It's the second round of the playoffs and I don't have a flight to catch, a hotel to check into, a morning shootaround to attend or a daily commute on the Edens Expressway to the Berto Center. For the last part, I'm especially thankful, but watching the second round of the playoffs, it feels strange to already be back in Chicago for good. I'm not complaining about being able to sleep in my own bed for consecutive nights, but I had prepared both my mind and body to be going through the daily grind of the NBA's second season into June or so.
Even after Derrick Rose got hurt, I thought the Bulls had a good chance to get back to the conference finals and after Joakim Noah's injury, I figured a conference-semifinals appearance was still possible. But all that's in the past and while I'll still be covering the happenings of the Bulls throughout the offseason, things will definitely slow down and until training camp, this mailbag will become a monthly occurrence, instead of weekly.
Don't be a stranger, as I'll still be here to answer your questions about free agency, potential trades, the upcoming draft, the Olympics, summer league and even the other teams still in the playoffs. By the way, the Professional Basketball Writers Association, a group yours truly is a member of, recently announced the winners of their annual awards, minus the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which will be released later in the week.
Phoenix's Steve Nash won the Magic Johnson Award for the player who best combines on-court excellence with cooperation with the media over Minnesota's Kevin Love, San Antonio's Manu Ginobili and Chris Paul of the Clippers, Boston's Doc Rivers won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award for essentially the same qualities in a coach over Denver's George Karl, Orlando's Stan Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle of the Mavericks, and the Milwaukee Bucks won the Brian McIntyre Award for the league's top media-relations staff over fellow nominees Oklahoma City, Memphis and none other than the Bulls. On to this week's mailbag:
Could there be any talks between the Knicks and the Bulls about a Carlos Boozer for Amar'e Stoudemire deal? -- Eric C.
Eric, as much as Bulls fans are down on Carlos right now, like Rip Hamilton, it's highly unlikely that he's going anywhere this summer. Look, it's no secret around the league that he doesn't have a great contract, particularly if he declines as a player toward the end of the deal. The Knicks know this and while they've had issues meshing Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, Carlos doesn't necessarily help them get better, as his jump-shooting, face-up game mirrors Stoudemire's, minus the athleticism and with less post-up play. Also, while Stoudemire might be somewhat of an upgrade, he's also injury-prone and if the Bulls passed on him in free agency two years ago, they aren't more likely to take a gander on him now, with all of that uninsured money left on his contract.
Do you think that the Bulls can get O.J. Mayo this off-season? -- Irron C.
Irron, I know that since Mayo's name came up as a potential Bulls target before last season's trade deadline, he's been discussed amongst fans and media alike as a potential addition. However, I'm pretty sure that ship has sailed for a number of reasons, foremost being that the Bulls already have a starting shooting guard for the upcoming season in Rip. Furthermore, assuming Memphis' asking price hasn't changed, Omer Asik or Taj Gibson are not even remote possibilities to be dealt in any type of sign-and-trade scenario.
Mayo's reputation has improved since he so willingly accepted and thrived in a reserve role after his ill-fated team plane card-game fight with teammate Tony Allen, but the Bulls value character so highly, the front office would be hard-pressed to bring in a player who could even potentially disrupt the team's chemistry. Lastly, the Bulls have little financial flexibility, so unless the restricted free agent's market value is far less than expected, it's unlikely that he'll end up in Chicago.
There's been a lot of talk around the NBA about players flopping (cough LeBron cough), do you think it's becoming a bigger problem? -- Tyler E
Tyler, I don't know if flopping in the NBA is more of a problem than it's been in the past, especially when I think back to the heyday of the Sacramento Kings a decade or so ago, when several of their players, most notably Vlade Divac, took it to a new level. I actually think this season's playoffs have been pretty physical thus far, though I may be biased from watching the Bulls, a team that almost never exaggerates contact, play all year. That said, I have taken notice of some of the obvious flopping by some of the other playoff teams, including the Heat. I'm no Jeff Van Gundy, but I do agree that it should be officiated somehow and maybe penalized with a delay of game as a warning, then subsequent technical fouls.
Something related that I think needs to be watched more closely is offensive players intentionally drawing contact on "rip-through" moves and also using pump fakes to get their man in the air, then drawing contact with no actual intention of making the shot, the former of which was supposedly a point of emphasis for officials heading into the season.
When do you think we will see D-Rose next on the court? I've heard everything from February of next year to him missing a whole season. -- Evelyn T.
Evelyn, the timetable for recovery from ACL surgery can vary from athlete to athlete -- I remember seeing current Houston Rockets guard Kyle Lowry bounce back from the same injury and play at a high level in summer leagues in four months while he was a college player at Villanova -- but after Derrick's procedure, it was reported that he should be back in 8-10 months and back to the court by early December at the earliest. Personally, as bad as I can imagine Derrick is aching to play basketball again after the rough season he had, I'm guessing that no part of the process is rushed and he actually starts playing for the Bulls again around the All-Star break, though he could certainly start working out and then practicing long before that. Ultimately, his body will dictate his return, but I guarantee you that all attempts at caution will be exercised by the team, no matter how the Bulls are faring at the time.
Taj Gibson really impressed me, especially when Joakim went down. Will we see him have a bigger role next season? -- Marty H.
Marty, Taj really rises to the occasion in the playoffs, doesn't he? From last year's postseason, particularly in the conference finals against Miami, to this season's first-round series against Philadelphia, he's truly stepped his game up on a national stage, which should result in the Bulls having to pay a high price to keep him when he hits free agency next summer. But as far as him getting a bigger role, while I believe Tom Thibodeau really trusts him, especially on the defensive end of the court, the Bulls simply don't have enough frontcourt scoring with both him and Joakim on the court together for an extended period of time.
With Derrick and possibly Luol Deng out to start next season, the Bulls will have to rely upon Carlos (and Rip, for that matter) for scoring, which means Taj's role will probably stay the same, though a slight bump in minutes wouldn't shock me. Now, if he can continue to develop his mid-range jumper and back-to-the-basket game, he may have more of a featured role while he's on the floor, which would really benefit both Taj and a potentially retooled "Bench Mob" when he's playing against second-unit players.