Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf: ‘Not a chance in the world’ Scottie Pippen would’ve signed one-year contract

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Michael Jordan made his case in “The Last Dance” for Chicago to make another championship run in 1999. He went through a list of Bulls – himself, Phil Jackson, multiple role players – he says would have signed one-year contracts. Then, he got to Scottie Pippen.

“Now, Pip, you would have had to do some convincing,” Jordan said in the ESPN documentary. “But if Phil was going to be there, if Dennis was going to be there, if MJ was going to be there to win that seventh, Pip is not going to miss out on that.”

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

“I know in Episode 10, [Jordan] says, ‘They all would’ve come back for one year.’ But there’s not a chance in the world that Scottie Pippen would’ve come back on a one-year contract when he knew he could get a much bigger contract someplace else.”

Reinsdorf is probably right. Pippen got a reported five-year, $67 million contract with the Rockets (via sign-and-trade) in 1999. As his previous deal with the Bulls showed, Pippen valued long-term security. It would’ve been quite risky – given his age (32) and health issues – to reject that Houston contract and hope for another big offer in 2000.

And Jordan overstates Pippen’s commitment to winning championships. Pippen demanded a trade in 1997, right in the midst of a three-peat! Of course, Pippen wanted to win. He also wanted to be on a team that’d pay him what he felt he was worth.

But why did it have to be a one-year contract?

Reinsdorf is deflecting. He could could have re-signed Pippen to a long-term deal. It’s Reinsdorf’s money and his right not to spend it. But it’s ridiculous to frame the discussion as if a one-year contract were Chicago’s only option.

Pippen’s five-year contract aged poorly in Houston then Portland. He was past his prime and not worth his high salary. But value can’t be evaluated in a vacuum. It might have been worth paying out a “bad” five-year contract if it meant another season of championship contention. After six titles in eight years, the Bulls were so spoiled to throw that away.

Jordan and Jackson were clearly exhausted by the end of the 1998 run. Most of Chicago’s supporting players – including Pippen – were aging. Maybe 1999 would’ve been the last run even if the team were kept intact. But even if that were the case, the Bulls probably still could have traded Pippen for at least neutral value in the 1999 offseason. That would have been a great situation – getting an extra season of championship contention while paying Pippen only one extra season.

After having him for only season, the Rockets traded Pippento the Trail Blazers for Kelvin Cato, Walt Williams, Carlos Rogers, Stacey Augmon, Brian Shaw and Ed Gray. So many years later, it’s difficult to evaluate exactly how Houston valued that package. It seems mostly positive, though.

The Rockets showed plenty of faith in Cato, signing him to a six-year, $42 million extension shortly after the trade. ESPN’s season preview included rave reviews of both Cato…:

Cato gives the Rockets the first legitimate backup center in ages. And the fact he’s an athletic 7-footer has Olajuwon and Tomjanovich drooling over the possibilities, especially in the shot-blocking department. Tomjanovich has even suggested that Cato could lead the league in blocks this season.

…and Williams:

Small forward

This is where the Rockets really upgraded themselves, even though that may seem a reach since they lost Pippen. In Williams, they got the small forward they’ve been chasing for years. Remember, he was one of the players they coveted in that ill-fated trade they had set up with Toronto two seasons ago that would’ve also landed them Damon Stoudamire. Williams gives the Rockets a legitimate small forward, a guy who can knock down the three — a must in the team’s halfcourt sets — post up when needed and create his own shot off the dribble.

Williams (more useful) and Rogers (less useful) were on hefty contracts that lowered their values. Augmon, Shaw and Gray amounted to dead salary for the short term.

Still, if the Bulls could’ve contended for a championship an extra year then turned Pippen into a package like that, that would have been GREAT for Chicago.

The Bulls might have gotten even more. Pippen probably wouldn’t have had a worse season in Chicago (where he had chemistry with Jordan, Jackson and everyone else) than he did in Houston (where he struggled to fit with Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley and clashed personally with Barkley).

Of course, there would have been risk for the Bulls. Pippen could have declined even more quickly, leaving a large long-term contract extremely toxic. Reinsdorf didn’t want to potentially incur those costs – EVEN THOUGH THE UPSIDE WAS ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP.

He should own that.

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry fired

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No team entered the NBA restart bubble in Orlando with the buzz of the New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson was back, they had an All-Star in Brandon Ingram and solid veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday around them. With all that, no team was as disappointing in the bubble as the Pelicans, who went 2-6. They looked like they were going through the motions, and all season long were less than the sum of their parts.

Saturday New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry paid the price for that and was fired, the team announced. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN and soon after confirmed by team.

It was not a surprise. Gentry was considered on shaky ground before teams flew to Florida and the disappointing play of his team while there led to team VP of basketball operations David Griffin making the change. (A sitting coach is always on shaky ground when the management above him changes, as happened with Gentry.)

“I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin’s leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve.”

