It was one of the running themes of episode two of The Last Dance documentary: A frustrated Scottie Pippen delayed surgery on his foot until close to the start of the 1997-98 season, keeping him out until January. Pippen, unhappy with his contract (the Bulls chose not to renegotiate it a couple of seasons earlier), said in the documentary, “I decided to have surgery late because I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to f*** my summer up.'”
“Scottie was wrong in that scenario. He could’ve got his surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season,” Michael Jordan countered in the documentary.
Steve Kerr disagrees with MJ.
“Everyone respected Scottie so much,” Kerr said. “We felt his frustration. He probably should have been the second-highest-paid guy in the NBA or definitely top-five. So we all felt for him, nobody resented him for having that surgery. Later, we all understood, let’s give him his space, and he’s going to be there for the second stretch of the season for us.”
Jordan being hard on Pippen is nothing new to 1997 — Jordan saw the potential in Pippen and pushed him from when Scottie first was drafted.
“He was brutal on Pippen, but that’s what toughened Pippen up as a young player,” said Roland Lazenby, author of ‘Jordan: A Life‘ and ‘Blood on the Horns,’ speaking to NBC Sports. “They would have fierce battles. Phil liked to pit them against each other like two pit bulls in practice.”
It’s understandable other players on that team would feel like Kerr and others. Jordan’s fire never turned off. Kerr and the other players were competitors, but this team was going to be judged on what happened in the playoffs and not in November and December, if Pippen was going to miss that time so be it.
At least this time when Kerr disagrees with Jordan, he’s not going to get punched.