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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls lose an ugly one vs. 76ers

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls lose an ugly one vs. 76ers

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Bulls fail to show up against 76ers: 'We didn't guard anybody'

Bulls fail to show up against 76ers: 'We didn't guard anybody'

It's been said and proven that the Bulls can't handle any level of prosperity in this season of tumult, but they've apparently lowered the bar even more as they were unable to handle the thought of prosperity.

Taking a 10-point lead against the 10-man Philadelphia 76ers had the United Center buzzing with unselfish play, easy shots and Rajon Rondo wizardry. About 90 minutes later the slipper fell off Cinderella and life hit the Bulls hard in their 117-107 loss, as they failed to win their second game in a row for the first time in a month. 

76ers rookie Dario Saric led the brigade with 32 points and 10 rebounds on 12 of 19 shooting, with two triples. Five 76ers scored in double figures, including an undrafted big named Shawn Long scoring 18 points and seven rebounds in his 10th NBA game.

Jimmy Butler scored 36 with 11 assists and seven rebounds in 42 minutes, but the narrative was the same, as he didn't have enough help on the offensive end for long stretches.

More importantly, it again signaled the reality that the belief this team can make a run for the playoffs with the schedule being the easiest of the contenders over the next two weeks is a fallacy—if the first 70 games is any indication.

"For us to come out with that lack of effort at this point in the season is maddening," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Look at the points in the paint, 70-30; that tells you everything you need to know about tonight's game."

If the Bulls can't take care of business against the likes of these 76ers, they can't be counted on do much against anybody, regardless of how the schedule shakes out for the last six games.

By the time the United Center faithful was on its third cycle of boos when a Bulls turnover led to them having more points in the paint than the Bulls had on the scoreboard, it was clear the night had turned for the worst and wouldn't be turning again.

"Lost balls and rebounds, they got every one," an exasperated Hoiberg said.

They already had a 54-52 paint-to-total ratio and the Bulls committed just three fouls, meaning for all the 76ers activity, the Bulls didn't even touch them or give any consequences by making them earn it at the foul line.

"We didn't guard anybody," Butler said. "The lack of discipline, game plan, whatever you want to call it. The game plan is important but if you're not going to do what the game plan says then go get a stop and nobody will be mad at you."

Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson and T.J. McConnell literally sliced up the Bulls defense by getting inside and exposing the weak perimeter approach.

"Gotta have individual pride in our defense. Try to keep the ball in front of us," Rondo said. "Tonight, they took it to us."

When asked if the Bulls could change course suddenly after the first 70 or so games, Rondo was blunt: "Hard to say. Of course I want to say yeah but habits are habits. You can't just flip a switch, you are who you are at the end of the day."

When Rondo was on the bench with Joffrey Lauvergne, the relative newcomer asked Rondo why was there such variances with the Bulls' play; If given the chance, many Bulls fans would've asked the starting point guard the exact same question.

"I don't know, I don't have the answer," Rondo said. "Consistent play. It's how the season has been. It gets magnified when you lose to Philly or teams you should beat."

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The lead ballooned to 26 at 81-55 with 6:15 left in the third and the Bulls looked as lifeless as they had at any point, given the relative lack of competition. They made a game of it, although the insertion of Anthony Morrow seemed to indicate a white flag more than a search for new energy.

"We finally showed up to fight in the fourth quarter but it was too late," Hoiberg said. "We were all over the place and just watched them to continue to drive right past us."

Morrow and Bobby Portis gave Butler the help he desperately needed with a surge that cut the deficit to 102-92 with seven minutes remaining—giving the Bulls a better than expected chance to salvage an improbable comeback.

But with the margins so thin and Butler already expending so much energy just to get the Bulls back in it, they couldn't do more than threaten as Saric probably earned a few extra rookie of the year votes with his career performance.

The Bulls defense, through, was far less than inspiring. The 76ers lived in the paint with guard penetration, scoring 40 in the paint in the first half alone. Rodriguez, Henderson and the rest of the perimeter players feasted on the Bulls as Robin Lopez and Lauvergne were missing in action, leading Hoiberg to leave both on the bench for the majority of the second half.

And with this sobering bit of reality, one wonders where the Bulls truly go from here.