Phil Jackson back in Chicago

Thursday, April 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ For Phil Jackson, it's still a strange experience coming to the United Center where a banner bearing his name hangs from the rafters, where memories from six National Basketball Association titles still linger.

Jackson made his second return trip as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, entering the building with his familiar swagger and offering his views on a variety of subjects.

He doesn't think Michael Jordan would be working out with the Washington Wizards if he weren't considering a comeback and says he feels for the man who replaced him, Tim Floyd, as the losses pile up for the now last-place Bulls.

``I know he got on the court with the Wizards a couple of days ago and if he's putting himself up against professional players, I think he's waiting to see what he feels like when he's out there,'' Jackson said of Jordan. ``I think he will have a parachute in case he doesn't want to do it, in case he feels like it's not worth it, in case he doesn't feel he can play up to the level he wants to.

``If he is going to work out, I think he's going to work out like he's coming back to play ball.''

Jackson hopped on his motorcycle after the Bulls won their sixth title in 1998 and left town after what he termed the team's ``last dance.''

Since he took off, the Bulls have been a disaster. Their rebuilding plan was dealt a crushing blow this past summer when they were spurned by the major free agents on the market. Entering Thursday night's game, the Bulls had won 42 games over the last three seasons.

``I didn't want to stay here and suffer those losses that Tim Floyd has had to suffer,'' he added.

Mostly, Jackson says, he understands how tough it is for Chicago fans to go from the Jordan era to a team that had 12 wins entering Thursday night's game. During the game, highlights from the championship years played on the overhead scoreboard.

``It's a hard thing for any team to rebuild if you really haven't got a team behind you right now,'' Jackson said. ``So this town may just have to wait for the talent to develop and hope their talent stays here.''

Jackson's new team has plenty of talent, it's just keeping the team together _ with stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal not getting along _ that's been the problem.

Despite the defending champions' lack of consistency, Jackson thinks the Lakers will be ready for the playoffs.

``The thing that makes us feel good is that somebody is going to have to beat us and to beat the champions is always a tough proposition,'' he said. ``We know we have something here, even if we don't perform the same every night.''