Michael Jordan likes to step on the New York Knicks because they have the biggest press corps and the network offices are there. Chicago Coach Phil Jackson doesn't like the Knicks because they're too rough and not good sports. Scottie Pippen likes to run his mouth on them, but it's nothing personal, he just wants to be like Mike.
Knick Coach Jeff Van Gundy thinks Jackson is a phony and Jordan is a con guy.
Jackson and Jordan want to know how a little nobody from nowhere is calling them names.
Bulls and Knicks, Knicks and Bulls, two teams that could have had the rivalry of the '90s--major markets, superstars, bad feeling--if only the Knicks could have won a few.
(Not that everyone else hasn't had the same problem. Consequently, there has been no rivalry of the '90s, the Bulls beating four different teams in the Eastern finals and four different ones in the finals.)
The Knicks got their latest chance last week. Van Gundy had been warming up for months.
He sawed on Jackson's considerable pride of authorship ("I read his book. . . . It's a must-read because he's a very good coach. There's some very good coaching stuff in there if you can get past all the self-serving stuff.") and love of Native American lore ("Our biggest concern in the off-season was to find as many Indian artifacts as we could.")
He told a Chicago radio station Jordan was nice to opponents--like Charles Oakley, an old friend from their days as teammates, and Patrick Ewing, whom Jordan got into "Space Jam"--to lull them to sleep.
"You watch him, game in and game out," Van Gundy said, "and he sidles up next to guys and smiles at them, pats them on the butt and then he goes out there and kicks their butts. And they hug him after the game, like that was some great thing that he got 45 on them. I don't understand it.
"He sucks them into thinking that he wants to see them develop. He talks about young players, he invites people to be in his movies and it's all a con."
Last season Van Gundy called Jordan "nasty." Bugs Bunny may think Jordan's child-friendly, but to Van Gundy, he's more like Dennis Rodman with a jump shot.
Jordan, who likes what remains of his Boy Scout image, was incensed.
"That's a crock," he said. "He never played the game, so he doesn't know."
Said Van Gundy: "He obviously didn't know I scored in double figures my last year at Nazareth."
This all began years ago when Pat Riley, an ace at using the press to stir up the opposition, was in New York. Along came Jackson, who put Riley on his heels by attacking him personally. Riley, hurt but intent on not showing it, wouldn't respond, so Jackson got away with using him like a pincushion.
Now along comes Van Gundy to give Phil the Jackson treatment. Jackson can't acknowledge this pipsqueak is getting to him, so now he's the pincushion.
To complete the historical perspective, Jackson used to complain Riley wouldn't let Knick players and assistants talk to his guys. Recently, Jackson told Jason Caffey not to shake fellow Alabama native Charles Barkley's hand. This lends credence to the theory that despite their differences, Jackson and Riley are twins, separated at birth.
To make a long item short, Jordan scored 51 points against the Knicks on Tuesday. Who knows, maybe stepping on Superman's cape isn't the way to go?
The Bulls won, 88-87, but it wasn't that close, the Knicks making two three-point shots in the last 11 seconds.
Said Jordan to his friend/Knick fan Spike Lee afterward: "The next time your coach opens his mouth, tell him to put some shoes on and come out and play."
Next meeting is March 9 in New York. If the Knicks could win one, we might actually have something.
DENNIS: THE TAB IS STILL RUNNING
No word yet on the identity of Rodman's league-mandated shrink. Whoever it is will want to see him five days a week, an hour a day. Dennis will ask if he can't just tell the doc he's sorry over the phone.
"Prime Time Live" did a show on the subject. War, peace and now Rodman.
Rodman said he was sorry but repeated that Eugene Amos, the cameraman he kicked during a game against Minnesota at the Target Center, was acting. If there's one thing Dennis can't stand, it's being out-acted.
Jackson said Rodman has "two strikes and four fouls."
Final totals aren't in, but here's a preliminary estimate of the cost:
Suspension: $1 million in lost salary.
Incentive bonuses he can't realize: $500,000.
Lost commercial endorsements from Carl's Jr., which pulled his TV commercial: $200,000.
Settlement with Amos: $200,000. (It's going to be really crowded on the baseline now, with all the camera people wearing "Kick me" signs.)
Total to date: $1,925,000.
Also, $1 million in salary that was to be paid this year will be deferred, as a consequence of his playing fewer than 79 games.
THE DIESEL MEETS RIP VAN CAMPBELL
Shaquille O'Neal's a real Angeleno now. He has learned the freeways, when to stay off them to avoid rush hour (6 a.m. to midnight) and Elden Campbell's nap times.