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Held Ball
Phil Taylor
October 05, 1998
With talks stalled, exhibition games canceled and the start of the season in peril, the NBA lockout has the owners and the players facing hard time
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October 05, 1998

Held Ball

With talks stalled, exhibition games canceled and the start of the season in peril, the NBA lockout has the owners and the players facing hard time

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Neither side has any incentive to negotiate in earnest until the issue before arbitrator John Feerick regarding guaranteed contracts is resolved. The players association argues that the roughly 200 players with guaranteed deals should be paid during the lockout unless such payment is specifically prohibited in their contracts. The owners contend that the lockout supersedes any contract. Feerick has until Oct. 18 to rule, but even a decision in favor of the players is not likely to trigger a quick resolution of the lockout because the owners are certain to appeal in court.

3. Is Michael Jordan coming back?

He wants to, very much, if only the Chicago Bulls will ask him nicely. David Falk, Jordan's agent, created a stir earlier this month when he said he believed that if Jordan would allow him to get involved, he could work out a deal with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf that would bring Jordan, free-agent forward Scottie Pippen and former coach Phil Jackson (the latter two are not Falk clients) back for another season.

But Jordan has been noncommittal about playing again, and Pippen continues to tell friends that he doesn't think either he or Jordan will return to Chicago. Jordan has, however, told some fellow players, including Charles Barkley, who have been pronouncing him retired that he doesn't need them as spokesmen.

The prospect of yet another Last Dance seemed more plausible when Jackson met informally with Bulls director of basketball operations and coach-in-waiting Tim Floyd at Jackson's suburban Chicago house. But Jackson, who had packed up his Bulls office even before the Finals ended, is sitting this dance out. "Phil's intentions are well-known and unchanged," says Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger. "He wishes Tim Floyd well, and he had a private chat with him to convey that message and to compare notes. Nothing more should be read into it."

Those are the tea leaves. All anyone can do is read them as he chooses because it appears that not even Jordan knows what he will do. The good news—or is it the bad news?—is that it looks like he will have quite a while longer to ponder his future.

4. Who will coach the Los Angeles Clippers?

L.A. owner Donald Sterling has shown interest recently in former Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks coach Chris Ford, but the Clippers' organization is so chaotic that the front-runner for the job changes almost daily. "I don't know what they're doing," says one Eastern Conference coach. "I don't think they even know what they're doing."

One thing Los Angeles is doing is saving money. The Clippers, who have the only coaching vacancy in the league, quickly ended their pursuit of former Seattle Super-Sonics coach George Karl after they took a look at his price tag—Karl then signed a four-year, $20 million deal to replace Ford in Milwaukee—and the prevailing theory is, Sterling doesn't want to put a new coaching staff on the payroll until the end of the lockout is in sight.

Perhaps it doesn't make sense for L.A. to take a seemingly casual approach to hiring the man to whom it will entrust the development of No. 1 draft pick Michael Olowokandi. But if the Clippers did something that made sense, they wouldn't be the Clippers, would they?

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