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Ball Don't Lie

Stan Van Gundy talks about Scottie Pippen, gets it all wrong

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Scottie Pippen was only a "superstar" because he played with Michael Jordan. OK, Stan Van Gundy. Whatever, Mike Bianchi.

Way too often my answer to most things that strike me as ridiculous comes as some form of, "why don't you come visit my living room?" Which sounds creepy, but it's often the best way I can get people to understand how great Steely Dan was, or how much fun RBI Baseball on the original Nintendo is. You wouldn't know, if you wouldn't stop by my living room.

And Stan Van Gundy? Mike Bianchi? Come visit my living room. Because I've endless hours of Scottie Pippen's work on an array of DVDs, burned off of VHS tapes, that will have you realizing the brilliance that was one of the game's top all-around performers. First, though, let's go over your terrible misdeed. From Bianchi's post from early Friday morning, as pointed out to me by Evan Dunlap:

I'm so glad I was able to get in touch with SVG because he somewhat validated something I've thought for years and years: That Scottie Pippen may not have been a superstar and calling him one of the greatest players of all-time may be a fallacy.

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"I have always wondered, as good as Scottie Pippen was, would he have been considered a star if he hadn't played with Jordan and had to carry a team on his own," Van Gundy explained. "We'll never know, but my point is that sometimes we make the determination after the fact. In other words, after Chicago won championships, we branded Pippen a star."

OK, Jordan aside, brand this:

Twenty-two points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals, 49 percent shooting. On a 54-win team, featuring Pete Myers at starting shooting guard and a rotating series of dreadfully lacking centers.

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Those are Scottie Pippen's numbers from 1993-94, the year he won All-Star Game MVP while Michael Jordan readied himself for pitchers and catchers reporting. And though I don't have many games from this year in the living room, understand that this was Pippen working in an offense that didn't lend itself to easy assists for the initial playmaker, which he was, and a defense that focused on getting stops, and not steals.

Or, Stan and Mike, you can just fire up the old YouTube and watch Pippen dominate without having to score. Sort of like the defender you both currently champion, Orlando center Dwight Howard. The guy was astonishing, and the clip I just linked to features Pippen well past his prime. This used to be a man, in the years where a zone was completely outlawed, that would find a way to put his imprint on all five offensive options on the court at once, without acting as some rim-rocking, 7-foot center. All he did was guard everything, always. While working as the most important initiator of the most complex offense you've ever seen.

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Stan Van Gundy, in a less annoying way than his brother usually does, often comes through with statements for effect. Not things he really believes in, but something stated to help shift the narrative, usually to help his (read: his team's) own cause. This allows for people like us to take the piss out of him, but he doesn't usually care. Just as long as his team gets the calls, the next time around. Or just as long as his boy Dwight makes the cover of something.

But this? For anyone, this is a ridiculous statement. For someone with Stan Van Gundy's basketball smarts? This is a betrayal of the depth of hoop knowledge that we've long admired and often talked up. I'm sure, if pressed, Van Gundy doesn't feel this way; but I'm too tired to try to understand his motivation here. I don't get his angle. I don't care. This was a dumb thing to say, Stan Van Gundy.

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