Brian Williams is no longer with the Chicago Bulls. His spirit, however, is alive and well.
Sounding an awful lot like their former teammate, who made clear his disdain for Utah a year ago, the Bulls are less than thrilled about returning here for Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Their reasons vary, though most center around frustration for not being able to wrap up the series at home Friday."I know no one wanted to make this trip," Scottie Pippen said after Utah's 83-81 victory in the United Center extended the series to a sixth game. "But we have to do it. And it's very disappointing on our part that we have to do it."
Chicago had hoped to win its sixth championship and repeat a previous three-peat in Game 5. A triumph would have provided a storybook ending for what many believe is the final running of the Bulls. Michael Jordan's possible retirement, Scottie Pippen's impending free agency and the future of head coach Phil Jackson have Chicago fearing the worst.
"I don't think it's time to talk about that right now. Addressing the question is just a moot point," Jackson said. "We're after a championship. There's nothing to be said other than just keep going ahead and trying to win."
Even if it's in Utah, where the series will come to an end. Game 7, if necessary, will be played at the Delta Center Wednesday.
"It's no easy cake walking into Utah and trying to win," said Jordan, who welcomes the challenge. The Bulls, however, did win Game 2 on the Jazz floor. Steve Kerr said it'll be tough, but winning here earlier in the series makes the situation more comfortable.
Others, however, are already pleading misery.
Jackson hoped to avoid another trip the Delta Center, where he claimed abuse "by the wonderful Mormon fans who I love out there."
And, to no one's surprise, Dennis "Viva! Las Vegas" Rodman isn't doing the Utah Travel Council any favors.
"I have no business in Utah at all," Rodman said. "Those people are a different breed."
During the 1997 NBA Finals, Rodman was fined $50,000 by the NBA for insensitive remarks he made about Mormons.
Chicago left town with a 3-2 series lead a year ago, the same advantage the Bulls bring to Salt Lake City this time around.
"How long do you want to stay in Utah?" Pippen joked. "I think Game 6 is important for us. We still have the advantage. We don't want them to tie the series up."
Chicago has never played a Game 7 in five previous trips to the NBA Finals, but the Bulls do have a scenario similar to the current series to draw upon for inspiration. In 1993, Chicago held a 3-1 lead over Phoenix when it dropped a 108-98 decision in Game 5. The setback spoiled what proved to be Jor-dan's final game at the old Chica-go Stadium. Forced to travel back to Arizona, Chicago wrapped up the series with a 99-98 win in Game 6.
In preparing to duplicate the accomplishment, the Bulls practiced at home before flying to Salt Lake City Saturday afternoon.