Chicago Bulls Information
The Chicago Bulls are actually the third NBA team in Chicago, after the Packers/Zephyrs (now the Washington Wizards) and the Stags (1946-1950). The team began play for the 1966-67 season, and immediately posted the best record by an expansion team in NBA history, qualifying for the playoffs. Over the next few years, the Bulls assembled the pieces to be competitive, though they never quite reached the top. During the 1970s, the Bulls were known as a tough, defensive-minded team, built around hard-nosed defender Jerry Sloan, forwards Bob Love and Chet Walker, point guard Norm Van Lier, and center Tom Boerwinkle. Nevertheless, the team only won one division title, and never made it to the Finals.
By the late 1970s and early 80s, the team had hit the cellar of the league. Artis Gilmore, acquired in the ABA dispersal-draft in 1976, led a Bulls squad which included guard Reggie Theus, forward David Greenwood, and forward Orlando Woolridge. After Gilmore was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for center Dave Corzine, the Bulls employed a high-powered offense centered around Theus, and which soon included guards Quentin Daly and Ennis Whatley. However, with continued dismal results, the Bulls decided to change directions, trading Theus during the 1983-84 season.
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Arrival of Michael Jordan
In the summer of 1984 the team's fortunes changed for good when it received the third pick of the NBA draft, after Houston and Portland. After the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon and the Blazers jumped on Sam Bowie, the Bulls grabbed shooting guard Michael Jordan. Jordan would go on to redefine the game and rewrite its record books, establishing himself as arguably the greatest player ever. The team, with new management in owner Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Jerry Krause, decided to rebuild around Jordan. Jordan set franchise records during his rookie campaign for scoring (3rd in the league) and steals (4th in the league), and led the Bulls back to the playoffs, for which he was rewarded with a berth on the All-NBA second team and Rookie of the Year. In the offseason, the team acquired point guard John Paxson and drafted power forward Charles Oakley. Along with Jordan and center Dave Corzine, they provided much of the Bulls' offense for the next two years. After Jordan suffered a broken foot early in the season, the team also acquired NBA legend George Gervin to help with scoring, which he did, finishing second on the team to Woolridge in scoring. Jordan returned for the playoffs, and took the 8th-place Bulls up against the 67-15 Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird. Though the Bulls were swept, Jordan recorded a playoff single-game record 63 points in Game 2, prompting Bird to call him 'God disguised as Michael Jordan.
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1990s and their first championship three-peat
By the 1990-91 season, the Bulls had run out of excuses, and charged through the year with a mission. They recorded a franchise record 61 wins, and romped through the playoffs, where they swept the Pistons in the conference finals and won the Finals in five over the Magic Johnson-led Lakers on June 12, 1991. Michael Jordan won regular season MVP and Finals MVP to go with his fifth straight scoring title. The Bulls won their second straight title in 1991-92 after racking up another franchise record for wins with 67. They prevailed over the Portland Trail Blazers and Clyde Drexler in six games. Jordan won regular season MVP and Finals MVP once again, to go with his sixth straight scoring title.
In 1992-93 the Bulls did what no team had done since the legendary Celtics of the 60's by chalking up the three-peat over regular season MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, with John Paxson's historic shot heard around the world that gave them a 99-98 victory in Game six at Phoenix. Jordan was once again the Finals MVP after setting a Finals record for points per game. He also tied Wilt Chamberlain by winning his seventh straight scoring title.
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Return of Jordan and another three-peat
In 1994, the Bulls lost Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright to free agency, but picked up all-star shooting guard Ron Harper. The Bulls sported the look of Armstrong and Harper in the backcourt, Pippen and Kukoc at the forward spots, and Perdue at center. They also had sharpshooter Steve Kerr, Myers, and centers Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. However, they were slumping during the season, when on March 17, 1995, they received the best possible news: Michael Jordan was coming out of retirement. He was soon among the best in the league again, scoring 55 points against the Knicks in only his fifth game back, and led the Bulls to the fifth seed in the playoffs, where they upset the Charlotte Hornets. However, Jordan was too rusty, and the Bulls still not strong enough to overcome the eventual Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic, which included Horace Grant. When Jordan returned to the Bulls, he initially wore No. 45 (which was his number while playing for the Birmingham Barons, a minor-league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox). This was to avoid using the last number that his father saw him playing with. Jordan's father's death was one of the reason he retired. However, Jordan switched back to the familiar 23 later on.
The Bulls repeated their excellence in 1996-97 by tying the second best record in league history at 69-13 and winning their fifth world championship over John Stockton, Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. Jordan earned his second straight scoring title and ninth overall, while Rodman earned his sixth straight rebounding title. They achieved the repeat three-peat by winning 62 regular season games and the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan bagged his third straight scoring title and tenth overall, and his second triple crown with his fifth MVP award, third all-star game MVP, and sixth Finals MVP award. Rodman earned his record seventh straight rebounding title, as the Bulls upended the Jazz for the second straight year. In the sixth and final game of the championship series, after a controversial "no-call" for pushing off on Bryon Russell, Jordan stepped back and buried a game winning jumpshot with seconds left on the clock.
