Pippen set to hit trail for Portland

Rockets to get 6 players for disgruntled forward

October 02, 1999|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

It appears Scottie Pippen's strange odyssey will continue.

The former Chicago Bulls star who was transformed into a Houston Rockets malcontent last season is expected to be traded to the Portland Trail Blazers today for six reserves.

Pippen would join the team that many project as the favorite for the NBA title because of the off-season additions of Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith and Seattle SuperSonics forward Detlef Schrempf.

The Rockets are to receive Kelvin Cato, Stacey Augmon, Walt Williams (Maryland), Ed Gray, Shaw and Rogers, none of whom were expected to play major roles in Portland. So many players are involved because they are needed to make the deal work under the provisions of the NBA salary cap.

With Pippen, the Blazers would have a formidable rotation that includes Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant, Arvydas Sabonis and Damon Stoudamire.

That, of course, is assuming Pippen remains with Portland. There have been rumors the Blazers will ship him to the Los Angeles Lakers, and reunite him with coach Phil Jackson, for another disenchanted forward, Glen Rice.

The Lakers have been reluctant to deal for Pippen, despite offers from Houston, because of his big contract. His deal will average more than $15 million a year for the next four seasons. A league escrow penalty goes into effect under the new labor agreement for high-salaried teams in the last two years of Pippen's contract, which makes it even more unpalatable to absorb.

However, Jackson has been trying to convince Laker owner Jerry Buss that despite Pippen's declining statistics (he averaged 14.5 points and shot a career-low 43.2 percent) and ballooning salary numbers, Pippen's versatility and court savvy would give the Lakers a much easier transition into the triangle offense.

The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, apparently believe that the pure-shooting Rice, a free agent after this season, would be the perfect final complement to their post-up offense and would have no problem meeting his salary demands.

The Lakers have opted not to make a move for Pippen, choosing to wait and see if the current roster -- and especially Rice -- can flourish under Jackson and in the triangle.

Pippen, 34, is a seven-time All-Star and two-time Olympian who won his six titles with the Bulls.

Jackson has not ruled out reconsidering the possible acquisition of Pippen at some later point. For salary-cap purposes, it would take Rice, Robert Horry and probably Travis Knight to complete the deal.

The deal comes in the wake of Pippen and Rockets forward Charles Barkley exchanging insults via interviews the last few days. Pippen questioned Barkley's fitness and desire; Barkley complained about Pippen's lobbying for a trade and said it would be best if Pippen were dealt.

Williams, a seven-year veteran, will be joining his fifth NBA team. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged between 10.3 and 17.0 points in his first six seasons before dropping to 9.3 last season as a reserve.

season with his fourth team. Cato, a 6-foot-11 center, is entering his third season.

Gray, acquired by Portland in the Steve Smith-Isaiah Rider trade over the summer, averaged 4.9 points for the Hawks last season. Shaw and Rogers barely played last season and might not even make the Rockets' roster.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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