- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

The Lakers-Trail Blazers series requires a Game 6 only because Rod Thorn let Scottie Pippen off with a fine in the wake of his WWF-inspired blow to the back of John Salley's head in Game 4.
Pippen was the difference in Game 5, with 22 points, six rebounds, six steals and four blocked shots. He should have been in Portland, Ore., watching the game on television. He should have been suspended for at least one game.
If the Matt Geiger-Reggie Miller pillow fight merited three lost games for the principals two for Geiger and one for Miller Pippen deserved at least an equal rebuke from the NBA's etiquette boss.
Pippen's forearm shiver to the back of Salley's head was ugly, undoubtedly delivered in frustration after his team's two no-shows at home. It also was premeditated. Pippen went out of his way to work on Salley's cranium while, conveniently enough, Salley's attention was diverted elsewhere.
If you're going to challenge someone and Pippen is not really the type you do it face-to-face. You look your opponent in the eye and make it clear, in word and body language, that you are prepared to get down.
Pippen adopted the coward's way. He hit a man who wasn't looking in his direction.
Pippen's character always has been questionable, going back to his days with the Bulls. It was Michael Jordan who used to buck Pippen up. It was Jordan who used to take Pippen by the hand and tell him that it was going to be all right. It was Jordan who used to respond when teams tried to be physical with Pippen.
Teams would get physical with Pippen, because it was effective. He would blink. He would disappear. He would stay out of the three-second lane.
Pippen is one of those guys who wouldn't be happy if he were sitting on the front row of a burlesque show. He wouldn't like the color of the G-strings.
Charles Barkley found that out in Houston. Barkley accepted the minimum salary, so the Rockets could squeeze Pippen's contract under their salary cap.
Pippen eventually showed his gratitude by calling Barkley fat and lazy after Pippen was a safe distance from Houston.
No, Pippen didn't have the guts to call Barkley fat and lazy to his face. Pippen knows that Barkley would have been inclined to make his nose larger than it already is.
Pippen's problem in Houston was not really Barkley. Pippen's problem was his inability to be the superstar he supposedly was during his years as Jordan's caddie.
Pippen is a nice player, sometimes even an exceptional one, as he was in Game 5 against the Lakers. But he does not have the wherewithal to put up superstar numbers game after game.
Fortunately for Pippen, he is with the right team now. He is a superstar who is not required to deliver a superstar's numbers on a game-to-game basis.
Pippen is part of an ensemble cast. The Trail Blazers' second unit could make the playoffs. They are that deep and talented. Someone with the Trail Blazers is usually able to get it done.
If Pippen is a superstar, he has a funny way of showing it. His attack on Salley was classless, gutless, something you might expect from a low-skilled goon from the NHL. It also was dumb, hardly reflecting well on his leadership and championship experience.
If Salley had responded, you can be certain there would have been the usual huffing and puffing among the players, a much-discussed scene, and Thorn would have been obligated to sit Pippen a game or two.
Instead, Pippen escaped with a $10,000 fine and was able to lead the Trail Blazers to an unexpected victory on the road in Game 5.
You know the story line. Pippen has all that playoff experience. He knows how to stay cool.
He does not get mad when things are tough. He seeks out a backup player, whose best days were 10 years ago, and delivers a nasty forearm to the back of the player's head.
Good job. Savvy move.
It's too bad Pippen did not have it in him to try that on his fat and lazy ex-teammate in Houston.
That would have brought to two the number of persons Barkley has hurled through a plate glass window.

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