Dan Feldman

Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls

George Karl: Michael Jordan endorsed Scottie Pippen-to-Sonics trade


You might know Seattle drafted Scottie Pippen before sending him to the Bulls in a draft-night trade.

But did you know the SuperSonics nearly traded Shawn Kemp and Ricky Pierce for Pippen – with Michael Jordan’s blessing – in 1994?

Jordan was retired (for the first of three times), and Pippen had just led Chicago to 55 wins and a playoff-series victory. Seattle won 63 games behind Kemp and Gary Payton, but lost to the Nuggets in the NBA’s first 1-8 upset. Sonics owner Barry Ackerley had just installed Wally Walker to run the front office.

Then-Seattle coach George Karl in “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection:”

The Bulls saw an opportunity. Four days before the draft, Jerry Krause called. The Chicago GM, who’d visited me in Spain, had a proposal: Kemp, Pierce, and our number one for Scottie Pippen. Pippen was the best small forward, or 3, in the league. Nothing he wasn’t good at. During one of Michael’s retirements, Scottie led his team in all five of the main categories—rebounds, scoring, blocks, steals, and assists—so rare that it had only happened once before in NBA history (Dave Cowens, for the Celtics, in 1977-78). But with his running buddy MJ now a baseball player, maybe Pippen was a little disconnected. When I tried to imagine the Sonics without Shawn I knew I’d miss him, but I got pretty excited picturing Gary and Scottie teaming up on a trap; they’d smother opposing guards. But every trade prompts a debate. I was in favor of this one but I wasn’t sure.

So I called Michael. We talked about minor-league baseball, North Carolina basketball, and golf. Then we talked about the big deal on the table. Should we do this?

“Do it,” he said. “Scottie can make your other players better. Kemp can’t.”

So, the day before the draft, we said yes. News of the trade immediately leaked out and onto the KJR airwaves. More anger from the callers, a lot more; our fans loved Shawn. Again, Ackerley listened. That afternoon, he called our draft headquarters in the Sonics locker room. It doesn’t feel right, he told Wally. Better wait. I had the unpleasant job of calling Krause, who was not happy.

While we dragged our feet on draft day, Krause got desperate. He called to tell me the Bulls would drop the demand for our number one pick. He offered a big chunk of money in the next call. Then he called back to double it. Literally minutes before the draft started, Ackerley backed us out of the deal. When I delivered the bad news, Krause dropped f-bombs and called me names. We’d keep Kemp, they’d keep Pippen.

I don’t see any reason Jordan – who shared an alma mater, North Carolina, with Karl – would’ve misled his fellow Tar Heel. Jordan was retired and not particularly a Bulls loyalist at that time.

Of course, Jordan came back and Pippen helped him win three more championships, including one over Karl’s Sonics. Kemp declined sharply after that, struggling with weight and attitude issues and wouldn’t have been nearly the sidekick Pippen was.

This is one heck of a “what if?” in basketball history. That trade could’ve drastically altered Jordan’s legacy, maybe even costing him his last three rings. The kicker: It seems Jordan understood the value of the players who would’ve been dealt. He just didn’t understand how it would’ve affected him.

Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of “Furious George.”

Report: Bucks to sell 10-win – yes, win, not game – ticket packages

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the basketball up the court on a fast break during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at BMO Harris Bradley Center on April 13, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The Bucks rank 27th in the NBA in attendance despite playing solid basketball. Milwaukee is 14-15 but has the point difference of a 16-13 team, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the league’s biggest breakout star.

It’s almost as if fans don’t trust this team after last season’s 33-49 flop.

So, the Bucks are taking a creative approach.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks will announce that they’re offering a 10-win plan.

That’s right, guaranteed wins.

In a package that will go on sale Tuesday through Jan. 11, the Bucks will sell fans a ticket pass for $149 that will begin on Jan. 13 against the Miami Heat and will be active until the Bucks win 10 home games. The location of the seats will vary from game to game, depending on what’s available. Fans will get their ticket on the day of the game through the team’s app.

This is ingenious. It greatly increases the odds fans leave the arena happy – getting either a Bucks win or more value on their purchase.

