Q: Ira, I know the game was close enough so that having Derrick Rose in the game made sense, but was Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau pushing him too hard with all the time he missed?
- Frankie, Schiller Park, Ill.
A: The timing of when Derrick went down is not the issue. In fact, it would have been worse had Thibodeau pulled Rose, then had to rush him back in the game when the 76ers were closing their Game 1 gap. That's when you run into trouble with sprains, strains and muscle pulls.
The greater issue were all those times when Rose came back from other injuries, only to go down with new problem, a sign of rushing back in the first place.
And that's a product of the schedule as much as any late-game coaching decision. In hindsight, what Rose needed was more of an extended break than a few days for one injury and a few more for another.
Still, there is something to be said about playing for the type of coach who makes the next game the biggest game of the season, regardless of opponent or where it falls on the schedule. To a degree, Thibodeau remains somewhat like former Bulls coach Scott Skiles or even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, the type of coach that can wear down players.
Rose, in some ways, reminds of a younger Dwyane Wade, whose unrelenting attack style eventually led to a series of debilitating injuries. As much as the Bulls may have to reassess their approach with Rose, so, too, might Rose have to reconsider those unceasing assaults on the rim.
Q: I just watched Michael Wilbon's report on ESPN. No Dwight Howard, no Derrick Rose, no Al Horford for these playoffs. The 66-game season was a mistake and isn't it time for David Stern and Billy Hunter to admit it?
- Steve, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
A: First of all, Billy Hunter and his associates at the players' union have far greater concerns at the moment than the way they agreed to handle the post-lockout schedule.
As for Stern, don't kid yourself, his job is to make money, and the more games, the more money.
This is where owners interested in protecting assets such as Rose and the players themselves, who most appreciate the physical toll of this 66-game, lockout-compacted schedule, should have spoken up.
The executive board, be it Derek Fisher or Maurice Evans or anyone else on the union's leadership council, should have put a limit on the number of games per week or per month, bringing in trainers and team medical staffs to weigh the scheduling risks.
Instead, the players, too, went for the cash.
Ultimately, the likes of Rose and Iman Shumpert will be viewed as mere collateral damage when the league and its television partners next inform us about record ratings and attendance this postseason, putting aside Black Saturday and those frightening moments for Rose and Shumpert when the lockout-compressed schedule came crushing down on their knees.
Q: I know LeBron had a big game to open the playoffs, but he always does that. What about when it's a Game 7? Is he going to be talking about how much he's enjoying the game then?
- David, Parma Heights, Ohio.
A: I agree that the coverage of his Game 1 breakout against the Knicks was a bit overboard, and actually appreciated how he attempted to put it in perspective with his postgame comments.
LeBron long has been MVP worthy during the regular season and at his best during the opening rounds of the playoffs.
The truest measurements for James will be when the Heat face the likes of the Celtics or play in the Eastern Conference finals, or, more to the issue, the NBA finals.
Pressure is not the opening game of an opening-round series. Pressure is an elimination game in the early rounds (which the Heat probably will not face) or those moments of truth in the NBA finals when LeBron wilted a year ago against the Mavericks.
Q: Ira, who will make the biggest difference for the Lakers in the playoffs, Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum?
- Todd, Playa del Rey, Calif.
A: Yes, I saw Bynum's triple-double to open the playoffs, and, yes, the Lakers are at their best when playing through the post.
But I just don't see Kobe deferring when games truly are on the line. That ended with the end of the Shaq era.
Although the Lakers might eventually have to shift course, I don't see it under Mike Brown, who essentially was brought in to allow Kobe to be LeBron.
The bottom line is the Lakers aren't going to go Bynum with games on the line, if for no other reason than that would require an extra pass.
This remains Kobe's team, for better or for mass-missed-shots worse.
But the comforting aspect is having Bynum there to clean up the mistakes, on both ends of the court.
Q: All we heard the last week of the season was about Gregg Popovich and Thibodeau about Coach of the Year. What about Stan Van Gundy and what he went through?
- Mike, Windermere, Fla.
A: As impressive as it was how Van Gundy ultimately managed to keep his team at No. 6 in the East, then take the series opener in Indiana, to some the fact that he helped add to the Dwight Howard drama was something to be held against him.
But when it comes to game-day preparation and in-huddle motivation, Stan is tireless and committed and largely respected among his peers with his ability to find solutions where others only see problems.
He is a terrific coach. As a people manager is where some seem to take issue.
Q: Can the NBA force Michael Jordan out of Charlotte?
- Ralph, Cheverly, Md.
A: No, and mostly because the Bobcats can't leave Charlotte due to their lease, and who wants to own a team that plays in front of a half-empty building in a market that seems to have lost its taste for NBA basketball?
What Jordan can do is put the ego aside and step aside and let Rich Cho, a talented personnel man, truly assume control of that facet of the organization.
From Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, Jordan simply has not displayed the pedigree for such a personnel role.
Having Jordan as the face of a franchise can work, as long as he is willing to defer to a new outlook rather than the one that has run his team into the ground.