Bulls' Roster Restocking on Hold
Jan. 22, 1999
CHICAGO (AP) _ No Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman. No practice, either, for the roster-depleted Chicago Bulls on the first day of this strange, new season.
The Bulls have yet to get off the ground in the post-Michael era. During the chaotic, first official day of business following the NBA lockout, there were only six players under contract by a mid-afternoon practice.
So the Bulls, three days before their first exhibition and 16 days before a championship rematch with the Utah Jazz in their Feb. 5 season opener, called off practice.
``This was very tough. We thought we would be here with a whole basketball team, but we had six guys here,'' veteran Ron Harper said. ``We are not the only team probably having a hard time.''
The Bulls did announce they had re-signed center Bill Wennington _ to a minimum contract of $1 million for 10-year veterans _ and also signed free agent Curtis Staples, a 3-point specialist from Virginia. Add Harper, Toni Kukoc, Randy Brown and David Booth, who were already under contract, and that makes six.
Free agent Brent Barry was at the Berto Center for a workout, but left for dinner with new coach Tim Floyd without signing a contract.
The Bulls are supposed to pick up at least four players in sign-and-trade deals, but the only one to show was Mark Bryant, part of a deal with Phoenix for Luc Longley.
There was no sight of Roy Rogers, acquired in the swap with Houston for Pippen. Martin Muursepp and Bubba Wells, part of the Suns deal for Longley, weren't there, either.
There were 14 players shooting baskets and limbering up when tired-of-waiting coach Floyd called them to the center of the floor to say there weren't enough players under contract at the time to hold his first practice.
General manager Jerry Krause made a brief appearance. He claimed the new player contracts were so different from past ones that there was a backlog in the league office, thus the delay in getting players signed and to the floor for practice.
``We are trying to get them done with the utmost speed,'' Krause said, adding he expected to have 20 players signed in the next couple of days.
Pippen was to sign a five-year, $67.2 million deal _ with an additional $15 million in incentives _ and then be shipped to Houston for Rogers and a second-round draft pick.
Guard Steve Kerr was to get a five-year, $11 million deal before heading to San Antonio for draft picks and veteran Chuck Person. And center Longley was to receive a five-year, $30 million package before being traded to Phoenix for Bryant, Muursepp and Wells.
With Jordan playing golf in retirement and Rodman as usual sending mixed signals about his future, the Bulls will turn to Kukoc for leadership, ball handling and scoring.
He still wasn't sure Thursday in the midst of the chaos what his new team would look like or even when it would finally be together.
``Time is going to show. It's too early to judge what Jerry's doing right now,'' Kukoc said.
``Plenty of teams needed years to rebuild. I guess management just felt the situation right now is probably the best point to start rebuilding.''