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Bulls Look to Compensate for Loss of Surfing Center

November 27, 1996

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ If he’d crashed into another 300-pound center while playing defense or hurdled his own sizable body into the stands for a loose ball, Luc Longley’s separated shoulder wouldn’t be so unusual.

But body surfing in the Pacific?

``I think all the surfing expeditions are over. Luc is an example for us,″ Michael Jordan observed Wednesday as the Bulls adjusted to the loss of their center for what could be two months.

Longley, an experienced swimmer who grew up in Australia, dreaded telling Bulls officials after the mishap Sunday. He was injured when a hurled him into the sand. He said coach Phil Jackson’s first five or six words were ``pretty ugly.″

``None of you can ever print them,″ he said.

But for public consumption, Jackson took a more tolerant approach.

``We encourage our guys to lead a fun life,″ he said. ``They are not monks and they are not sequestered to their rooms.

``It was 75 or 80 degrees and looking forward to winter, what’s wrong with that? ... It’s not like Luc was out riding a dirt bike or motorcycle. He was doing something like swimming, although it was in the surf and it was a little higher than normal that day.

``He’s a guy who is pretty comfortable in the ocean and he’s just living his life.″

Now the Bulls face life without Luc. They’ll mostly miss his size (7-2, 292 pounds) in the middle and his ability to guard other big centers one-on-one so the Bulls don’t have to double team and leave a shooter open. He’s averaging seven points and five rebounds.

Bill Wennington, Dickey Simpkins and Robert Parish, who will come off the injured list in three games when the Bulls finish a seven-game road trip, will fill in at center. Jason Caffey also could see increased playing time.

``It’s just one of those things. We’ll give Luc support. But we’re not going to let him forget what happened to him, either,″ Parish said with Wednesday a laugh.

Jackson said Longley’s absence will make it ``tougher to win games.″ The Bulls are off to a 13-1 start.

But Jackson also recited positive aspects of the injury, including a chance for Longley to rest sore knees and be ready for the final months of the season. By Wednesday, Longley had already regained some range of motion in his left shoulder and might only be out six weeks, instead of eight.

``My wife tells me I smell roses sitting on a manure pile,″ Jackson said. ``I seem to think it will be good for the team because it will develop us in another area, strengthen us somewhere else where we need other players to have some minutes.″

Longley missed 19 games last season. The Bulls were 15-4 in his absence.

``We found ways to compensate,″ said Jordan. ``That’s the makeup of this team. We learn to survive.″

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