Scottie Pippen says the Bulls dynasty would've won 'at least two' more titles had they stayed together

Scottie Pippen says the Bulls dynasty would've won 'at least two' more titles had they stayed together

The great Bulls dynasty of the 1990s ended abruptly but on a high note. Following their hard-fought NBA Championship win in 1998, Phil Jackson and management couldn't come to an agreement and they decided it was time for him to recharge, taking a step away from basketball. With their leader deciding to get out of the game, Jordan decided to call it quits again. With Jackson and MJ gone, the Bulls front office started their rebuild, trading away Scottie Pippen and not re-signing Dennis Rodman.

One of the great "What ifs?" in NBA history is what would've happened if the Jordan-Pippen-Rodman Bulls stayed together for a few more seasons?

Well, one man seems to have a pretty good idea of how things would've gone if the band stayed together for several more years.

In that same interview on ESPN's 'The Jump', Pippen goes on to say that not only would the Bulls have dominated the lockout-shortened (50-game) 1998-99 season but they would've gone on to win 'at least two' more titles.

Pippen elaborated, "I would have loved to have challenged ourselves to a point to where someone could defeat us."

The 10-time All-Defensive first-team selection and Hall of Famer stated that the teams that gave he, Rodman, Jordan, and company the most problems were the Utah Jazz, who were in the same age bracket as the Bulls, if not older. And in the NBA postseason, we do see veteran teams give fits to younger, inexperienced squads, so 'Pip' may have a point. 

When Rachel Nichols brought up that the lockout-shortened season would've helped the "old man" Bulls keep their legs fresh, Rodman stated, "That makes me mad, man...we had legs for 50 games. My God."

The Bulls were obviously dominant but could a 33-year-old Pippen, 37-year-old Rodman and 35-year-old MJ really have won two more titles?

We took a look at how the Bulls would've stacked up with the 1999 and 2000 NBA Champions, and the matchups are highly intriguing. 

The 1998-99 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs were led by a ridiculously effective frontcourt of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. In the 1999 NBA Finals the Robinson-Duncan duo combined for 44.0 points, 25.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 5.2 blocks per game. They dominated the Patrick Ewing-less New York Knicks but the Bulls would've presented a much different challenge. 

Similar to the Utah Jazz (and pretty much every team in the league if we're being honest), the Spurs didn't have any single player who could be looked at like a clear-cut perimeter stopper. This brings up serious issues when matching up with a Bulls team that was getting 64.4 points per game from the trio of Toni Kukoc, Pippen and Jordan. On the flip side, the Spurs would've had a clear advantage on the inside.

The Bulls were outrebounded in both the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, and that edge on the glass is exactly what helped Utah extend those series to six games each time. Rodman is, of course, one of the greatest rebounders of all-time and was quite adept at guarding up a position (i.e. guarding much bigger players). So when factoring in Rodman's skillset and the way the Bulls would aggressively double-team Karl Malone in their series against the Jazz, the Bulls would likely have the advantage because at the time—despite being a player who was clearly prepared for high-pressure moments—Tim Duncan was only 22 years old.

For further examples that an experienced bunch would've taken down that Spurs team, look no further than the 1998 Western Conference Finals, in which the John Stockton-Karl Malone Utah Jazz that lost to the Bulls took down the Spurs 4-1. But when we look at how an aging Bulls squad would have faced off with the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers, things get a bit murky. 

The starting lineup of the Lakers was: Ron Harper, Kobe Bryant, Glen Rice, and '00 MVP Shaquille O'Neal.

The most interesting parts of this hypothetical matchup are how familiar the Lakers would be with the Bulls considering the presence of Harper in the lineup, the matchup of Shaq vs. the Bulls bigs and of course, what would've likely been a legendary battle between Jordan and a then 21-year-old Bryant.

Harper likely wouldn't have had an incredible impact, as the Bulls' triangle offense deemphasized the importance of a top-notch point guard. But the O'Neal-Bryant tandem had enough talent and skill to potentially overwhelm an aging Bulls team. 

Keep in mind that O'Neal led the charge (24.3 PPG) when the Orland Magic took down the MJ-led Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Chicago's center rotation (Bill Wennington, Luc Longley) was essentially the same in '98 as it was in '95, so a slightly older and wiser O'Neal certainly would've again been able to post gaudy numbers against the Bulls. But Rodman, who was not on the '95 Bulls, had a reputation as someone who could give much bigger matchups fits, even the massive O'Neal, so there is a case to be had that the Bulls could've slowed him down.

