Loaded for one more run
?The not-so-odd couple. Sorry, Oprah, but don't expect All-Star guard Michael Jordan, who unretired last March, and All-Weird forward Dennis Rodman, who arrived from the San Antonio Spurs this fall in a trade for center Will Perdue, to provide you with a lot of juicy material. On the court Rodman is the consummate team player and, more important, the game's most relentless rebounder. Rodman should dovetail nicely with Jordan, whose avowed goal is proving that he's still the most exciting and unstoppable player on the planet. Throw in All-Star forward Scottie Pippen, and Chicago has three players who are the best in the league at their positions.
?The weak link. Plodding center Luc Longley. He's often out of sync with his high-octane teammates.
?The urgency factor. Of the core players, only Longley and swingman Toni Kukoc are less than 30 years old.
?Outlook. The Bulls are the favorites to run to the title.
It's now or never
? Best additions. Newcomers but old-timers Eddie Johnson and Ricky Pierce, both 36, can come off the bench and produce instant offense with their outside shooting. This should enable Indiana to take pressure off All-Star guard Reggie Miller, heretofore its sole long-range threat, and the Pacers' strong inside players—center Rik Smits and the Davis forwards, Antonio and Dale.
?The point of no returns? Like Miller, point guard Mark Jackson has had his differences with coach Larry Brown, who says Jackson lost his intensity somewhere between L.A., where Brown coached him as a Clipper, and Indiana. "Reggie and Rik are capable of making the big shot at any time," Brown says, "but they need someone to get them the ball." If Jackson isn't that someone, maybe rookie Travis Best is.
?Stat that can't be repeated. The Davises' total of 45 games lost to injury in 1994-95.
?Outlook. After two years of teasing their fans with Game 7 losses in the conference finals, the Pacers know they must deliver.