Much of the second episode of “The Last Dance,” which aired Sunday on ESPN, centered around the hardship of Scottie Pippen’s upbringing and the ways it impacted his NBA career, including the infamous seven-year contract he signed in 1991. That has led many to revisit Pippen’s impact on those Bulls teams and place in the NBA hierarchy historically.
In an interview with Rachel Nichols on The Jump on Tuesday, Warriors coach and then-Bulls guard Steve Kerr praised Pippen mightily.
Always a smart conversation with @SteveKerr on #TheJump – he told us why he thinks MJ really left to play baseball, about Scottie's battles with Jerry Krause & if the Warriors (who already have the best odds for the No. 1 pick) would rather call this season/start fresh next year pic.twitter.com/8CRtumXBHm
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 21, 2020
Aside from being “the best defensive player in the league by far,” Kerr said Pippen also was vital in the locker room. “Scottie was sort of the counter-balance to (Michael Jordan’s prickly personality),” Kerr said.
Another focus of part two of the series was Pippen’s decision to undergo surgery at the start of training camp rather than over the summer. Pippen made no mistake about the fact that the delay was intentional, as he wanted to enjoy the offseason rather than rehabbing. Kerr, however, insisted there were no hard feelings from the team.
“We felt his frustration with him,” Kerr said. “Nobody resented him for having that surgery later. We all just understood … Let’s give him his space, and he’s going to be there in the second stretch of the season for us.”
Whereas Jordan in the film calls Pippen “selfish” for making the decision, Kerr’s perspective is probably more representative of other teammates. Jordan understandably felt the weight of Pippen’s departure heavily, as the Bulls got off to a rocky start (which we also see in the second episode) and Jordan had to, as always, shoulder a heavy load. Still, the documentary is also built around the acidic atmosphere around the team due to the way Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf managed it.
Considering the financial circumstances and soured relationships around the Bulls at that time, Pippen’s decision to wait on his surgery is a relatively minor offense. And as Kerr says, Pippen had enough built-up goodwill from teammates and others within the organization that he was given the space to make his own decision rather than kowtowing to Jordan or Krause again.