Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Bulls GM Krause steps down because of health

The Associated Press

DEERFIELD, Ill. - Jerry Krause had a rare eye for talent, assembling two very different supporting casts for Michael Jordan and laying the foundation for the Chicago Bulls' decade of dominance.

It's the destruction of the championship team that will be Krause's legacy, though.

The man blamed for breaking up the Bulls' dynasty and driving Jordan out of Chicago resigned as general manager Monday, stepping down for health reasons with only a week left in the season.

"Physically, he wasn't feeling that great. He's had a lot of stress on him," said Bulls coach Bill Cartwright, the center on Chicago's first three championship teams.

"I think it'd be easier to walk away with a championship, obviously," Cartwright said. "But he and I had an opportunity to talk this morning, and I basically told him, 'You should be really proud of what you've accomplished.' I know he is, but it's really tough to walk away with the mission not totally completed."

Chicago (27-50) will finish with a losing record for the fifth straight season and miss the playoffs again. The Bulls have won only three road games all season.

Krause, 64, didn't elaborate on his health problems. But he's been bothered by a variety of ailments in recent years and has had a bad back all season.

"The rigors and stress of the job have caused me some minor physical problems in the past few years," he said in statement released by the team. "Those problems can be eliminated if I lessen my load for a while and concentrate on overcoming them."

Still, his decision caught everyone by surprise. Players said Krause was emotional when he met with them before practice Monday, and he left the Bulls' practice facility without speaking to reporters. So did Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

"The whole thing is sad," guard Jamal Crawford said. "People criticize him a lot for different things ... but he had a vision."

Others couldn't always see it, though.

The Bulls already had Jordan when Krause became GM in 1985, but it was Krause who found the pieces that formed a dynasty.

His most brilliant move came in 1987. In one of the best deals in NBA history, he maneuvered with Seattle for the draft rights to Scottie Pippen, who went on to become Jordan's famous sidekick and was selected as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in 1996.

He drafted Horace Grant and signed Toni Kukoc, a Croatian star who was a key player on the final three championship teams. He also gambled big by trading for the mercurial Dennis Rodman, whose many eccentricities threatened to outweigh his physical skills.

But the moves all paid off as Chicago won six titles from 1991-98 and set an NBA record with 72 victories in the 1995-96 season. Krause was named the league's executive of the year twice.

"He brought with him a vision of how to build a champion, and he proceeded to create one of the most dominant champions of all time," Reinsdorf said in a statement.

"No basketball fan in America can begin to imagine the world champion Chicago Bulls without his imprint. There would not have been a coach Phil Jackson. There would not have been Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Dennis Rodman, or a host of others who wore Bulls uniforms during those championship seasons."

But Krause's people skills weren't always the best, and he alienated Jackson, Jordan and Pippen - often over who should get credit for the championships. When Jackson left and Jordan retired before the lockout-shortened season of 1999, Krause dismantled the team.

He gave away virtually any talent the Bulls had, figuring he could rebuild on the fly and avoid the long years of losing other champions had endured. He planned to stockpile top draft picks and give the cash he was saving to big-name free agents.

But the free agents didn't come, preferring to sign with other teams that could win right away, and the losses mounted. Krause then switched course, deciding that the Bulls' future lay with high schoolers Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler.

Tim Floyd, Krause's hand-picked successor to Jackson, got so frustrated he didn't thank Krause publicly when he resigned in December 2001.

"Before I came here, I really didn't understand. I had the impression of, 'Why did the team break up?"' Chandler said Monday. "But once you get here, you see a different side of it. All great things have to come to an end. That came to an end, and it wasn't all one person's fault."

The Bulls finally are showing some signs of promise this season, as Chandler and Curry make strides. But they're a long way from being a contender.

"I guess we all have to leave our job at some time or another," Pippen said. "Jerry's ready to move on and be something else. Obviously, Plan B is not working."

Now the Bulls must find a new plan. Reinsdorf said he hoped to have a new GM within the next month, and former Bulls B.J. Armstrong and John Paxson figure to be among the top candidates. Armstrong is a special assistant to Krause, and Paxson is the team's radio analyst.

Jordan might even be in the mix, too. He's retiring as a player for the third time after this season, and although he has said he'll return to his front-office job with the Washington Wizards, no deal is in place yet. His family still lives in Chicago, and he was widely criticized for trying to run the Wizards from out of town two years ago.

"It's pretty much tough," Chandler said of Krause, groping for words. "He had a dream for all of us. Now we don't know who's coming in here.

"He had dreams for me and a lot of the young players, and it's sad to see he might not be here when we turn the corner."

ROCKETS: Houston forward Eddie Griffin was arrested and charged with marijuana possession after the car he was driving was stopped by police Sunday. He was released from jail Monday after posting $500 bond. He was cited for a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and one year in jail.

INJURY REPORT: Los Angeles Clippers center Michael Olowokandi, already sidelined since left knee surgery in February, won't return this season.. ... Memphis Grizzlies center Lorenzen Wright will miss the final five games of the season because of a severely sprained right thumb. ... Detroit's Ben Wallace could miss the start of the playoffs with a left knee injury. Wallace is expected to be sidelined for two weeks after an MRI exam showed he has a sprained medial collateral ligament. ... Toronto's Vince Carter and Antonio Davis will miss the rest of the season because of injuries. Carter has a severe ankle sprain and Davis has a lingering knee injury. ... Portland forward Ruben Patterson has a broken left eye socket, a result of being punched by teammate Zach Randolph last week. Patterson did not accompany the team to Houston for tonight's game.

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