Chapter 36: Michael Jordan becomes a point guard
A new challenge
Michael Jordan loved to take criticisms and turn them into challenges, and the biggest criticism against him now was that he could not make his teammates better. Halfway through the 1988-89 season, Michael Jordan got the opportunity he had been waiting for to prove his critics wrong, again.
On March 8th of 1989, Michael Jordan registered his only DNP (did not play) of the season by pulling out of a game against the Boston Celtics with a groin pull. It ended a streak of 235 consecutive games played. Some speculated that Jordan used the injury as an excuse to test the Bulls to see if the team could step up to the Celtics without his presence. The result was a blowout loss which made Jordan even more frustrated. The next morning, Jordan and coach Collins decided to shift Jordan to point guard in place of the struggling Sam Vincent.
The move made a great deal of sense for the Bulls. For one, it would get the other players more involved in the offense. The Bulls had always been known to rely on Michael for most of their offense. In the past two seasons, Michael had outscored the next leading Bull’s scorer by an average of 22.6 points, the largest scoring margin since Wilt Chamberlain. The Bulls’ strategy back then was to play team basketball for three quarters, and then hand Michael the ball in the fourth with the hope that he’ll win the game for them. Some even nicknamed it the Archangel offense, with Michael playing role of the savior.
In response to the Bulls “archangel” offense, most opposing defenses focused on shutting down Michael. The best known example at the time were the Detroit Pistons and their “Jordan Rules” defense where they would hammer Michael every time he drove into the lane. The slender Jordan was not equipped to handle such a beating night after night. The physical battles combined with a league leading total in minutes was beginning to take a toll on Michael. By switching Michael to point guard, he would be able to run the offense without taking much of the punishment. This move left Michael fresher near the end of games and gave him the option to take over when needed.
Jordan had the passing skills of a point guard, as demonstrated in the highlights below
Jordan as a point guard
Michael had played the point guard position before during the exhibition season and did not like it. But with the Bulls languishing in fifth place, Jordan decided to take on the unfamiliar role.
The rest of the league didn’t share the same outlook the Bulls had of the switch.
Atlanta Hawks guard Doc Rivers said “It’s terrible, I don’t like it. It’s not fair.”
Hawks coach Mike Fratello said “He was a nightmare already. Now, he gets the ball even more.”
Golden State coach Don Nelson said “Everybody wonders why they didn’t do it before.”
No one really knew how Jordan would adjust to his new role, but everyone was excited to see the outcome.
Jordan’s top 10 assists