Bulls acquire Rose from Pacers in seven-player deal

CHICAGO (Ticker) — Fighting for a playoff berth, the Indiana Pacers have traded Jalen Rose, their leading scorer and most versatile player, to the Chicago Bulls in a seven-player deal.

The Pacers landed shooting guard Ron Mercer, swingman Ron Artest, center Brad Miller and backup point guard Kevin Ollie and sent Rose, point guard Travis Best, rookie guard Norm Richardson and a conditional second-round pick to the Bulls.

Trade rumors intensified when the Bulls elected not to play Artest and Miller in Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat. Mercer is on the injured list.

The NBA trading deadline is Thursday at 6 p.m. EST.

The Pacers (26-27) are one-half game behind Philadelphia and Charlotte in a battle for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Bulls (12-40) have the worst record in the NBA.

A starter at small forward, Rose is averaging 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists this season and recently said he wanted to finish his career as a Pacer when trade speculation swirled last week.

In his final game as a Pacer, Rose scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead Indiana to an 86-76 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.

Rose, who turned 29 last month, is making $10.8 million this season and is guaranteed $72 million over the next five years.

A lefthanded shooter and one of four players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists last season, the 6-8 Rose can also play both guard positions.

Best, 29, will be a free agent after the season and is averaging 6.9 points and 4.0 assists as a backup to rookie Jamaal Tinsley. He averaged 11.9 points and 6.1 assists last season.

Mercer, the Bulls’ leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, is on the injured list. Artest is the team’s second leading scorer at 15.6 points per game and Miller is third at 12.7.

The 25-year-old Mercer, who will make $6.75 million per season through 2003-04, will be a difficult fit in Indiana with Reggie Miller at shooting guard.

Known for his defense, the 6-7, 245-pound Artest addresses Indiana’s need for a player with the ability to cover high-scoring shooting guards and small forwards.

Artest, 22, expressed a desire to be traded to a winning team and volunteered to play any position but center for the Pacers.

The 7-foot, 260-pound Miller fills Indiana’s need for a big body in the middle. Jermaine O’Neal, who is 6-11 and 225 pounds, starts at center for Indiana with 6-11, 240-pound Jeff Foster serving as a backup. Along with averaging 12.7 points, Miller is grabbing 8.4 rebounds per game.

The Bulls faced the possibility of losing both Artest and Miller when their contracts expire after next season. Artest is playing under his rookie contract and is making $1.2 million this season. Miller is earning $4.4 million this season and is guaranteed $4.8 million in 2002-03.

Trading Miller paves the way for the Bulls to give more minutes to rookie center Eddy Curry.

Chicago would also love to unload 38-year-old power forward Charles Oakley, who is in the final year of a three-year contract and expressed a desire to be traded to a contender.