Bulls leave no clues in name game

January 22, 1999|By JOHN EISENBERG

Out of the whirl of trades, free-agent signings and other changes that marked the belated opening of NBA training camps yesterday, a new trivia game appeared:

Name the Bulls.

Haven't heard of it? No problem. The rules are simple. All you have to do is name the players who'll suit up for the Chicago Bulls this year.

Good luck. You're going to need it.

And hey, don't worry if you can't name five guys, as easy as that sounds. The Bulls, winners of the past three NBA titles and six in the '90s, only had four players under contract during the lockout. Now, they're reportedly going to unload four others who are free agents.

Apparently, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause not only want to prove they can win without Michael Jordan, but they also want to prove they can win without any players at all. None. Zero. Zip.

That's right, the Jerrys are going to compete strictly on a theoretical level this year. You know, just try to outthink the rest of the league.

OK, that's an exaggeration. But not as much of one as you'd think. Reinsdorf and Krause have waited for years for the chance to prove that their "genius," not Jordan's, was responsible for the Bulls' success. Winning six titles in eight years wasn't enough. The Jerrys also want everyone to know how smart they are.

Good luck to them. And never mind that they didn't win diddly when Jordan retired for the first time a few years ago.

Anyway, their time has come again, this time for real. You'll never see a front office happier to see its dynasty end with the retirement of the greatest player ever.

The Jerrys did everything but dance the hula at Jordan's retirement announcement last week. Now, they're dismantling the rest of the Bulls with all the sadness of a pair of Powerball winners.

Who's left in Chicago? We'll give you one name as a head start. Randy Brown. Huh? Oh. Sure. R-a-n-d-y B-r-o-w-n. No, he's not a country singer. He's an NBA player. A defensive specialist. A Chicago Bull. And not exactly a star.

Of the more famous Bulls, Jordan obviously is gone, as is Scottie Pippen, who is on his way to Houston in exchange for a cup of potato soup. Dennis Rodman? His situation isn't as clear, hardly a surprise. He retired to become an action figure Tuesday, then announced his un-retirement via a posting on his personal World Wide Web site late Wednesday. He explained that he hadn't fulfilled one of his main career goals, to play naked. Who can't relate?

Rodman is a free agent who could end up playing for the Bulls again, or for the Knicks, or for the Lakers, provided he doesn't re-retire to, say, sell wedding dresses.

In any case, he isn't a Bull right now. He's a wrong answer.

Starting to get frustrated? It's understandable. All the big-name Bulls are gone. Many little-namers, too. Luc Longley? On his way to Phoenix. Steve Kerr? On his way to San Antonio. Even Jud Buechler is leaving, for crying out loud. He's on his way to Detroit.

That leaves Randy Brown and, well, who else? No, not Norm Van Lier. The Bulls' feisty former point guard retired years ago. So did Bob "Butterbean" Love.

Tim Floyd? That's a good guess, a guy no one knows outside of his immediate family, the perfect prototype of a post-Michael Bull. Alas, Floyd is now the coach of the Bulls, not one of the players. He'll be a trivia question himself in a few years.

Still stumped? OK, it's time for a hint: Dale Evans. That's right, the singing cowgirl herself, widow of right! Roy Rogers! That's the name of the player the Bulls are expected to receive from Houston in exchange for Pippen. A draft pick and Trigger also are part of the package.

Another holdover is Toni Kukoc, Krause's Croatian discovery. He has played well in the States, but he'll become the Bulls' main man now that Jordan, Pippen and Rodman are gone. That was another of Krause's bizarre fantasies, to have Kukoc leading the team instead of Jordan and Pippen. Enjoy, Jerry!

As for the rest of the team, well, you give up? OK. Other Bulls include Keith Booth, the former Dunbar and Maryland star who has barely played in the NBA, and Ron Harper, the 35-year-old guard who wants to leave but can't because he's making $5.2 million and no one else will pay him that much.

Oh, and center Bill Wennington, owner of a career per-game scoring average so microscopic that you can't see it, also is back.

Kukoc, Brown, Rogers, Booth, Harper and Wennington.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Chicago Bulls!

With apologies to Booth, who deserves better, here's hoping they lose 'em all.

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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