LOS ANGELES — Before I tell you the most amazing statistic I have learned about these NBA Finals — that Will Perdue, who could stunt double for Mister Ed, is actually the best shooter on the Bulls — I should inform you, the people of Detroit, of the following news:
Michael Jordan is not sorry.
I gave him a chance Thursday. I told him of the anger after his comments about the Pistons. I told him how his words — “Most people I know will be happy the Pistons aren’t champions anymore . . . they didn’t play the kind of basketball you want to endorse . . . ” — made a lot of people furious in the Motor City. I asked whether he had been misinterpreted? Misquoted?
“No,” he said. “I meant what I said.”
So I guess “Forgive me” is out of the question?
“(Detroit’s) type of dirty basketball wasn’t meant for this game,” Jordan said, picking up where he left off. “They were the champions. But that doesn’t mean they played the cleanest basketball to become champions. If they were sportsmanlike champions, why would they walk off the floor like they did (at the end of Game 4)? That speaks for itself.”
I reminded him that several Pistons did stop and shake his hand. Or kiss his ring. Or whatever you do when you pass His Airness.
“Yeah,” he said, “Joe Dumars and James Edwards and John Salley and the coaches. They showed respect. They showed class. The others didn’t.
“Don’t get me wrong; it didn’t break my heart. I didn’t need them to tell me we won the series. But they didn’t show any class. True champions would.”
Someone told him the walking-off-the-court snub was Isiah Thomas’ idea
(which it was, by the way). Jordan nodded slowly.
“And Isiah’s the head of our Players Association. That should tell you something.”
What, he was asked?
He just grinned and shook his head. Bulls’ top shooter is . . . Yee-haw!
Now, maybe we should explore Isiah vs. Michael, how there’s probably some jealousy there, a clash of egos, all that stuff. But wait. That would be too much like a soap opera. And why do soap opera when you can do . . . comedy? Which brings us to Will Perdue.
(Sorry. I always feel like doing that after I say “Will Perdue.” Yee-haw! Let’s rustle up doggies and dance with hogs! Will Perdue! Yee-haw!)
But back to this amazing statistic. Everyone is talking about what great shooters the Bulls were in Game 2 when they destroyed the Lakers, setting an NBA Finals shooting record, burning the nets, seemingly never missing a shot. Well, get this. I was leafing through the numbers, and here it is: The Bulls’ top shooter during the 1991 playoffs is . . . Will Perdue, shooting 56 percent.
“Really?” Perdue said, grinning sheepishly when I informed him. “Wait, how many shots did I take to get that? Not that many, right?”
That is true. Perdue isn’t exactly a launching pad out there. But then, some of his teammates, such as Horace Grant (55 percent) and Bill Cartwright
(55 percent) could say the same thing. They might add that the shots they do take are often close to the basket and relatively defender-free. The reasons are simple: Jordan. Jordan. Jordan.
When you play alongside Michael, who draws defenders the way Kim Basinger draws stares, your shooting numbers should improve. It makes sense. Take Grant, Chicago’s fine young forward. In Game 2, he sank 10 of 13 shots. But look a little closer; nine were lay-ups or dunks. Most came via passes from Jordan, or as a result of a defense that sagged on Jordan and left Horace free.
“On this team,” Grant admitted, “it’s a question of getting to the open spot and being there when Michael makes a pass. These are the easiest shots I’ve ever had — a lot easier than college.” Paxson hot, too Does anyone know that better than John Paxson? The former Notre Dame star is now the ultimate Michael Jordan creation. While Jordan is flying above the court, calling the control tower, dropping his landing gear, Paxson, the other guard, is sneaking around, finding an open spot. This isn’t hard because most defenders are so riveted by Jordan, they notice Paxson about as much as they notice the popcorn vendor. Next thing you know, Jordan dumps the ball off as if dropping a package onto a one-man island.
The result? You get Game 2, in which Paxson hit a perfect 8-for-8. And every shot was wide open. No defenders. Swish!
“That’s my job on this team: spread the floor and shoot when Michael finds me,” Paxson said. “And make my shots.”
When he does, it’s trouble for the Lakers. As if Jordan wasn’t trouble enough. Take heart, Detroit. You are not the only ones a little miffed with Michael. Word today is that the LA guys are upset with him for supposedly taunting their bench during Game 2, saying things such as “You can’t stop me! You can’t guard me!”
Never fear, LA. I have the answer. Next time he does that, just yell back,
“Oh yeah? Well you’re not even as good a shooter as Will Perdue!” Not only will that hurt Jordan’s pride, it will, technically, be true.
Besides, you get to say “Yee-haw!” after it.
Tell Michael you meant it.