Bulls player profiles
Randy Brown, New Mexico State, 1991: Who, you ask? Don't feel bad; it's a good question. Brown is one of those players who'll never make a name for himself in the league but will always be on somebody's roster making the league minimum. The reason why is his defense. Brown is extremely quick and has great footwork, which makes guarding other point guards around the NBA a rather easy chore. Phil Jackson likes to bring Brown into games just for the sake of throwing a different look at people. No Bull starter is under 6-foot-6, so when the 6-3 Brown comes in, it adds a whole new dimension to the Bulls' already suffocating defense.If given more playing time, Brown would have a chance to lead the league in steals. He averages just over 1.3 per game for his career, in only 14 minutes of action. Brown doesn't have much of an outside shot but is a strong penetrator and explosive leaper, so the Jazz will need to be wary of his drives to the hoop.
In college, teaming with ex-Jazzman Walter Bond at New Mexico State, his team went 23-6 during his 1991 senior season and Brown was named to the Big West second team after averaging 12.1 points, 6.4 assists and three thefts a game. Both the assists and steals averages were school records. Brown started his career with the Sacramento Kings, backing Spud Webb for four season. Chicago picked him up in 1995 to add depth to its backcourt and two championship rings later, he is still filling that role.
Jud Beuchler, Arizona, 1990: Upon entering the league in 1991, Beuchler was flung around from team to team like a Frisbee. He was drafted by Seattle but never played a minute. The Sonics traded him to New Jersey, where he spent his first year playing only limited mop-up duty. After only two games in the 1991-92 season, Beuchler was waived by the Nets. Fortunately, his career was salvaged by San Antonio, and he stayed a Spur for the remainder of that year. By his third year, Golden State hopped on the Beuchler wagon. For two seasons Beuchler toiled under Don Nelson, but he never really caught on to the California lifestyle. Finally came Chicago, where he's spent the past four years spelling Michael Jordan, Ron Harper and Scottie Pippen.
Beuchler was a Pac-10 first-teamer for Arizona after scoring 15 a game his senior season as a Wildcat. Seattle grabbed him with its second-round pick in the 1990 Draft.
Bulls coach Phil Jackson likes inserting Beuchler because, while he's no athletic wonder, he is a fluid player who keeps the Bulls' triangle offense moving. He can also step back and rip the net from 3-point land. He only played 8.2 minutes this season, and has watched that time drop in the playoffs.
Scott Burrell, Connecticut, 1993: In his four years at Connecticut, Burrell become the first player in NCAA history to top 1,500 points, 750 rebounds, 275 assists and 300 steals for a career. His NBA numbers have not been quite as impressive, but that's mainly due to a plague of injuries that have haunted his career.
In 1994, Burrell began his second year in the league as the Charlotte Hornets' starting small forward, but an Achilles tendon tear ended a season in which he had put up 11.5 points a game. When he returned the following year, Burrell's career seemed to take off. In his first 20 games back, he averaged better than 13 points and nearly five boards a game. But the injury bug kept biting. Burrell dislocated his right shoulder in December, and after five weeks of healing he did it again in his first practice back. That ended his season.
His fourth year was more of the same as he needed surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee and had to miss 24 games. Upon his return, Burrell was traded to Golden State, where he finished out last season before signing with the Bulls this past summer. While in Chicago, the 6-foot-7 swingman has appeared in all the Bulls' games but two, averaging nearly six points a contest.
Ron Harper, Miami (Ohio), 1986: On any other team Harper could score in double figures and make a lot more cash but playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen isn't exactly good for the old scoring average. Consider that before signing with the Bulls in 1994, Harper's career totals were 19.3 points. 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Since coming to Chicago, Harper hasn't exactly burnt up the nets.
In his four seasons in the Windy City, Harper's scoring average has plummeted to 7.4 a game. Most players would be frustrated by such a dropoff, but as long as those rings keep coming Harper won't mind at all.
Harper tore out of the gates as a rookie in Cleveland. His inaugural season 22.9 scoring average is the best of his career, as he proved right away that he was worthy of being the No. 8 choice in the draft. In his three seasons as a Cavalier, Harper distinguished himself as one
of the toughest guards in the game. Not only did the 6-6 shooting guard own a repertoire of moves, he also was a bruising and overbearing defender. With his size, not many two guards can post Harper up, but he can turn around and eat them alive in the paint when his team has the ball.
