Heart ailment derails season with playoff-bound Bulls

Updated: April 14, 2005, 9:25 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls center Eddy Curry will miss the rest of the season because of an irregular heartbeat, but doctors are optimistic he'll be able to play again.

Eddy Curry
Chicago Bulls
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Curry will undergo further tests that will take another six weeks, meaning he'll miss the team's first playoff appearance since 1998. Doctors still aren't sure what caused the heart arrhythmia, which hasn't recurred in the last two weeks.

"We've been as diligent as we can to rule out anything possible that would put him at risk," Dr. Kathy Weber, a Bulls' team physician, said at a news conference Thursday night. "We're going to continue to do that until we feel it's safe for him to play."

The 22-year-old has been sidelined since March 30. He was a late scratch from the Bulls' game in Charlotte that night with what was listed as flulike symptoms, but the Chicago Tribune reported that he'd spent the game hooked up to a heart monitor.

Curry returned to Chicago on April 1 and was admitted to Rush University Medical Center for further tests. When those were inconclusive, he saw specialists in Boston and Minnesota.

"We really haven't found out anything crazy that would make me think my career's over," said Curry, who smiled and looked relaxed when he arrived at the news conference. "There's nothing to be frowning about. We just have to do more tests."

The team wouldn't elaborate on what the tests would entail. Weber did say that Curry isn't on any medication.

"Although everything has been positive, we still have some unanswered questions," she said. "Until we have that completely put to rest, we've opted to continue testing."

Other NBA players have played through similar conditions without serious complications, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Derrick Coleman and Aaron McKie.

The Bulls are 6-3 since Curry's irregular heartbeat was discovered, and 7-8 overall without him.

"Eddy's health is our No. 1 concern," general manager John Paxson said. "It's one thing we take very seriously, and we're going to do everything we possibly can to be sure he's right before we put him back on the floor."

The ailment ends what had been a breakout season for Curry, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. After losing more than 30 pounds last summer, the 7-footer has become the inside force the Bulls envisioned when they drafted him fourth overall in 2001. He led Chicago with 16.1 points a game and was shooting 53.8 percent, fourth best in the NBA. He was averaging 5.4 rebounds. He scored at least 25 points in his two games before being sidelined.

Curry's development has been a big factor in the resurgence of the Bulls, who have gone from NBA laughingstock to one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. At 44-34, Chicago has the third-best record in the conference and has clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.

With four games left in the regular season, Chicago is still fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Curry's absence means the Bulls will be without two starters in the playoffs. Rookie Luol Deng, who averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, had surgery Tuesday to repair on a torn ligament in his wrist. He's expected to be in a cast for six to eight weeks.

"It's tough, but I'm extremely happy for everyone around here and for the organization," said Curry, a Chicago native. "It makes what I'm going through a lot easier because it makes me happy to see the guys doing well."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press