Sixteen regular-season games left for the Bulls and all I can think about are the three games left in college basketball. Kentucky winning it all might not be quite the foregone conclusion that everybody thinks, but I think it's a strong possibility. Still, it's March Madness and anything can happen. The end of college basketball gets me thinking about the draft, not to mention the high school all-star game season, which starts, at least on the national level, with the McDonald's All-American Game this week at the United Center. Having seen him two summers ago, before everybody and their mother knew about him, I was fairly certain Chicago native Anthony Davis would be really good, but even I didn't expect him to be this good, this quick. His Kentucky teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. another kid I've seen forever, is probably the second-best prospect in the college game. I know a lot of NBA fans can't get into college, let alone high school hoops, but the moral of the story is if you see these kids early, you won't be behind the curve when they're eventually tearing up the pro game. Even though their season is now over, I advise even casual fans, both locally and nationally, to check out Simeon's Jabari Parker while they have the chance to do so, since in about two years, they'll be paying a lot more for the privilege. Anyway, with no further adieu, enjoy this week's edition of my mailbag:
When it comes down to the overall rating on the Bulls players, is there one weakness that could jeopardize the Bulls run in the playoffs? -- Anthony J.
Anthony, even when Rip returns to the lineup, I think outside shooting will still be the aspect of the Bulls that other teams attempt to prey upon. We've seen it recently with Toronto playing a zone defense and when Derrick comes back, teams will try to trap him to get the ball out of his hands to force other players to make plays. Now, when it comes to making plays, I think the team in general has shown it's more than capable--that's the silver lining to Derrick's injury problems this season -- but even with Kyle, Lu, C.J. and JL3 proving they're more than capable three-point threats, opponents will try to make them show that they can knock down shots when it counts.
When should Rip Hamilton return? He should get some games in before playoff time so that he could get into game shape -- Whirl Wide IKhan
Whirl Wide (any relation to Wes?), I think Rip will be back sooner than people think. If I had to make an educated guess, I wouldn't be surprised to see him return when his former team, the Pistons, come to town Friday, giving him a game before the showdown in Oklahoma City next Sunday. I think both Rip and I agree that he needs to play for conditioning purposes, but being that he's always been the energetic type and Ronnie is basically a de facto starter, even when he's coming off the bench, even more important is continuing to build chemistry and attempting to learn the system inside and out. Rip and Thibs were huddled together watching video after practice last week, something Thibs did with Derrick last season, so he's trying his best to get up to speed for the long haul.
Could Rose still be named MVP in spite of his injuries? -- Truman D.
Truman, Derrick's MVP chances went out the window a long time ago because of the injuries, but even if he was still under consideration, the team's success without him has ruled him out. One could have made the argument that Bulls, at times, were a one-man gang--at least offensively -- last season, but there's no way to back that up this season with their 12-4 record without Derrick in the lineup. If anything, the team's MVP candidates this season have been their defense, the bench and Thibs. Give JL3 a couple more miracle games before he climbs into the top three.
Why do the Bulls do half pick and rolls? I always see picks but nobody rolls -- Tony M.
Tony, great question. When Carlos (I assume you're primarily talking about him, as Jo and Taj roll all the way to the hoop more frequently) first got healthy last season, Derrick talked about how playing with him was an adjustment because he didn't always roll all the way to the basket, like a lot of traditional big men do. The Bulls utilize that strategy to play to Carlos' strengths, which are mid-range jumpers, being able to take advantage of certain matchups in space and giving him good passing angles to find cutters, such as Lu and Ronnie. Also, the Bulls play a lot of high-low basketball with their bigs, so having Carlos with the ball at the elbow sometimes opens things up for Jo at the low block.
What did you think about that body check on Blake Griffin? -- Ryan .
Ryan, I think it was overblown. The refs made the right call and Jason Smith's reaction wasn't a good thing, but he apologized and was punished for it appropriately. That said, Griffin has to expect that, with the "Lob City" hype and his continued posterizations of opposing players. Nobody likes to be embarrassed and the word is out that if he gets frustrated, he can be thrown off his game. Maybe if he was a better free-throw shooter, he wouldn't take it so personally, since he'd know that he could get the two points back at the foul line.
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.