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10.10.2013

Pippen Wants to be a Celtic

June 25, 1997

The Celtics discussed a trade yesterday that would put them in the fast lane to Reconstruction City. Depending on which way the wind is blowing in Chicago this morning, Scottie Pippen could be a Celtic by this afternoon or soon after tonight's draft.

Bulls general manager Jerry Krause was said to be talking with another team as well, but of all the clubs in the draft range Chicago wants to move into, Pippen is interested in only Boston. That fact is significant, in that it relates directly to the ability to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent next summer.

There are a few scenarios in the works between the clubs, the most involved of which would have the Celtics choosing for the Bulls at Nos.3 and 6 overall, signing the two players and then shipping them to Chicago for Pippen and center Luc Longley. Dickey Simpkins was mentioned in one situation, while Antoine Walker was also rumored to be part of another. Count Walker as extremely unlikely to move.

As the Bulls and Celtics were awaiting word on Dino Radja's physical with the 76ers (and the official completion of the deal for Clarence Weatherspoon and Michael Cage), there was also talk of Weatherspoon and the third overall pick being dealt for Pippen.

It is, of course, rare for a player of Pippen's caliber to become available. He has been first-team All-NBA the last four seasons and first-team All-Defense the last six. He was also selected as one of the NBA's 50 greatest all-time players.

But the Bulls are convinced that Pippen, who will turn 32 in September, will bolt the club after playing out the last year of his contract (at $ 2.5 million).

The Bulls have stated repeatedly they do not want to let happen to them what befell the great Celtic teams of the 1980s - growing old with high-priced players - and they believe they will be able to contend as long as Michael Jordan remains on the roster. By getting something for Pippen before he leaves as a free agent, it begins the Bulls' rebuilding process. It is also a Chicago goal to be far enough below the salary cap when Jordan retires that it can sign two major free agents.

Celtics president and coach Rick Pitino said last Friday that anyone who isn't interested in Pippen doesn't know basketball, and clearly the 6-foot-7 forward remains perhaps the most complete player in the game next to Jordan. Pitino added Monday that to trade the third pick he would need to get something major in return.

"It's trying to be pried away from us right now, and there are some things that are very interesting to us - with both draft picks combined," Pitino said at Monday's press conference. "But any time you mortgage your future, the player you bring in has to be an impact player and almost make you a playoff team right away."

Pippen would fit that bill.

The Celtics spoke with Pippen's agent yesterday and heard nothing to discourage them. There is obvious concern for how the star would react upon reaching the Celts after winning five championships in the past seven seasons, but those apprehensions were apparently relieved.

And getting Pippen wouldn't preclude the Celts from adding a good free agent next summer. To hold Pippen's rights at that time, he would count at 150 percent of his salary on the cap - a reasonable $ 3.75 million.

Longley, meanwhile, has one year left on his contract at $ 3.1 million.

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