Milwaukee – 10-7 at home so far – will have 21 home games remaining once the package begins, the first 10 bolded:

  • Jan. 13: Heat
  • Jan. 16: 76ers
  • Jan. 23: Rockets
  • Jan. 25: 76ers
  • Jan. 28: Celtics
  • Feb. 8: Heat
  • Feb. 10: Lakers
  • Feb. 13: Pistons
  • Feb. 24: Jazz
  • Feb. 26: Suns
  • March 1: Nuggets
  • March 3: Clippers
  • March 4: Raptors
  • March 8: Knicks
  • March 10: Pacers
  • March 11: Timberwolves
  • March 24: Hawks
  • March 26: Bulls
  • March 31: Pistons
  • April 2: Mavericks
  • April 10: Hornets

How many games will purchasers get? My guess: 15.

Heat’s Josh McRoberts out indefinitely with foot injury

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 22: Josh McRoberts #4 of the Miami Heat posts up Jordan Clarkson #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a game  at American Airlines Arena on December 22, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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MIAMI (AP) — Josh McRoberts of the Miami Heat has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot, and the team says the oft-injured forward will be sidelined indefinitely.

McRoberts broke that foot during last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against Toronto, and had a stress reaction in the same foot that kept him out for training camp and the first seven games of this season.

McRoberts had appeared in 19 consecutive Heat games, his second-longest streak in his three seasons with the club.

Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma City will be the 210th, including playoffs, that the Heat have played since signing McRoberts – and the 119th he will miss over that span.

McRoberts is averaging 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds this season.

Kevin Durant: I would’ve made final shot if Richard Jefferson didn’t trip me

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the Warriors trailing the Cavaliers by one in the final seconds of their Christmas thriller, Richard Jefferson tripped Kevin Durant to nearly (but not quite) ice the game. The NBA acknowledged Jefferson should have been called for a foul, but we’re left to wonder what would’ve happened.

Durant isn’t curious. He knows.

Durant, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

“I would’ve made that shot if he didn’t trip me up,” Durant told The Undefeated. “But they ain’t calling it on him at their crib. It’s not his fault. It’s not the refs fault, either.”

Of course Durant thinks that. The only surprise is him saying so publicly. That’s a pretty big repudiation of Cleveland’s win.

I’m not quite as certain. It’s difficult for even elite scorers like Durant when there’s so little time left and the defense knows your deadline to shoot.

But I do believe Durant would have made both free throws if Jefferson’s foul had been called.

Paul George: Pacers, as ‘little brother of the league,’ don’t get calls

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers reacts to a call during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on November 7, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Pacers’ 90-85 loss to the Bulls yesterday – in which Chicago attempted 28 free throws to Indiana’s 10 – set off Paul George (not that he needs much provocation).

George, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“I’ve been fined multiple times,” George told reporters. “I’ve been vocal to the point where the league issues [a statement], ‘Hey, we missed a call. Hey, we missed that.’ Officials do it during games [saying], ‘I missed that call, I missed this call. We’re sorry. We’re sorry.’ It’s getting repetitive. They see it, they know what’s going on. They know what’s a foul. They know what’s not a foul. It comes down from somewhere else how these games are going, I believe.”

George was asked if he felt that things would be different if he played for a big-market team.

“Since I’ve been in this jersey we’ve always fought this battle,” George said. “Ever since I’ve been playing, ever since I’ve been in this jersey we’ve fought this battle. Maybe the league has teams they like so they can give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re the little brother of the league. We’re definitely the little brother of the league.”

Referees are humans who sometimes make mistakes and sometimes acknowledge those mistakes. That’s not evidence of a greater conspiracy.

If the league were directing officials to favor large markets, what are the odds this would be the response? I believe at least one ref would spill the beans. This would be too large of a secret for so many people to keep. It’s nearly as unlikely that refs would tell – but only to players on the court by apologizing for missed calls and no other way.

The Pacers too often settle for jumpers, and they’ve defended aggressively over the years. That will lead to uneven foul counts. It’s not necessarily about market size.

The NBA will likely fine George, but the Pacers face a more difficult decision in their long-term planning. Will George bear down and fight for Indiana, or will he bolt for a team he believes gets a favorable whistle? The new veteran-designated-player rule could factor, but the Pacers should also consider these revealing comments.