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John Paxson will finish the year with the same team in place. The Bulls did not make any moves before the NBA trade deadline yesterday.

"I never talked to anybody about our core," general manager John Paxson said. "I was not going to do that. I talked about some of our [draft] picks to see if we could significantly improve, but [key players] weren't out there this time around."

Paxson then seems to revise that a bit with this: "I do think in the summer, that's when teams try to make over their roster more than any other time. We'll have discussions with a lot of teams this summer about players who are under current contract, not just the free-agent market.

"That's the advantage of us having the flexibility. There are going to be a handful of teams like us in that position. That's not very many."

OK, but without trading from the 'core', how will he be able to obtain top talent? On the Ben Gordon trade rumors, Pax said, "I'd have to think I'm getting a better player, a better talent, something that makes us a better team," Paxson said. "Ben has something that makes him different from a lot of NBA players. He has an ability to score when it matters. That's a very valuable commodity."

It seems all too jumbled to me. You don't need Duhon, Hinrich and Gordon. You don't need Deng and Nocioni. You have 2 1st round picks. Let's see what the summer brings. But nobody is going to give up a top big man for a pittance. And this is one of the weakest free agent crops ever.

Pax usually has a hand to play. He's not revealing it now. We'll see it soon enough. And for Skiles and him, it's their most important offseason. Enough 'core' young players are in place. You have commodities to use to your advantage--to overpay if necessary--to acquire a gamebreaker in the front court. Gordon is indeed a special talent. But I would deal him in a heartbeat.

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