DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Will he be back? Michael Jordan swore again Thursday that he doesn't know.
Are the Bulls breaking up? Maybe, but Jordan claims there's no guarantee they won't all be back, either.
Jordan insisted he's sticking with his season-long pledge to play next year only if Phil Jackson returns as coach.
But then, with some introspection and a bit of contradiction, he added he still holds the option of playing for a new guy, should Jackson leave.
"I can choose to take a step back and say: 'Hey if I want to play for whoever they want to come in, if I really want to play, I can play for whoever.' So I can chose to do that," Jordan said, standing before a battery of cameras and microphones on the day before the Bulls open the playoffs against New Jersey.
"Or else to say, 'I don't want to play for whoever you bring in.' That sounds like a choice for me. I haven't chosen yet."'
All along, Jordan has linked his future to Jackson, the coach with whom he's won five titles. Jackson is calling the playoffs the Bulls' "last dance."
"No one has definitely said that Phil is not going to be here or he doesn't have a contract or he does have a contract; there is so much in the air," Jordan said.
"Scottie Pippen is still in a Chicago Bulls uniform, I'm still in a Chicago Bulls uniform and Phil is still the coach, so anything is possible."
The Bulls have been locked in a season-long soap opera, overshadowing their chase of another title.
-- Pippen said he wanted out early in the season.
-- General manager Jerry Krause said Jordan would be welcomed back but only if he'd play for a new coach.
-- There remains an uneasy relationship between Krause and Jackson.
-- Pippen said chairman Jerry Reinsdorf could "go to hell" if he offers a one-year contract for next season.
-- Jordan suggested in a magazine article that maybe Reinsdorf should sell the team.
If the Bulls do win another title, there would have to be some serious compromises made should Reinsdorf decide to keep the team intact for another year.
"I'm pretty sure there would be a lot of mending going on because during the course of the year there have been some burned bridges, and I don't know if it's repairable," Jordan said.
"That's something that has to be talked about at the end of the season and hopefully everybody is in a jovial mood and willing to take some of the things they've said all year and sacrifice to some degree."
As one of the league's most powerful personalities and ambassadors, Jordan was asked if he would try to sway Reinsdorf's decision.
"I can't twist the man's arm," he said.
"I can't go up there and make him accept whatever decision he has to make. I can only voice my opinion and I've always done that. ... He has the option to change direction. That's his choice and prerogative and I can't argue with that," Jordan said.
Whatever happens, Jordan insisted he would be comfortable with his future.
"Whatever it's going to be, I'm going to be at peace with my decision whenever the time comes," he said.
"I don't think anyone knows. Everybody is speculating. And until somebody knows, you can't really make a profound decision."
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