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http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/cs-020627bullswilliams.story?coll=cs-bulls-headlines

Jerry Krause slumped into a chair, exhausted.

The long days in preparation for the NBA draft were behind him and what awaited him Thursday night—a dinner with Jay Williams, his family, his agent and business adviser—seemed much more appetizing.

But the work doesn't stop. And Krause knows it.

"We had a good meeting on free agency this morning," Krause said.

Such is the life of the general manager of a 21-victory team.

Krause and his staff did take a break from discussing what they don't have so they could unveil what they now do have in a afternoon news conference at the United Center.

Williams and fellow draft picks Roger Mason Jr. and Lonny Baxter were introduced with their high hopes and unsullied professional records. Before that Williams made what attendees described as a dazzling impression at the annual luncheon for United Center suite-holders.

But all the charm and talent in the world—and Williams possesses plenty of both—can't fill the holes the Bulls still have. The combined professional experience—very little—of the three draft picks and new best buddies Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, who attended the session, screams out the biggest need of all.

Veterans.

"Absolutely," coach Bill Cartwright said. "We've talked about getting a veteran big man, a veteran backup small forward who can defend. These guys still need leadership. They're 19- and 20-year-olds."

The Bulls have approximately $5.5 million of salary-cap room available and can begin negotiating with free agents Monday. They can begin spending that money July 16, the first day free agents are eligible to sign contracts.

The Bulls are expected to limit their recruiting efforts to four or five players, focusing their attention on veteran role players who are content to play backup minutes. Chandler and Curry will be counted on to play upward of 30 minutes a night, and young guns like Williams, Trenton Hassell and Jamal Crawford also will see heavy action, leaving table scraps for the new additions.

Former Bull Scott Williams and Washington forward Popeye Jones are two players Krause will contact. Defensive stopper Bruce Bowen is expected to re-sign with San Antonio but is the type of perimeter defender the Bulls seek.

The Bulls are unlikely to re-sign Travis Best unless Jamal Crawford has difficulty adjusting to the addition of Williams and is dealt. Krause is not shopping Crawford but always listens to overtures from other teams, which included an underwhelming offer from Washington before the draft.

Whomever signs with the Bulls will find a nucleus of young players who are itching to return the franchise to its previous lofty standards.

Williams is the cornerstone and rightfully has received the most attention. But Krause and his staff are high on the two second-round selections.

Mason is a tenacious defender who can play either guard position.

"Trust me, from playing against him [in the Atlantic Coast Conference], he can do it all," Williams said.

Mason lost his father to kidney disease at the age of 11 and added the Jr. to his name to honor him. His stepfather, Otis Wonsley, played professional football for the Redskins.

"I think I'm versatile," Mason said. "They do a good job of teaching young players here, and I'm looking forward to becoming a better player."

Baxter, at 6 feet 7 inches, is an undersized power forward. But Krause called him an underrated passer and Baxter left Maryland as the school's second all-time leading rebounder.

"A lot of people question my size," Baxter said. "But I play with my heart."

Williams remembers Duke teammate Carlos Boozer dreading when the schedule said Maryland.

"Carlos was like, 'I have to guard Lonny again,'" Williams said. "Lonny's a beast down low."

Baxter and Mason recalled Williams as just a beast everywhere, one of those players who always came up with the big play at the big time in their numerous ACC battles.

"I still remember when he scored 10 points in like 30 seconds to bring them back and we lost to them in overtime," Baxter said. "That game right there tells you a lot about him."

Baxter and Williams each played on NCAA championship teams. Mason's Virginia team beat both squads. Cartwright likes this.

"All of these guys have played in high-pressure programs and played in big games," Cartwright said. "They're accustomed to playing a high-end type of basketball."

Williams made no secret of his desire to land in Chicago, joking Thursday that he's happy Krause drafted him because the spurned teams below might not have.

"As soon as I stepped in this city and I met these guys I knew there was a connection," Williams said. "I just knew I clicked. Everything was easy."

Krause hopes to hear some free agents say the same thing soon.
 
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