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Missing link
by Brian C. Hedger / July 3, 2002

Standing before a bank of television cameras and print reporters, the Windy City's newest media darling was handling the interview session like an old pro.

That is, until a rather tall "reporter" holding a Fox Sports microphone leaned in to ask Jay Williams a question.

"Jay, I would just like to know how you feel about carrying Tyson and Eddy's suitcases on road trips?" he said. "Oh, and Eddy needs his truck washed, too. Do you think you could get on that this afternoon?"

OK, so it wasn't an actual reporter.

The skyscraper behind the microphone was actually Bulls teenage 7-footer Tyson Chandler, wearing a grin wider than the lane he and fellow teen giant Eddy Curry hope to dominate soon.

Curry was more than happy to join the fray.

"My rims, too," he said. "The rims need a good polish job. Shine 'em up for me, will ya."

Welcome to the Bulls, Jay Williams.

Welcome to the biggest re-claimation project you've ever seen. Welcome to a team with teenagers more experienced in the ways of the NBA than you are.

"We might be young age-wise," Curry said. "But we've always got that extra year on him. We'll always be older than he is that way."

Of course, they also don't have college degrees – which Williams has after graduating early from Duke. And the future of the Bulls probably wouldn't be so upbeat if it weren't for Williams bringing his point guard skills to the United Center next season as the team's No.2 overall draft pick in this summer's NBA draft.

Williams is a rarity around these parts. He's skilled enough to become a superstar in the world's most elite league. And he's actually happy to be coming to Chicago, the place the rest of the nation seems to know more for ruining Michael Jordan's championship party than anything else.

"I'm really glad (the Bulls) picked me," Williams said at his introductory press conference held at the United Center. "I wasn't sure if anybody else would've picked me after the way I talked so much about wanting to come to Chicago and how much I liked it here."

Actually, Williams isn't the only Bull happy to be wearing the black and red.

Curry and Chandler are still filled with the promise of their own abilities. So is current point guard Jamal Crawford, who will likely move to the shooting guard position when Williams eventually takes over.

Toss in the likes of small forward Jalen Rose, forward Eddie Robinson, forward Marcus Fizer, guard Trenton Hassell and Williams' co-draftees this summer (Roger Mason Jr. and Lonny Baxter), and you can start to see this team's potential.

To the Bulls, having the Houston Rockets snatch up Yao Ming with the No.1 pick in the draft was the best thing that could've possibly happened. It was like frantically searching for the right key to fit the lock and finally striking gold.

"Williams was that piece we were looking for," Curry said. "Now, we should be able to compete with anybody in the Eastern Conference."

Coach Bill Cartwright agrees.

"We feel like we have a great nucleus to get after it now," Cartwright said. "We're off and running."

Literally.

From Williams to Chandler to Curry to Robinson to Rose, if there's one thing they all have in common, it's athleticism. The Bulls won't only be running in Pamplona next season.

They'll be coming to an NBA town near you.

"I know there's going to be a whole lot more dunks off the break next year," Chandler said. "It's going to be a lot more fun."

Curry and Chandler each know just how important Williams' presence on this team will be to their careers. With him running the show at the point, there should be more put-back dunks for Chandler and more easy dunks off
dribble penetration for Curry – the 6-foot-11, 290-pound manchild in the middle. Even though Curry's best friend on the team is Crawford, he's still excited to have such an established winner like Williams coming to town.

"I've kind of had my eye on him for awhile," Curry said. "I was hoping we'd take him with that pick. I actually played with him when I was in eighth grade before and he was in high school. It was at the Nike (summer) camp.
He was on my team and he was so good.

"He'd throw all these no-look passes that were so good they even fooled me. I was never ready for 'em."

He better be ready for them now. The Bulls and their fans will be counting on it. Chandler even stated that the Bulls will probably be over .500 next season – in position to compete for a playoff spot.

"That was a great pick for us," he said. "It couldn't have worked out any better. Now we've got that spark at point guard. He wants to come in and win. We were missing a couple pieces to the puzzle and he's one of the key
pieces.

"I think it's going to be fairly easy for us (young guys) to gel. The guy just wants to win like the rest of us."

Chandler believes in the Williams pick so much that he was seen at the Berto Center on draft night wearing a Williams No.22 Bulls jersey. The playoffs might be a stretch next season, since one rookie rarely makes that
kind of difference.

But that's not stopping the Baby Bulls from thinking they have a shot. "That's definitely a goal we have in mind," Curry said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but we want to work for big things next year. And we're going to put in the work it takes to get those things."

Jerry Krause, Bulls vice president of basketball operations, knows this, too. It's what he's banking on to try and pull his spoiled reputation out of the toilet.

And now that he's got another crown jewel to add to his growing collection, the master plan he's so staunchly sold Chicagoans on finally seems to have some teeth.

"We feel very, very good to have the young man here," Krause said of Williams. "He is an outstanding player, and as outstanding of a player as he is, he's just as good of a person. He wants to be a Chicago Bull, and he's wanted it for awhile now."

The only question now it seems, is just how much polish Mr. Curry needs on those rims.

Brian C. Hedger covers the Bulls for the Times of Northwest Indiana and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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