Did Jerry Reinsdorf get off easy in ‘The Last Dance?’

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From the first night of “The Last Dance,” Bulls’ GM Jerry Krause was painted as the villain in Michael Jordan’s heroic epic.

It was Krause who said, “Even if Phil [Jackson] goes 82-0 he’s not coming back.” It’s Krause who Jordan and Pippen mercilessly picked on (and who Pippen blamed for not renegotiating his contract). And make no mistake, Krause thought it was the right call to break up the Bulls in 1998 rather than bring the band back together for one more run.

Ultimately, it’s not Krause’s call.

That’s an ownership decision. If Jerry Reinsdorf tells Krause to run it back for another year, we get the 1999 season we all wanted to see.

Until the last 15 minutes of episode 10, Reinsdorf got off easy in The Last Dance documentary, but then he was asked why he broke up the team. It was all about the money.

“Now, after the sixth championship, things were beyond our control. It would have been (financially) suicidal at that point in their careers to bring back Pippen, Steve Kerr, Rodman, Ron Harper, their market value individually was going to be too high, they weren’t going to be worth the money they were going to get in the market,” Reinsdorf said. “So, when we realized we were going to have to go into a rebuild, I went to Phil and offered him the opportunity to come back the next year, but he said I don’t want to go through a rebuild, ‘I don’t want to coach a bad team.’ That was the end, it just came to an end on its own.

“If Michael had been healthy and wanted to come back, I don’t doubt that Krause could have rebuilt a championship team in a couple of years, but it wasn’t going to happen instantly.”

The Bulls had Bird rights on all those players — it would have been expensive, but Reinsdorf could have kept the core of the team together. He chose not to. Every owner has the right to say, “this is our spending limit,” but this Bulls’ team was a cash cow and had been for years (the Bulls are consistently one of the league’s most profitable teams), filling the United Center and becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Break it up, send Jordan into retirement, and the value of the franchise drops. There were financial reasons to keep them together. Reinsdorf has a reputation around the league of a big market owner who spends like a mid-market owner, and it’s situations like this that are why. He’s also loyal and trusting of his GMs, even when he should step in (how long was Gar/Pax left in charge when it wasn’t working?).

Jordan’s reaction?

“It’s maddening because I felt like we could have won seven. I really believe that. We may not have, but not to be able to try that’s something I just can’t accept,” Jordan said.

Jordan said the team knew this was the last year, they just had a hard time wrapping their heads around it. They also would have come back for another run.

“In ’98, Krause said at the start of the season ‘Phil can go 82-0 and he was never going to be the coach.’ When Phil said it was the last dance, we knew it was the last dance. We knew they weren’t going to keep the team [together],” Jordan said at the end of the documentary. “Now they could have nixed all of it at the beginning of’ 98. Why say that statement at the beginning of ’98?

“If you ask all the guys who won in ’98 — Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, blah, blah, blah, — we give you a one-year contract to try for seven [titles], do you think they would have signed?

“Yes. They would have signed. Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would have signed. I had been signing one-year contracts up to that. Would Phil have done it? Yes. Now, Pip, you would have had to do some convincing. But if Phil was going to be there, if Dennis was going to be there, if MJ was going to be there to win that seventh, Pip is not going to miss out on that.”

We’ll never know if they could have won a seventh. It’s the greatest “what if” in NBA history.

If you want to blame someone for the breakup of the Bulls — who have won five playoff series total in the 22 seasons since Jordan retired — it’s not all about Krause. This decision went straight to the top.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”