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13 Chicago Bulls The good news: The Bulls will be better than they were last year. The bad news: not much better

Elton Brand first met rookie forward Marcus Fizer at the 1997
McDonald's High School All-American Game. Brand recalls
initially being struck by the goofy-looking goggles that Fizer
was wearing. "Then, during the dunk contest, he tried to do this
fancy up-and-under dunk and got hung up," Brand says with a
chuckle. "He actually fell on his back. I'm always getting on
him for that one."

Brand might rag on Fizer, but the importance of the Bulls' top
draft pick to the future of the franchise is no laughing matter.
Last year Chicago suffered through its worst season, losing 65
games, nearly setting an NBA record for offensive futility (84.8
points per game) and finishing last in field goal percentage
(41.5%) and first in turnovers (18.9 per game). The Bulls went
2-26 in their first 28 games, and only three points separated
them from an unprecedented 0-28 start.

Fizer is coming off a far more successful campaign in which he
averaged 22.8 points per game, was named Big 12 player of the
year and led Iowa State to its first Elite Eight since 1944. This
year he will again be asked occasionally to hoist a team on his
big shoulders. For starters, Chicago is counting on him to take
some of the scoring load off Brand, who was one of only two Bulls
to average in double figures last season. "I'd like to win Rookie
of the Year," says Fizer, "but my Number 1 goal is to play on a
team that's going to win."

Though Fizer was a power forward and center in college, the 6'8",
260-pound bruiser will start the season at small forward, where
coach Tim Floyd believes he will develop into a "power three" in
the mold of the Heat's Anthony Mason or the Knicks' Larry
Johnson. Like those two players, Fizer can run the floor, rebound
and hit the 15-foot jumper. He is also an effective passer out of
the post, a key skill in the Bulls' triangle offense. Floyd
thinks Fizer can hold his own defensively against smaller,
quicker players, especially if he sheds 10 pounds. "His feet are
quicker than people think," says Floyd, who coached Fizer during
his freshman season at Iowa State in 1997-98.

The confident Fizer shrugs off concerns about potential matchup
problems. "Those [small forwards] are going to have just as hard
a time guarding me," says Fizer, who averaged 13.6 points during
summer-league play but shot only 37.1%.

If Fizer should struggle, Brand, the 1999-2000 co-Rookie of the
Year, has other sources of support. Free-agent pickup Ron Mercer,
a 6'7" slasher who has averaged 16.2 points in his three NBA
seasons, gives the Bulls something they sorely lacked a year ago:
a perimeter threat who can create his own shot when the 24-second
clock is winding down. Rugged 6'7" swingman Ron Artest showed a
knack for getting to the basket as a rookie, and newcomer Bryce
Drew will provide a steady, if unspectacular, presence at the
point until highly touted 6'6" rookie Jamal Crawford--who played
only one year of college basketball, at Michigan--learns the pro

The Bulls should be stronger in the middle--defensively, at
least--thanks to the additions of free-agent pickup Brad Miller, a
mobile big man who likes to bang, and 6'10" Dragan Tarlac, a
second-round draft pick in '95 who as a member of the Yugoslav
national team played well against Chicago in the finals of the
'97 McDonald's Cup. Neither, however, is very adept offensively,
so the 6'8" Brand will still face plenty of double teams. That of
course didn't stop him last season, when he led the NBA in
offensive rebounds and became the fifth rookie in the past 15
years to average 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Brand is determined to produce even bigger numbers this year,
which explains why Floyd found his second-year star at the team's
practice facility late one night in September, all alone, working
on his left hand. Brand will be better, but how much better will
his team be? "We'll be much better," Brand says. "Not that you
could get much worse."

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBA ENTERTAINMENT BULLS-EYE The Chicago brass scored a direct hit with its drafting of Brand, who gives the club a big pillar to build around.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER BRAND-AID Fizer provides a much-needed scoring threat alongside Brand, but he can't remedy all that ails Chicago.

In Fact

Last season's NBA co-Rookie of the Year Elton Brand became the
first Bulls player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game
in a season since Artis Gilmore (23.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg in 1978-79).

Projected Lineup


SF Marcus Fizer (R)[1] 22.8 ppg 7.7 rpg 1.1 apg 1.05 bpg 58.2 FG%

PF Elton Brand 20.1 ppg 10.0 rpg 1.9 apg 1.63 bpg 48.2 FG%

C Brad Miller[1] 7.7 ppg 5.3 rpg 0.64 bpg 46.1 FG% 78.5 FT%

SG Ron Mercer[1] 16.9 ppg 3.7 rpg 2.3 apg 1.10 spg 42.6 FG%

PG Bryce Drew[1] 5.8 ppg 2.3 apg 1.4 rpg 38.3 FG% 36.2 3FG%


G-F Ron Artest 12.0 ppg 4.3 rpg 2.8 apg 1.65 spg 40.7 FG%

G Jamal Crawford (R)[1]16.6 ppg 4.5 apg 2.8 rpg 1.12 spg 41.2 FG%

C Dragan Tarlac (R)[1] 9.8 ppg 8.0 rpg 1.3 apg 55.5 FG% 75.3 FT%

G Fred Hoiberg 9.0 ppg 3.5 rpg 1.29 spg 38.7 FG% 34.0 3FG%

F Michael Ruffin 2.2 ppg 3.5 rpg 0.37 bpg 42.0 FG% 48.9 FT%

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Bulls

"If they win 20 games this year, they've done pretty well. A lot
of teams in the Eastern Conference haven't improved, which
should make the Bulls feel optimistic, but I look at this team
and see no experience....Elton Brand is a terrific talent, but
you can't rely on a second-year player to carry so much of the
load. If he doesn't have 20, 25 points, they've got no shot at
winning, so you know everybody's going to target him and try to
wear him down....The rest of the team is all potential. People
like to rave about Jamal Crawford's talent. Sure, he might make
some nice plays, but does that equate to wins? Usually it
doesn't, at least not right away....I still don't understand why
they drafted Marcus Fizer when they had so many other needs. I
don't think he's that big a talent....Ron Artest and Ron Mercer
are good scorers, but they aren't top-notch talents by any
means....Khalid El-Amin surprised me with the decent numbers he
produced in the preseason."