Phil Jackson: Bulls are ‘serious about winning’


Dec 10

With the Bulls celebrating the 20th anniversary of the franchise’s first NBA championship all season long, Phil Jackson was asked why Friday night—the one time Jackson’s Lakers visit the United Center this season—wasn’t chosen as the date to reunite the 1990-91 team.

“I think there was probably a key figure that couldn’t make it,” Jackson laughed, referring to Michael Jordan, now the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Indeed, Jordan indicated he would not able to attend Friday’s game when presented with a list of potential dates. Rather, the culminating ceremony will be held on March 12 when the Bulls host the Utah Jazz.

Jackson will not be present that evening, but he filmed a video message on Friday for the celebration this evening.

As for Friday’s matchup, the Bulls and Lakers square off for the second time in less than a month, but this time, Chicago will have two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer in the mix. Having faced Boozer as a member of the Jazz several times over the years, Jackson knows what to expect.

“He gives them a credible scorer, a guy that is a big body,” Jackson said of Boozer. “We like [Taj] Gibson. I think he’s played very well since coming into the NBA. But Carlos gives them a legitimate scorer.”

Jackson also discussed Derrick Rose and his ascent during his third professional season.

“There are a lot of players in this game that we pick because they have been on very good basketball teams in college and were winners in their high school and college days,” explained Jackson. “That doesn’t mean they are going to come to the NBA and be a star; they still have to have the talent. But the ones that know how to win seem to perpetually find a way to help teams win. Derrick has that character about him. What separates him right now and had separated him was his ability to hit shots and trust his jump shot. This year, he’s seems to have found that confidence that he needs to pull up and shoot a shot.”

As Jackson well knows, it was his last season in Chicago which the Bulls claimed their sixth championship. Since then, the organization has struggled to get back to the point of being a contender—until now, he said.

“They’ve got the personnel and seem dedicated to what they’re doing,” acknowledged Jackson. “It’s tough sometimes for kids to come in and find a way, get their minds straight and become pros, but this crew seems to be coming to that level of professionalism that it takes to be serious about winning.

“We’ve said [the Bulls] are going to be in the top five or six [teams in the Eastern Conference], but right now, it looks like they’re going to be above that,” added Jackson. “They could even be in the three or four spot.”

As for Friday’s game, it could very well end up being Jackson’s final game in the United Center as an NBA head coach. While he’s made no official announcement, he’s not been shy about the strong possibility of retirement upon the conclusion of this season.

“I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but yes, I anticipate this will be the last time I coach in this building,” said Jackson.

Audio—Lakers Coach Phil Jackson’s pregame comments (12.10.10):

Bulls vs. Lakers season notes

The Bulls have dropped seven straight to the Lakers, with their last win coming on Dec. 19, 2006 in Chicago, a 94-89 Bulls triumph; Luol Deng went for 23 points and 12 boards that night, while Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 19 points … earlier this season, the Bulls fell short to the Lakers on their home floor (98-91) … Derrick Rose posted a game-high 30 points, while Joakim Noah added 19 points and 13 boards … Chicago native Shannon Brown tallied 21 points (5-10 3FG) for the Lakers off the bench … Chicago is 29-37 at home against the Lakers, dating back to the 1998-99 campaign, Chicago is 4-7 versus the Lakers at the United Center … last season L.A. swept the season series 2-0, including a 108-93 win at the Staples Center; it was the third straight year that Los Angeles swept the season series with Chicago … in two games against the Lakers last year, Derrick Rose averaged 20.5 ppg and 6.0 apg in 35.5 mpg; Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 31.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.5 apg and 38.5 mpg versus the Bulls … in their two games last season, L.A. outscored Chicago 102.0 to 90.0 … the Bulls and Lakers have not gone to overtime since Jan. 12, 2002, a 106-104 Bulls win.

Audio—Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (12.10.10):

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