Clippers lead assistant Tyronn Lue and Lakers lead assistant Jason Kidd — two veteran coaches who are considered player-friendly — were mentioned as potential replacements by ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times. Lue and Kidd have both been mentioned in connection with the open Brooklyn Nets coaching job. Both also are in the Orlando bubble with their respective teams as the playoffs are about to begin (and both likely will be there for a while). Another name to watch is current Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni, who is not expected to be brought back with the Rockets and favors the kind of up-tempo system that would suit Zion. n

The challenge with big-name replacements in New Orleans is money — this is the smallest market in the NBA and ownership has been hit hard by the economic slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus. Lue, Kidd, and D’Antoni will be expensive and demand five-year contracts. The Pelicans could look at seasoned assistant coaches who have not yet held a top spot — Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, and there are many others — who could do the job and come at a price more within their budget.

The key for whoever gets the head coaching job is to form a strong bond with Zion, the future of the franchise, and figure out how to get the most out of him.




Portland, Memphis where they want to be as play-in series tips-off

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Heroics were needed to get Portland and Memphis on the doorstep of the playoffs.

For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard averaged more than 50 points — with a shot from a step inside midcourt in there as one of his many highlights — to lead the way in three consecutive down-to-the-wire, season-on-the-line victories.

For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas became the first teammates in Memphis history to post triple-doubles in what turned out to be a must-win game as well.

And now, the mission isn’t done yet for either club. Portland and Memphis meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) in Game 1 of the Western Conference play-in series. The Trail Blazers have the upper hand by finishing the seeding-game portion of the NBA’s restart ahead of the Grizzlies. Portland needs one win, Memphis needs two to advance to a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’re where we want to be,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “And so, I don’t think anybody’s over the moon right now. We know that we’ve got a tough opponent in Memphis, so there was no time to really celebrate.”

Had the Blazers lost any of their last three games, they could be home already. Lillard has scored 51, 61 and 42 points, respectively, in those three games — and had to sweat out a last-second shot by Brooklyn in a one-point Portland win on Thursday night that determined their play-in fate.

“I think mentally I’ll be fine,” Lillard said. “I think physically, it’ll obviously be some fatigue here. But I think it won’t be as hard as you might think because there’s a lot riding on these games. Every game that we’ve been playing, our last three or four games, has been like our season is on the line.”

The Grizzlies came into the restart at Walt Disney World in control of the play-in race, then sputtered before winning the game they needed to on Thursday against Milwaukee to clinch a spot.

Morant said he remembers when the Grizzlies were ranked 27th coming into the season in a 30-team league. He’s used that slight as fuel ever since.

“Now look at us,” Morant said. “Being that underdog doesn’t matter to us at all. We love being the underdog. It’s just extra motivation, fuel to the fire. It just makes our success even better, coming in and being the underdog.”

Game 2, if necessary, will be Sunday. The series for the play-in winner against the Lakers begins Tuesday.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell expected to play Monday against Dallas

Montrezl Harrell play
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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When the Clippers take the court Monday for their first playoff game in the bubble, going against Luka Doncic and a dangerous Mavericks’ team, Montrezl Harrell will be suited up and ready to play.

The Clippers’ Sixth Man of the Year candidate, who excused from the bubble due to the death of his grandmother and missed all eight seeding games, will be out of quarantine and cleared to play, report Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Doc Rivers said he plans to play Harrell against an active Dallas front line.

“I’m just going to throw him in there, he’s earned that right,” Rivers said. “The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I have ever had a guy that hasn’t played in eight games or whatever and hasn’t had any practice and we’re just going to throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. We’re hoping that at this point.”

Harrell came off the bench to average 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. Harrell was often part of the Clippers closing lineup this season because of his improved defense, but he always brought relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. They will need that against a Dallas team that rolls out a front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and former Clipper Boban Marjanovic.

Not having Harrell for eight games in the bubble added to that versatility, Rivers said.

“We got to play JaMychal [Green] at the five far more than we ever thought we would. We needed to work on that because he’s such a floor spacer,” Rivers said. “We got way more work on that than we thought, but we actually liked it.”

Expect to see more of that — and some Harrell — against Dallas starting Monday.

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin denies ex-wife’s abuse accusations

Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin – filling in for Nick Nurse – served as Toronto’s acting head coach for a win over the 76ers on Wednesday. “For one night, I felt like Cinderella,” Griffin said afterward.

Griffin’s moment in the spotlight drew attention to abuse claims his ex-wife, Audrey Griffin, had been making online for months.

Audrey Griffin:

Raptors release:

The Toronto Raptors and lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin have issued a joint statement addressing accusations of domestic abuse shared in social media posts by Griffin’s ex-wife on Thursday, Aug. 14.

Statement from Adrian Griffin:

“This morning, accusations were made against me on social media by my former wife that I vehemently deny. We are involved in a longstanding legal dispute over alimony and child support arrangements. I am disappointed to have to address false accusations in this way, and I apologize for any distraction this has potentially caused for our team at this important time.”

Statement from the Toronto Raptors:

“When we saw these allegations this morning, we were dismayed – Adrian is a valuable member of our team. Our leadership immediately spoke with him, and he flatly denied the allegations in the posts. We will support the process as he and his former partner settle these matters.”

Griffin was also reportedly a candidate for the Bulls head-coaching job, which opened today.

Hopefully, the truth will emerge and justice will be served.