The Associated Press
CHICAGO Ä Last year, the Chicago Bulls blew their chance for a fourth consecutive NBA title.
Now it's Michael Jordan's turn to go for his own ''four-peat.''
''I came back to win a championship. That's my purpose,'' he said. ''I didn't do it to just go through the motions. I'm here and I'm ready for the playoffs.''
Michael's mission begins Friday, when the Bulls open the postseason at Charlotte against the Hornets.
Jordan carried Chicago to titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993. But while the Bulls were losing in the second round last May to the New York Knicks, he was busing around baseball's Southern League with the Birmingham Barons.
''The experience I had was very valuable, an experience I needed,'' Jordan said. ''It was a great break for me. It was great revisiting dedicated athletes, dedicated believers in their dreams.''
Jordan's own baseball dream didn't work out, so he quit and returned to basketball.
He insisted his decision was calculated, not impetuous. Though the Bulls were 34-31 before he began his comeback, he saw championship possibilities.
''I was aware of what the team's talents were,'' he said. ''I watched enough games to know what they had.''
Without him, they didn't have enough. But with him ...
''Everyone's been assessing the Chicago Bulls against the team of two years ago,'' Jordan said. ''But our last two championship years, the league was stronger. Now there's more parity. Our team doesn't have to be the team of yesterday. We can be like we are and still have the opportunity to win. We may not need to be the Chicago Bulls of 1993 to win the championship.''
Asked if he felt he picked the perfect time to come back, Jordan flashed that famous ''I can sell you anything'' smile, winked and said: ''That's the thought pattern.''
Going 13-4 after Jordan joined them, the Bulls finished 47-35. He personally won games at Atlanta and New York, and was the key performer in most other contests.
''He's brought a certain energy and competitiveness,'' coach Phil Jackson said. ''Definitely, we've gotten more shots, quicker shots, easier shots. Our team play has improved.''
And it should continue to improve because Jordan Ä who averaged 26.9 points but shot only 41 percent in his 17 games Ä should get better.
''Michael is not yet at the form which we anticipate he will play at in the playoffs,'' Jackson said.
Does the coach wish he had more time before the postseason to blend Jordan's talents with those of the other Bulls?
''No, I think it's time to get on with it.''
That's also the feeling of Jordan, who called the NBA regular season ''garbage'' and referred to the playoffs as ''the fun part.''
''I think I'm fresher and a little bit more hungry than a lot of players because I have something to prove to myself and for the team,'' he said.
''A team that wins three championships has a different swagger. This team was up and down, so it isn't the same swagger. But I believe in this team. I believe in myself. I believe in our chances, or I wouldn't have come back.''
Read Next Article