Tuesday , Oct , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Chicago Bulls 2004-05 Season Preview

=== Chicago Bulls 2004-05 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2003-04 FINISH: 23-59

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Luol Deng (F) – Trade with Phoenix; Ronald Dupree (G) –
Signed with Detroit; Adrian Griffin (G) – Trade with Houston; Othella
Harrington (F) – Trade with New York; Eric Piatkowski (F) – Trade with
Houston; Gary Trent (F) – Free Agent; Cezary Trybanski (C) – Trade with New
York; Mike Wilks (G) – Trade with Houston; Frank Williams (G) – Trade with New
York.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Jamal Crawford (G) – Traded to New York; Marcus Fizer
(F) – Selected by Charlotte in Expansion Draft; Chris Jefferies (F) – Waived;
Linton Johnson (F) – Signed with San Antonio; Jerome Williams (F) – Traded to
New York.

2004 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (3) Ben Gordon (G, Connecticut); 2. (31) Jackson Vroman
(F, Iowa State) – Traded to Phoenix; 2. (38) Chris Duhon (G, Duke).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Ben Gordon, SF Eric Piatkowski,
PF Tyson Chandler, C Eddy Curry

COACH: Scott Skiles

(Sports Network) – Chicago general manager John Paxson is still try to piece
together a nucleus of players for the Bulls’ roster that will result in more
victories and an eventual trip back to the postseason.

The Bulls were absent from the playoffs last season for a sixth straight year.
Chicago finished the 2003-04 campaign with just 23 victories, which was second
to only the Orlando Magic, who won 21 games.

Early in December 2003, the Bulls acquired center/forward Antonio Davis,
forward Jerome Williams and forward Chris Jefferies from the Toronto Raptors
in exchange for swingman Jalen Rose and forwards Donyell Marshall and Lonny
Baxter. This deal did not turn out the way the Bulls had hoped as the losing
continued last season even after the trade.

In the draft, Chicago selected Connecticut guard Ben Gordon with the third
overall pick. The Bulls also acquired Luol Deng, who was originally chosen
seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns, for the draft rights to the 31st pick
(Jackson Vroman) and a future first-round selection.

After what was considered to be a successful draft, Chicago stayed active
during the offseason. The Bulls dealt guard Jamal Crawford and forward
Williams to the New York Knicks for forward Othella Harrington, guard Frank
Williams and centers Dikembe Mutombo and Cezary Trybanski. Mutombo, who was
not happy to be a member of the Bulls, was sent to the Houston Rockets for
forward Eric Piatkowski and guards Adrian Griffin and Mike Wilks.

Youngsters Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler continued to disappoint last season.
The 21-year-old Curry, who has yet to show the commitment that is required to
be a top center in the NBA, averaged 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 73 games,
while the 22-year-old Chandler, who missed 47 games because of a back injury,
averaged just 6.1 points and 7.7 boards in his 35 appearances.

Guard Kirk Hinrich showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, as the Kansas
product averaged 12 points and 6.8 assists in 76 games. Hinrich knocked down
39 percent of his shots from three-point range and showed that he has what it
takes to be a starter in the league.

Head coach Scott Skiles will start his first full season as the general of the
Bulls. He took over for Bill Cartwright in November 2003 and was 19-47 as the
leader of Chicago. He will have a full training camp and exhibition season to
see if he get the Bulls’ players to buy into his philosophy of basketball.

Gordon and Deng are positive additions to the Bulls’ roster. If the two prove
to be productive NBA players, Chicago could have finally found the right
nucleus, along with Hinrich, to build around.

BACKCOURT

Hinrich was one of the few bright spots for the Bulls last season. He started
66 of the 76 games he played in and averaged just over 35 minutes of action.
The 23-year-old Hinrich has earned the job of starting point guard and should
continue to improve on his numbers of a year ago.

The rookie Gordon will be put to the test from the start. The Bulls are
hopeful he can have a solid rookie year, similar to the one Hinrich enjoyed
last season. The Connecticut product will see action at both guard spots and
will be asked to provide scoring from the perimeter.

Frank Williams will be the reserve point guard. The 6-3 Williams averaged 3.9
points and 2.2 assists in 56 games for the Knicks last season. He will push
the ball up the court for Skiles and will be given the chance to show that he
is indeed a capable lead guard.

Duke product Chris Duhon was selected in the second round of the draft and
will have to beat out Williams for playing time at the point. Duhon could find
himself in the rotation because he is strong defensively and knows how to
distribute the rock.

Jannero Pargo showed some offensive power in his 13 game stint with the Bulls
last season. He averaged 13.5 points and shot 42.9 percent from the field.
Pargo could be a sleeper if he proves that his performance was not a fluke.

FRONTCOURT

Chandler and Curry will once again try and show the Bulls that is worth
keeping them. The two youngsters have not lived up to their potential and the
Bulls could be running out of patience. Both players are entering their fourth
year in the NBA.

The veteran Davis was brought in from Toronto to help alleviate the pressure
on Chandler and Curry. This is an experiment gone wrong, as the 6-9 Davis has
aged quickly and his best days on the court have definitely passed him by. In
2003-04, Davis averaged just 8.9 points and 8.4 boards in 80 games for the
Bulls and Raptors. He will be expected to play center and power forward and
will most likely log at least 30 minutes per game.

Piatkowski, who is entering his 11th season in the NBA, will get a chance to
earn plenty of minutes as the starting small forward and a reserve shooting
guard. The former Clipper and Rocket is a deadly from beyond the arc, as he is
a career 39.9 percent shooter from three-point range.

Deng will also compete for minutes at the small forward. The 6-8 Duke product
is athletic and will help the Bulls in transition. He should find himself
in the starting lineup at times and could help make Chicago fans gain a
positive outlook on the future.

Chicago also has Harrington, who will add toughness at the power forward, and
Argentine Andres Nocioni, who will take a shot at playing in the NBA. Eddie
Robinson is also still on the team and could also help out at either forward
position.

OUTLOOK

The Bulls could have a new nucleus to build around in Deng, Gordon and
Hinrich. The days of Chandler and Curry in a Chicago uniform could be close
to coming to an end. The Bulls will find themselves out of the postseason once
again, but there could be a glimpse of some light at the end of the tunnel
with the new core of players.

CHI