After more than a week of speculation, Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson confirmed it Saturday.
He has traded three of his overpaid players to the Toronto Raptors for three of their overpaid players in a deal that won't rock the Eastern Conference, and perhaps will only make the Bulls a slow team that can't score and the Raptors a fast team that can't rebound.
Nonetheless, the Bulls sent high scoring swingman Jalen Rose, forward Donyell Marshall and forward Lonny Baxter to Toronto for Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies. The key components being Rose, a 10-year veteran with four years and nearly $60 million left on his contract, and the malcontented Davis, in his 11th year and three years, with $37 million remaining on his inflated deal. Williams and Marshall are basically a wash, Marshall being a better scorer and Williams a better defender; and Baxter and Jefferies are second year players who have yet to establish their games.
"We're giving up talented players," Paxson said. "This is hard to do, but I think it's right for the organization right now. It's been a long, tough week in a lot of ways. I think we're in position now where we got a big basketball team. We've still got issues and I don't expect miracles right away, but I expect us to be a competitive team."
This completes a week in which Paxson completed his goal of changing the face of the Bulls. He fired genteel coach Bill Cartwright, replaced him with hard-nosed Scott Skiles, and now has a completely different feel to a team. From the predictable, triple-post offense that didn't fit the young and restless players, the Bulls now will be predicated by the tough defensive-orientation of Skiles and a fast-break-at-will offense.
"Antonio Davis can't help but be a good influence on the other guys and Jerome Williams hustles all the time. He gets up and down the floor," Skiles said.
Of course, they'll have to score by running because other than young center Eddy Curry, they don't have anybody else to score out of halfcourt sets.
"Sometimes you have to give good things up for things that make more sense at the time. I think we've become a more physical and tougher team that can rebound and defend better," Paxson said.
On the flip side, the Raptors (8-7) finally found someone to score some points besides star Vince Carter. In their first 15 games they have averaged 78.8 points a game, which not only is a league-low, but is the least points any team has averaged since the inception of the shot-clock in 1954.
|The Bulls will have plenty of rebounding with the addition of Antonio Davis.(AP)|
"I feel a little in shock right now. I kept hearing about it for a week and a half now," Marshall said. "Usually when trade rumors go around that long, usually they're dead. I was laying at home getting ready to come into the second practice and my phone rang and it was Pax.
"I've been in this league 10 years. I know it's a business, I know you gotta do what you've got to do to make this team better. I guess it was a trade that both teams felt they got something good out of it."
Logically, Rose and Carter would play the wings with Alvin Williams remaining the starting point guard and Lamond Murray coming off the bench. Rose is capable of playing point guard, but is better suited to play point forward.
For the Bulls, 4-12 and on a seven-game losing streak, they now have loads of rebounding and no scoring. Presumably, Davis will start up front with Curry and inconsistent Eddie Robinson. What's left is the young backcourt featuring Kirk Hinrich and Jamal Crawford.
Veteran Scottie Pippen, who returned to Chicago this season to provide leadership, said it's tough to see Rose and Marshall depart, but it's all part of the business.
"Davis will give us some toughness inside and Williams has a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Pippen said. "We've got veteran guys who know how to play the game. I think it should make us better."
An earth-shattering deal? Hardly. But it could help secure the Raptors a spot in playoffs, presuming they begin actually running the ball up the court to take shots instead of rolling it ... very slowly.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.