As far as the Chicago Bulls are concerned, there's no "if" to their championship aspirations. Everything is "when."
The Seattle SuperSonics? Good team. But the Bulls fully expect to roll through the NBA Finals, starting Wednesday night at the United Center, just as they have rolled through this entire record-setting season."A seven-game series is a long series," Scottie Pippen said Monday, "whether you beat them in four or five or whatever."
Said Michael Jordan: "Nine-tenths of the picture is done. We need this tenth to complete the picture so everyone can see what was in store, what happened in the course of the year from the day we got knocked out of the playoffs last year up until now when we win the championship."
Not if. When.
While most coaches beg their players to keep such thoughts private - lest the comments end up on the opponent's bulletin board - Bulls coach Phil Jackson refuses to discourage his players' public show of confidence.
He remembers the attitude of the Bulls' title teams of 1991, 1992 and 1993, and says the current edition has a stronger sense of self-worth.
"This team is more versatile and a little more experienced," Jackson said. "And what I like about this club is that they're very confident they can go into this series and dominate individually and as a team."
Jackson respects the Sonics, whose 64 victories ranked second to Chicago's NBA-record 72.
"A lot of people are saying Seattle's the second-run show before the Bulls' rampage through the playoffs," he said. "But we have a real nice matchup. I don't know if there's ever been a Finals with two teams winning more games."
There hasn't been.
But that fact hasn't curtailed the Bulls' co-captains from believing they won't lose to the Sonics.
"I give them credit for playing good defense," Pippen said, "but we play better defense."
Said Jordan: "They're very versatile. But we have the type of players who can match up very well with them. If they go small, we can go small. We have more big people and can possibly use the inside game a little more."