All six players reached for comment denied they used marijuana and emphasized it wasn’t a widespread problem on the team. Williams’ comments were made in a comprehensive article detailing his physical and emotional recovery from the June 2003 motorcycle accident that ended his Bulls career after one season.
“I like Jay, but when you make blanket statements, you incriminate everyone,” said Rick Brunson, currently a Bobcats assistant coach. “You have to look in the mirror first: ‘Did I contribute to some of those things?’ Your career didn’t go the way it should’ve gone. Let it go. You’re doing a great job on ESPN. You should be honored and blessed the Bulls paid you.”
Despite violating his contract by riding the motorcycle, Williams, currently an ESPN college basketball analyst, received $3 million from the Bulls in a goodwill gesture buyout from Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. Team sources told the Tribune at the time that the Bulls also paid some of Williams’ medical expenses.
The New York Times story also claimed that teammates never visited Williams during his month-plus stay in intensive care at a Chicago hospital. Three ex-teammates vehemently disputed that, saying Williams and his family repeatedly denied attempts to visit.
A message left on Williams’ cellphone wasn’t returned. Co-host Marc Silverman from WMVP-AM 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy” show told listeners that Williams canceled an appearance because he “didn’t want to elaborate” on his allegations.
“My thing is, why say these things now?” said Donyell Marshall, one of the team leaders from 2002-03. “You don’t need to be making people assume. You’re messing up situations for other people. Now, instead of Fred (Hoiberg, coach of Iowa State) focusing on the NCAA tournament or whatever, he’s got to deal with that (crap).”
According to a league spokesman, the NBA had marijuana testing in place during the 2002-03 season.
The Bulls endured a rocky 30-52 season in 2002-03, after which Paxson replaced longtime general manager Jerry Krause. Tension was palpable between Williams and Jalen Rose, who famously tweaked Williams after the No. 2 overall pick missed all five free-throw attempts in a season-opening victory at Boston.
“In the NBA, we just call that choking,” Rose said that night.
Reached late Sunday, Rose, also an ESPN analyst for NBA games, declined to comment.
“I understand his frustrations because you’re picked so high and so much is expected,” Brunson said. “Yes, we were a young team. But we were professional.”
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