Scottie Pippen was back, and no longer wants to be traded. Michael Jordan owned the fourth quarter. And the Chicago Bulls won.
“We feel like champions again,” Luc Longley said Saturday night after his Bulls welcomed back Pippen with an 87-82 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors. Jordan scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter.
Making his season debut after missing the first 35 games while recovering from foot surgery - and after saying he’d never play for the Bulls again - Pippen started and had 14 points, four rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes.
“I would like to finish the season here,” said Pippen, who had demanded to be traded two months ago because he felt mistreated by general manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. “I think the team is looking forward to us going for a sixth title” in eight years.
Pippen didn’t believe his differences with management could be repaired and doubted he’d return after this season. But he said his relationship with Jordan and coach Phil Jackson - who felt betrayed by Pippen’s trade demand - is fine.
“I never questioned my relationship with Phil, Michael or any of my teammates,” said Pippen, who told them of his plan to return during Saturday morning’s shoot-around. “I think they understood what I stood for.”
Jackson, however, made references to “the loyalty issue.”
“Some of those issues had to be worked out,” Jackson said. “The understanding was that the greater glory or the greater effort had to be for the team.”
Jordan, asked about the return of his All-Star sidekick, said: “It’s about time.”
“I think he understood my feelings as well as everybody else’s. But Scottie made his own decision,” Jordan said. “It’s something we’ve all been looking for. Now we can start putting everything together and move in the right direction. I’m very excited.”
Pippen received a loud standing ovation when introduced, bumped chests with buddy Ron Harper and then returned to his role as primary ballhandler, offensive facilitator and defensive stopper.
Even with Pippen, though, the two-time defending NBA champions looked lethargic as they played their fourth game in five nights. Going into the fourth quarter, they trailed the Pacific Division’s worst team 58-57 and were shooting 36 percent.
Michael Jordan would like to play for the New York Knicks. Make that: Jordan would “love” to play for the Knicks.
He said so himself. Twice.
Jordan, in what probably was a strategically timed comment to fuel the debate over the Bulls’ future, left the door open somewhat for a future move to New York Friday night after Chicago defeated the Knicks 90-89 in Jordan’s first visit of the season to Madison Square Garden.
“It wouldn’t be that I wouldn’t love to play in New York. I would love to,” Jordan said. “But that would be a selfish act not conferring with my family and knowing that my kids are in school and I can’t take them out. That’s not great parenting.”
The possibility of the Bulls losing Jordan after this season is real, especially with general manager Jerry Krause reiterating last week that Phil Jackson will not be brought back as coach next season.
Jordan has said he won’t play for any other coach besides Jackson - he reiterated that point Friday night - but knows there is a possibility Jackson could end up coaching the Knicks in the 1999-2000 season.
Rockets lose Drexler
The Houston Rockets’ medical problems continued when Clyde Drexler went on the injured list because of a sore right shoulder.
Drexler missed Thursday’s game against Indiana and he’ll miss at least the next five games.
Drexler, among the league scoring leaders, is averaging 19 points a game, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
The Rockets filled his roster spot by activating forward Joe Stephens, who has been on the injured list since Jan. 2 with tendinitis in his right knee. Stephens, a second-year player out of Arkansas-Little Rock, also was on the injured list from Oct. 30 to Dec. 20 with a bad foot.