According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “The Chicago Bulls have reached out to Phil Jackson through back channels to gauge his interest in returning to the franchise he won six NBA titles with, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. There has been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, according to the sources, but people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season.”
So, let me get this straight: Jerry Reinsdorf — the same man who seemed to ever-so-gently nudge Jackson out of town after the Bulls won their sixth title in 1998 — is willing to pry open up his wallet to bring Phil back? And P-Jax “would be open” to that?
Without going any further, I’m going to go ahead and file this one under “Let’s not get too excited over things just yet.”
After all, as the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson wrote: “A Bulls source downplayed an ESPN report that claimed the Bulls are working back channels to gauge Phil Jackson’s interest in returning to the franchise he led to six championships.”
Johnson is also quick to remind everybody about what Jackson had to say back on May 4 when somebody asked him if he was interested in the Bulls coaching job: “No, I’m not. I think it’s a wonderful job for whoever takes it. It’s a team on the rise and there’s some young talent that showed their ability to come back after probably a devastating first two months. Then from January on they played pretty well.”
Jackson has hinted at the possibility of retirement — “It’s really about how I feel about getting into another 82-game season. It’s a commitment.” — but has also said that there’s a “90 percent chance” that if he coaches next season it will be with the Lakers.
In L.A., Phil has a championship contender out of the box. In Chicago, he’s have to build it (not quite from scratch but close) and the Bulls would probably have to sign LeBron James and possibly another significant player without giving up Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah to provide Jackson with the proper motivation to return to the Windy City.
Of course, the situation is also highly dependent on whether Lakers owner Jerry Buss is willing to show Jackson the money. As Broussard pointed out: “Buss reportedly wants Jackson to take a pay cut from the $12 million salary he’s receiving this season.”
It’s awfully hard to imagine asking the coach with the second-highest winning percentage in league history and an NBA record 10 championships to take a pay cut, you know?
Which brings us to what is most likely the real reason Phil “would be open” to what I’m sure would be a tear-filled reunion with the old boss he loves to hate. As Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “At the same time, it’s smart for Jackson to show interest in the Bulls because it helps his leverage with the Lakers.”
And there you have it.
The reality is, a lot of circumstances would have to converge for Jackson to coach the Bulls next season. Chicago would probably have to sign LeBron and bring in another solid, possibly All-Star caliber player. Buss would have to demand a significant reduction in Jackson’s salary. And Reinsdorf — a well-noted cheapskate — would have to offer Phil a lot of cash to leave L.A. or opt out of retirement.
I can’t see all that happening.