ORLANDO -- On my way back to the Windy City from the Sunshine State, where Tom Thibodeau had to suffer through a defense-less game, LeBron James came up short in the clutch, Luol Deng didnt play 40-plus minutes and all of the talkbesides Derrick Roses new adidas contract -- locally was focused on the fate of Magic center Dwight Howard, I wanted to take a quick break to answer your questions after a hectic weekend, albeit a breather from the weather back in Chicago. Hey, I was with you in spirit, if not in layered clothing. With no further adieu, heres another edition of Ask Aggrey.
Besides the Miami Heat, which team in the East scares you the most? -- Mark
Mark, the team that personally scares me the most is Charlotte because I dont know how that franchise can get any worse, but I believe its somehow possible. Ill assume, however, which team poses the most threat to the Bulls. Im tempted to say either Philadelphia or Indiana, but Im going to go with New York instead. Yes, Jeremy Lin isnt completely infallible, Carmelo Anthony has to blend in better and Amare Stoudemire needs to rediscover the form that made him an early MVP candidate last season, but their talent is undeniable. If Mike DAntoni -- for all of his perceived faults as a coach, the man was heralded as an offensive innovator just a few seasons ago in Phoenix -- can find a way to make it work, the Knicks are a team nobody, including the Bulls and rival Miami, want to face in a first-round series.
I noticed that when D-Rose misses games, he has his warmups on instead of a suit like most players. Do you know why? -- Kyle
Kyle, Derrick isnt too big on wearing suits outside of press conferences and with him being termed day-to-day during his absences, the Bulls arent required to list him as inactive. Thus, according to league policy, hes allowed to sit on the bench in Bulls gear, rather than wear a suit, as NBA rules dictate for inactive players.
Do you think the Lakers are going to trade Pau Gasol before the trade deadline? And how about Dwight Howards future? -- Tyler
Tyler, I believe the Lakers will trade him if they think they can legitimately improve in the future, address needs like the point-guard situation, remain a contender and possibly free up cap space, but Im afraid that with Jim Buss, the son of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss, now apparently calling the shots, their perception of a good deal might differ from yours or mine. The latest scuttlebutt has them pitching a swap of both Gasol and All-Star Andrew Bynum to the Magic for Howard, point guard Jameer Nelson and high-salaried veteran Hedo Turkoglu. Im not sure how much better that makes them -- or how happy Howard would be, as he reportedly didnt take well to the idea of supposedly waiting his turn to be the Lakers superstar until Kobe Bryant retires -- but Nelson would give them a former All-Star at point guard (albeit one whos having a miserable year, possibly due to the Howard trade talk and the notion the Magic needs an upgrade, like Deron Williams or as recent rumors have it, Steve Nash, at his position) and acquiring Howard would be palatable to the franchises fan base. That said, Gasols name has also been mentioned in connection with Minnesota, though thats probably more the Timberwolves wishful thinking, and conversely, the false rumor about Derrick wanting him in Chicago likely emanated from Gasols representatives, so theres certainly a lot in motion at the present time, though that doesnt directly answer your question. Id say its 50-50 right now, if I had to make a semi-educated guess.
Regarding Howard, I think he ends up staying in Orlando for the remainder of this season. The aforementioned Lakers deal could intrigue the Magic, but I believe their management is more focused on trying to add a piece, such as Nash, to get back to contending status themselves before the playoffs. At this point, theyre likely gambling that Howard isnt willing to walk away from the 30 million that hed lose if he left Orlando as a free agent. Maybe a sign-and-trade scenario presents itself in the offseason -- as Ive said before, Id keep my eye on Dallas, as money is no object to Mark Cuban and the Mavericks have enough assets, excluding Dirk Nowitzki, to possibly wrangle another team into making a three-way deal; dont be shocked if they try to get both Howard and Dallas native Deron Williams -- but for now, I think Howard understands the grass might not be greener elsewhere if a trade occurs this season.
If you could make one change to All-Star weekend what would it be? -- Casey
Casey, just one change? Other than making things a lot easier from the perspective of a member of the media -- logistics were a bit of an issue here in Orlando, as was the frantic nature of player availability sessions and actual seating in the arena, at least for me -- Id say putting more at stake for the dunk contest. Prior to last nights game, I would have said making the All-Star Game itself more competitive by way of financial incentive, but even with the lack of competitiveness in the first half, the fantastic finish made up for it. However, while I understand that the league wanted to showcase some fresh faces, the fact is, the dunk contest hasnt been relevant in years. Offering a million-dollar prize or a massive donation to the winners charity of choice might encourage the likes of LeBron, Russell Westbrook and others (I doubt Derrick would do it, even with a tantalizing incentive; its just not his thing) to participate before fans finally give up on the event.
Why wasn't JR Smith added with Rip Hamilton never playing? Ryan
Ryan, if theres one thing the Bulls value more than talent, its chemistry. Smith is clearly a talented offensive force and one of the best instant-offense scorers in the league, but his ball-stopping, isolation style of play simply wouldnt fit in Chicago. Hes earned a reputation as a selfish player and that fact that he considers defense optional wouldnt have endeared him to Bulls players and coaches. Additionally, the organization also prides itself on having high-character players and fairly or not, Smith has also been cast as a malcontent. For the Knicks and even the Clippers, who didnt get him, he might have been worth the risk, but the Bulls, already a true contender, didnt need to take that chance. As far as Rip, the team believes hell be back in action soon and ready to contribute at a high level in the second half of the season and especially the playoffs. Rip showed that he blended in extremely well in the limited action hes seen this season and offered the Bulls a different element than what they already had. Plus, with Ronnie Brewer playing well in his absence, though his play tailed off a bit after a while, they kept winning, so it wasnt like they were desperate.
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.