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Pippen's a Pip
Opponents of the Bulls have long feared exactly what seems to have happened in Chicago—the transformation of forward Scottie Pippen from a gifted but erratic athlete into a player of near- Michael Jordan ability and consistency. Since Feb. 22, after he finally made public his long-simmering resentment over his $765,000 contract for 1990-91, Pippen has been playing as well as anyone in the NBA, averaging 20.5 points on 67.1% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists over 12 games. During that time, the Bulls won 11, and at week's end they boasted the best record in the league (48-15).
But what about Pippen's complaints? Because Jordan and backup center Stacey King have already leveled shots at Bulls management this season—Jordan decried the Bulls' lack of depth and King griped about lack of laying time—does Pippen's outburst complete a portrait of a team in turmoil?
Absolutely not. On Monday, The Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls and Pippen were near agreement on a lucrative contract extension. Beyond that, what the little-used King (who makes about $1 million a year) thinks about his lack of minutes is not of much concern to anyone. Finally, the most wrongheaded theory of the year is the one that says the Bulls are adversely affected by Jordan's feud with general manager Jerry Krause.
As one Bull who desires anonymity says, "Jerry isn't around us nearly enough to be a factor." Dissatisfaction with the Chicago front office, particularly its pursuit (probably fruitless) of Yugoslavian guard Toni Kukoc, has united the players more than it has torn them apart.
A potentially more damaging situation for the Bulls is Jordan's tendency to criticize his teammates for lack of support and, in turn, their sniping at him for taking too many shots. The Bulls have discussed both subjects in team meetings, and reports that team harmony has broken down are vastly overblown.
The fact remains that the Bulls have had only one big failure: Like everyone else around the league, they haven't been able to beat Detroit. The Bulls have probably been the NBA's second-best team in the last two seasons, and it's painfully obvious that what they need to become the best is more consistent postseason play out of Pippen. This might be the year they get it.
Glad to Be Here
Gone are the days when the NBA looked to the CBA call-ups solely as emergency 12th men. Now CBAers frequently find that their services are actually needed when they report to the big clubs. Steady, dependable backcourt play seems to be particularly in vogue. Here are our choices for an all-star team of players who began the season on CBA rosters.
Mario Elie, American International, forward-guard, Warriors. The ex-Albany Patroon played high school ball with Warrior star Chris Mullin in New York. Now, Warrior coach Don Nelson has found a scorer off the bench in Elie, who was signed Feb. 28 not only for the rest of this season but also for '91-92, albeit on a make-good basis.