After his third season, Cleveland traded Harper to the Los Angeles Clippers, where his numbers continued to impress. The only problem was that Harper didn't like losing, even if he was one of the marquee players on the squad. So when he became a free agent following the 1993-94 season, it didn't take long for him to jump ship and head to Chicago. Joining Jordan in the backcourt has given Chicago probably the most physical guard tandem in the league, as well as the best defensive backcourt combo around.
Michael Jordan, North Carolina, 1984: Five NBA titles, ten years as the league's leading scorer, four league MVP awards . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. If you don't think Michael Jordan is the game's greatest player, then you probably find Bill Walton's anecdotes humorous and informative. Jordan has redefined the game of basketball and is still making mouths drop all across the globe.
Jordan has already done everything an NBA player could - including retire. After his father's death in 1993, Jordan retired from the sport and took up baseball. Apparently leading the AA Southern League in errors and batting .202 soothed his soul. But everybody knew he would be back. The whole retirement act was phonier than, well, the retirement act he's pouring on the country this year.
Jordan is averaging over 30 points a game for his career and has been voted an All-Star every season since he was drafted third by the Bulls in 1984. In college, Jordan is best known for hitting the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game, propelling North Carolina to a title. He left school after his junior season after twice being named College Player of the Year by The Sporting News. He was also the Naismith Award Winner in his final college season.
He immediately turned the Bulls around, improving their record from 27-55 in 1983 to 38-44 in 1984. Since then, Chicago has just cruised. In 1996, Jordan led Chicago to an NBA record 72-10 regular-season record and the Bulls went on to defeat the Sonics in the NBA Finals.
Steve Kerr, Arizona, 1988: Despite hitting an incredible 57.5 percent of his 3-point shots as a senior at Arizona, Kerr's talents were wasted during his first five years in the NBA. He started out in Cleveland, where he sat for three-and-a-half seasons. The Cavaliers traded him to Orlando in the middle of the 1992-93 season, but Kerr still never saw any significant playing time.
He then went to Chicago as a free agent and has been draining it from downtown ever since. Kerr is the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point shooting accuracy, hitting 47 percent of his shots. Jazz fans, of course, remember his game-winning 18-footer in Game 6 of last year's Finals that put the Bulls ahead 88-86 with five seconds left.
Kerr is not a strong defender, which is where Utah will try and exploit Chicago. But give him any sort of daylight from the outside and you can more than likely add three points to Chicago's score.
Toni Kukoc, Croatia, 1993: Regarded as the European Michael Jordan (which is about the equivalent of the finest U.S. automobile), Kukoc came to Chicago in 1993 even though the Bulls originally drafted him three years earlier with the 29th pick in the 1990 draft. But Kukoc opted to play in the European League for a year, then in the Italian League for two seasons, where he was the two-time player of the year, rather than enter the NBA right away.
The Italian League has no salary cap rules, so Kukoc could play for any amount he demanded; and he did, for two seasons, rather than make a limited amount in the NBA. But he never felt like he was making any sort of name for himself on an international level, so he opted out of his five-year deal with Benetton Treviso and finally came to America. His first season was a bit rocky, as he never lived up to the Jordan comparisons, but he did show potential to be a great player in the coming years.
Jordan came back just before the playoffs started in Kukoc's second season, which forced him into coming off the bench. He was upset at first but has learned to thrive in the sixth-man role.
Luc Longley, New Mexico, 1991: WAC fans remember this Australian sensation well from his days as a Lobo. As a senior, Longley tore through the WAC like a chainsaw through oak, scoring over 19 points a game on 65 percent field-goal shooting. That led to the Minnesota Timberwolves taking him with the seventh pick in the 1991 draft.
Longley was the first Australian to play in the NBA, but that doesn't mean he necessarily played all that well. Longley never caught on to being a backup in Minnesota and after only two-and-a-half years was dealt to the Bulls.
In Chicago, Longley has enjoyed being the starter for the past three years. Remotivated, Longley has become a solid member of the Bulls' cast of nobodies, playing solid from his center position. Longley doesn't score many, but he's a big, strong body who can handle the dominant Eastern Conference centers like Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.
