the Jazz given his small salary and that he has worked his way into their rotation as a rookie.
I find it interesting that Paxson woke up in his post-season wrap-up and "talked about size in the backcourt." That's amusing, considering he could have drafted 6-6 Brandon Roy in last year's draft. He was clearly the answer but Paxson was infatuated with Ty Thomas' leaping ability and whose basketball skills won't be seen for a couple years. Now, all the sudden, we need a big guard AND a low-post scorer? Then what was the point in drafting Thomas? I can't believe one spends a Top 5 pick on a future maybe. Also, if Paxson says a big guard is a priority, he must believe that Thabo Sefolosha isn't ready. That concerns me greatly because if the Bulls are as close as people think they are, then why draft two guys who can't contribute even in their second years? I want to believe there is an off-season plan here but having yet another rookie maybe on the team is not the answer. --Michael, Chicago
It's always easy to second guess, but the Bulls believed Thomas would be the best player from that draft. He has a chance. We'll see. But thus far I'd say Paxson has done a terrific job in the draft, which isn't as easy as it looks. I wouldn't have always done what the Bulls did, but they've had a good run building it to this point. There was some debate within the staff this season about playing Thomas and Sefolosha more. It's not surprising for coaches under pressure to win to ignore rookies. Jerry Sloan didn't play Deron Williams much until the latter part of the season last year. I believe the Bulls want Thomas and Sefolosha to be regular players in the rotation next season and will be, which raises questions about the roles of Duhon and Ben Gordon.
I'm really discouraged with the Bulls. I don't really see anything to look forward to in the future. Even if they somehow made it to the Finals, they could never win against anyone in the West. I really used to love this game, but with my Bulls looking only like an OK team for the next 10 years, who cares? I think I'm done with basketball. --David, Trevor, Wis.
Have you been watching the Cavs and Pistons? First, they're improving and making steps, which is what building is all about. You can't win a championship ever year as no one does. The Bulls have been providing an entertaining product and putting pieces in place to improve. Being in the East gives them a better chance to get to the Finals and if you get there you only have to beat one team. But that's, to be, beside the point. They have good, young players that are getting better and fun to watch with a good style of play and people who don't embarrass you as a fan. They are a reason to care about basketball.
I think the Bulls need to get over this good character thing and get a couple of dirty, nasty, hard-fouling players. The Pistons made the Bulls look like chumps, as have many other teams. Do you think the Bulls should make a trade to get a big man with an attitude problem? Tyrus is a good start. --DeAngelo, Chicago
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