-- Eddy Curry, possessing the most scrutinized and analyzed heart in the NBA, finally found his way into a New York Knicks practice jersey Friday night. Curry completed his first full practice since experiencing a cardiac arrhythmia in March, and sweat covered his shirt and shorts afterward as if he had just walked through the heart of Tropical Storm Tammy, which soaked the region this week.
The Knicks were finally able to complete a trade with the Chicago Bulls for Curry on Friday, ending months of speculation about his future and contentious contract negotiations with his former team.
"I'm happy to have all that stuff behind me and people can start looking at me as a basketball player and not a patient," said Curry, 22, who was had his heart examined numerous times in the past six months. "I go out there knowing and feeling I'm not at more risk than anybody else. I'm more worried about breaking my finger or something like that. I'm not worried about my heart."
Curry experienced an irregular heartbeat on March 30 in Charlotte and was forced to miss the final 19 games last season, including the Bulls' first-round loss to the Washington Wizards. There were conflicting medical opinions on Curry's condition, but the Knicks needed only three days to be convinced that Curry was worth the risk, while the Bulls watched with fear and apprehension over the past six months, trying to determine if Curry was too risky to play, much less pay.
The Bulls were prepared to give Curry a long-term contract, but they demanded Curry take a DNA test to determine if he was genetically susceptible to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the potentially fatal heart condition that caused the on-court deaths of the Boston Celtics' Reggie Lewis in 1993 and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers in 1990. Considering the troubling history of athletes with heart conditions, the Bulls even offered to give Curry $20 million over the next 50 years if he took the DNA exam and was found to be prone to the condition.
Curry said he would have taken the test for himself, but not for the team, believing that it violated his privacy. "At no point did I fear my life was in danger," he said.
Bulls General Manager John Paxson felt compelled to trade away the promising center the Bulls drafted fourth in the 2001 draft directly out of high school. The Knicks sent Tim Thomas and former Georgetown star Michael Sweetney to the Bulls. In addition to Curry -- who signed a six-year deal worth about $60 million -- the Knicks also got veteran forward Antonio Davis, whose status with the team remains in question while he tends to his mother-in-law in Chicago.
The trade was agreed upon on Monday, but couldn't be finalized until Knicks' doctors medically cleared Curry -- a process that kept Curry in limbo for most of this week. Curry arrived in Charleston on Wednesday but was unable to practice until Friday night after a cardiologist hired independently by the NBA reviewed the Knicks' information on Curry. "This is a very complicated issue that required a lot of sensitivity and care," Knicks President Isiah Thomas said. "I'm extremely confident in what we have, and what was done. Eddy is going to be playing in the NBA and living a healthy life for a long time."
Curry participated in every drill, at times appearing winded. But he showcased his soft hands and quick feet, exploded off the floor for dunks and plowed his 6-foot-11, 285-pound body into the lane without fear. "Just watching him, he's as good as any young big man I've ever seen," said Knicks Coach Larry Brown.
The two teams had opposing views on Curry's condition: The Bulls believed that Curry was putting his life in danger by stepping on the court; the Knicks believed that Curry was perfectly fit to play basketball. "It was tough to hear the team that you grew up watching didn't want you no more. It was a breath of fresh air what the New York Knicks did," Curry said.