LAS VEGAS – Here was Scottie Pippen in the big room off the entrance to the Palms Casino, sitting at a table as part of an All-Star weekend skills competition promotion, and the living, breathing league legend was reducing himself to something so beneath his stature.
"I'll sit back and let (NBA executives) call me," Pippen said Friday. "I know this is a stage that I can use to get my name back out there."
Yes, Pippen has thrust his name out there, throwing out his candidacy for a comeback in the NBA. Out of basketball for 2½ seasons, the 41-year-old Pippen somehow still holds out hope that there's a market for him. As one of the 50 greatest players in league history and a six-time world champion with the Chicago Bulls, he's unnecessarily set himself up for a public embarrassment.
"It's a shame that he's out there selling himself to people this way," one Eastern Conference executive said.
Said another league official: "I know it only takes one team, but it's kind of sad to see him doing this. He had too great of a career to put himself out there like this."
Pippen insists that his body feels better than it has in five years, but of course, it does. It hasn't been subjected to the grind of a sport that slowly, surely eroded his prodigious talents in the final, fruitless seasons of his 17-year career.
He's been working out in Fort Lauderdale where Pippen became convinced that he could be useful to a contender. Someone mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers, where, after all, everyone keeps saying that LeBron James' championship aspirations require a Pippen-esque running mate.
Well, the real thing is threatening to climb down out of the trophy case and get back into the game. Of course, it would be a good decade too late to truly help LeBron.
"I feel there are some strong opportunities out there for me," Pippen said. "I'm basically looking for a contender. I look at teams like Miami, Cleveland, Dallas, San Antonio – I just feel like if you're those teams, I can go in and help. Whether I'm able to get into the roster in the next month or so, I definitely feel like I can break in and make some contributions."
Around the room, the next generation of NBA stars were polite in responses to Pippen hypothetically joining them as a teammate. Kobe Bryant insisted that there's always a spot in Phil Jackson's triangle offense for Pippen, LeBron said that he could bring "leadership" to a team and Dwyane Wade decided that, well, it would be interesting to play with another teammate that he marveled over in childhood video games.
If Pippen is so determined to play again, he could've had his agent quietly check around the league, gauge interest and report back to him. The fact that Pippen didn't handle matters that way tells you this revelation of a possible comeback has been as much about him reaching for attention as much as it is an opportunity.
When All-Star weekend should've been about today's stars, it turned out that two of yesterday's – Pippen and Tim Hardaway – made much of it about themselves. Of course, you can easily forgive Pippen for it. He's having a hard time letting go, and hey, it happens in sports. Pippen happens to be one of the most unique and versatile talents to ever play the game, one of the forefathers of the point forward. But this isn't going to end well.
Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine that this long of a layoff into his 40's leaves Pippen with enough game to upset a roster and rotation for his arrival. What's more, the idea of Pippen as the sage presence in Portland never worked out that way. The Bulls brought him back for the final few games in 2003-2004, but his body had broken down, if his spirit hadn't. It's hard to bring leadership to a basketball team when you're no longer bringing any game.
For a time, Pippen had been one of the players leery of Michael Jordan's reincarnations with the Wizards that pushed past his 40th birthday. Now, Pippen sounds like he's drifting a little himself, unsure what's next in life, saying that outside of some cable television work he's mostly been "just watching the game, just working out."
Pippen says he's going to contact some teams that interest him. Remember, it only takes one to give him a shot. At this point, you'd have to wonder: What would turn out to be potentially more embarrassing for Scottie Pippen.
If no team will give him a chance to come back and play, or, maybe worse, if one does.
- On the day that Jason Kidd's estranged wife delivered an explosive divorce petition in a New Jersey court, the New Jersey Nets All-Star had a meeting with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, who formally extended Kidd an invitation to play for Team USA at the FIBA Americas Olympics qualifiers in Las Vegas in August. Kidd will also be a candidate for the 2008 Olympic roster in Beijing.
"He wants to hear some things face to face about being a part of the team, and I told him I wanted to be a part of it," Kidd said.
- Kevin Garnett gets to play this game every All-Star weekend with reporters: So when are you going to follow the lead of so many of your peers and ask out of a losing cause with the Minnesota Timberwolves?
"I've never been good at following," Garnett said. "When it's time to make a decision on what's best for me, I'll make a decision on Kevin Garnett."
The Timberwolves look like unlikely candidates for the Western Conference playoffs, despite firing Dwane Casey to make Randy Wittman head coach. Garnett knows that it won't make a difference with the lousy roster assembled around him.
"It's not my first situation with coaching changes," he said. "My coach for nine years was my hardest, that being Flip (Saunders). To see him go to Detroit and be successful with one of my best friends, Chauncey (Billups), was very difficult."
- The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame delivered its list of 15 finalists for induction in the class of 2007. Included were nine-time NBA championship coach Phil Jackson and five-time All-Star Chris Mullin. Those two were long expected to make the Hall, but the list also featured a championship team and a legendary high school coach who've waited a long time for a chance to reach Springfield, Mass.
The 1966 national championship Texas Western team, coached by Don Haskins and famous for the first all-African-American starting five in major college history, has a chance to go into the Hall as a team. They beat Adolph Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats for the national title and were immortalized in the movie, "Glory Road" (the complete story was told in Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel's book by the same name).
As a young man growing up in Texas, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler said, "I'm not sure where basketball would be if it was not for that team."
St. Anthony High School of Jersey City coach Bob Hurley Sr., who has won over 875 games, 24 state championships and two national titles, has a chance to become just the third high school coach ever to be inducted into the Hall. Hurley has turned down numerous college coaching offers through the years to stay at St. Anthony, where he's worked relentlessly to help raise money to keep the inner-city school open.
Once again, St. Anthony is undefeated at 22-0 this season and among the elite in high school basketball.
"I'm speechless," Hurley said when reached Friday afternoon. "What an honor for a high school coach."
- Scottie Pippen