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by Don Ellis

Bulls General Manager John Paxson faced a rather large hurdle heading into the 2005 NBA off-season. Actually, make that 6 very large hurdles, as the Bulls entered the summer with six free agents who combined to play over 43% of the Bulls' regular season minutes last year.

Paxson expressed early on that his main goal this summer was to bring back the Bulls' own free agents, and that he would be very "proactive" in doing so.

Apparently, by listening to Chicago talk radio and reading the internet message boards, many Bulls fans thought that being proactive meant resigning the players as soon as possible for whatever salary the players and their agents would like.

Judging by his actions, however, Paxson had a very different idea of what "proactive" means.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines "proactive" as 'Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty; anticipatory'. Paxson's first advance act was rather obvious as he submitted qualifying offers to the Bulls' four restricted free agents (Tyson Chandler, Chris Duhon, Eddy Curry and Jannero Pargo). He quickly followed that formality by proclaiming that he would match any offer sheet for any of the four, anticipating that teams might try to make offers that Paxson would not want to match.

As things worked out, only Duhon was able to secure an offer sheet (3 years, $9 million from Toronto), and Paxson matched it, retaining his starting point guard for another three seasons at a very reasonable price.

Chandler never even visited any other teams, clearly indicating that he wanted to return to Chicago. He and his agent handled the entire negotiations privately and with class, and Chandler was rewarded with the largest contract (approximately $64 million plus incentives) in franchise history. And while some Bulls fans complained about how long the negotiations took, obviously things worked out for the best as both player and management seem very happy with the outcome.

Pargo still hasn't been offered a deal by any other teams, and if he doesn't get one by October 1 he will be back in a Bulls' uniform next season for under a million dollars. Another very reasonable deal for a guy who can score incredibly in spurts, even coming in off the bench cold and not having played for two weeks.

Harrington was an unrestricted free agent, however he never even tested the market, resigning with the Bulls for just over three million dollars for next season (the only guaranteed season on his three-year deal). Othella was a very important role player for last year's club and he was rewarded with a nice salary for next season.

In Part Two, I'll look at the other Bulls' free agents- the two who may not be back in Chicago next season- as well as how Paxson's patience in free agency is about to pay off with another valuable, economical role player set to join the roster soon.
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