Amare Stoudemire, Derrick Rose and Phil Jackson


Feb 13

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That could have been Amare Stoudemire here Friday channeling Scottie Pippen.

I remember the last time the All Star game was here. It was 1995, just about a month before Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls. But the Bulls still didn’t know as Jordan still was heading to baseball spring training for another try. Though baseball was coming back, there still was the shadow of the lockout that cost the 1994 World Series and questions about the 1995 season.

Jordan wanted another shot at it, though eventually would decide his presence would be too controversial with the players not fully committed yet.

Meanwhile, the brilliant 1993-94 Bulls season in which they were a Hue Hollins call and Pippen phantom foul away from the conference finals has disintegrated into a dysfunctional 1994-95 season with Pippen losing control at times. One famous episode was throwing furniture onto the court in a home loss to the Clippers.

The Bulls had toyed with trading Pippen after the 1993-94 season, a deal for Shawn Kemp falling apart at the last minutes when the Supersonics pulled out. By the next season, Pippen was ready.

He was MVP in the 1994 game, but in the 1995 game here he was most likely to be traded. There were constant rumors, most being fed by Pippen, who regaled the media with tales of how much he loved various NBA cities not named Chicago and how he especially loved Phoenix. Pippen even showed up at one event wearing Suns gear.

And though Stoudemire didn’t go that far Friday, he made it clear he had no problem being traded, had no idea what his organization was up to and was baffled by their apparent decision with an old team to trade him.

And if I were betting, which we don’t do around the NBA, I’d say there was a good chance Stoudemire would be MVP of Sunday’s All Star game as the players often try to help the hometown players, and Stoudemire would like to make a good case to someone.

Stoudemire guessed the Bulls remain one of those interested in him, though he declined to say with what team he’d like to play if traded. Here’s a summary of his comments to reporters:

“Our personnel is stunning. For us not to be playing to that caliber, I can’t figure it out. It’s stunning. I ask my guys all the time. What’s going on? Why are we not the team we’re supposed to be. All of us think the same as teammates. Hopefully it turns around.

“It’s possible (I could be used better). I definitely want to figure something out as far as how to win.

“I’m willing and accepting the trade rumors.

“I’m 26 years old. If it’s the Lord’s will I’ve got 15 healthy years left.

“With everything going on no one knows what’s going to happen. Me trade rumors, Shaq. Are they giving up on us now? Throwing the season away? Or are we really trying to win a championship. Those are the questions were are juggling. It’s what we’re trying to figure out.

“Right now it’s not working. We’ve got to make some adjustment and turn this thing around.

“With all these rumors happening. No one really knows if you are trying to win a championship or save money.

“I like the rumors. Why not? I’ve got 20 teams, maybe more, about calling my agent trying to acquire me. It feels good to know teams actually want me and want me and follow my game. From a team standpoint, the Suns, it would be good because we could focus on the game and how to get better. But it’s not going to happen.

“I think it’s been somewhat of a distraction. Everyone is trying to figure out what the ultimate goal is here.

“I’m trying to figure out the focus (of this team). Are we trying to win a championship? It doesn’t seem that way anymore. It seems they are trying to cut back on contracts. They want players with expiring contracts and draft picks. That lets me know they are not trying to win a championship. Do you want to win a championship or save money?

“That’s definitely a question I’m trying to figure out (why they want to trade me and not all the 35 year olds). Maybe because a lot of teams want me and they feel they can get a lot for me. I’m 26, one of the young, rising stars in the league so I try to figure out why they want to trade me.

“If I were building a team I’d definitely start with the young All Star. But I don’t know what’s happening. I’m trying to figure it out. The fans around town here are pretty upset. They’re trying to figure it out as well.

“Derrick Rose is a super athletic and fast and explosive point guard. He’s going to be fun to watch in the near future.

“No, no, no (whether he’s like Steve Nash). I’ve never seen Steve dunk. And Derrick dunked three or four times when he was here in Phoenix. He’s super explosive.