Scottie Pippen, Central Arkansas, 1987: Pippen averaged 4.3 points a game as a freshman at Central Arkansas, an NAIA school. Now he's one of the top 50 players of all-time, a perennial All-Star and maybe the best defender in all of basketball.
Pippen came out of high school extremely underdeveloped, which led to his poor freshman numbers. But three years later, as a senior, Pippen upped his totals points to more than 23 points and 10 boards a game. Seattle used the No. 5 pick in the 1987 draft to pick him but quickly traded him to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Yep, that was a winner of a move, Seattle.
Pippen has been the perfect sidekick for Jordan. Teaming with Jordan, Pippen has a career average of 18 points, seven boards, five assists and 2.1 steals a game. He is the second option on the Bulls offense but has the skills to lead any team in the NBA in scoring if he so chose.
Pippen missed the first 35 games of this season while recovering from offseason foot surgery, which partly explains why the Bulls only won 62 games - 10 below last year's total. After his return, Chicago finished the regular season on a 38-9 tear, which propelled them toward homecourt advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Dennis Rodman, SE Oklahoma State, 1986: Rodman has kind of a funny story about himself. OK, so he has a lot of funny stories about himself, but this one deals strictly with his venture into basketball. Rodman never played high school ball. He didn't play any high school athletics because he was only 5-11 as a young teenager.
When Rodman turned 20 he was working the graveyard shift as a janitor at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport when he decided to pursue basketball. He had grown nine inches since high school and had two older sisters who were All-American basketball players, so he figured it was in his blood.
He was right. He played one year at Cooke County Junior College in Texas, then transferred to Southeastern Oklahoma State where in three years he averaged 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds, shooting 64 percent from the floor. Obviously Rodman isn't putting up the points any longer, but he still remains the only man in the NBA who can turn the tide of a game without taking a single shot. Rodman is also one of the game's toughest defenders, partly because of his crafty techniques and partly because of his questionable (in other words) dirty tactics. Rodman is the master intimidator and over the years has crawled under the skin of some of the most feared players in the game.
Ask Shaquille O'Neal or Alonzo Mourning how fun it is to play against the Worm.
Dickey Simpkins, Providence, 1994: Toughness is why the Bulls keep this guy around. And you know he's tough because any kid with the name Dickey who makes it out of grade school alive has to be able to rumble a bit. His real name is Lubara Dixon, which could be just as bad as Dickey.
Besides Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Simpkins is the only other player on Chicago's roster that has spent his entire career as a Bull. He was drafted late in the first round of the 1994 draft and, though he has never seen much playing time, is regarded as one of the tougher, more physical Bulls. He was drafted to take over for Horace Grant, who ran to Orlando following the 1993-94 season. It's never quite worked out that way, however. In his four years in Chicago, Simpkins has never logged more that 12 minutes a game and has never played in more than 60 contests. He's a walking insurance policy, basically. Only when someone gets hurt, like when Longley missed a chunk of games this year, does Simpkins get any playing time.
Simpkins was never a standout at Providence University, either. In his four seasons, the 6-10 center/forward averaged 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Bill Wennington, St. John's, 1985: Wennington probably has more frequent-flyer miles than anybody on the Bulls. This 7-footer has been shipped from Dallas to Sacramento to Knorr Bologna of Italy and finally Chicago. Wennington played with Chris Mullin and Walter Berry at St. John's University, which posted a 31-4 record in his senior season in 1985. There, Wennington put up nearly 13 points a game and 6.4 boards, which led Dallas to take him with the 16th pick.
Though he has never received much playing time, Wennington's strengths are his rebounding and shooting abilities. He has turned the 10-15 foot baseline jumper into a shot just as routine as a layup. With him in the lineup, opposing centers must stay out of the lane on defense because Wennington has the ability to shoot the outside shot. This inhibits some of the better centers in the league from playing a huge defensive role.
Wennington was signed by the Bulls five years ago as a temporary replacement because Will Perdue, Bill Cartwright and Scott Williams were hurt. He played in 76 games that year, scoring a career high 7.1 points a game.