Jamal Crawford reveals Jerry Krause’s master plan for the Bulls post-MJ: “He wholeheartedly believed we could get all three of them”

Jamal Crawford reveals Jerry Krause’s master plan for the Bulls post-MJ: “He wholeheartedly believed we could get all three of them”

Jamal Crawford arrived in Chicago when the team was at the lowest of the low—Michael Jordan had just retired, Phil Jackson left the team, and Scottie Pippen joined the Houston Rockets. The Bulls only won 13 games coming off a 1998 NBA championship and, as a result, earned the right to pick first in the 1999 draft.

Chicago selected Elton Brand, who secured the Rookie of the Year award, averaging 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds, but the Bulls only won 17 games. That’s when Crawford arrived, along with Marcus Fizer, whom Chicago picked fourth overall.

But despite having a few talented youngsters on the roster, building through the draft wasn’t what Jerry Krause intended to do. Entering free agency as one of the teams with the most cap space, the Bulls GM had a different plan.

“My first year and second year, we’re the youngest team in the league, right? And the fans knew, like, ‘OK, it’s going to be a rebuilding year.’ But my rookie year, Jerry thought he was going to get Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, and T-Mac,” Crawford said.

Krause’s superteam plans

Going into free agency, the Bulls had around $18 million to attract that summer’s top free agents. The list was headlined by Tim DuncanGrant HillTracy McGrady, Eddie Jones, and Brian Grant, with the likes of Toni Kukoc, Glen Rice, Maurice Taylor, Rashard Lewis, and Cuttino Mobley also available to sign.

So, obviously, MJ just retired, right? We have all this cap space, and so we have all these rookies. And he was like, we’re gonna get—go back and look, I guarantee Grant, Tim, and T-Mac were all free agents. And Jerry wholeheartedly believed we would get all three of them,” Jamal said.

After one of the best runs in the history of the NBA, Krause set the bar high and targeted Duncan, Hill, and McGrady. Interestingly, the Orlando Magic also shared Krause’s ambitious plan by trying to bring the three to Florida.

The Magic ultimately won the bidding war, as they were able to get T-Mac (in a sign-and-trade) and Hill while Duncan returned to San Antonio.

T-Mac didn’t want to play for Chicago

Crawford added that the Bulls would have been instant playoff contenders even if they got only two of those three. But obviously, Duncan was out of the equation as he really didn’t have any serious thoughts of leaving San Antonio. That left Hill and McGrady as Chicago’s realistic options.

McGrady was a player Krause had always coveted. He was even willing to trade Pippen to the Boston Celtics the year before “The Last Dance” for the No.3 and No. 6 picks of the 1997 draft. Reportedly, if that trade materialized, he would’ve picked McGrady and Ron Mercer.

Tracy, however, did not want to play for the Bulls. Despite Chicago’s pitch, which included Oprah sending him a personal message, the 6’8″ forward preferred to stay close to home in Orlando.

  1. Spurned by his three targets, Krause ended up getting Mercer and Brad Miller in the free agency. As a result, the Bulls lost 24 out of their first 27 games and finished the season as the worst team in the league, with only 15 wins.

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