DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) -A big man who can score has been the Chicago Bulls' biggest need for two seasons.
So when general manager John Paxson said they're still in the market for one, nobody was surprised.
Paxson had drafted a 6-foot-11 forward - Florida's Joakim Noah - with the ninth pick on Thursday when he made that statement. He had added athleticism, a rebounder, a shot-blocker, someone who helped his school win back-to-back NCAA championships. He had injected some emotion, a free spirit, into a rather conservative locker room. And he had acquired a player whose shot is, to be kind, a bit awkward.
So the search continues.
``As time goes on, yeah, I'm going to have to address some of the needs,'' Paxson said. ``If we felt that was going to happen in the draft, we would have done that. Obviously, we didn't. We went a different direction. We still needed size.''
The Bulls don't have salary cap room, meaning an offensive-minded post player would have to come through the mid-level exception or a trade.
Although Minnesota's Kevin Garnett is on the block, Paxson is reluctant to break up his core of forward Luol Deng and guards Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. He refused to include Deng in a trade with Memphis for Pau Gasol before the deadline last February, and the Bulls went on to win 49 games and reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
It was a big step for a team that endured back-to-back first-round playoff losses, and Deng seems poised to jump to the All-Star level.
He had his best season, setting career highs in scoring (18.8 points), rebounds (7.1) and shooting (51.7 percent). Gordon, a subject of trade rumors, averaged a career-high 21.4 points. And both just finished their third seasons.
It's easy to understand why Noah would look forward to joining the Bulls. And it's easy to understand why they took him, awkward shot and all, even though they already have an offensively challenged big man in Ben Wallace.
``This is a great situation, a team that's going to win a lot of basketball games, and I can't wait to be a part of it,'' Noah said.
He hates to lose - a trait he might have inherited from his dad Yannick, the former French Open champion - and he didn't do much of that at Florida. The Gators became the first team in 15 years to win back-to-back NCAA titles last season. Noah was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 Final Four, but Paxson thought back to what he saw at the Jimmy V Classic early that season.
``There's this kid that was just flying up and down the floor, blocking shots, point of the press,'' Paxson said. ``This is a process of building, and we felt this was the right guy at the time.''
While choosing Noah, the Bulls passed on 7-footer Spencer Hawes of Washington - a more polished offensive player. The two worked out together at the team's practice facility this month, and although Noah was disappointed in his performance, Bulls coach Scott Skiles liked what he saw from both players.
About the only thing he and Paxson did not like seeing was Noah's choice of clothing at the draft. He wore a cream-colored pinstriped suit with a bowtie, and let his hair flow rather than pull it into a ponytail.
``We understand we're going to have a few discussions with him once in a while,'' Paxson said, grinning. ``But again, it's not necessarily a bad thing that he has that type of personality.''
Skiles said, ``There are guys who are over the top with that kind of stuff, and we never got the feeling he was. We liked him right away. He's been well-coached. He's a winner. He's got energy every single day on the practice floor. ... The way he goes about his business and the commitment he showed (at Florida) to his team and those kind of qualities, it's great.''
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