DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The question isn't whether Michael Jordan wants to play basketball again. He does. Jordan just wants assurances that he can do it on his terms.
According to sources, Jordan wants more money for Scottie Pippen, more money for himself, and a commitment from Bulls management that it will do everything possible to sign a free agent this summer -- a free agent such as the New York Knicks' Anthony Mason.
The Bulls are thin at power forward and Mason, an unrestricted free agent nearing the end of his finest season, will be the most attractive front-court player available.
Jordan declined to announce his plans yesterday, when he practiced with the Bulls for the third time in a week. But his presence in practice gear combined with his silence has whetted the appetite of the sports world, especially in Chicago, and has indirectly given Jordan leverage in talks with Reinsdorf. Should Reinsdorf refuse to meet Jordan's terms, the Bulls' owner surely would feel a public backlash.
The problem is that any pledge from Reinsdorf would be an oral commitment only. Because of a league-wide moratorium, teams cannot restructure or extend player contracts. Plus, Reinsdorf has a long-standing, hard-line policy against renegotiating contracts.
Despite constant outbursts from Pippen -- the team's rTC fourth-highest-paid player -- Reinsdorf has not renegotiated. He never reworked Jordan's deal, which has two more years remaining at $4 million per season.