Brushing aside months of speculation, Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf denied that he plans to break up one of the greatest teams in basketball history.
"If we win the championship, I would be inclined to invite everyone back," Reinsdorf said in an interview in Friday's editions of the Chicago Tribune."Neither I nor Jerry Krause has ever said - anywhere - that we want to break up the team," Reins-dorf said. "We get accused of saying it. I read it all the time. I hear Spike Lee saying it on the "Jay Leno Show."
Reinsdorf's comments came after the team's first loss of the playoffs, a 78-76 homecourt upset by the Charlotte Hornets, which tied the second-round series.
Michael Jordan said Reinsdorf's comments wouldn't make the team try any harder to win a title.
"Our focus has been to win all along. It wasn't dependent on if we get a job or didn't get a job. That shouldn't change our motivation at all," he said.
Reinsdorf said he has met separately over the past two weeks with Jordan and coach Phil Jackson.
However, Jackson's agent, Todd Musberger, said he was not convinced of Reinsdorf's sincerity.
In an interview Friday with Chicago's WMAQ Radio, the agent said he thinks the Bulls were just practicing spin control on a bad public relations situation.
"They are trying to put the responsibility on the players for not coming back, not the team," he said. "The Bulls are having a hard time taking the responsibility for what might happen."
Musberger said he doubts Jackson will be back next season after what Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause said during contract talks last summer.
"They told us loud and clear this would be the last year of Phil's duties as coach of the team," he said. "They have had ample time to display what they want to do."
Jordan has said he remains undecided on whether to spend another year with the Bulls, while Jackson has announced publicly that he does not plan to remain as coach next season - a position he reiterated Friday.
"I have no intention to return and coach this team," Jackson told WLS-TV.
Reinsdorf said he told Jordan to take his time in deciding, even if that might interfere with rebuilding plans.
"Michael told me he didn't know if he wanted to come back next year," he said. "He said he wants to take the bulk of the summer to make up his mind, and then he feels it will be obvious to him."