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.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

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Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.