Bulls' Jerrys about to stew in own juices

June 09, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

CHICAGO -- Maybe the two Jerrys will determine that Phil Jackson directed one of Dennis Rodman's fines to his wife's favorite charity.

That charge backfired on a certain baseball owner, you say?

Well, it might be the two Jerrys' only hope.

Reinsdorf, the Chicago Bulls' owner, and Krause, their basketball VP, want to break up the '90s equivalent of the Beatles, the last great dynasty in sports.

Both are about to get what they deserve.

The Bulls appear ready to win their sixth NBA title, and when they do, the Second City is going to turn into Squirm City for their supposed braintrust.

The Bulls aren't too old. They aren't too tired. They're the greatest show on earth, and it clearly is not time for their run to end.

Think of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as John Lennon and Paul McCartney, or as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Only the two Jerrys could think of them apart.

Hate to spoil this latest coronation, but it's going to happen. The wheels have been in motion for too long now. It's too late for anyone to turn back.

Jackson is gone. Pippen is gone.

Why would Jordan even want to return?

The question is currently on hold, with the Bulls leading the Jazz in the NBA Finals, two games to one.

"I think that is a decision that the organization is going to have to make at the end of the season," Jordan said yesterday.

"I think that all we can worry about is what we are doing now. Hopefully, that is enough to keep it intact, or for everybody to want to keep it intact."

Frankly, the only solution is for Reinsdorf to whack Krause, preferably during the victory celebration at Grant Park, so all Chicago could savor the moment.

Krause could be reassigned within the organization -- say, to director of Iowa scouting, the better for him to enjoy his favorite coach, Iowa State's Tim Floyd.

Jackson would stay. Jordan would stay. And Pippen might stay, too, if Reinsdorf came up with the necessary free-agent dollars.

Why not do it?

Because Reinsdorf is loyal to Krause.

And because his ego won't allow him to blink in one of the longest and nastiest stare-downs in the history of sports.

Reinsdorf is already trying to spin this, claiming that Jackson doesn't want to stay as coach, setting him up as the heavy if Jordan departs.

If you believe that, you believe that Jon Miller didn't want to stay with the Orioles, and neither did Davey Johnson.

Same plot, different sport.

Jackson doesn't want to stay where he isn't wanted. And Krause wants another coach, namely the unheralded Floyd.

Now, imagine if Cal Ripken were a free agent last season, saying he would play for no other manager but Johnson.

That's what Jordan has done.

But at 35, he apparently does not want to retire.

"I feel good," he said yesterday. "As long as you give me time enough to prepare myself for the grueling season, to work out and get myself in shape, I'm not worried about playing a full season, a full couple of seasons."

Jackson, apparently fearful of losing his leverage, told NBC before the series that Jordan should retire if the Bulls defeated the Jazz, so that he could go out on top.

That suggestion was plainly ridiculous, and Jordan treated it as such.

"Phil also said I should be a player-coach, too. Phil's thrown out a lot of opportunities for me," he said, smiling. "I don't know if I should fire [agent] David Falk and hire him, or what."

Given Jordan's apparent desire to play, is it possible the Bulls could satisfy him by re-signing the 32-year-old Pippen and elevating one of Jackson's assistants -- say, Jimmy Rodgers -- to head coach?

Krause wouldn't approve -- he wants to get younger, implement a long-term plan.

Besides, Pippen keeps giving every indication he wants to leave. He said yesterday that he plans to explore free agency "to the fullest."

Still, it's starting to sound like Pippen might be the most important part of the equation to Jordan -- even more important than Jackson.

Jordan recognizes that he is a better player with Pippen, that the two of them alone could enable the Bulls to compete, no matter who was their coach.

"His confidence is just as strong as mine. His competitiveness is just as strong as mine. It's like playing with a twin brother," Jordan said.

Pippen, though, is fed up with Krause, fed up with being the Bulls' fifth-highest-paid player, at a salary of less than $3 million.

He could wind up with Phoenix or Los Angeles next season. But under NBA salary-cap rules, no team could pay him as much as the Bulls.

Which brings us back to Jordan.

Would he, too, leave Chicago?

It seems unthinkable, but what are his options? He's committed to Jackson. He needs Pippen. And he never hides his disdain for Krause and Reinsdorf.

Imagine Jordan exacting revenge on the two Jerrys in a New York Knicks or Miami Heat uniform next season.

It would be the worst possible outcome.

It would be exactly what the two Jerrys deserve.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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