Looking at Episode 3 of 'The Last Dance'
In Episode Three of 'The Last Dance', we see how Michael Jordan comes to depend more on Dennis Rodman while Scottie Pippen is out.
Jeff Haynes/AFP/via Getty Images

Looking at Episode 3 of 'The Last Dance'

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - April 28, 2020 - 3:47pm

MANILA, Philippines – We’ve seen Episodes Three and Four of “The Last Dance”, the documentary about the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season uploaded onto Netflix last Monday, April 26.

And the series is just getting better.

Here are my thoughts on Episode Three:

Episode 3 focuses on Dennis Rodman, and the Bulls getting past the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons. We see how Michael Jordan comes to depend more on Rodman while Scottie Pippen is out. Although we hear Jordan say that from thereon, Rodman “was straight as an arrow,” it wasn’t the case.

Later in the season, with Rodman in another funk, Chicago head coach Phil Jackson would pull out one more trick in the bag — he traded away Rodman’s back-up Jason Caffey. Jackson wanted to give more responsibility to Rodman. The trade deprived the Bulls of a capable back-up and this would be evident come the finals. It worked then as Rodman played better.

The trade stung Caffey. Although he played well for the Golden State Warriors over the next season and a half, that was it. He went on to play a few more years for Milwaukee, but he would be bought out after some personal problems.

Having closely followed the Bulls from 1984 to 2017-18 (I shifted allegiances when Jimmy Butler was traded away), especially those Jordan-led teams, I thought they rolled the dice on their Big Three of Jordan, Pippen and Rodman — at the cost of Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Scott Burrell and Caffey. The latter four had to accept a lesser role and fewer opportunities if not playing time. Of course, I don’t think they would have traded that away for the opportunity to win a NBA title let alone three.

You can see the slippage during that second three-peat — in no small part due to the front office (read: then-General Manager Jerry Krause). They won 72 games in 1995-96, 69 in 1996-97, and then 62 during that Last Dance. 

I think the script writers should have added more about Cleveland. What helped the hype about the Cavaliers then was that statement by Magic Johnson. If Larry Bird has his “God disguised as Michael Jordan” quote, Johnson publicly anointed the Cavs as “the team of the future.” But they never got there. Up to the second wave of the Bulls’ three-peat, Chicago was knocking them out. Chicago went on to win four play-off series with Jordan and Pippen (they won another in 1994 but Jordan was into his first retirement). Things turned around when LeBron James came to Cleveland, and they beat the Bulls into playoff series.

I thought they should have added some key points. For better or worse, Ron Harper, then with the Cavs, was called “the Poor Man’s Michael Jordan.” They had Jordan’s North Carolina teammate Brad Daugherty. 

If you take “The Shot” by itself, you might think that Cavs swingman Craig Ehlo was some patsy and unfit to guard Jordan. No doubt, Harper played better defense on Jordan, but Ehlo did well. In that Game Five of the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, Ehlo scored 24 points. He scored the lay-up prior to Jordan’s game-winner. In fact, in that series, he averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Not bad at all. 

I think at some point during the documentary, the script writers should mention that the Bulls had also featured some prominent foes from Chicago’s first three-peat — they had Cleveland players in Harper and Steve Kerr, and former Detroit Pistons Bad Boys in Rodman, John Salley, and James Edwards.

Showing the losses to the Pistons in 1988-90, if I am not mistaken, the Bulls were one of the first teams to really look at hitting the weights room with specialized training with Chip Schaefer and Tim Grover. 

So why the look back? If you want to understand what “The Last Dance” was all about, its seeds came from seasons past. 

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