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Reader Q&A: K.C. Johnson's Bulls mailbag

Hey K.C., I really loved that Wright Thompson piece on Michael Jordan in ESPN The Magazine. One of my favorite parts was learning Michael loves cowboy movies. I also have learned through various interviews that Bob Dylan is himself a lover of Westerns. As a music lover and Bulls beat writer, I thought you would know best how to proceed from here. Jack Murphy, Chicago
 
Yes, yes I do, Jack. Thanks for providing the motivation to snap me out of my season-long malaise regarding the mailbag. Like MJ, I’m back, baby, and just in time for trade deadline week to boot.
 
Why trade Carlos Boozer for Andrea Bargnani? Bargnani never has lived up to his hype or No. 1-pick status and wouldn’t be as valuable in terms of wins to the Bulls this season. Boozer is a legitimate scoring and rebounding option. He is suspect on defense, but so is Bargnani. Scot Levine, Chicago
 
Yes, if people are disenchanted with Boozer’s defense, take a gander at Bargnani’s for a stretch. First of all, this trade doesn’t sound like it’s happening. Secondly, many trades in this league are done for financial reasons as much as -- if not more so -- than basketball reasons. If the Bulls agreed to this deal, there’s a chance they could drop below the luxury tax threshold, a penalty they’ve never paid in franchise history. But trading for Bargnani eliminates all future flexibility and probably would lead to the departure of Luol Deng when he becomes a free agent after the 2013-14 season. Trading Boozer also would eliminate the Bulls’ most likely option for the amnesty provision, which only can be used on players under contract on your team when the new collective bargaining agreement began. I’m still not 100 percent sure Boozer falls victim to the amnesty provision, but if he does, it would be after the 2013-14 season. Bargnani still won’t be guarding anybody then.
 
Do the Bulls have a justified excuse for not having enough talent around Derrick Rose to win it all? They are following the same pattern that was used around MJ. If I was Derrick Rose, no way I’d stay in Chicago if the Bulls don’t win a title before his contract is up. He’ll be another John Stockton and Karl Malone, for sure. John Coleman, Mansfield, Texas
 
Happy Monday, huh? The pattern used around MJ seemed to work pretty well. The Bulls also just had two players play in the All-Star Game, voted in by league coaches. Granted, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah aren’t flashy, transcendent stars like LeBron James. But they’re key pieces to a core that produced the most regular-season victories in the NBA the past two seasons. The Bulls swung for the fences to get James, trading Kirk Hinrich to Washington for nothing but salary-cap space. It didn’t work out. Their backup plan led them to a conference finals appearance and perhaps a second straight trip if injuries hadn’t claimed Rose and Noah last April in the 76ers series. If Rose didn’t get hurt, perhaps management kept that team intact and took another shot. Nothing can be judged until Rose is back. The Heat isn’t winning a title without James. Once Rose returns, a new plan to acquire another shot-creator or scorer will have to be in place. All signs point to the summer of 2014 as the next chance to judge management’s acumen.
 
I understand some of the cap issues the Bulls are facing in the next year or so, but given the play of Nate Robinson this season, why wouldn’t the Bulls try to lock him up through a short deal? After Rose, no other Bull really starts or comes off the bench with energy. He reminds me of Vinny “Microwave” Johnson. Joe Damato, Auburn Hills, Mich.
 
Funny, he reminds me of our 7-year-old, who never stops talking. Nate has incredible energy. I’ve truly never seen anything like it in a locker room. Many times this season, I’ve been interviewing an athlete on the other side of the locker room and I go to transcribe the interview and all I hear is Nate. I can only imagine what it’s like on the team buses and planes. But I digress. Nate has definitely played well many times this season. He has saved some games with his scoring ability and his floor game, particularly when he started for the injured Kirk Hinrich, has continued to progress from when he averaged a career-high in assists last season with the Warriors. That said, I think Nate has a tendency to wear people out and can serve as a distraction at times. His energy is more enthusiastic than malicious, but I’d be surprised to see him return.
 
I’m very impressed with Jimmy Butler. Do you see him as the future shooting guard or small forward? Jerry, North Aurora
 
Tom Thibodeau has said Butler is more of a small forward, but the key, obviously, is his defensive versatility. He can guard three positions, and this flexibility is critical to Thibodeau’s defensive schemes. The fascinating subplot to Butler’s development will be when Luol Deng’s deal ends after the 2013-14 season. If the Bulls use the amnesty provision on Boozer and don’t re-sign Deng, they could have salary-cap space. Of course, bringing Deng back at a reduced salary also is an option.
 
What did you think of All-Star weekend? John, Chicago
 
I thought Ne-Yo didn’t hold newspaper deadlines in high regard. I also thought Joakim Noah’s pride was palpable all weekend. And the moment when he dropped into a defensive stance and clapped at Chris Paul was priceless. I asked Noah about it afterward and he said, “I appreciate you bringing that up, especially him hitting that jumpshot in my face after I hyped it up, clapping. Thanks, K.C.” Covering Noah is quite the adventure.
 
How were the Miami Heat able to sign Chris Anderson? Why didn’t the Bulls pursue him? He would seem to be an upgrade over Nazr Mohammed. Jim Hanlon, Springfield, Ill.
 
The Bulls can’t sign a 15th player if they choose to do so until early March. That’s when the prorated portion of a veteran’s minimum salary is small enough to fit under the league’s hard salary cap of $74.307 million. The Heat are an abysmal rebounding team. That’s not an issue for the Bulls.
 
Whose bright idea was it to sign broken-down Captain Kirk to a two-year contract, which forced a hard cap and kills any chance to bring anyone onto the roster? He hasn’t played a full season in five years. Tony, Evanston
 
Hinrich’s health is a concern. Management was convinced he had overcome previous injuries with a great offseason, and none of his injuries are related. But it does seem like Hinrich’s style of play has him breaking down. It’s too bad for anyone who knows Hinrich, who is as tough-minded a competitor as they come. The coaching staff loves his ability to organize the team offensively and defensively and his ability to play alongside Rose and either guard position was attractive. The Bulls hope he can rally down the stretch and have a healthy 2013-14.
 
The Bulls own the Bobcats’ first-round pick. I know it’s protected. When will the Bulls finally receive it? Smiley Waisnor, Antioch
 
It seems fitting to receive this query when I finally revive the mailbag since I seemed to answer it weekly last season. Repeat after me: The Bobcats' pick is top-12 protected in the next draft, top-10 protected in 2014, top-eight protected in 2015 and unprotected in 2016.
 
Good to answer some questions again. Talk to you soon.
 
K.C.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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