Bulls

Jerry Krause explains why the Bulls’ dynasty unraveled, in his words

Jerry Krause explains why the Bulls’ dynasty unraveled, in his words

In this final excerpt from Jerry Krause's unfinished and unpublished memoir, the Bulls' general manager pulls back the curtain on the end of the dynasty.

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“There’s Jerry Krause, the guy who broke up the championship dynasty.”

“There’s Jerry Krause, the guy with the huge ego who wanted to build a championship team without Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, the guy who thought he was more important than the players and coaches.” 

If I’ve heard or seen those quotes a thousand times in different publications and venues throughout America, you can be sure there were thousands of them said to which I wasn’t privy.

Up until now, as you read this, nobody outside of Jerry Reinsdorf, myself and a few select people in the Bulls organization really knows what happened in the aftermath of winning our sixth world championship in eight years.

Did we break up the winning team so that we could satisfy our own egos and win without those players and coaches? Do you really think that people who worked for so many years to win and then win again and again would be dumb enough to let egos get in the way of trying to win again? 

Do you think that an organization built with one single purpose, from its chairman on down through the lowest-ranking member of the front office — to win championships — would easily give up that thought?

During the last championship run in 1998, cracks in the foundation of the teams we’d built began to alarmingly show up at inopportune times. To the adoring public, the age that was showing on Dennis Rodman, the lack of movement by Luc Longley, the slowdown in efficiency after playing over 100 games per year in two of the previous three seasons, was not apparent. The lack of recovery time in the summer, where beaten-up legs could have enough time on (strength and conditioning coach) Al Vermeil’s summer program to gain back the strength they’d lost in playing far longer than any other team in the league, never struck the fans or the media. The fact that winning titles meant drafting last each year in what at the time were poor draft crops meant nothing. We’d gotten lucky in 1990 in that most NBA people did not think that Toni Kukoc would even come to the NBA, and he’d fallen to early in the second round where we had a pick.

But to the fans and media, we had Michael Jordan and he could overcome anything. He could play without a center and a power forward for a capped team with little or no flexibility and still win by himself. Or Scottie Pippen, with two operations in the previous two years, could rise to the occasion and win with Michael and a declining supporting cast.

We had the finest coach in the game in Phil Jackson, whom the public did not know didn’t want to coach a rebuilding team and who’d informed us before the season that he wanted to ride off to Montana and take at least a year off.

I’m now going to take you to a place no Bulls outsider has ever been, a meeting in early July 1998. It was attended by Jerry Reinsdorf, myself, (assistant general manager) Jim Stack, Al Vermeil, the team doctors and surgeons, (VP of finance) Irwin Mandel and (assistant to the GM) Karen Stack. Vermeil knew more about the condition of the players’ bodies than even the medical people. He had continually tested them in and out of season during the entire championship run. We had asked then-trainer Chip Schaefer to submit a written report on the team’s health. Phil had made his decision (to leave) eight months before the meeting.

The first question I asked was how much did people think we could get out of Luc Longley, a free-agent-to-be who we’d had to rest periodically over the last few years because of unstable ankles. Al and the doctors thought he would break down quickly.

Next question: Rodman? Each person in the room was concerned that Dennis’ off-court meanderings had caught up with him, that he was playing on fumes at the end of the season.

OK. No center, no power forward, very little (cap space) to sign anybody of any quality to replace them. Who defends in the middle if Jordan and Pippen do come back? Who rebounds?

We go to Pippen. He’s had two major surgeries in two years, one of them late in the summer to purposely defy our instructions to do it earlier and not miss regular-season time. He wants to rightfully be paid superstar dollars. Is he worth the risk, especially if we can’t find a center and a power forward, and he and Michael have to carry the load for a new coach? I seriously doubt it.

Can Michael continue his greatness without a center, power forward and possibly Pippen? Could Bill Russell, the greatest team player ever, have won without great players around him?  No. Michael has said publicly that he will not play for a coach other than Phil. Phil has told us he’s gone. What does Michael do? 

The important role players like Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler are free agents who can get more money from other teams than we can give them under the cap rules.

Could we get Phil to coach without a proven center, power forward, probably Pippen, a basically new bench and crazy expectations that “in Michael we trust” can win without help? Not a chance.

