Wednesday , Nov , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Bulls host Bobcats in season opener for both clubs

(Sports Network) – The Charlotte Bobcats begin their second season in the
NBA, as they visit the Chicago Bulls tonight at the United Center in the first
game of the 2005-06 campaign for both clubs.

The Bulls have won all four meetings between these clubs.

The Bobcats were 18-64 during their inaugural season. Reigning Rookie of the
Year Emeka Okafor, who was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, had a
great rookie campaign for the Bobcats. The Connecticut product led the team in
scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg). He played in 73 contests and
registered 47 double-doubles.

Small forward Gerald Wallace had a solid season for Charlotte, as he averaged
11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds. Center Primoz Brezec netted 13.0 and grabbed 7.4
boards per game, while guard Brevin Knight dished out a team-best 9.0 assists
per contest.

The draft appears to have been beneficial once again for the Bobcats, who
owned the fifth and 13th overall selections in this year’s draft. Charlotte,
which made intelligent basketball and business decisions on draft night, will
be playing in a new arena in their second season in the NBA. With the fifth
overall pick in the draft, Charlotte selected North Carolina point guard
Raymond Felton. Just eight picks later, the Bobcats, who had acquired the pick
from Cleveland, grabbed another former Tar Heel Sean May.

By drafting Felton, the Bobcats are hopeful that they have found their
starting lead guard for the next 10-plus years. The 6-1 Felton is a pure point
guard who thinks pass first and shot second. He is very quick and is excellent
at finding his teammates when they are open.

Felton was instrumental in helping North Carolina capture the 2005 National
Championship. He showed a lot of poise and proved that he has strong
leadership skills. What can he bring to the next level?

The 6-8 May had an unbelievable showing in the NCAA Tournament, helping raise
his stock tremendously for the draft. Charlotte hopes May can continue his
strong play at the next level.

Charlotte re-signed Knight, which should allow Felton to ease into the rigors
of the NBA game. The Bobcats also traded for center Jake Voskuhl, who averaged
2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 38 games for the Suns last season.

The Bobcats will visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, before returning home
to play their first game in their new home, Charlotte Bobcats Arena, on
Saturday against the Boston Celtics.

Chicago had an excellent 2004-05 campaign, as it won 47 games and made the
playoffs for the first time since 1998. In the playoffs, the Bulls were
eliminated by the Washington Wizards in six games in the first round.

The Bulls did not have any picks in the 2005 draft, but they still have a
young nucleus of players. Sixth Man of the Year Ben Gordon, who was the third
overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, had a solid rookie season. Gordon averaged
15.1 points and 2.0 assists, while 24-year-old Kirk Hinrich contributed 15.7
points and a team-best 6.4 assists in his second year in the league.

Forwards Tyson Chandler and Othella Harrington re-signed with the team, while
Chris Duhon, who was a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with
Toronto, but it was matched by the Bulls, who also inked free agents Malik
Allen and Darius Songaila to contracts during the offseason.

The big move was a trade with New York. Center Eddy Curry and veteran
forward/center Antonio Davis were dealt to the Knicks in exchange for forwards
Tim Thomas and Mike Sweetney and guard Jermaine Jackson. Chicago also received
a conditional 2006 first-round draft choice from New York as well as the
Knicks’ second-round selections in 2007 and 2009. The Bulls also have the
right to switch first-round picks with New York in 2007, provided that the
Knicks’ selection is between numbers one through 24 in the draft order.

Curry was a restricted free agent and has a heart issue that made teams
reluctant to sign him. He had an irregular heartbeat which caused him to miss
the final 13 games of the 2004-05 season. Curry, who did not play in the
postseason because of his heart condition, netted 16.1 points and pulled down
5.4 boards in 63 games for the Bulls.

Chicago had apparently wanted Curry to take a DNA test to see if his heart was
going to be a problem where he wouldn’t be able to play. Curry though,
according to Chicago general manager Jim Paxson, refused to undergo the
genetic testing. Curry was cleared to play by doctors who ran tests on him for
the Knicks.

With Curry gone, Chandler will be expected to step up and become the star that
the Bulls had hoped he would be when they acquired his draft rights from the
Clippers for Elton Brand in June 2001. The 23-year-old Chandler averaged 8.0
points and grabbed a team-high 9.7 rebounds per contest in 80 games last
season. Chicago also got solid performances from rookies Luol Deng, Duhon and
Andres Nocioni during the 2004-05 campaign.

The Bulls also decided that head coach Scott Skiles was going to be their
general for the future, as they gave him a contract extension in early June.
Skiles took over the Bulls early in the 2003-04 season after a 4-10 start by
the club under Bill Cartwright, who was relieved of his duties. Skiles is a
no-nonsense type of coach who demands in-your face defensive play and
efficiency on offense.

The goal for the Bulls in 2005-06 is to try and carry over the success that
they enjoyed last season. This is a young club with a lot of new faces, and
Skiles will need to get them to mesh and play as a cohesive unit if Chicago is
going to return to the postseason for a second straight year.

After tonight’s contest, the Bulls will travel to New Jersey to meet Vince
Carter and the Nets on Saturday at Continental Airlines Arena.

CHI CHL