CHICAGO - A perfect 10.
Ten games played. Ten victories by an average of 19.8 points. Even the prospect of playing their next seven games on the road doesn't concern the seemingly invincible Chicago Bulls.
"I'm kind of surprised we've been winning by 20 points a game. No one could have predicted that," Michael Jordan said. "Hopefully, we don't get complacent. I don't think that will happen. This team is knowledgeable about what's ahead."
Beginning Wednesday, the Bulls play at Phoenix, Denver, Utah and Los Angeles (Clippers) over a six-day stretch. After coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday, the defending champions fly to Texas for games on consecutive nights against Dallas and San Antonio - perhaps with a chance to break the league record of 15 consecutive wins to start a season.
The Bulls then return and will bus to Milwaukee for a Dec. 3 game before finally playing again at the United Center on Dec. 5 against the Clippers.
"I don't know, I'd like to see us come home above .500," Chicago coach Phil Jackson said. "If we come home with four out of seven, I'll be pleased with that."
"Phil's a mysterious bloke," center Luc Longley said. "I guess he feels that if you advertise little and deliver a lot, you're overachieving. The danger of always delivering so much is that it leaves you room only to underachieve. But I think we would be pretty disappointed with 4-3."
Said Jordan: "Typical coach. We all want 7-0; Phil wants 4-3."
While Jordan thinks Chicago is better than the team that set an NBA record with 72 wins last season, he is enough of a realist to know the Bulls haven't exactly faced the best competition around - Boston (twice), Philadelphia, Charlotte, Vancouver, Phoenix. Saturday, they beat an Atlanta team that was without injured starters Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith.
"They haven't been the same caliber of teams that we're going to have to face. We've got to sharpen our instruments," Jordan said.
"Going on the road 10-0, you can't rest on that. Teams are going to be sitting back there waiting for you. They're going to have sold-out arenas. Every game's going to be like a championship game for them, so you have to meet their intensity."
The Bulls went 6-1 on a similar road trip last season.
"The good start we had on that trip set the tone for the rest of the year," Longley said. "Going on the road is a real positive in that it gives us a chance to get on the road as a group and bond a bit."
As for the opportunity to make history - again - the Bulls are still downplaying their chances of topping the 15-0 starts of the 1948 Washington Capitols and 1993 Houston Rockets.
"If we get to that point, great. If we start skipping over teams, looking at the record, that's a mistake," Jordan said. "We feel confident, making history or not making history."
But Jackson said he knows his players have a keen sense of history, a sense he witnessed often last season.
"I just think they like the attention. They like when people stand up and notice them," the coach said. "That's the type of thing that motivates this team."
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