Jordan Already Orchestrating Next Adventure Says Bulls Management Should `Take Care Of' Pippen, Jackson

Article excerpt

The two-month thrill ride barely had ended when Michael Jordan began planning his next adventure.

He'll be back for the next NBA season, he said. He wants Scottie Pippen at his side and Phil Jackson in the coach's chair. He likes Toni Kukoc, but not at power forward. He wants most of his supporting cast back.

"I'm hoping that everyone, especially Pippen and Phil, will be taken care of over the summer," Jordan said after his comeback - and the Chicago Bulls' season - ended Thursday with a 108-102 playoff loss to the Orlando Magic. "I'd like to see them taken care of first. I can wait. I'm not starving."

That doesn't mean he's not hungry.

"I'm looking forward to coming back," Jordan said. "I still enjoy the game. My biggest challenge is to get this team back to where it once was."

Jordan spent the last two months chasing a dream, a fourth championship. He also chased a ghost - his own.

He came out of retirement March 18. The next day, he played his first game in 21 months. A week later, he beat Atlanta at the buzzer. Three days after that, he scored 55 points at New York.

It was all so easy for Michael Jeffrey Jordan, whose second coming was treated almost reverentially.

"The way some people were praising me, it was like I was some religious cult," he said. "That was embarrassing. People were looking at me as if I were a superhuman being."

He was no mere mortal in Chicago, where the frenzy exceeded that of the 1991, 1992 and 1993 title years.

"I'm back" became the two happiest words ever faxed. The return became The Event. His every movement was chronicled. Even his simple desire to trade in No. 45 for his old No. 23 stirred international debate.

The Bulls had won eight of 10 games before Jordan returned. With him, they finished the season with a 13-4 flourish.

Anything short of a championship would be a failure.

"That was part of the fun," Jordan said. "Obviously, we were not the same team as 18 months ago. But the fun part was trying to live up to those expectations . . . and we didn't."

In the end, Jordan couldn't pull it off. One of the top clutch performers in NBA history, Jordan lost the ball twice in the final 18 seconds as the Bulls handed Game 1 to the Magic.

Orlando won Game 3 by scoring the final nine points, as Jordan missed his last three shots and committed a turnover. …