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


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.

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.




Jimmy Butler returns, hits clutch shots to lift Heat past Celtics

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
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BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and the Miami Heat completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics 120-116 on Friday night after Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

“Obviously having JB back is big time for us,” Herro said. “He helps us in so many different ways.”

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

“My team welcomed me back and let me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big `W’ for the team.”

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

“It felt good coming off my hand,” Brown said. “I know we wanted to get a shot up off the rim as fast as possible, just in case we missed we could get a rebound, a tip out.”

The Celtics had won 10 straight at TD Garden.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

“That’s the biggest thing about the league; you’re not going to stop anybody from just scoring,” Adebayo said. “I feel like (we’re) making him take tough shots every time we play him and living with the result.”

Butler hit a clutch jumper over Al Horford, making it 110-107 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation before Brown took a pass near midcourt, dribbled to his right and nailed his shot.

In OT, the teams were tied twice before Butler nailed a foul-line jumper over Horford with 1:45 left, but Brown hit two free throws to tie it.

Adebayo nailed two free throws and, after Tatum misfired on a 3, Butler hit a jumper to seal it.

“Jimmy made two tough, tough baskets,” Brown said. “That’s just a credit to his work and his skill and his development. He gets going in games like this; on the road in a hostile environment. … Tonight, two shots that in our defensive scheme we could live with, but Jimmy a big-time player made both of them.”

Unlike Wednesday, when shots were open more and both teams were making them effectively (each shot over 50%), defense was tighter and it resembled more of the postseason matchup last season between the pair that went seven games before Boston captured the Eastern Conference title.

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.