Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr disagreed with former Bulls teammate Michael Jordan on the stance that Scottie Pippen was “selfish” for purposely delaying his foot surgery to enjoy his summer and miss the first part of the 1997-98 season.
Jordan said in Episode 2 of the ESPN documentary series, “The Last Dance,” that “Scottie was wrong in that scenario.” Then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson said he took no issue with it. Pippen, who ruptured a tendon in his ankle, grew frustrated with Bulls management because he was the 122nd-highest-paid player in the NBA and rumors surfaced that general manager Jerry Krause was considering trading him. Pippen was in the final season of a seven-year, $18 million contract. Chicago would go on to win its third title in a row and sixth in eight years.
Kerr was asked on ESPN’s “The Jump” if there was resentment toward Pippen for delaying the surgery, and he said, “Not at all.” The 54-year-old coach also suggested his teammates didn’t feel as strongly as Jordan about Pippen’s decision.
“Everyone respected Scottie so much,” Kerr said. “We felt his frustration. He probably should have been the second-highest-paid guy in the NBA or definitely top five. So we all felt for him, nobody resented him for having that surgery. Later, we all understood, let’s give him his space, and he’s going to be there for the second stretch of the season for us.”
Pippen was a different type of leader and teammate than Jordan, Kerr said.
“He was the best defensive player in the league — by far,” Kerr said. “On top of all that, I think this documentary is showing how tough Michael was on his teammates. Scottie was sort of the counterbalance to that. He was the one who made us all feel comfortable and confident. He was beloved on that team. He was such an incredible teammate and player. It was amazing to watch him work every single night and play with him.”
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