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Dueling guards, different `vibes'
Rick Brunson is a savvy NBA veteran who has seen a little bit of everything.
He has been waived. He has played in Australia and in the Continental Basketball Association.
The one time he rented an apartment before the season started, Philadelphia cut him on the day of the opener after assuring him he'd made the team.
Brunson has survived, and not much fazes him. Not even going up against rookie Jay Williams and incumbent Jamal Crawford in practice as they battle for the Bulls' starting point guard position.
"My job is to beat them up," he said, smiling.
Thus the 30-year-old Brunson is eminently qualified to comment on the competition, which will end Monday when coach Bill Cartwright names his starting lineup for Wednesday's regular-season opener.
Most observers expect Williams to get the call, likely alongside Jalen Rose, Trenton Hassell, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry.
But Brunson said each player brings "a different vibe to the floor." Williams has speed and an ability to penetrate, while Crawford is the better shooter and decision-maker.
"I was guarding Jay [Saturday], and it was like I wasn't even out there," Brunson said. "He's so fast. And Jamal is an excellent shooter. Him being 6-5, he can come down and always get a shot."
What Brunson lacks in comparison to Williams' and Crawford's talent, he more than makes up in hard-knock experience and ways-of-the-league knowledge.
"My main focus is getting them right," Brunson said. "Competition is great. But if you're so concerned on hearing your name in the starting lineup, you're not here for the right reasons. Those guys have to understand that."
"You can't expect them to because they're young and by nature they're competitive and want to start and want to have glory," Brunson said. "There's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to win as a team, you have to give too. They'll learn that."
In two stints with the Knicks, Brunson watched two point guards with starting talent--Charlie Ward and Chris Childs--battle for playing time.
"There were games when Charlie was rolling and Chris would say, `Nah, Coach, leave him in there,"' Brunson said. "You have to step back and let a player roll.
"If they do that, they'll be better players and this team will be better. I try to explain to them: It's a long season. Both will get turns."
But Brunson, who is working on a non-guaranteed, league-minimum contract, also understands the way of today's NBA.
"This league makes you a selfish player," he said. "In order to get paid, you have to get stats. In order to get minutes, you have to put up numbers. This league is made for stats. You can't blame them for that. But in the long run, if you're trying to win, they have to learn to play with each other."
Come Monday, when final rosters must be turned in to the league, Brunson--his preseason work done--will likely have come down with a vague injury.
"That's all right, man," he said with another smile. "I invented the injured list."