Joe Smith chooses Bulls over Sixers

LAS VEGAS - The 76ers lost out on their top off-season priority Friday night, with free-agent forward Joe Smith agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Bulls.

The Sixers had been pleasantly surprised with the 31-year-old Smith, the former first pick overall in the 1995 draft, who was a piece in the Allen Iverson trade with the Denver Nuggets last winter.

Smith played in 54 games with the Sixers, averaging 9.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 25 minutes a game. But he quickly became a solid presence in the locker room and a teacher to some of the team's younger players, and president and general manager Billy King wanted very badly to re-sign him.

"Philly really couldn't come up with the same package," said Dan Fegan, Smith's agent. "We tried. I really like both of those groups. We wouldn't have sent him to another team if the dollars were the same."

The Sixers' best offer was a three-year deal for $10 million.

The Bulls had been interested in Smith from the beginning of the free-agent process, looking for a veteran big man to come off the bench. Chicago also re-signed its own restricted free agent, Andres Nocioni, to a $38 million deal earlier in the week.

Also, free-agent center Mikki Moore accepted a three-year deal with the Sacramento Kings. Moore was one of the more coveted big men available, but the 76ers were more interested in either re-signing Smith or signing center Darko Milicic, who agreed to a three-year deal with Memphis for $21 million.

A source indicated that Milicic may have come to the Sixers on a two-year agreement if he had not gotten the three-year deal in Memphis.

Contact staff writer David Aldridge at 215-854-5516 or