Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Next Michael? Harper Struggles to Fill Bulls Void

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Next Michael? Harper Struggles to Fill Bulls Void

Article excerpt

The Man Who Would Be Michael has four baskets in three games.

Ron Harper is shooting 19 percent, has taken just six free throws, has almost as many turnovers (eight) as points (12), already has been held scoreless once, and has played only 73 of 149 possible minutes for the Chicago Bulls.

"You get mad and you tend to lose a little faith in yourself," he said. "But I know that I'm here at a new gym with new teammates, and I know things will turn around."

Chicago coach Phil Jackson said: "He'll find his way."

The Bulls hope so. Because Harper, signed as a free agent for $19.2 million over five years to fill the shooting-guard spot vacated before last season by Michael Jordan, already has contributed a ton of bricks to the new United Center.

Harper, who shot 31 percent during the preseason, even took extra shooting practice before Monday night's 98-83 National Basketball Association victory over Philadelphia. But the fruits of his labor were rotten: one for three from the floor, four points, four turnovers.

Jackson had been eagerly anticipating the pleasant problem of finding enough minutes for Harper, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc. He temporarily has solved the problem by playing Kukoc instead of Harper on many occasions. Other times, Jackson has put Jo Jo English in for Harper, and English has excelled in both Chicago victories.

English never starred at Jordan's expense.

"Michael Jordan was the best player in the world for eight or nine years," Harper said. "I'm trying to learn some of the things he did here, but I never claimed to be the next Michael Jordan. I've got to be me."

Being Ron Harper always had been good enough.

He averaged 22.9 points and shot 45 percent in his first eight NBA seasons, making the start of his Bulls career all the more exasperating.

"I'm trying to learn what this `triangle' offense is all about," he said. …

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