Scottie Pippen isn’t making many friends from the promotional media tour accompanying the release of his new book, “Unguarded.” While much of his criticism has targeted longtime teammate Michael Jordan, the Houston Rockets managed to catch a stray, as well, during Pippen’s recent interview with Frank Isola on Sirius XM NBA Radio.
After Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls after the 1997-98 season, Pippen was a free agent and made a move to Houston to join forces with two other Hall of Famers: Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley.
But the 1999 Rockets went just 31-19 in a lockout-shortened regular season, placing them No. 5 in the Western Conference. They were then booted from the playoffs in the first round. After the season, Pippen got into a war of words with Barkley and effectively forced a trade to Portland, ending his Houston tenure after only one abbreviated season.
In hindsight, here’s how Pippen remembers it:
I thought I was joining a super team, to some degree, but it just didn’t work out. We just didn’t have the right chemistry, and we were aging a little bit. I felt that this wasn’t a good fit for me. Coming off a second back surgery, I needed a little more youth around me. I hadn’t realized how much Hakeem had diminished in the game, I’ll be honest. I didn’t realize Charles wasn’t as dedicated as I thought he would be.
I went to Houston to try and help Charles Barkley win a championship, and I felt that his dedication wasn’t there, once I got there. Me, myself, I had six (championships), so it wasn’t really about me trying to go out of my way to win a championship. That’s why I asked for the trade. I ended up in Portland with a younger team, a hungrier team, and players that I could kind of stand behind, and not have to stand out front anymore.
Pippen does own six championship rings, compared to zero for Barkley. However, all of those six were earned playing alongside Michael Jordan, who is viewed by most as being the best player in NBA history. Barkley never had the luxury of having a teammate of that caliber, and certainly not in 1999 — when Pippen averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in 40.2 minutes per game with the Rockets after signing a maximum-salaried contract in the offseason.
It’s also worth noting that teammates on the ’99 Rockets strongly took Barkley’s side in the dispute and remain in his camp, to this day. Pippen’s comments on his media tour may draw attention to his book, but they’re also clearly missing some context related to his own role there.
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