When boyish-looking B.J. Armstrong first came to Chicago, he decided to go to the top of the skyscraping Sears Tower. "I wanted to see the skyline and get a feel for the city," he said with a laugh. "I think it was 16 and under and they just charged me for that. It was funny. They didn't even ask me my age."
So Armstrong, then 21, paid his dollar for the view from the top without complaint.
Now he's just one level below the top of the NBA, and his reduced playing time in the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers is a small price to pay. The reward is much richer than finding landmarks from the clouds.
"The bottom line is I'm one of 24 guys who are here and everyone else is on vacation," said the Chicago Bulls backup point guard, a first-round draft choice from Iowa in 1989.
In both the regular season and the Bulls' first three playoff series, Armstrong was fifth on the team in scoring and third in assists.
During the regular season, he averaged 21.1 minutes, 8.8 points and 3.7 assists in 82 games, all as a substitute. He scored 10 more points in 240 fewer minutes than John Paxson, the player he usually replaced.
In the first three playoff series, Armstrong still was effective, averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 assists in 19.6 minutes and outscoring Paxson again.
Then came the NBA Finals.
In the opener, he had six points and three assists in 10 minutes. In Game 2, with forward Scottie Pippen guarding Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson, Armstrong's activity dropped to seven minutes in which he missed his three shots, had no points and one assist.
But he still fits into coach Phil Jackson's plans as Chicago's first guard off the bench.
"I'm on a championship club," Armstrong said. "I'm a young player. I'm just trying to fit in and contribute where I can. I'm just trying to take everything as a positive and learn from the experience."
Jackson has shown faith in Armstrong since joining the team. As a rookie, Armstrong played in 81 games, all as a backup, averaging 15.9 minutes and 5.6 points. That fell slightly to 13.6 minutes and 4.0 points in the playoffs.
"I was the first guard coming off the bench this whole year," Armstrong said. "Being the sixth man on a team that won 61 games is not bad for a second-year guy. I've got to believe I helped out in some way. You've got to put your ego aside."
"B.J. is a natural rotation person," who relieves Paxson, Jackson said before the series. He's "done a good job."
"I'm just trying to become a good player in this league," Armstrong said. "If I was on Charlotte or Miami, I'd probably be playing 30 or 35 minutes a game and averaging in double figures."
But, he added, "I certainly wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world."