Put yourself in our shoes as we walk out of that room. What would you do? Did we break up a dynasty or was the dynasty breaking up of age, natural attrition of NBA players with little time to recuperate and the salary-cap rules that govern the game?

One thing we did do was make sure no information got out of that meeting that could hurt any player’s chances of getting a quality contract. Phoenix gave Longley lifetime security in the form of a five-year deal at huge dollars. Three years later, having been dumped by Phoenix on an unsuspecting Knicks team, Longley was retired in his native country.

Rodman played 35 more games, never able to regain his previous form.

As the summer wore on and players were locked out of the training facilities by the league — that would mean the NBA season would not start until late January — things got even worse. Michael sliced a finger on a cigar cutter that would’ve prevented him from playing an entire season. To his credit, he could have stiffed us and signed a huge contract. But he was honest and we were well informed what the condition of the hand was. He didn’t want to play on a rebuilding team, and he stuck to his word.

In January, when the league was about to resume and free agents could be signed, Pippen’s agents asked us to do Scottie a favor. By doing a sign-and-trade with Houston, Scottie could get more than $20 million more than he could by just signing a straight-out contract. Jerry and I gave him his going-away present. I called Steve and Jud and told them the situation and to take the first good contract they could because we were not going to bid for them. They deserved it.

There you have it, the truth.

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Bulls' Denzel Valentine continues passion project, releases second rap video

Bulls' Denzel Valentine continues passion project, releases second rap video

Denzel Valentine talked occasionally about his developing passion for rapping before COVID-19 paused — and eventually ended — the Bulls' 2019-20 season.

Now, the free agent swingman is using the hiatus to not only continue his charitable work in both his native East Lansing, Mich., and Chicago, but also further his passion project.

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A music video for Valentine's latest track, "Get Ya Grind Up," appeared on social media Friday. It not only stars Valentine, but his older brother, Drew, who is an assistant coach at Loyola. Their mother makes a cameo, as well.

Warning: Song contains NSFW language

Valentine released his first song and video in January, titled "Introduction," and in March, featured alongside Diamond Jones on a track titled "Hate Me." He also talked about his passion for rapping in an episode of the Bulls TV-produced "Run With Us" miniseries.

Valentine will either be a restricted or unrestricted free agent in October depending on if the Bulls submit a qualifying offer. After sitting out the entire 2018-19 season following reconstructive ankle surgery, Valentine endured a difficult 2019-20 season. He moved in and out of Jim Boylen's rotation despite representing one of the team's better 3-point shooters and passers. Over 36 games, he averaged 6.8 points in 13.6 minutes.

The Greater Lansing Food Bank thanked Valentine via social media for a March donation, and he also recently made a donation to Lurie Children's Hospital.

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Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

The NBA and NBPA have come to an agreement on social justice-related messages players can display on the backs of their jerseys when the league resumes play in Orlando on July 30, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reports.

Here is the list of ("suggested") approved terms, according to Spears:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can't Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor

Per Spears, players will have the choice to brandish said messages above the number on the backs of their jerseys in place of their names for the first four days of the restart. From there, messages will still be permitted, but with players’ last names included underneath. TBD if more messages are to come.

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The Premier League provides some precedent for this initiative; all players participating in its season restart, which began on June 17, are donning jerseys with “Black Lives Matter” on the back in place of their names.

Meanwhile, prominent NBA players including Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley have voiced concerns that play resuming could distract from the fight against racial injustice. Others contend that the attention the league’s restart will command can be leveraged into advocating for change. 

Ultimately, the league has left that assessment up to players on an individual basis. Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly said the NBA is deliberating on social justice programming for the bubble, and future investment in social justice causes, though no concrete plans have been made public. On June 24, the NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement that leadership of both sides had met to “further advance the league’s collective response to the social justice issues in our country.”

“I think ultimately we can accomplish a lot (for social justice causes) by playing,” Silver said on a panel with Caron Butler, Magic Johnson and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in June. “But as I said, I know there’s some roiling going on within the Players Association, and I respect the point of view of those who are saying let’s make sure that in returning to basketball, a larger, broader message about social equality, racial issues are not somehow lost.”

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