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Old but Not Obsolete

Bill Cartwright is the grand Bull. He is stoic and soft-spoken, a
7-footer who is all elbows. Over the years this grizzled warrior with
the quirky shot has taken on younger, stronger, quicker and meaner
opponents and outlasted them despite injuries and chronic pain. These
days, though, he's just a big guy who is sick of talking about his
age and his throbbing knees and about whether he can play a few more
''I'm as fit as a fiddle,'' says Cartwright, who will turn 36 on
July 30. He pauses and then corrects himself: ''No, wait. I'm as fit
as a Kentucky racehorse.''
His eyes dance mischievously as a half-smile flits across his face
and fades. ''Well, some days I am,'' he says.
After 14 pro seasons, Cartwright is nursing-home material by NBA
standards. The flecks of gray in his goatee, not to mention the
perfect white circle that suddenly appeared there several years ago,
only add to Cartwright's image as an ancient mariner. He knows his
playing days are numbered. In fact, the Bulls have the option to buy
out his contract for the 1993-94 season for $800,000 -- a slot that
apparently has been slated for European star Toni Kukoc. But general
manager Jerry Krause must consider this: For three years the Bulls
have withstood assaults from the league's premier pivotmen, and
Cartwright is the primary reason.
''No question about it,'' said forward Horace Grant. ''We wouldn't
be here without Bill.''
In 1988 Cartwright was traded to the Bulls for forward Charles
Oakley, a move most Chicago fans -- and some players -- greeted with
disgust: a 24-year- old for a 30-year-old. In time, Cartwright proved
he could still hang with the youngsters. ''It was a long time until I
felt like I fit in here,'' he says, ''but, personally, I was happy
because I was playing a lot more. Gradually, things got better.''
So did Chicago, thanks in no small part to the grand Bull. --