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Five difficult years
The previous year's dismal finish came with one highlight: the team won the draft lottery and the rights to power forward Elton Brand. Since the team lost Harper, Brown, Wennington and Barry in the offseason, Brand and fellow rookie Ron Artest led the team througout the year, especially after Kukoc missed most of the season due to injury and was then dealt for a draft pick at the trading deadline. Brand recorded the first 20-10 average for the Bulls since the days of Artis Gilmore. He led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and minutes, while Artest led all rookies in steals and finished second on the team in scoring. For his efforts Brand was named 1999-2000 co-Rookie of the Year with Houston's Steve Francis, and to the all-rookie first team, while Artest was named to the all-rookie second team. However, the team established a franchise low at 17-65, second worst in the league. After a summer in which the Bulls witnessed most major and minor free agents Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and even Tim Thomas spurn them, Krause signed free agent center Brad Miller and shooting guard Ron Mercer, and drafted power forward Marcus Fizer and guard Jamal Crawford. Brand again led the team in scoring and rebounds with another 20-10 season, but the new acquisitions failed to make an impact, and they finished with the worst record in team history at 15-67.
Krause shocked Bulls fans on draft day in 2001 when he traded franchise player Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers for second pick in the draft, Tyson Chandler. He also selected Eddy Curry with the fourth pick. Since both Chandler and Curry came straight out of high school, neither were expected to make much of a contribution for several years, but they were seen as potential franchise players. The team floundered without veteran leadership. At mid-season, the Bulls traded their top three scorers—Mercer, Artest, and Miller—to the Indiana Pacers for guard Jalen Rose. Although this trade provided the Bulls with immediate scoring help, it would be seen as a disaster within a couple of years, when Miller and Artest both made All-Star teams and the aging Rose was gone from the Bulls. There was also a change in coaching, with Floyd being dismissed in favor of assistant coach and former Bulls co-captain Bill Cartwright, following a series of arguments with players and management. The Bulls improved from 15 to 21 wins, although they were still tied for last in the league.
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During the summer of 2003, long-time GM Jerry Krause retired, and former player and announcer John Paxson was tabbed as his successor. Jay Williams, coming off a promising rookie campaign, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. His contract was bought out by the Bulls in February 2004 and he has yet to return to the game. Paxson selected point guard Kirk Hinrich with the seventh pick in the draft, and signed veteran free agent and former franchise player Scottie Pippen. With Pippen playing, Cartwright at the sidelines, and Paxson in the front office, the Bulls hoped that some of the championship magic from before would return.
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For the 2002-2003 season, the Bulls came to play with much optimism. They picked up college phenom Jay Williams with the second pick in the draft. Rose and Williams teamed with Crawford, Fizer, newcomer Donyell Marshall, Curry, Chandler, and guard Trenton Hassell to form a young and exciting nucleus which improved to 30-52 in Bill Cartwright's first full season as head coach. Curry led the league in field goal percentage, becoming the first Bull since Jordan to lead the league in a major statistical category.
However, the 2003-2004 season was a resounding disappointment. Eddy Curry regressed, leading to questions about his conditioning and commitment. Tyson Chandler was plagued by a chronic back injury, missing more than thirty games. Pippen's ability to influence games was impaired by knee problems, and he openly contemplated retirement. Jamal Crawford remained inconsistent. Bill Cartwright was fired as head coach in December and replaced with former Phoenix coach Scott Skiles. A trade with the Toronto Raptors brought Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams in exchange for Rose and Marshall in what was seen as a major shift in team strategy from winning with athleticism to winning with hard work and defense. After struggling throughout the season, the Bulls finished with 23 wins and 59 losses, the second-worst record in the league. Crawford and Fizer were not re-signed. Hinrich provided the lone bright spot, becoming a fan favorite for his gritty determination and athletic ability. He won a place on the All-Rookie first team.
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During the 2004 off-season, Paxson traded a 2005 draft pick to the Phoenix Suns in return for an additional pick in the 2004 draft. He used the picks to select University of Connecticut guard Ben Gordon and Duke small forward Luol Deng in the first round, and Duke point guard Chris Duhon in the second. Paxson also signed free agent small forward Andres Nocioni, who had recently won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the Argentinian national team. After a discouraging 0-9 start to the 2004-05 season, by December the Bulls began to show signs of improvement, relying on solid performances by their four rookies and by Hinrich, Chandler, and Curry. The Bulls made it over .500 in their 39th game of the season, a win over the Atlanta Hawks. It was the first time the Bulls were over .500 since November 2002, and the latest into the season they were over .500 since 1998.
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The Bulls finished the regular season with the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference and clinched their first playoff berth since 1998 with a 110-97 win over the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, injuries late in the season cost them the services of Deng and Curry, leaving the team without a dependable scoring presence in the middle. Coincidentally, the team they faced in the first round was the Washington Wizards, the team Jordan played for when he came out of retirement for a second time. However, despite opening the series with two electrifying wins at home, the injury-depleted Bulls lost the next four games and the series. Ben Gordon became the first rookie to win the NBA Sixth Man Award and the first Bull to win the award since 1996 with Toni Kukoc. During the off-season, the Bulls re-signed free agent Tyson Chandler and added journeyman power forwards Darius Songaila and Malik Allen. However, Eddy Curry, also a free agent, has been faced with possibly serious heart disease, and after his refusal to participate in a DNA test, was traded to the New York Knicks for Michael Sweetney, Tim Thomas, future draft picks, and various other players included for salary-matching purposes