This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by BothTeamsPlayedHard- 1 week, 1 day ago.
Posted on: Fri, 05/15/2020 - 2:34am #1231946
Dazzling Dunks and Basketball BloopersParticipant
Lets pretend for a second that we live in an alternate universe where Michael Jordan never retired at the height of his powers in 1993 to play baseball. Lets also pretend that we Krause and Reinsdorf did everything they could to placate Jordan, Pippen and Jackson and keep the dynasty together for at least one or two more seasons after 1998. Is it plausible that the Bulls could have won 8, 9 or even 10 championships in a row?
Well, I think its highly likely they would have gotten to at least four in a row. The 93-94 Bulls with Jordan may have actually been the best Bulls team of the decade. That squad was basically the core of the first 3-peat Bulls, plus the addition of Toni Kukoc, who added a whole different demension to their offense. Guys like Cartwright and Paxson were on their last legs at that point, but they brought in Kerr and Longley as replacements. It featured Pippen and Grant at the absolute peaks of their career. They won 55 games without Jordan. Their toughest competition in the East would have been the Knicks, who they almost beat without Jordan. Even though Hakeem would have presented some matchup problems in the Finals, a complete Bulls team would have likely handled them pretty easily, especially considering it was the pre-Clyde Drexler version of the team.
After that it gets murky and there are a lot of questions. If the Bulls had won the championship in 1994 would Horace Grant have resigned in free agency? Would Pippen have been content to keep playing second fiddle? Would Jordan have gotten worn down physically and mentally and would he have been able to keep the motivation and drive necessary to keep chasing titles? Lets just say for arguments sake that Grant does go to Orlando as he did after the 1994 season. I don’t think there’s anyway you could consider the Bulls to be title favorites in 1995. Losing Grant left them extremely vulnerable against physical teams with a strong inside presence. I don’t see them getting by Orlando or Indiana in the East that year, and even if they did I don’t see them beating Houston with Drexler in the lineup.
That brings up a whole nother set of questions about whether the second three-peat would have even happened. Does Jordan break down and walk away from the game sooner if he never had the 2 year break? Does Rodman still sign with Chicago? Its very possible that the Bulls dynasty would have fizzled out much sooner.
However, lets just say that the 1996-1998 seasons still played out exactly as they did in real life with the Bulls winning another three in a row. At this point, the Bulls have now won 7 in 8 years and management decides to whatever it takes to keep it going. They essentially bring back the same crew for one more go round. This is where I think the run definitely ends. At that point most of the role players on the team were old and well past their prime. Rodman was 37 and going off the rails in his personal life. He wasn’t a guy that could be relied upon at that time. Pippen was never really close to the same player after that 98 season. He never made another All-Star team the rest of his career. And even though Jordan would still be Jordan, it would be unreasonable to expect him to keep playing without at least some subtle signs of regression as he got into his late 30s, considering the mileage he would have had on his body after a decade of deep playoff runs with no breaks.
Even if he were somehow able to carry the Bulls back to another Finals in 1999, which by no means would I say is a given, I highly doubt that even he would be able to carry that team past the size and physicality that San Antonio possessed.
Jordan has often said that taking a break from basketball allowed him to recharge and regain his love for the game. So even if Jordan probably gave up one title in 1994, it allowed him to have the motivation and energy necessary to win 3 more. Thats why I don’t really buy into the argument that Jordan left championships on the table and I don’t buy the idea that 8-9 titles in a row would have been possible.1+
Posted on: Fri, 05/15/2020 - 5:24am #1231984
I agree, a big part of winning championships is wanting to more than everybody else. It’s hard to keep doing that year after year when you’ve already proven yourself.
If the first threepeat team stayed together, they for sure had the talent to keep winning in ’94 and ’95. Would they have had the drive, and the health? Who knows.
If the second threepeat team came back in ’98-99 — assuming the team stayed hungry and Rodman held it together — they would have probably made it to the Finals (the #8 seed Knicks won the East that year). But they would have run into a buzzsaw in the Spurs. Just no way the frontline of Rodman, Longley and Kukoc could hang with Duncan and the Admiral. And the Spurs had lots of tough, veteran wing defenders — Sean Elliott, Mario Elie, Jerome Kersey, Jaren Jackson — to throw at Jordan and Pippen. Not that they would have stopped MJ, but they’d have made him work for everything.1+
Posted on: Fri, 05/15/2020 - 5:49am #1231989
8 if hoarce grant still left to orlando, 9 if he stayed. no way bulls beat rockets losing grant foor nothing. Bulls would probably beat spurs in 99 and lose to lakers in 20000
Posted on: Sat, 05/16/2020 - 3:47am #1232278
LeBron’s run of 8 straight trips to the Finals has really made it more difficult for people to realize how hard it is physically on guys to have 100 game seasons. Magic won 5 titles, went to 9 Finals, but only Kareem and Michael Cooper were on the 5 title winners and only Cooper was with him on all 9 trips to the Finals. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich won 5 titles, but they were the only constants across that run. Golden State went to 4 straight Finals, and body parts started falling off. Draymond Green is only 8 years in, but the toll on his body as a unique but undersized player has added up quickly. There is a balance between keeping together a team that is working, and adding keeping the group fresh by bringing in new guys – and fresh legs for especially long and taxing seasons. For the Bulls to have transitioned the roster from the first three-peat to the second, the Bulls kind of needed things to play out the way they did. Contributors on champions get paid. This is true throughout the Bulls years. It was only going to be possible to keep so many guys around. Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong, and Scott Williams were always going to get paid. With the 2nd group, everyone got a golden parachute of a contract after 1998 except Dennis. If Jordan was around in 1994, the Bulls could have won it, but it would have impacted how the team evolved for the second three-peat. Horace Grant would still be a free agent. Cartwright and Paxson would still be on their last legs. Scott Williams would still get paid, amazingly so. The Bulls signed Ron Harper before the 1994-95 season. It could not have happened if Jordan was still playing because they did so with one of those weird NBA exceptions that came available when Jordan retired.
As for 1999, Jordan nearly cut his finger off with a cigar cutter in after the season in 1998. Even if he wanted to be bluffing with Reinsdorf and Krause about Phil Jackson, he would not have been able to play in 1999. Let’s say Jordan’s shooting hand would have healed quickly. Pippen’s back problems were escalating in 1998, and never getting better, Rodman’s lifestyle accelerated his decline, and number of the guys were free agents. Going into 1999 with 35-year old Ron Harper, 35-year old Jordan with a finger put back together, Pippen with a bad back, 37-year old Rodman, either a vastly overpaid Luc Longley or something like the Mark Bryant-Bill Wennington duo, and then Toni Kukoc, Randy Brown, and Rusty LaRue in the Steve Kerr role coming off the bench. In 1999, Kukoc would have surpassed Pippen in importance, his back was bad, and that would have driven Pippen nuts. It would have been a really ugly year.1+
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