- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Scottie Pippen is either having a senior moment or another 1.8-second lapse in judgment with his misguided appeal to return to the NBA.

The 41-year-old Pippen has not played in the NBA since the 2003-04 season, when he was limited to 23 games because of knee problems.

Yet Pippen believes his vast playoff experience would be useful to a number of championship contenders in warm climates, his stated geographic preference. He is not looking for a big payday or big minutes. He merely is looking to have a small but important role with possibly the Heat, Suns, Spurs or Lakers.

Pippen thinks he can do what the iconic Michael Jordan could not do on Fun Street, which was inspire teammates on the basis of his past glories.

If Jordan was largely ineffective in that area — Jordan was only the best there was in the NBA — what makes his second banana think the reception to him would be any different?

Pippen’s leadership qualities did not exactly inspire those in Houston, Portland, Ore., and during his second go-around in Chicago following his six championship runs with the Bulls.

A team’s best player is not necessarily its leader, as Eddie Jordan noted last week.

But a leader is obligated to be an essential part of the team, which Pippen was not in his last few seasons in the NBA.

Pippen insists he feels great physically, which is different from feeling great on the second of a back-to-back game night on the schedule.

Perhaps Pippen is heartened by the re-emergence of Dikembe Mutombo, the 40-year-old center who is reveling in his old finger-wagging self in the absence of Yao Ming.

Mutombo, though, is a 7-footer who has not been away from the game for nearly three seasons.

As it is, centers usually age better than guards and forwards because their value starts with their height and not their quickness or jumping ability.

A 30-year-old 7-footer is still going to be a 7-footer at 40.

Shaquille O’Neal is a notable exception to the rule, but that is a product of all the weight he has chosen to carry during his career.

At 6-7, Pippen was the prototype point forward, an adept ball-handler and passer who was a multipurpose defender.

The biggest flaw in his game was an undependable perimeter shot, which became more of a liability as his forays to the basket decreased in the latter portion of his career.

Even in his best seasons, Pippen did not arouse the passion of those closest to him, whether because of temperament or the sentence of being Jordan’s caddy.

His best-known snit was refusing to go onto the floor after the Zen Master diagrammed a play for Toni Kukoc with 1.8 seconds left in a playoff game in 1994.

Pippen undoubtedly knows his way around the heightened atmosphere of the playoffs and could use a platform to impart his knowledge.

But it should not be with him in a jersey. It should be with him in a suit, as a coach.

Otherwise, as a player, Pippen risks alienating those he is purporting to help by taking minutes from lesser players, a prospect that does not lend itself to warm feelings.

That is the genuine reality before Pippen as he goes about this foolish pursuit.

Pippen is apt to land a suitor because of his faint promise, although the NBA has not been tempted by Shawn Kemp’s long-standing desire to return to the league.

Pippen used the platform of the All-Star Game in Las Vegas to initiate the inquiry process, which should start with: “Are you serious, or are you about to deliver a punch line?”

Pippen’s was the most goofy development of the All-Star weekend, which is saying something, given the sight of the backpedaling Charles Barkley falling on his ample rump after outlasting referee Dick Bavetta in a charity race.

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