CHICAGO -- After the Bulls won their fifth NBA championship in 1997, Michael Jordan sat at the postgame news conference and fielded a question about a potential rebuild.
"No one is guaranteed rebuilding in two, three or four years. The Cubs have been rebuilding for 42 years," he said, referencing their then-drought without a World Series appearance.
A similar quip could be made about the Bulls now: 22 years after Jordan played his final game for the franchise, the team has not returned to the NBA Finals since. The Bulls have been to the Eastern Conference finals only once in that span, getting dispatched by LeBron James and the Heat in five games in 2011.
That "Last Dance" season of 1997-98 produced a sixth championship in eight years with Jordan still at the peak of his powers before the dynasty came to a halt the following season, which didn't begin until February 1999 because of a lockout. Jordan retired for the second time, Scottie Pippen was sent to the Rockets in a sign-and-trade deal and coach Phil Jackson went on his first sabbatical.
Only a few holdovers remained from the championship team, and the Bulls headed into a certain losing season for the first time since Jordan's first few seasons in the league.
Toni Kukoc led the team in points (18.8), rebounds (7.0) and assists (5.3) per game. The Bulls, meanwhile, scuffled to just 13 wins (a .260 winning percentage) during a season shortened to 50 games by the lockout, the lowest number of wins in team history.
And that team still holds a dubious place in NBA history -- it scored 49 points during an April loss to the Heat, the fewest points by any team in the shot-clock era.
There will be no 10-part documentary on the 1999 Bulls, but here's a look back at the team charged with following "The Last Dance," including where they were during the 1997-98 season, whom they replaced and their contributions to the Bulls in the lockout-shortened season:
1997-98: Started 52 games and was the team's third-leading scorer.
1998-99: Led the Bulls in points (18.8), rebounds (7.0) and assists (5.3).
When Jerry Krause first started pursuing Toni Kukoc to come from Europe to the Bulls, he thought about Kukoc as someone who not only could play alongside Jordan and Pippen, but also could lead the team once they moved on. Kukoc was thrust into the leading role in '99 after most of the core moved on. Although he was the team's best player, he wasn't able to carry a team on its own.
1997-98: Starting point guard averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
1998-99: Starting shooting guard averaged 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Ron Harper joined Toni Kukoc as the only returning starters for the Bulls, starting 35 games in '99 and finishing second on the team in scoring with 11.2 points per game. However, at 35 and in his 13th season in the league, his days of being a go-to option had faded.
1997-98: Played 21 games off the bench.
1998-99: Played all 50 games (35 starts).
Dickey Simpkins saw some action during the beginning of the 1998 playoff run, and he saw a bump in playing time after the roster turnover. A former first-round pick by the Bulls in 1994, Simpkins made just 17 career starts before he became a regular starter in '99. He was relatively productive, averaging 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds while leading the team with 2.9 win shares, an advanced metric that estimates the number of wins a player contributed to.
1997-98: Played 71 games at point guard, mostly as a reserve.
1998-99: Became the primary point guard, starting 32 games.
Randy Brown never was a scorer coming off the bench for the Bulls during their second three-peat, but he saw increased playing time in 1999. That led to some career-high numbers -- 8.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game -- as he became the lead guard for the Bulls offense.
1997-98: Played 48 games, mostly as a reserve.
1998-99: Played 38 games, mostly as a reserve.
The Bulls kept Bill Wennington in the same role despite not having Luc Longley or Dennis Rodman in the frontcourt.
1997-98: Played six games.
1998-99: Role player who played 39 games.
The Bulls drafted Booth in the first round in 1997, but his NBA career spanned just two seasons, getting opposite ends of the experience. He barely saw the floor in his first season but averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in '99.
1997-98: Played 14 games.
1998-99: Played 43 games.
Rusty LaRue was undrafted but earned a spot on the Bulls in limited playing time in 1997-98 and saw his playing time increase the next season. He played about 17 minutes per game and hit 33.7% of his 3-pointers off the bench.
Coach Tim Floyd
1997-98: Iowa State head coach.
1998-99: Bulls head coach.
General manager Jerry Krause made it very clear that coach Phil Jackson was not going to return, and many believed Tim Floyd had been handpicked as the successor. Floyd was a fairly successful college coach, but his success did not translate to the NBA. He went 49-190 (.205) in his four seasons with the Bulls.
1997-98: Averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.3% on 3-pointers for the Clippers and Heat.
1998-99: Signed a six-year, $27 million contract.
Brent Barry was the Bulls' biggest offseason addition and became the team's third-leading scorer with 11.1 points per game. But he suffered an injury early in the season that limited him to 37 games (30 starts) while he shot 30.2% from beyond the arc, the worst mark of his career. He lasted only one season in Chicago and was traded to the SuperSonics.
1997-98: Played 70 games at center for the Suns.
1998-99: Played 45 games at power forward.
The Bulls shipped Luc Longley to the Suns for a 1999 first-round pick, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells and Mark Bryant before the season. Bryant began the year in the starting lineup and averaged 9.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in about 27 minutes. He lasted just one year with the Bulls.
1997-98: Played for the Rockford Lightning in the Continental Basketball Association and Alba Fehervar in Hungary.
1998-99: Signed as a free agent.
Before his left his home country, David was advertised as "the Michael Jordan of Hungary." Once he got on the court, it was clear the comparison was a bit overzealous. David, the first Hungarian to play in the NBA, was in Bulls training camp in 1997 before a stint with Rockford in the CBA and returning to Hungary and helping his national team end a 30-year drought to qualify for the European championship. He appeared in all 50 games for the Bulls in '99, playing 18 minutes per game while averaging 6.2 points.
1997-98: In college at Oregon State.
1998-99: Taken with the No. 28 pick in the draft.
Corey Benjamin appeared in 38 games as a reserve for the Bulls, but he is best known for claiming he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. The boast prompted Jordan, retired and still dealing with a finger injury via cigar cutter, to show up to practice to accept Benjamin's challenge -- and promptly demolish him.
Also on the 1998-99 Bulls roster: Mario Bennett (3 games), Cory Carr (42 games), Charles Jones (29 games) and Andrew Lang (21 games).
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