Bulls Officially Sign Nocioni, Joe Smith

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Andres Nocioni stayed with the Chicago Bulls and Joe Smith became the newest addition Wednesday for a team looking to go deeper in the NBA playoffs next season.

Nocioni, a restricted free agent, signed a five-year contract reportedly worth $37.5 million. He grew up in Argentina watching the Michael Jordan-led Bulls and has averaged 11.5 points since entering the NBA with Chicago in 2004.

“My dream was to play for the Chicago Bulls, and my agent and everybody knows that,” he said.

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“I love this team and I want to play for these people.”

The Bulls added some depth to their frontcourt with the signing of the 6-foot-10 Smith to a reported two-year contract worth the mid-level veteran exception of $5.36 million annually.

Both Nocioni and Smith agreed to their deals last week.

Nocioni was limited by plantar fasciitis last season and missed 29 games. He returned in time for the playoffs, where the Bulls were ousted in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Detroit Pistons.

“My foot is much better, believe me. I’m a new guy. I’m better than ever,” Nocioni said. “Right now, I don’t have any pain and feel normal. I hope this is done.”

Nocioni said he has lost 10 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame in the offseason to help his recovery, and has started shooting and doing some light running.

Smith, 31, has averaged 12.1 points and seven rebounds in 12 seasons since he was the first overall pick of the 1995 NBA draft. He is joining his sixth different team.

“What Joe brings is a veteran presence that we need,” general manager John Paxson said. “He wants to win and we feel like that’s where we’re at.”

With Nocioni and Smith signed, Paxson said he will turn his attention to extending the contracts of three-year veterans Ben Gordon and Luol Deng next week.

Paxson said he would like to complete the negotiations as soon as possible and isn’t expecting any acrimony.

“I expect to have real good conversations with both the agents and the players,” he said. “I think I’ll be fair with the way I deal with it.”

Even without an extension, Paxson emphasized that the Bulls have no intention of losing either player.

“We’ll see what happens. But they are a part of our future,” he said. “Next summer as restricted (free agents), if there’s a team that offers them something, we’ll match if it comes to that.”

A service of the Associated Press(AP)