The free-agent recruiting period began at 11 p.m. Sunday, and to give some idea of this summer's market, the Bulls had no visits scheduled for Monday.
General manager Jerry Krause and his staff instead will spend the day interviewing for the team's two assistant coaching vacancies.
The Bulls, with about $5.5 million available under a yet-to-be-set salary cap, figure eventually be one of the few active teams in the market. But several factors are contributing to why big news will be kept to a minimum between now and July 16, the first day players can sign free-agent contracts.
There is no established franchise player in this free-agent class. Many of the top names—such as Sacramento's Mike Bibby, Portland's Bonzi Wells, Toronto's Keon Clark, the Clippers' Michael Olowokandi—are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams can match offers.
Also, only the Bulls, Clippers and Washington have salary-cap space available, and with an impending dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, other teams will be stingy in using available exceptions.
Finally, some teams are saving money with an eye to the summer of 2003, when players like Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan and Gary Payton will be on the shopping list.
That said, the Bulls know the recruiting period of about two weeks is their best chance to address their most pressing needs—a veteran big man and a veteran perimeter defender.
Former Bull Scott Williams, Washington's Popeye Jones and Philadelphia's Matt Harpring are among players the Bulls will contact for visits.
After signing his No. 1 free-agent priority last summer in Eddie Robinson, trading for Jalen Rose and drafting Jay Williams, Krause no longer is concerned about any negative perception that drove a stellar free-agent class in 2000 away from the Bulls.
"I think in the last year we have changed that perception almost completely," Krause said. "It's very hard to attract free agents when you're losing consistently. But I don't think players look at us as a 21-win team.
"Because of Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Jalen and Jay, players see this as a place they want to be. And they like [coach] Bill Cartwright. People look at us as a team that is going to be very much improved."
Time will tell if Krause is right. But signing players still will take work.
Washington likes Jones so much that hints have been dropped for an organizational role once he retires. A multiyear deal in the $4 million to $5 million range likely would be necessary to sign him.
Scott Williams, who finished last season with Denver, also is seeking at least a two-year deal. That could be a risk for an injury-prone player who hasn't played more than 68 games in any of the last seven seasons.
"I talked with [Cartwright], B.J. [Armstrong, Krause's assistant] and [assistant coach] Pete Myers, a lot of guys I played with when I was there," Williams told the Denver Post. "They said they basically need [a mentor] for the young 7-footers.
"It's a situation where Chicago isn't going to be a winner right away, but I think Jay Williams really helps that team. Does it put them in a definite playoff position? I don't know."
Harpring is a restricted free agent who made $1.9 million last season.
The Bulls discussed possibly signing a veteran free-agent point guard before the draft. But now that Jay Williams is in the fold, such a move is unlikely. That means Travis Best is expected to pursue other teams, such as Detroit, Miami and possibly Phoenix and Minnesota.
In a surprise move, the Bulls offered A.J. Guyton a qualifying offer of nearly $800,000 over the weekend. That means the Bulls can match any offers on the restricted free agent.
Guyton is being kept? That is a surprise!!!