NBA PM: Pippen Said What?
Scottie Pippen was frequently referred to as “Robin” to Michael Jordan’s “Batman” throughout the 1990s, but he stepped out from that allusion during his Friday morning interview with ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” When asked about HEAT forward LeBron James, the Hall of Famer didn’t exactly sound like a MJ’s loyal sidekick:
Double negative aside, you have to admit Pippen gave a thoughtful answer. It’s easy to sit back and simply anoint Jordan as The Greatest, but Pippen’s argument required guts and supporting evidence.
The backbone of Pippen’s position is James’ playmaking ability, and there’s good reason to put him ahead of MJ in this category. Outside of 1988-1989 (when he averaged 8.0 APG), Jordan never averaged more than 6.3 APG over the course of a singe season. James’ career average is 7.0 APG and the 26-year-old averaged 8.6 APG in his final season with the Cavaliers. In fact, he hasn’t finished a year with a mark under 6.0 since his rookie campaign (5.9 APG). Perhaps most importantly, James has the better career assist rate (34.2 to 24.9), which measures the frequency of how often a player’s possessions end with an assist.
Jordan has the better career field goal percentage, but that isn’t a permanent situation. James has improved his shooting percentage every season since he was 22, and finished this year with a career-high 51.0% mark from the field. And while both players have made around 33% of their respective 3-point attempts, James has averaged 1.5 3-point conversions per game as a professional whereas Jordan averaged only 0.5 per game. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean James is the better player, but it does speak to his versatility.
Of course, it’s easy to put the two players’ statistics side by side and compare—they each have a career Player Efficiency Rating of around 27.0 and their respective true shooting percentages are both just south of 57.0%—but it’s much tougher to judge them as defenders. As a forward with good quickness around the perimeter, James has been asked to guard a wider variety of players, but both are generally considered among the best defenders of their eras.
There is obviously no clear cut answer to the debate, but the time when people could sit back and say, “Jordan has six rings,” seems like it’s finally over. NBA fans now have a greater appreciation for the fact that this is a team game, and up until now James hasn’t had the best teammates.
Prior to this season the best player James played with may have been Anderson Varejao or Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Now, with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side, he’s making the best championship run of his career. Jordan, meanwhile, got to play for Phil Jackson and next to Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman. He may very well be the greatest player ever, but Jordan certainly got more help than James during the best years of his career.
Lastly, it took Jordan seven years to win a title, and considering James is only in his eighth season, we should probably cut him some slack. Yes, James has fewer titles than MJ, but he also has fewer titles than Greg Kite. Was Greg Kite better than LeBron James?
Stone Gets Honest With HOOPSWORLD
If only every draft hopeful was as honest as UTEP point guard Julyan Stone. The 6-6, four-year man from Goleta, CA didn’t give the best showing at New Jersey’s Draft Combine, so when HOOPSWORLD caught up with Stone at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, he didn’t hesitate to admit his poor performance cost him an invite to the more-prestigious Chicago Draft Combine. Now Stone has less than a month to prove he’s worth a second-round draft pick, so he’s training hard and working out for any NBA team that will let him. The Knicks and HEAT will be the next two teams to look at Stone, who averaged a remarkable 7.5 RPG for the Miners as a senior, but after that the 22-year-old may be running out of options. Simply click play to watch the entire interview with HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler.
YesterdayThe Portland Oregonian‘s John Canzano reported that a source “familiar with the situation” said that the Blazers are considering asking shooting guard Brandon Roy to retire.
Just a few years ago the Blazers boasted Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge as one of the best young trios in the game, but injuries have derailed the careers of Roy and Oden, and the Blazers are hoping to go in a different direction. Roy’s debilitating knee injuries give the Blazers the choice of reducing the role of a player they still owe $68 million to, or finding a way to get rid of him, which may include convincing him to retire.
Of course, that’s not the final verdict. He was streaky against the Mavericks in the playoffs, but Roy did score 24 points in 24 minutes as the Blazers pulled the Game 4 upset. Canzano suggests that performance is enough for Portland to keep him around, but that’s not a guarantee—particularly when $68 million is at stake.
If the team were truly desperate, they could cut Roy with the Amnesty Clause, which would still require the Blazers to pay him, but would ultimately save ownership money on luxury taxes. Of course, that’s more of a nuclear option, especially considering the next collective bargaining agreement could offer some form of relief.
Blazers fans will have to wait until after the next CBA to really find out if Roy will continue to be a part of the team.
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