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5 Chicago BULLS
Marty Burns
October 23, 2006
The league's best defensive team has a new fearsome force in the frontcourt
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October 23, 2006

5 Chicago Bulls

The league's best defensive team has a new fearsome force in the frontcourt

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F LUOL DENG 14.3 ppg 6.6 rpg 1.9 apg 0.92 spg 46.3 FG%
G CHRIS DUHON 8.7 ppg 3.0 rpg 5.0 apg 0.95 spg 40.0 FG%
G-F ADRIAN GRIFFIN* 4.6 ppg 4.4 rpg 1.7 apg 0.98 spg 48.0 FG%
F TYRUS THOMAS* (R) 12.3 ppg 9.2 rpg 3.09 bpg 1.03 spg 60.8 FG%
F MIKE SWEETNEY 8.1 ppg 5.3 rpg 0.9 apg 45.0 FG% 65.2 FT%

It didn't take free-agent center Ben Wallace more than a handful of pickup games to get used to his new teammates. "Man, I'm excited," he says. "Playing against these guys the last couple of years, they remind me a lot of the way we played when we won the championship."

Taking a page out of the Pistons' playbook--and dealing a blow to his rivals--is just what Chicago G.M. John Paxson envisioned when he wooed Wallace from Motown with a four-year, $60 million contract. The Bulls made the playoffs the past two seasons with a hard-nosed defense and a share-the-wealth attack similar to Detroit's. The only thing missing was an established veteran to lead the way.

Chicago believes it has that in the 6'9" Wallace, a four-time All-Star. Big Ben gives the Bulls a true monster of the midway who clogs up the lane and enables them to extend their D. Chicago was No. 1 in the league in opponents' field goal percentage but 19th in points allowed. "Now we've got a guy back there who blocks shots and intimidates," guard Kirk Hinrich says. "He's going to help everybody's game."

Skeptics wonder how much Wallace, 32, has left in the tank. They also point out that he doesn't address Chicago's biggest problem: a lack of scoring in the low post. What Wallace does bring, though, is a burning intensity to the United Center. Along with a talented young nucleus, that should be enough to give Chicago a shot at its first extended postseason run since the end of the Michael Jordan era. "We're going to have to come together quickly," says Wallace, "but I like our chances." .

Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics

Record: 41--41 (T6 in East)

Points scored: 97.8 (T13 in NBA)

Points allowed: 97.2 (16th)

Coach: Scott Skiles

(fourth season with the Bulls)

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