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NBA -- Bulls brace for bumpy season ahead


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- While elite teams such as the LA Lakers and the Miami Heat are stocking their rosters with enough firepower to wage a nuclear war, the Chicago Bulls are shedding players like a bad habit.

Gone is Omer Asik, the affable 7-foot Turkish giant who was one of the backbones of the Bulls Brinks-tough interior defense. Also gone is 3-point specialist Kyle Korver, back-up point guard CJ Watson, shooting guard Ronnie Brewer, and spitfire John Lucas III.

Once known as The Bench Mob, Asik and company have been reduced into a small bunch of ex-Bulls finding newer company in different teams across the NBA.

Make no mistake, though, the Bulls appreciated the Bench Mob and would have loved to keep them together and parlay their chemistry into a determined run at the Larry O'Brien trophy. Unfortunately, an already bloated Bulls payroll made breaking up more sensible than keeping Asik, Korver, et al.

Asik was the first to exit after the Houston Rockets offered him a lucrative, back-loaded deal that was too steep for the Bulls to match -- three years for $25.1 million.

Following Asik's departure, the Bulls signed Chicago native Nazr Mohammed, a 6-foot-10, 14-year veteran who averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 63 games with the OKC Thunder last season. The 34-year old Mohammed's pay comes at a huge bargain --- $854,389 for the 2012-13 season.

In lieu of paying Korver the $5 million left in his contract, the Bulls shipped him to the Atlanta Hawks in a trade that netted veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich, who inked a more salary-cap friendly 2-year deal worth $7.8 million.

And instead of picking up Watson's $3 million team option, the Bulls acquired 31-year old Vladimir Radmanovic for a low-risk, high-reward deal worth a mere $854,389 a year. Like Korver, Radmanovic is a 3-point specialist who has played for six different teams in 11 seasons.

John Lucas III collected less than $600,000 a year in salaries during his Bulls stint, but just like Brewer who was due slightly over $3 million, both had become expendible with the acquisition of Hinrick and the signing of draft pick Marquis Teague.

Among the new faces in the Bulls roster include 6-foot-5 shooting guard Marco Belinelli, who signed a $1.9 million contract. The 26-year old Belinelli played for the New Orleans Hornets last season, averaging 11.8 points per game while shooting 39 percent above the 3-point arc.

And then there's Nate Robinson, a 7-year campaigner known for his leaping ability as a former slam dunk champion. The 5-foot-9 Robinson normed 11.8 points and 4.5 assists per game last season with the Golden State Warriors.

Robinson, who will earn $785,487 for the upcoming season, is expected to provide instant offense and energy off the bench, endearing qualities that had come to define the dearly departed Bench Mob.

Derrick Rose will miss the bulk of the 2012-13 season while recovering and rehabbing from a surgically-repaired torn ACL. Luol Deng, meanwhile, is still nursing a torn wrist that requires surgery. With both stars in sick bay, the Bulls are bracing for a tough grind.

But hope springs eternal, so says an old adage. And hopefully, these new Bulls faces will make the ride a little less bumpier.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Scott Marsiglio.


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