15 Chicago Bulls He lacks flash, but big things are still expected of Air apparent Elton Brand

Nov. 01, 1999
Nov. 01, 1999

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Nov. 1, 1999

NBA Preview 1999-2000

15 Chicago Bulls He lacks flash, but big things are still expected of Air apparent Elton Brand

They've never met. Not even in a summer pickup game or a Bulls
charity golf outing. "Maybe it's because I'm from Duke,"
Chicago's rookie power forward, Elton Brand, says jokingly when
asked how it is that he's never met former Bulls superstar--and
North Carolina alum--Michael Jordan. "There is a rivalry there."

This is an article from the Nov. 1, 1999 issue Original Layout

With a hearty laugh the 20-year-old Brand then admits he's
surprised he's never crossed paths with the man he's trying to
follow as Chicago's hoops messiah. "It's weird, because we both
have the same agent, David Falk," Brand says. "I guess it's
because David wants to shy away from any comparisons. You can't
fill the shoes of the greatest player of all time."

The Bulls certainly learned that lesson in 1998-99. In its first
season without Jordan and most of the rest of the cast
responsible for six titles in eight years, Chicago limped to a
13-37 record and a last-place finish in the Central Division.
Even more humiliating was an 82-49 loss to the Heat in which the
Bulls set an NBA record for fewest points scored in a game since
the advent of the shot clock, in 1954.

The saving grace of last season was that all the losing helped
get them the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, a selection they used
on Brand. Though he won't make anyone forget Jordan, the 6'8"
Brand, who left Duke after his sophomore year, could be the
team's next franchise player. With forward Toni Kukoc, guard
Hersey Hawkins and center Will Perdue, he should also make
Chicago at least more competitive than it was a year ago. "We
have more talent this year," Kukoc says. "I think we can win
30-some games."

Strong like a bull, with pillows for hands and the wingspan of a
DC-10, Brand is Chicago's most exciting rookie prospect since
Jordan arrived in 1984. He can score inside and out, run the
floor, rebound in a crowd and bang on defense. Although
undersized at power forward, he makes up for it with balance and
intelligence. "His body allows him to get separation in the post,
he competes, he cares about defense and he just really plays
hard," coach Tim Floyd says.

Just as important, Brand has shown a Jordanesque maturity in
dealing with the expectations that come with being a high pick. A
gym rat, he's usually one of the first players to arrive at
practice and one of the last to leave. Before training camp he
moved his mother, Daisy, who lived in Peekskill, N.Y., into a
home in north suburban Chicago, just a few minutes from the
apartment Brand shares with his older brother, Artie, so that she
could help him adjust to his new life. The three of them often
eat meals and attend church together. "He's very mature for his
age," Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong says. "He's like a 40-year-old
man trapped inside the body of a 20-year-old."

If Brand emerges as a bona fide star, he potentially makes
Chicago general manager Jerry Krause look good on two fronts:
making the right choice with the franchise's first No. 1 pick
and giving an elite free agent, such as the Spurs' Tim Duncan or
the Pistons' Grant Hill, reason to consider joining the Bulls.
During the off-season Krause let go veterans Ron Harper, Brent
Barry, Mark Bryant and Andrew Lang, among others, to clear
salary-cap room for the 2000-01 season. With some $20 million in
hand, Krause could make a pitch for a marquee free agent.

In the meantime Krause thinks he has two more building blocks in
Ron Artest, the former St. John's star whom the team selected
with the 16th pick of the first round, and Chris Anstey, a
7-foot Australian center acquired from the Mavericks for a
future draft pick. A former AAU teammate of Brand's, the 6'7"
Artest can drive, hit the three, handle the ball and even defend
a little. But he can also act like the 19-year-old that he is;
during the summer he overslept and missed a mandatory session at
the NBA's rookie orientation in Leesburg, Va., prompting the
league to send him home and fine him $10,000. Anstey, whom
Mavericks coach Don Nelson once called the "best-running big
man" he'd ever seen, is raw but is active and can knock down
open jumpers.

