Bulls need to Flip the switch on playoff run


Apr 2

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The story of Ronald Murray’s NBA life has been the same. It seems teams just don’t give a Flip.

Having come to the Bulls in the Tyrus Thomas trade, Murray has made journeyman an art. The Bulls are his eighth team in eight NBA seasons, reading this way: Milwaukee, Seattle, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago.

No wonder you never see the guy smile.

“It’s a business,” shrugs Murray, who has been flippin’ good lately for the Bulls with back to back 23-point games. “A lot of times a team (in a trade) wanted to get something back. A lot of times when trades got down I’m in the mix. I don’t look at it like they’re trying to get rid of me. It just seems I’m one of the guys who goes when teams want something back.

“I’ll take it,” said Murray, sounding somewhat disinterested as he’s obviously told this story before. “I don’t mind. I’m just glad to be able to play basketball.”

Murray figures to have another big role Friday when the Bulls play the Washington Wizards in this desperate playoff run. With Luol Deng due back this weekend but in limited minutes, Murray has been playing more small forward in the role John Salmons excelled at last season with Deng injured.

Murray has been terrific of late and you wondered why in losing to the Suns Tuesday he didn’t have the ball more down the stretch. He is 18 of 26 the last two games and seven of 11 on threes. He’s averaging 12.5 per game in March and 15.2 the last five games and 10 of 17 on threes.

You might say he’s flipped the switch.

“I’ve always been a scorer,” offers Murray. “It’s what I do. I’ve always been able to score the basketball. I feel I can come in the game and score at will.”

He certainly has the mentality.

It would seem this is a short run with the Bulls for Murray given the Bulls larger free agent priorities. It seems unlikely Murray would be a player to accept a minimum salary, which is about the Bulls would have to offer after pursuing the big free agents, as he generally draws interest as a scoring sixth man type and figures to get part of a team’s exception.

“I’m not going to change my game. It’s what I do and what’s kept me in this league, scoring the basketball,” says Murray. “I can’t control what’s going to happen in the summer. I can’t worry about all the free agents. I’ll end up somewhere.”

Just in a different uniform, sort of a Flip flop. Just another audition for the league for Murray so far. And he accepts it as who he’s become. Plus, the hours aren’t bad.

“At times at a young age it was frustrating,” Murray admits. “Because I thought I was able to go out and play better than a lot of dudes getting long term deals. As I got older, I realized the business and there was a lot of meat to it to take care of my family. There’s nothing I can do to control that. All I can do is play basketball.”

Murray did it the best when he burst upon the scene in his second season. He was a second rounder drafted by the Bucks from Shaw College and then a throw in with the Ray Allen trade for local Seattle favorite Gary Payton.

It was not a popular move in Seattle, though the right one as Payton’s game had come apart.

The Sonics would be winning the first game when the teams played right after the deal and Murray called general manager Rick Sund to boldly proclaim, “Rick, it’s Flip. We kicked their tails.” Sund didn’t even know Flip was Ronald Murray.

Starting the next season for the injured Allen, Murray became an NBA sensation scoring at least 20 points in 10 of the team’s first 11 games and averaging about 23 per game in that stretch.

The nickname, by the way, was for gymnastics excellence as a kid.

But Murray was no guy wearing sequins. He came from a tough Philadelphia neighborhood. He’s carried a reputation around the NBA not as a troublemaker, but as a guy with “don’t mess with me” body language. You don’t see him smile much and he isn’t much for small talk or little niceties. Let’s say he’s like the guy whom you bump into and you better not look up and better keep walking. And he isn’t always friendly to reporters and other small animals.

Bulls fans saw a version of that when Murray was with the Pistons. In a playoff series, Murray dunked over Kirk Hinrich and then stood over the fallen Hinrich glaring and muttering something not necessarily about Kansas. It seemed more a Flip response than a flip one.

I asked Hinrich about it the other day and he laughed, “You still look up that stuff?”

Sure, I have nothing much else to do.

I also remember a game winning three against the Bulls Murray hit when he played with the Cavs and which Scott Skiles is still yelling at Andres Nocioni for leaving Murray open in the corner.

I thought with a guy who traveled around so much he’d have favorites and there would be a world according to Flip. But he said there wasn’t much but basketball. He said Italian food was his favorite and he liked the Maggiano’s chain the best and his favorite city was Miami.

“Always got the sunshine,” says Murray. “Can’t beat that.”

After being the only player I can ever think of who’s now played for every team in the Central Division, you can certainly understand his preference.

“The opportunity to play basketball is special to me,” says Murray. “I’ll be able to come back and say, ‘I played in the NBA,’ and played as long as I did and from where I came from, Philadelphia and a small Division II school.

“That’s tough,” says Murray. “It’s a league built for first round players. But I’ve been able to stay in the league and make a name for myself in the league.”

Very punny.

Flip. Yes, they know Flip. Have shot will travel.

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