Ask Aggrey: Will Gasol, Howard be dealt?

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Ask Aggrey: Will Gasol, Howard be dealt?

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.

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

After the Bulls traded for veteran center Robin Lopez and signed guards Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in free agency,  the starting lineup for the 2016-17 season was 80 percent complete with Jimmy Butler moving over to small forward. The only real question remained: will Nikola Mirotic or Taj Gibson start at power forward?

Arguments can be made for both players, but early in camp it appears Mirotic will have the edge, based on his three-point shooting ability. The Bulls need to create floor spacing for their wing players (Wade and Butler) who are most effective driving to the basket, and Mirotic has the ability to knock down the three (.355 for his career, .390 last season). Mirotic is also an underrated defensive rebounder with decent size at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds.

Mirotic got off to a fast start last season in a starting role, but eventually went to the bench after a late November-early December shooting slump. His second NBA season was also sidetracked by an emergency appendectomy in late January that caused him to miss almost six weeks of action. Mirotic finished the season strong, and went on to play a lead role with his former Bulls teammate, Pau Gasol, on Spain’s national team at the Rio Olympics. Mirotic will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, so he has a lot riding on establishing himself as a bonafide NBA starter.

It's a similar story for Gibson, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and is looking to land one more big contract when he turns 32-years-old next June. Gibson is known for his relentless work on the boards and his ability to defend power forwards and centers. He’s also 100 percent healthy after dealing with the after-effects of ankle surgery last season. But given the Bulls’ spacing issues, it makes sense for the coaching staff to go with Mirotic alongside Wade, Rondo and Butler, and to pair Gibson with young perimeter threats like Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan on the second unit. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could use Gibson in a backup center role, with McDermott getting minutes at power forward in small ball lineups. Gibson will play, but don’t be surprised to see his name come up again in midseason trade rumors.

So, where does that leave 2015 first-round draft pick Bobby Portis? Portis looked good in Las Vegas Summer League play, showing off improved low-post skills and a consistent three-point shot. But unless Portis has a big preseason, it’s hard to imagine him getting consistent rotation minutes early in the season. Portis could earn some time as a stretch five backing up Lopez, but those minutes might also go to Gibson or second-year center Cristiano Felicio. Portis worked hard all summer, and should be a better all-around player in his sophomore season, but he faces an uphill battle to earn regular minutes. It will be interesting to see how many of the Bulls young players wind up logging time with the Bulls’ new D-League team in Hoffman Estates. Portis might not be involved as a No. 1 draft pick, but Felicio and second-round selection Paul Zipser might want to get familiar with the trip out to the Sears Center.

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The other major training camp battle involves the backup point guard spot behind Rondo. The coaches have a wide variety of options, starting with former Notre Dame star Jerian Grant, who came over in the Derrick Rose trade with the Knicks. The soon to be 24-year-old Grant is the son of long-time NBA player Harvey Grant and nephew of former Bulls star Horace Grant. The Bulls were interested in selecting Jerian Grant in the 2015 draft, but he went off the board a few picks before their turn in the first round.

Grant was a big-time scorer at Notre Dame, but struggled to get on the court in his rookie season with the Knicks. After Kurt Rambis replaced Derek Fisher as head coach of the Knicks, Grant finally got some consistent playing time, averaging 16.8 ppg over the last four games of the season. He’s not a great three-point shooter, hitting just 22 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, but his ability to get to the basket and create open shots for teammates would give the Bulls consistent point guard play throughout the game.

Canaan was signed late in free agency to give the Bulls another long-range shooting option. He hit 36 percent of his 3’s with Philadelphia last season, averaging 11 points a game. The 25-year-old Canaan figures to be specialist with the Bulls, much like Aaron Brooks who could score points in bunches, but didn’t excel at running a half-court offense. Even though Canaan only stands 6 feet tall, he’s really a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, much like Brooks, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson and C.J. Watson who proceeded him.

6-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie was considered a potential lottery pick at Colorado before suffering a devastating knee injury that dropped him into the second round. Dinwiddie didn’t get a lot of playing time for Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, but he’s completely healthy now and showed during Summer League play he’s capable of scoring over smaller point guards in the post. His size, scoring ability and defensive skills might push him ahead of the other candidates when all is said and done.

The wild card in the backup point guard derby is this year’s first-round pick Denzel Valentine. Even though he played a wing spot at Michigan State, Valentine was the floor general for Tom Izzo, and is an exceptional passer with outstanding court vision. Since playing time behind Wade & Butler might be limited, Valentine could wind up running the point on the second unit, with Butler on the court as the primary initiator on offense. Valentine’s shooting ability gives the Bulls another floor spacer, and at 6-foot-5, he’ll have size advantage over smaller backup point guards.

Boiling it all down, Hoiberg and his assistants figure to do a lot of experimenting during the preseason to find out which players execute best together. But once the ball goes up for real on Oct. 27, Hoiberg has to decide on his best 9 or 10 players for a consistent regular-season rotation. Matchups could dictate which backup point guards find the floor, but even this early in camp it’s pretty obvious the Bulls are intrigued by Valentine’s potential, and he should get consistent playing time in his rookie season.

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah may be wearing a different uniform, but he's still wearing the same heart on his sleeve.

That much was made clear in his comments made to the New York media on Wednesday.

Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks after eight seasons with the Bulls, was asked about comments Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf questioning Noah's future as a main contributor on a team.

Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month that Noah was "not a frontline player," referencing the team's decision not to bring him back in free agency.

Noah responded to those comments in classy fashion - while also getting his true thoughts across:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

No one would ever question Noah's heart, but it's undeniable that his body is beginning to show wear, and his performance has reflected it.

Noah played in just 29 games last season before a season-ending shoulder injury, averaging career-lows in points (4.3), field goal percentage (38.3%), free throw percentage (48.9%) and steals (0.6). That came on the heels of a 2015 season in which he missed 15 games and averaged 7.2 points, the lowest since his second season in the league.

But the Knicks are hoping a rejuvenated Noah, playing in his hometown, will find some magic in his 31-year-old body and be able to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.

Noah, Derrick Rose and the Knicks will square off against the Bulls at the United Center on Nov. 4.