Michael Jordan Praised a Forgotten Lakers Star Who Jerry Krause Once Wanted to Replace MJ

Michael Jordan and former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause did not agree on a whole lot. Krause made his organization-first mentality known from the jump, which soured his relationship with MJ and ultimately resulted in His Airness belittling the longtime Bulls executive.

When it came to talent evaluation, however, the two men had some commonalities.

Near the end of his career, Jordan had praise for Los Angeles Lakers guard Eddie Jones. The commendation is notable because Krause, in turn, hoped to bring Eddie Jones to the Windy City as something of a replacement for Mike.

Michael Jordan called former Lakers star Eddie Jones one of the better defenders in the NBA

Before Kobe Bryant changed history in the Purple and Gold, Eddie Jones burst into stardom for the Lakers.

Drafted in 1994, Jones quickly proved his quality as an athletic swingman capable of filling it up from beyond the arc. He also left an impression on a number of his peers with tremendous defensive efforts. That includes Michael Jordan.

Jordan commented on Jones’ gifts during the 1996-97 season, remarking on the Lakers guard’s ability to make things challenging with his length. He hailed (h/t YouTube) Jones as one of the better defenders in the NBA:

“He’s a very savvy defensive player. So I mean, you basically have to pay attention to him. You have to be cautious with the ball and make sure you don’t put it where he can come out and steal the ball. I’d have to rank him as one of the good defenders in the league.”

–Michael Jordan on Eddie Jones

Jones made three All-Defensive teams and led the NBA in steals during the 1999-00 season, this time as a member of the Charlotte Hornets.

Steady Eddie never became an enormous star in the league. But fans who remember the Lakers of the late ’90s probably understand his talent level. Jordan did, and so did Jerry Krause.

Jerry Krause tried to acquire Jones multiple times

Jerry Krause had a legitimate interest in acquiring Eddie Jones to try to fill Michael Jordan’s shoes with the Bulls.

Krause made a few different overtures in an effort to get Jones. He failed to maneuver for him in the 1994 NBA Draft when MJ retired the first time to play baseball and might have struck out again when Scottie Pippen requested a trade during the 1997-98 campaign.

However, Krause saw another opportunity to form a new superteam after Jordan retired. He and the Bulls believed they had successfully convinced Jones to sign with Chicago in the summer of 2000. But according to the Chicago Tribune, the three-time All-Star to back out at the last moment.

It’s unlikely that Krause legitimately believed Jones could be an MJ equivalent in Chicago. Still, his long-held interest in making Jones a member of the Bulls, paired with Jordan’s past praises, speaks to the former Temple product’s immense talent.

Eddie Jones and Tracy McGrady as the new Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen?

L-R: Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals and former Los Angeles Lakers star Eddie Jones in April 1997
Michael Jordan (L) and Eddie Jones (R) | Left to Right: Brian Bahr /Allsport and Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

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Perhaps Krause hoped to sign Jones as a means of copying the original championship blueprint.

Aside from Jones, the Bulls also tried to ink Tracy McGrady to a contract in the summer of 2000 after MJ previously nixed a Pippen-for-McGrady deal. Had the Bulls gotten both, they would have a new star tandem with parallels to Jordan and Pippen.

Jones’ length and harassing defensive play made him much like Pippen. Similarly, T-Mac’s explosive scoring ability likened him to Jordan. Krause could have envisioned this duo leading Chicago into the post-Jordan future. Instead, the Bulls failed to make a big splash and rapidly declined after Jordan retired.

In any case, Jones’ gifts are worth remembering, especially since he essentially found himself on the periphery of the Bulls dynasty.