Helping these baby Bulls grow up is a big reason Krause traded
for Hawkins and signed free agents Armstrong and Perdue. Hawkins,
33, endured the worst season of his 11-year career last year,
averaging just 10.3 points on 41.9% shooting for the Sonics, but
he's a team player and a Chicago native who doesn't mind being
part of the rebuilding process. Armstrong and Perdue know the
triple-post offense well from their stints with the Bulls'
championship teams.

With so many experienced hands willing to help him, Brand should
adjust to the pro game more easily than most rookies. He also
should benefit from the absence of zone defenses. "I got
double-teamed a lot in college," he says. "I think [not having to
face a zone] will help my game, in terms of putting the ball on
the floor, trying to go by a player or just posting up." Still,
don't expect Brand to talk of winning Rookie of the Year honors
or making the All-Star team right out of the box. When asked at
the team's media day to predict a headline we'll read this
season, he simply said, "Brand saves game by recovering loose

With such a Jordan-like response, it's no wonder Floyd is
convinced his prize rookie's going to live up to his top
billing. On one recent Sunday at around 10 p.m., Floyd stopped
by the team's practice facility only to hear music playing and a
basketball bouncing. "It was Elton out there by himself," Floyd
says, "in a dead sweat, working out."

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER/NBA PHOTOS LET'S GET PHYSICAL The 6'8", 260-pound Brand should make his presence felt inside.


STARTING FIVE [1 1/2 stars]
BENCH [1 star]
COACH [2 1/2 stars]
FRONT OFFICE [2 stars]
CHEMISTRY [2 stars]

By the Numbers

1998-99 record: 13-37 (15th in Eastern Conference)
Coach: Tim Floyd (second year with Bulls)

AVERAGES (rank) (rank) (rank) (rank)

BULLS 81.9 (29) 40.1 (29) 39.3 (26) 15.5 (16)
OPPONENTS 91.4 (14) 45.5 (25) 42.4 (17) 15.6 (12)

In Fact

If the Bulls miraculously make the playoffs, they'll be in good
shape: The alltime leader in postseason three-point shooting is
B.J. Armstrong (45.1%). Among active players, Hersey Hawkins is
the free throw leader (91.1%).

Projected Lineup


SF Toni Kukoc 51 18.8 ppg 7.0 rpg 5.3 apg 42.0 FG%
Led Chicago in scoring, rebounding and assists last season

PF Elton Brand (R)[#] 89 17.7 ppg 9.8 rpg 1.1 apg 62.0 FG%
Wooden Award winner was first No. 1 draft pick in Bulls' history

C Will Perdue [#] 179 2.4 ppg 3.7 rpg 0.5 apg 63.3 FG%
Has four championship rings (three with Bulls, one with Spurs)

SG Hersey Hawkins [#]157 10.3 ppg 4.0 rpg 2.5 apg 90.2 FT%
Had started every game in his 11-year career until being benched
in '98-99

PG Randy Brown 186 8.8 ppg 3.4 rpg 3.8 apg 41.4 FG%
Has hit 21 of 102 threes in his career but hasn't made one since


G Corey Benjamin 201 3.8 ppg 1.3 rpg 0.3 apg 37.6 FG%
Doesn't look to pass: averaged one assist for every 32 minutes on
the court

F Kornel David 207 6.2 ppg 3.5 rpg 0.8 apg 44.9 FG%
Last season the rookie from Hungary led Chicago in scoring five

G-F Ron Artest (R) [#] 215 14.5 ppg 6.3 rpg 4.2 apg 2.05 spg
As sophomore last year led St. John's to Elite Eight of NCAA

F Dickey Simpkins 233 9.1 ppg 6.8 rpg 1.3 apg 46.3 FG%
Played most minutes of his five-year career during
strike-shortened season

C Chris Anstey [#] 251 3.3 ppg 2.4 rpg 0.7 apg 36.0 FG%
Despite being 7 feet, he has shot only 38.4% from the floor in
two seasons

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 102)