:24 can the Chicago Hulls three-peal? And if you accept the conventional NBA wisdom that even champions need to make changes in order to stay ahead of the pack, how will the '92-93 Bulls be different from their predecessors?
That's two questions, but who's counting? Yes, the Bulls will become the first NBA team to win three straight titles since the '65-66 Celtics eight-peated. And though Chicago will basically remain the same—what can they do, use Michael Jordan as a decoy?—look for some subtle changes.
The defense will add a wrinkle or two, perhaps more full-court pressure, double teams coming from strange directions and maybe a new pattern for rotating off the double teams. The point is, coach Phil Jackson has a team that is already strong on defense, and he has a creative defensive coach (Johnny Bach) to make it even better.
The Bulls also hope to get more consistency out of their second unit, an entirely realistic goal. Though nine-year veteran Rodney McCray, obtained from Dallas in an off-season trade, has been singled out so often as an underrated player that he has almost become overrated, he was a great addition, and he can play three positions (power and small forward and off-guard). Backup point guard B.J. Armstrong will continue to believe that he could be starting for most other teams (he's right), and he will continue to try to prove it. And like him or not, reserve center Stacey King has shown that he can score in the NBA.
Finally, Chicago sees Scott Williams, third-string in the pivot, as a defensive wild card who can turn around games, a shot-blocking rebounder who can dominate inside.
What NBA trend will be started if the Bulls do win again?
Look for a selective preseason practice schedule. Jackson allowed Dream Teamer Jordan to miss the entire first week of training camp; gave Scottie Pippen, another Olympian, some downtime during rigorous two-a-days; and severely cut back on the demands placed on two starters who are rehabilitating from off-season arthroscopic surgery, John Paxson and Bill Cartwright. Sure, it caused some tension—Horace Grant walked out of camp one day complaining about the preferential treatment. But experienced clubs such as the Bulls do not need their veteran players going at each other hammer and tongs from Day One.
Will Gerald Wilkins supply that "something" that the Cleveland Cavaliers need to become true contenders?
Maybe. Wilkins, the former Knick whose inconsistency and tendency to overrate his game are exposed every year, gives the Cavs an additional athletic dimension. Privately, Jordan will admit that Wilkins's defense is capable of giving him fits, which was "something" none of the other Cavs could do. In four regular-season games against the Knicks last season, Jordan struggled from the floor (he shot just 44%, compared with 51.9% overall), mostly because of Wilkins. But....
There's something else missing from the Cavs. Toughness. True hunger. Nastiness. An us-against-the-world, we'll-show-'em mentality. The Cavs still have maybe the East's best pure point guard in All-Star Mark Price, but they did not change enough to leapfrog the Bulls.