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Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Both sides delighted with Williams-to-Bulls pick

Associated Press

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Jay Williams got what he wanted.

The Chicago Bulls made Williams the second pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, taking him behind 7-foot-5 center Yao Ming from China.

"I'm very excited to come to Chicago. When I first stepped foot in that city, I got nothing but a great vibe,'' said Williams, who made no secret of his desire to play in Chicago.

"I heard (NBA commissioner) David Stern say my name for Chicago, and nothing but a big smile came to my face. And my smile's still there. It'll be there for a while.''

This was the second straight year the Bulls got the second overall pick. A year ago, they acquired teen-ager Tyson Chandler from the Los Angeles Clippers for Elton Brand in a major draft-night deal.

But there were no surprises this year. Williams is considered to be the most NBA-ready of the top prospects, and Chicago was thrilled when the Houston Rockets focused on Yao.

"He's a young man of class and character, and he's a (heck) of a player,'' general manager Jerry Krause said. "We were not interested in doing something else with that pick.''

And Williams was so excited about possibly coming to Chicago he scanned the real estate listings when he was here earlier this month. But the love affair actually goes back even further, he said.

When he was about 10 or 11, he and a friend got in trouble for painting "BULLS ARE BACK'' on a fence that separated his family's yard from the next-door neighbor's.

"I'm not Michael Jordan. You guys know that,'' he said. "But I can guarantee you that I'm going to bring in a lot of hard work and determination to always win. ... I know we look forward to causing a lot of trouble in the Eastern Conference next year.''

At the Berto Center, the Bulls' practice facility, a cheer went up as the pick was announced.

"Everybody's a lot happier around here,'' said Chandler, who was sporting a Williams jersey. "We're to the point we can see where we're going. It's time to move ahead. No more lottery picks.''

In the second round, the Bulls drafted Roger Mason Jr., a guard from Virginia; and Lonny Baxter, a forward-center from national champion Maryland.

With his savvy on the court and his maturity off of it, Williams could be the last piece the Bulls need to rejoin the ranks of respectable teams. They already have a marquee player and a big-time scorer with Jalen Rose, and Eddy Curry and Chandler are developing nicely.

Add in Williams, and the Bulls could make things interesting in the East.

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

Williams was college player of the year and a two-time All-American at Duke. He averaged 21.3 points last season, best in the ACC.

He scored a career-high 38 in Duke's overtime victory over Kentucky in the Jimmy V Classic last December, scoring 23 of the Blue Devils' final 31 points in regulation.

The knock on Williams is his free-throw shooting. Duke lost to Indiana 74-73 in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament when he missed a free throw that would have tied the game.

"I think I'm a basketball player, not a point guard or shooting guard,'' he said.

The Bulls already have a point guard in Crawford, who is looking for a breakout year after missing most of last season with a knee injury. But Crawford said the two can play together.

"We're both unselfish and we both want to play basketball,'' Crawford said. "The bottom line is, we both want to win.''

While Crawford is the Bulls point guard, Krause and Cartwright can envision the two of them playing together. Cartwright said he'll begin experimenting with different lineups during the summer camps.

"We've got some runners now and we've got two young people that can deliver the ball to those runners,'' Krause said. "It just makes for a very good situation for our franchise.''

And Williams is looking forward to making it even better.

"When teams go to Chicago the past (few) years, the main thing they're thinking about is, 'Oh, there's a great restaurant here, we could go here or we could go to the nightclub.' Whereas back in the day, when you came to Chicago, it was, 'Oh, man, I'd better get my rest because we're playing the Bulls tomorrow,''' Williams said. "So I'm trying to get that to come back to Chicago.

"I look forward to doing it all over again and working real hard to get back to where we once were.''