Ric Bucher was back on Speak For Yourself on Monday. Sitting in the afterglow of two hours of a documentary about how great Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were, Bucher told Jason Whitlock that Jerry Krause was right to break up the Bulls after winning the 1998 championship. Why? Because going for another title might have put the team in a position where they needed to rebuild. OK, Bucher.
Bucher argues that Scottie Pippen was never the same after having back surgery. That may be true, but Pippen didn't miss a single game over the next two years. Pippen played a career-high 40 minutes per game in '98-'99 in his one season in Houston while he averaged 14/6/6/2. Then he went to Portland where he helped take the Blazers to seven games in the Western Conference Finals against Phil Jackson's Lakers. Pippen's Blazers also lost in the next two postseasons to the eventual champion Lakers and Jackson.
Yes, the Bulls' best players were all in their thirties, but who cares with a 50-game season that saw the eighth-seeded Knicks make the Finals against Tim Duncan's Spurs? The worst part is that Bucher actually says he can see where they might have "eeked one more championship out" of that shortened season. And the cherry on top:
"Would that have been worth having a team that had nothing at the end of it and had to be completely rebuilt at that point?"
Would competing for a title in '99 have been worth throwing away the 13-37 season they suffered instead? Some might argue yes, but then the Bulls wouldn't have had a chance to steal Tim Floyd away from Iowa State.
Floyd, who Krause groomed to replace Jackson, did not work out. They got worse every year, going 17-65 in '99-'00, 15-67 in '00-'01 and somehow got off to a more pitiful 4-21 start in '01-'02 before he was finally fired. The fact that Floyd was invited back to coach a second, third and fourth season is insane.
Giving Floyd the greatest benefit of doubt possible, perhaps the goal was to tank in his first season, which obviously is much better than trying to win another title with Michael Jordan. If you can turn off your brain then that plan worked as the Bulls ended up with the top pick in the draft and took Elton Brand, who turned out to be a good player. Brand won Rookie of the Year and averaged 20 and 10 in his first two seasons. A year later the Bulls took Marcus Fizer and Chris Mihm with the fourth and seventh picks respectively. The team unsurprisingly got worse and they traded Brand to the Clippers in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner. They then teamed Chandler with Eddy Curry. That team was so bad they ended up with the second pick in the 2002 draft.
And if you think that's bad, imagine what kind of disrepair the franchise would have found itself in after another Finals appearance with Jordan, Pippen and Jackson.
Finally, there is Bucher's argument that Jordan, the richest athlete in the history of the world, would have had to take a large paycut. Considering Jordan only played two seasons in his entire career where he was close to fairly compensated and played for a $1 million a season when he returned to the NBA with the Wizards a few years later, I think he might have considered leaving $10-$20 million on the table if it meant trying to win another title. That's basically a slow night in Atlantic City before a playoff game.
In summation, this was the Michael Jordan of bad Michael Jordan takes. Bucher should have listened to Jerry Krause and stopped this one before it was over.