Pierce admits that he, too, was jolted by the fans' hostility toward Walker. "I don't understand," says Pierce. "He's been playing some of his best basketball, but he can't make mistakes anymore?"
Walker says he will "reevaluate everything" at season's end. He has few options. He is locked up in Boston until 2006, and even if he decides to ask for a trade, his base salary makes him a poor candidate for a swap.
Perhaps that's why there's so much frustration in the air at the Fleet. The stark truth is that Walker is stuck with the Celtics, and they are stuck with him.
Life Without Jordan
Pippen Hurting, Buechler Rolling
When Chicago swingman Toni Kukoc tunes into a Houston game and tracks his old teammate Scottie Pippen, he wonders if he should adjust his set. The guy languishing on the perimeter with a look of frustration on his face sure doesn't appear to be the All-Star who won six NBA tides with the Bulls.
Conversely, neither Kukoc nor anyone else would have guessed that the former Chicago player who would flourish most in a new environment would be swingman Jud Buechler. He was a bit player in Chicago's tide runs, yet he has been a significant contributor for Detroit this season, averaging 5.6 points and 21.6 minutes a night through Sunday.
Pippen, meanwhile, was shooting a career low 42.6% from the floor and averaging just 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds at week's end. Clearly he misses playing alongside Michael Jordan—who wouldn't?—but he seems to pine nearly as much for Chicago's triangle offense, which accentuated his strengths. Pippen, Jordan and Kukoc all knew what the others planned to do before they did it because the rhythm of the offense had become second nature to them. "Most teams have plan A, B and C," Kukoc said last week. "With us, it was A and, only if necessary, B. C never existed."
In Houston, plan A is Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets won two championships by going to him in the low post. The team's other primary offensive threat is Charles Barkley backing into the basket. That leaves Pippen in the unfamiliar role of a perimeter player waiting for a kick out from the double team. "I'm not sure why that's a surprise to Scottie," says longtime Bulls assistant Tex Winter, the architect of the triangle offense. "I've always said that for Scottie to score big, he has to score threes."
Pippen's success shooting the three in Chicago was bolstered by his effectiveness as a penetrator and creator. He says those skills are often lost in Houston's offensive schemes. "I got used to getting touches and cutting and creating and anticipating what I could do next to get easier shots," says Pippen. "Here I'm not allowed to do that. I'm not used to an offense focused on one individual. The biggest adjustment has been standing out three, waiting to catch and shoot threes. That's not my style."
Most observers agree that Pippen will eventually have a bigger impact on the Rockets. "It may take some time, but Scottie will find his niche," Winter predicts. "You can't make too much of his demeanor. It's Scottie's personality to get frustrated with things."