So it all comes down to Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan. 

The two legends faced off less than 10 times during their respective NBA careers and while '00 Bryant had not developed his 'Mamba Mentality' yet, he was fresh off an All-Defensive first-team selection while also being a 20+ PPG scorer. In '98, a 34-year-old Jordan put up 32.4 PPG on a 54.5 percent true shooting percentage, so he was still in top form. 

Ultimately, Bryant's athleticism would have played a major part in the Lakers' effort to slow MJ down, but we have seen over 13 different postseasons (33.4 PPG career playoff scoring average, No. 1 all-time), that there is no such thing as "slowing MJ down." 

The pure dominance of Shaq—and the fact that the Lakers would've had homecourt advantage—makes them look like the favorites, but Pippen, Rodman, and Jordan could easily frustrate O'Neal, forcing him to be more of a passer and high-volume free throw shooter.

We're taking the Bulls in seven games over the 2000 Lakers with an acknowledgment that it would be a hard-fought series, so maybe Pippen wasn't off with his prediction of two more titles had the Bulls dynasty stayed together longer. 

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

The NBA is expected to have a plan to resume its season approved by owners at a vote on Thursday, June 4, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The news comes on the heels of a call with the Board of Governors Friday that yielded nothing definitive. Four potential formats for relaunching the season and a target date of July 31 to resume play were reportedly floated.

But the above report from Wojnarowski marks the most marked progress towards the league formally agreeing on a return-to-play plan to date.

Predictably, the precise details of the plan are not yet known. In conjunction with Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, Wojnarowski reported that the plan is expected to feature invitations for “20-to-22” teams.

That would mean no invite for the Bulls — perhaps a blessing in disguise (or dressed plainly). The Bulls are currently paused with the 24th-best record in the NBA at 22-43, and are 8.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.

Still, the team opened the Advocate Center Friday morning with clearance from both Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago officials. Players in the area will be permitted to undergo NBA-sanctioned treatments at the facility, an opportunity which Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn have already taken advantage of. Voluntary, socially-distanced, individual workouts may begin Wednesday when Chicago is expected to enter Phase 3 of its reopening. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will be en route to the city soon.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. A resumption bid seems on the cusp of coming to fruition.

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How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

Before Michael Jordan rejoined the Bulls, he was a Warrior for 48 hours. Figuratively, of course.

No, Jordan didn’t officially sign (or even consider the notion) with the Warriors during the MLB strike that punctuated his first retirement amid the 1994-95 NBA season. But he did secretly practice with the Dubs multiple times whilst retired — and, with rare purpose, dominated multiple All-Stars in midseason condition. 

That story was unearthed on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast. Some of the people behind the production of the podcast, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Ryan McGuffey and Tony Gill, joined Jason Goff on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss the behind-the-scenes machinations behind its creation.

McGuffey called the secret Jordan-Warriors practice runs the “golden uncovered nugget” of the podcast. And it came about rather serendipitously, in a chance interview with Tim Hardaway.

“The Tim Hardaway interview kind of fell in our lap. He was in our office one day and it was like, ‘Hey, do you want Tim Hardaway?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’” McGuffey said. “I mean, he was an All-Star. I don’t know if it’ll give us anything, I don’t know if it’ll lead to anything. 

“Sometimes the interviews you don’t plan for are the ones that become a stone that you turn over and you’re like ‘What is this?’ And Tim Hardaway made a comment, I asked about the Berto Center practices and whether or not he understood what was going on here in Chicago. And he said, ‘I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this.’ ... When a guy says that, you know you got something."

They did, indeed. From there, on recommendation from Hardaway, the crew got in touch with Rod Higgins, then an assistant coach with the Warriors, now the Atlanta Hawks' VP of basketball operations. As detailed in the podcast, it was through a connection with Higgins that Jordan was even allowed to participate in the practices in the first place.

McGuffey and company entered their sit-down with Higgins ready to pry, equipped with volumes of follow-up questions and previously-researched points. But Higgins was ready to share.

“We reached out, found Higgins with the Hawks and reached out to them and told them exactly why we wanted to do the interview. We said this is the story, here’s what’s been said and can you validate?" McGuffey said. "And he didn’t validate it, he didn’t double down, he tripled down and gave us more facts, more details.”

You can hear those details by listening to the Sports Uncovered podcast here, via the embedded player below or wherever you get your podcasts.

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