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Ask Aggrey: Asik, Rip hot topics

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Ask Aggrey: Asik, Rip hot topics

Having just arrived in my current home after leaving one of my former residences, it occurred to me that one of the reasons I love both cities Philadelphia and Chicago is that both are extremely passionate places.

One thing Ill give Chicago the edge in is consistency, as the Bulls were among the NBAs best in attendance even in the post-Jordan era.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, while equally passionate about the game of basketball, shows its disenchantment with the Sixers when the team isnt doing well, which made it good to see a raucous crowd in the Wells Fargo (not Wachovia, as it was during my college days) Center last night.

I was reminded, however, of how over-the-top the city can be on my way to the airport this morning, when my cab driver, a nice fellow who was chatting with me about his journey from Lebanon to Philly, got into it with a cyclist. After getting flipped off by the cyclist, he sped up, almost ran him off the street, cut him off, jumped out of the cab and proceeded to threaten the poor guy with bodily harm.

Just another day in the City of Brotherly Love, but since thats neither here nor there, Ill show my appreciation for the Windy City by answering another round of your questions.

What do you attribute the regression of Omer's play to this year? Do you think he still has "starter" potential in the NBA? -- Benjamin

Benjamin, I believe Omer was more adversely affected by the lockout than perhaps any other player on the Bulls. After suffering a fractured left tibia against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, he had very little time to rehab the injury before playing for Turkey in last summers FIBA EuroBasket event.

While he appeared to make some progress on the offensive end in that tournament, he also played heavy minutes and didnt get much rest until it was over, causing him to delay the conditioning process for the upcoming season. Ive heard that if the lockout ended up causing a cancellation of the regular season, he had no interest in playing professionally overseas.

That said, I believe Omer still has a chance to be a starter in the league, though not ahead of Joakim Noah. Omer is regarded as one of the NBAs premier defensive centers already and as the saying goes, you cant teach size. If he was playing for Miami, for example, would he not be an upgrade from Joel Anthony?

Omer certainly has weaknesses, but as a second-year pro, I believe he has plenty of time to correct some of his deficiencies. In fact, now that Luol Deng has ascended to All-Star status, I believe Omer and C.J. Watson are the most underappreciated Bulls.

Who (or what position) do you think the Bulls will target in this summer's draft? I know it's early but I really love everything related to the draft. -- Anthony

Anthony, the draft is always tricky for teams like the Bulls, who are deep, relatively young, yet still experienced. Like every other team in the league, theyre constantly evaluating talent, but when the draft comes around, they understand they might not have access to who they could be targeting, simply because of their low position.

Another thing to keep in mind is only certain players make sense for the system and personnel that they have. I remember last spring, when a lot of fans were clamoring for MarShon Brooks, whos having a solid debut campaign in New Jersey. Brooks is an excellent scorer, but unlike Jimmy Butler, hes not exactly a stellar defender, which wouldnt have gone over too well with Thibs.

Also, not to say Brooks is better than Jimmy or will be better in the long run, but where, exactly, would the Bulls find room for him with Rip now healthy? While Thibs did play Omer as a rookie, his hand was forced by Carlos Boozers early-season injury, then Joakim getting hurt.

But to answer your question, I cant say the Bulls have locked in on any one player, in particular its still somewhat early and with college conference tournament season here, scouts and executives all over the league are watching for breakout players though I can see them focusing on adding a defensive-minded big man, with the possibility that Omer or Taj Gibson leaves in the future.

Of course, another shooter couldnt hurt as long as Derrick is in town and theres always a chance they use a pick as an asset to include in a trade. I could give you some names now, but Im positive that list will be different in a month, so check back in with me in April and I can give you a clearer picture then.

Why don't the Bulls just sit Rip Hamilton for the next month or so to make sure he is healthy by the time the playoffs come? -- Tyler

Tyler, Rip is aware of the widely-held opinion out there that the Bulls should be even more cautious with him, to guarantee his health when the postseason arrives. Hes not sensitive about it, but doesnt agree with the notion. I told him that there are worse things for people to say about a player and it only reflects his reputation as a winner, but his argument is that the regular season is also important, as its always better when a team is rolling heading into the playoffs.

The organization is respectful of Rips significant experience 13 years in the league, multiple conference finals with Detroit, two Finals appearances and a championship as well as his knowledge of his own body, especially with his reputation as one of the leagues best-conditioned players, so it mostly defers to his judgment.

Personally, I think its the best course of action and since hes been back in the lineup, its clear that his mere presence has really opened things up.
Which team scares you the most for an opening round series in the playoffs? I'm personally very afraid of playing a much-improved Pacers team. -- Kiersten

Kiersten, Indiana indeed is a team to be reckoned with, as is Philadelphia, the Bulls opponent in the first half of the back-to-back, but neither is likely to be a first-round foe. In fact, both the Pacers and Sixers are in line to host an opening-round series of their own, meaning that either could face the Bulls (with the other likely looking at Miami) in the second round.

As far as scary first-round teams, Id have to go with New York. A lot could happen between now and the end of the season, but assuming the Knicks dont make another big push and none of the teams slightly ahead of them take a second-half nosedive, both the Bulls and Heat are probably crossing their fingers that they face the aging Celtics in the first round instead.

New Yorks athleticism and offensive firepower are formidable, and now that they have a legitimate point guard whether you think Linsanity is overblown or not, the kid can play; Baron Davis willingness to contribute in a backup role also doesnt hurt to distribute to Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, shooters like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak and defensive-minded role players such as Tyson Chandler, Jared Jeffries and rookie Iman Shumpert, a Chicago native, even surviving a series Mike DAntonis run-and-gun bunch could take a lot out of a team.

How did you get to become the Bulls beat writer? What did your road there consist of? -- Marcus

Marcus, becoming the Bulls beat writer here at CSN Chicago took a lot of hard work, a little luck and of course, payoffs. You wont get anywhere in the world without bribing someone.

Seriously though, I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, where I majored in journalism. After graduation, I was hired as a copy editor at a small paper in the city, where I interned as an undergrad. The paper also gave a handful of story assignments in my free time, though to my extreme frustration, I wasnt given very many basketball stories to write.

I ended up leaving to become a copy editor at a slightly bigger suburban paper, where I went through a similar experience before meeting a staffer at SLAM, the basketball magazine, through a former colleague at the first paper. I e-mailed this guy, now a close friend, regularly first politely, then increasingly insistent that I deserved a shot and months later, I was given my first assignment for the magazine, ironically on erstwhile Bull JamesOn Curry, who was a high school player at the time.

Over the next few years, I wrote for a variety of local publications, but consistently for SLAM, specializing mostly on prep ballplayers, many of whom are in the NBA today, although I also wrote about pros, college players and even stars in the womens game. Ive been blessed to write about some relatively high-profile athletes, as well as some sleepers at the time who became stars, but the most valuable part of the experience was developing contacts at different levels of the game and having the opportunity to see talent develop from the grassroots level; for example, I wasnt even living in Chicago, but I saw Derrick Rose play and lose, ironically for Simeon in person, so I had a reference point going way back, beyond what I saw on television and heard from others.

Anyway, I continued to write for SLAM (and still do, time permitting) and was freelancing in Chicago (mostly focusing on high school hoops, which I truly enjoy) when a friend of a friend told me about the opening at CSN. I expressed my interest and the rest is history, so youre stuck with me for now.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.