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One Thing Jordan Will Say: ‘I Don’t Want to Start Over’

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Michael Jordan is taking Phil Jackson’s departure as a sign the Chicago Bulls are rebuilding. And he wants no part of that.

“I don’t want to start over. I’m pretty sure losing Phil is a sign of that,” Jordan said Saturday at a news conference before teeing off at the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Classic at Greenville, N.C.

“So I can tell you where my mind is leaning in some respects. . . . I don’t want a rebuilding process.”

Jordan once said he would only play for Jackson, though he softened that stance toward the end of the season. And when the coach made good Monday on his season-long threat to leave, Jordan said his decision also depended on the future of teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

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Jordan, Pippen and Rodman are free agents, as are six other players on Chicago’s 12-man playoff roster. Pippen, believing he has been undervalued and underappreciated by Chicago management, has said repeatedly that he wouldn’t return to the Bulls. But he, too, has wavered, saying after Chicago won its sixth championship that he would be open-minded if everyone else came back.

Rodman wants to return, but only if Jordan and Pippen do.

While Jordan said Saturday he might be leaning one way, he wants to weigh his options and hasn’t reached a final decision.

“My decision is coming very quickly. And I know this time I want to evaluate all options, and I don’t want to make a rush judgment,” he said. “Yes, I’ve said all along that if Phil is not my coach there’s no way I can play. And I’m pretty firm with that.

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“But before I make that decision . . . I’ve got to see what the team is going to do in terms of their choices. But I’ve felt strongly, I still feel strongly about it, but I just don’t want to make a rush judgment or career-ending decision.”

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said during the NBA finals that he wants to keep the same team as long as its winning championships, and General Manager Jerry Krause repeated that Saturday.

“It’s like I’ve said before, we want to try and bring the team back. But we don’t control that,” Krause said. “Jerry and I will talk about it, and we’ll go from there.”

Jordan’s decision could be swayed by whom the Bulls hire as a coach, but Krause said that move could be at least two weeks away. And before the Bulls hire anyone, Krause said Jordan will be consulted.

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While former Seattle coach George Karl and Iowa State Coach Tim Floyd have been mentioned, Krause has not ruled out keeping the current coaching staff, with Frank Hamblen as head coach.

Krause has also made it clear that Chicago’s decision to draft Corey Benjamin--the first shooting guard the Bulls have drafted since Jordan in 1984--doesn’t mean they’re getting ready for life after Jordan. Benjamin, who left Oregon State as a sophomore, has a lot of learning to do and will be brought along slowly, Krause said.

Jordan said he has not discussed his future with the Bulls’ management since the team won its sixth NBA title.


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