'A very tough decision'
Bulls make Brand their new cornerstone
Posted: Saturday July 03, 1999 10:54 PM
As a sophomore, Brand averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds. Jamie Squire/Allsport
DEERFIELD, Ill. (CNN/SI) -- Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause had a tough decision heading into the June 30 NBA Draft. With no clear No. 1 pick in this year's crop of talent, who should he chose to lead his franchise's climb back to the top?
Would it be the flashy Steve Francis out of Maryland? Would it be the multi-talented Lamar Odom out of Rhode Island? Or would it be the supposedly undersized Elton Brand out of Duke?
The future of the Bulls sits squarely on the broad shoulders of Elton Brand.
With the first pick in Wednesday's draft, the six-time-champions-turned-cellar-dwellars chose Brand, the college player of the year. It was Chicago's first-ever No. 1 pick, and he'll be the cornerstone as the Bulls try to rebuild their shattered dynasty.
"I was totally surprised," Brand said in a teleconference from Washington, D.C., where the draft was held. "It was a great feeling. I'm still totally elated right now."
The Bulls picked Brand after a late flirtation with Lamar Odom, whose "Yes, I'm in the draft. No, wait a minute, I'm not," flip-flop two weeks ago confused many teams. He blew off workouts and, until last weekend, no team but Vancouver had talked to him.
But Odom finally came to Chicago for a workout Tuesday night.
"We felt if we did not face Lamar and talk to him, then we really didn't have a comparison between him and Elton," general manager Jerry Krause said. "You know, in an election, you wait until all the precincts were in before you make a decision. We waited until all of the precincts were in, until we could look at everybody, and talk to everybody and then we made our decision."
| CNN/SI On-Site |
| NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer examines the Bulls No. 1 pick -- Elton Brand|
There could be a variety of reasons why the Bulls took Elton Brand. Obviously, Jerry Krause's ego comes into play. This is a man who signed Brent Barry to a $27 million contract in January when the lockout was over.|
You bring Steve Francis in there and all of a sudden in that triple-post offense, Barry isn't used that much and he looks like a fool for signing Barry. So that played a part. But Brand does provide some power. He's 6-8 and 270 pounds. That's a legitimate big man.
When commissioner David Stern called Brand's name, the forward from Duke sighed and a huge grin crossed his face.
"I still was very confident in my skills and work ethic and the way I played," Brand said. "I think the GMs and coaches were pleasantly surprised in my skills. I didn't get to showcase them all at Duke this year."
Say what? Brand, 20, was the first player ever to leave Duke as an underclassman. As a sophomore, he averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils into the NCAA championship game.
Initial concerns about his height were erased when he measured just over 6-8 without his sneakers. His arm span is huge; he's got a vertical reach of over nine feet, and his horizontal span is 7-51/2. At 260 pounds, he can play defense with the best of them, but he's got soft hands, too.
"He's a building block here," Krause said. "He's a player I think you can win with down the line."
And he's going to have to play right away. Brand has been working out with a personal trainer the last few weeks, and he knows how much is expected of him. After six championships in eight years, the Bulls finished 13-37 this year, the worst record in franchise history.
With no Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman, the Bulls reached all kinds of new lowlights. Their .260 winning percentage was the lowest in franchise history, beating out the 1975-76 squad, which finished 24-58 with a .293 winning percentage.
Their average of 81.9 points was the lowest scoring average in NBA history since the inception of the shot clock. Entering this season, the lowest average was 87.4 points in 72 games by the Milwaukee Hawks in 1954-55, the season the clock was adopted.
That's going to change, Brand said.
"I'm definitely going to show some patience," Brand said. "Help rebuild the Chicago Bulls and get them back to where they should be."
The Bulls also had the 16th pick in the first round, and took Ron Artest, a 6-7 guard-forward from St. John's. With their second-round picks, Chicago took Tulsa forward Michael Ruffin (32) and Massachusetts center-forward Lari Ketner (49).
"I'm just so happy right now," Artest said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
The No. 1 pick is the highest the Bulls have had. They've had the No. 2 spot twice, taking David Greenwood in 1979 and Scott May three years earlier. They've had the third pick twice, also, using one of them to take Jordan in 1984.
Their last "important" pick was way back in 1989, when Chicago had the sixth pick and took Stacey King.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.