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15 Chicago Bulls The good news for a team that won 15 games and is banking on two teenagers? There's nowhere to go but up

Oct. 29, 2001
Oct. 29, 2001

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Oct. 29, 2001

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15 Chicago Bulls The good news for a team that won 15 games and is banking on two teenagers? There's nowhere to go but up

Bulls coach Tim Floyd was instructing his team at practice one
day when rookie center Eddy Curry raised his hand. "What do you
mean by pressure release?" Curry asked. For a second Floyd must
have thought he was back at Iowa State, where he coached before
he came to Chicago in 1998.

This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2001 issue Original Layout

Pressure release, as any college player knows, refers to the act
of swinging the ball out of danger when an opposing defense
overplays the ball side. Curry, who along with fellow rookie
Tyson Chandler has jumped to the NBA straight out of high school,
had never heard the term. "These guys are going to be something
special," Floyd says, "but they've still got a lot to learn."

Welcome to the Great Chicago Rebuilding Project, Part II. After
having had the NBA's worst record in each of the last three
seasons, Floyd is starting over with two kids straight from the
prom. Chandler, a sleek 7'1" forward from Compton, Calif., who
was picked No. 2 by the Clippers and then quickly traded to the
Bulls for Elton Brand, is considered a potential Kevin Garnett
clone. Curry, a 6'11" center from South Holland, Ill., whom the
Bulls selected fourth, has been dubbed Baby Shaq. Together they
hope to form the twin pillars of a new dynasty.

For now, though, the Baby Bulls will have to be content with baby
steps. Hoping to ease the transition, G.M. Jerry Krause acquired
veteran Charles Oakley from the Raptors in exchange for a
second-round pick. Krause also signed former Hornets reserve
Eddie Robinson to a five-year, $31 million deal and picked up
point guard Greg Anthony from the Blazers for another
second-rounder.

The Bulls are nonetheless still one step above CBA level. The
departure of Brand leaves them with no reliable low-post scoring
threat to draw double teams, and only shooting guard Ron Mercer
is capable of consistently breaking down the man guarding him. On
defense there are no shot blockers to cover for the perimeter
players' lack of speed.

Chandler and Curry eventually will provide help in both areas,
but for now they're too busy trying to help each other find their
way. While in Long Beach for the NBA summer league, Chandler took
Curry to eat at one of his favorite restaurants, Roscoe's Chicken
& Waffles. In Chicago, Curry gave Chandler a rundown on the
expressways.

Restaurants and highways are fitting topics for Chandler and
Curry, considering the steady diet of new material they get each
day at practice, which features more stop-and-go than rush hour
on the Kennedy Expressway. During training camp Floyd had to
break so often to go over basics that the veterans nearly started
bringing paperbacks.

Of the two teenagers, the 285-pound Curry is better prepared to
play now because of his size, strength and relatively superior
offensive game. Though his low-post moves are still rudimentary,
he can provide jolts of athleticism down low. Chandler still
needs to add 10 to 15 pounds to his 235-pound frame before he can
bang with the likes of Oakley. Until then he hopes to steal some
minutes as a backup small forward while Ron Artest recovers from
thumb surgery.

While Floyd says he has been encouraged by the maturity of the
two teens, he doesn't plan to throw them to the Wolves--or the
Lakers, Sixers or Knicks--until they're ready. "I've made it
clear-cut that there aren't going to be entitlement minutes," he
says.

Will Floyd be singing the same tune come January, when losses are
piling up as high as the snow and the United Center faithful are
chanting the names of the franchise's young saviors? Or will the
2001-02 season become a throwaway campaign for the Bulls,
designed to get Chandler and Curry some playing time--and the
franchise a shot at Duke point guard Jason Williams in next
year's draft lottery? Ultimately, that could be the pressure
release that Floyd and Chicago need.

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: GLENN JAMES/NBA ENTERTAINMENT NEW BALL GAME Curry is the more polished of the prize rookies, but his knowledge of the game still doesn't rival his street smarts.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Bulls

"Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler should complement each other. Curry
is a low-post presence with a big body. Chandler, as tall as he
is, is really a perimeter player right now. The tough thing for
Chandler is that he can't guard threes, and until his body
matures the fours are going to push him around. A lot is going to
depend on their dedication. If they get personal trainers and do
all the extra work and the off-season programs, they should
become contributors in the third year. But you just don't know
with high school guys.... It surprised me when they traded Elton
Brand. It's hard to deal a guy who gives you 20 points and 10
rebounds every night. I hope Tim Floyd was on board with that
move. He's been handcuffed by the lack of talent Jerry Krause has
given him. Then Krause forced him to keep running the triangle
when it wasn't really the right offense for that team. It's a
good sign for Floyd that they don't seem to be running nearly as
much triangle this year.... Charles Oakley will give them 25 to
30 solid minutes. He'll provide rebounding, defense, toughness
and leadership, and he won't let the young guys get pushed
around.... I doubt that Marcus Fizer is ever going to live up to
his billing as the No. 4 pick in the 2000 draft. He's basically a
6'9" power forward with a limited outside shot.... Eddie Robinson
is a dynamic player. He and Ron Mercer are going to be good for
them on the wings.... When I look at Oakley, Ron Artest and Greg
Anthony, I see that the Bulls should be tougher than they've been
since Michael left."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 15-67 (eighth in Central)
Coach: Tim Floyd (fourth season with Bulls)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Eddie Robinson[1] 7.4 ppg 3.0 rpg 0.75 spg 0.48 bpg 53.1 FG%
68
PF Charles Oakley[1] 9.6 ppg 9.5 rpg 0.62 bpg 0.97 spg 38.8 FG%
143
C Brad Miller 8.9 ppg 7.4 rpg 1.9 apg 0.67 bpg 43.5 FG%
185
SG Ron Mercer 19.7 ppg 3.3 apg 3.9 rpg 1.28 spg 44.6 FG%
38
PG Greg Anthony[1] 4.9 ppg 1.4 apg 0.69 spg 38.3 FG% 40.9 3FG%
167

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

F Marcus Fizer 9.5 ppg 4.3 rpg 1.1 apg 0.42 spg 43.0 FG%
161
G Fred Hoiberg 9.1 ppg 3.6 apg 1.32 spg 43.8 FG% 41.2 3FG%
203
C Eddy Curry (r)[1] 22 ppg 9 rpg 6 bpg 64 FG%
207
F Tyson Chandler (r) 26 ppg 15 rpg 8 bpg
217[1]
G-F Ron Artest 11.9 ppg 3.9 rpg 3.0 apg 2.00 spg 40.1 FG%
294

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)
(r) Rookie (statistics for final high school season)

"I'm surprised they traded Brand. I hope Floyd was on board
with that move."