Anticipating the End
It's not altogether surprising that the Chicago Bulls appear to be crumbling from within. Dynasties tend to do that. What is confounding is that the Bulls seem so eager to hurry the process along. That was never more apparent than at the opening of Chicago's training camp last week, when most of the Bulls' key figures seemed to be looking forward not to pursuing their sixth NBA championship in eight years, but to dismantling the club at season's end.
Coach Phil Jackson, 52, who signed a one-year contract in July, said that "it would take wild horses to drag me back" to the team after this season. General manager Jerry Krause indicated he wouldn't provide so much as a Shetland pony to keep Jackson in town. "This is it," Krause said, "the final year."
Krause and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf have been cavalier about the prospect of Jackson's departure, though it could very well cost them Michael Jordan too. Jordan, 34, reiterated last week that he doesn't want to play for any coach other than Jackson. It seems just as certain that forward Scottie Pippen, 32, will leave when he becomes a free agent next July 1. Chicago has had him on the trading block for nearly three years and has given no indication that it wants to re-sign him.
Krause provided an insight into the arrogance of the Bulls' front office when he implied last week that players and coaches are only secondarily responsible for Chicago's success. "Organizations win championships," Krause said. To that Jordan replied, "I'd like to see some of those organization guys step out there and play."
If the Bulls' strategy is to compensate for the loss of Pippen (and Jordan) by acquiring a top free agent next summer, as is widely believed, that plan suffered a serious blow last week when Kevin Garnett signed a six-year, $125 million extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Antonio McDyess was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have a far better chance of re-signing McDyess than the Nuggets did.
Krause and Reinsdorf have created a lame-duck atmosphere that could affect the Bulls' attitude this season. Already, Pippen's handling of a lingering soft-tissue injury to his left foot has been called into question. Does he need surgery, or is he no longer willing to play in pain for a front office he feels has failed to show him respect? Add Pippen's uncertain status to the facts that the Bulls still had not re-signed forward Dennis Rodman at week's end and sixth man Toni Kukoc was still nursing a sore right arch, and Chicago's dynasty looks fragile before its time. "It's a bad way," says Jordan, "to end an unbelievable run."
Say It Ain't Sold
Seventy-six years after Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Shoeless Joe Jackson from baseball, the Supreme Court of South Carolina has ruled that Jackson's will—bearing what is perhaps the rarest signature in American sports—is to remain locked in government archives. Jackson, who died in 1951 in Greenville, S.C., was, it seems, not only shoeless but also nearly letterless. He often signed an X rather than his name. Experts say that his will would fetch more than $100,000 from collectors.
The document became a bone of contention in 1993. That was when the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association—primary beneficiaries of the estate of Shoeless Joe's widow, Katie, who died in 1959—sued Greenville County and probate judge C. Diane Smock for the right to substitute a certified copy of the will for the original. They claimed that his will had become Katie's property upon his death and should therefore have gone to the charities.