Tuesday, November 16, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bulls' Heir To Air -- Well-Traveled Myers Takes Over For Jordan

Sometimes it's not talent or personality or even who you know. Sometimes it's just timing. Or being in the right place.

Chicago in 1986 was neither the right place nor the right time for Pete Myers. A sixth-round draft pick out of Arkansas-Little Rock, he made the Bull roster and played in 29 games, but mostly served as practice fodder for Michael Jordan.

Six years and nine teams later, Myers is back. And his timing has improved dramatically.

Myers, 30, had a hernia operation this summer that caused him to miss the opening of the season in Italy, where he'd played the previous two years. That's why he accepted the Bulls' offer of another tryout. He figured the Chicago training camp would give him an opportunity to recover from the surgery and get back into playing shape.

But a funny thing happened to Myers on his way back to Europe or the Continental Basketball Association or wherever else he may have landed. Jordan retired.

And Myers took his spot, becoming the heir to Air.

That is something like applying for a position as janitor and being hired instead as president of the company.

"I've been put in a situation that could really turn out to be positive for me," Myers said.

Chicago Coach Phil Jackson agrees, calling it a "win-win situation" for Myers.

"What's expected of a guy who's had a career that's been here and there, never maybe more than two years at one place?" Jackson asked. "It's all uphill. Everything he does is positive."

Already, by replacing arguably the greatest player in the history of basketball, Myers is arguably the most famous journeyman player in the history of basketball. That's something right there.

The road from plain ol' Pete Myers to The Guy Who Replaced Michael Jordan was a long and winding one.

His basketball resume reads like the itinerary from a Pearl Jam tour: From Chicago, he went to Rockford (CBA) to San Antonio to Philadelphia to New York to New Jersey and back to San Antonio in 1990-91. The past two years, he played in Italy, most recently for Scavolini Pesaro.

Myers also had a stop in Albany, N.Y., where he played a couple of 1991 CBA playoff games for the 50-6 Patroons team, coached by George Karl. After flying for nine hours from Italy, via Chicago, Myers arrived in Albany an hour before the game. Karl gave him three plays, and he was in the game that night.

"We thought he was good enough to play in the NBA," said Karl, whose SuperSonics play the Bulls tonight. "He's a defensive player with very good defensive hands. He's kind of a poor man's Nate McMillan, just not as good a passer."

In five games this season, all starts, Myers has averaged 9.5 points in 27.3 minutes. His high was 15 points against Atlanta last week. His most noteworthy act has been throwing down a shot from beyond midcourt at the halftime buzzer against the Hawks.

Well, that and being The Guy Who Replaced Michael Jordan.

The latter caused such a stir when opening night descended in Charlotte that Myers had to pull the plug on his phone. Everyone wanted a sound bite from him that day.

"Now I understand what Michael went through," Myers said. "But he went through that every day for 10 years. I only got it for a week.

"If you're a knowledgeable fan or a knowledgeable person," he added, "you understand that I'm not Michael Jordan. I'm Pete Myers."

Myers got a poignant reminder of that last week. The NBA nicked him $5,000 for hitting Miami's Steve Smith in the back of the head. Since Myers makes the league minimum of $150,000, it'll take three games to pay the fine.

Michael Jordan could have paid it off in less than five minutes.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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