“Right now, my point guard is Steve Nash, two-time MVP. We going to stick together until somebody changes that. Whoever I team up with next is going to be great. We’re going to grow together and try to win a championship.

“If my last home game is an All Star starter here that would be a heck of a way to go out. I turn every negative into a positive. That’s why I stay free spirited.”

* * * *

It was a weary Derrick Rose who had four points and a team high seven assists for the rookie team that lost 122-116 in the rookie/sophomore game here Friday night. It was a Rose, fortunately, Bulls fans haven’t seen this season as Rose was mostly a passive passer as the sophomore team came from behind with 46 points from Kevin Durant to win. Michael Beasley led the rookies with 29.

“It was fun,” said Rose. “The crowd got me into it even if I wasn’t really (usual). It was fun being a part of it. I was just trying to pass them the ball. (Durant), man, 6-9, 6-10, shoot the ball like he’s a two, dribble like he’s a one. It’s tough to guard him. I told the coach I had a long night last night. I was traveling. So he just let me sit down (Rose played 20 minutes, fewest of the starters).

“My mom, she hasn’t seen me in awhile,” Rose said of probably not getting much sleep this weekend. “So if I’m not taking a nap, I’m probably in her room and she’s telling me how bad my nieces and nephews are or how bad the dog is above us. So I have to hear stories the rest of the weekend.”

Rose met with reporters before the rookie/sophomore game. Here’s some of the things he had to say:

“The toughest thing to me is there’s nothing easy about the NBA. The toughest thing is the traveling, I guess. Getting rest. You play so often it’s hard to get rest. But I’m fine now.”

“John (Paxson) means a lot, especially to the Bulls organization. This is my first time hearing it (rumors of a change). To think about it, it’s tough. He wants to know the person inside of you. He’s a caring person. When he comes in the locker room he’s always smiling, joking, talking to everyone, just being Pax (so I don’t see any signs of problems). To hear that (he might resign), that’s crazy. People have to make decisions. If he makes the decision that’s best for him I can’t say much about that.

“He’s (Amare Stoudemire) a great player. Almost everyone in the league wants him. So it would be tough trying to get him. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the people in the office to decide whether they want him or not.”

“Michael (Beasley). He’s better than me. Way better. 6-7, 6-8. He can do almost everything. It’s tough to guard him.”

“LeBron, that’s my favorite player. I want to watch him, how he relates to fans and media, those little things I want to watch and learn from him.

“First I have to get my hair cut (today). I couldn’t because I had to leave so early (from Chicago). No nap. It would be a tease. If there’s no seven or eight hours, there’s no purpose of taking a nap.

“Win (the rookie/sophomore game). We’re 2-7. The coaches told us. That’s all I want.”

* * * *

I ran into George Gervin, the famed Iceman, at the announcement of the finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Among the finalists was the Bulls Johnny “Red” Kerr, and Gervin talked about how Kerr discovered him after Gervin was thrown out Eastern Michigan and given a bad rap after what he said was the first altercation of his life.

“Kerr is the one who got me into the ABA,” said Hall of Famer Gervin. “I withdrew from school and went and played in the Continental League. I was averaging about 38. Johnny “Red’ Kerr was in the stands and after the game he came to me and said I’m going to talk to Al Bianchi (coach) with the Virginia Squires. He called Al. Sonny Vaccaro was my agent. We went to Virginia, I had a workout and they signed me. I couldn’t go hardship (with the NBA) then. I took Charlie Scott’s place. Swen Nater came later. We played at the Richmond Coliseum, Norfolk and Hampton Roads. All were our home courts. Julius (Erving) was on the team. I was his rookie. He’d remind me every time he’d see me. He still calls me Rook. I’d try to get in the locker room and he’s say, ‘Hey, Rook, you ain’t done yet. He helped me a lot.’ I was 18. All I loved was ball. I didn’t understand the value of education. I wasn’t getting no diploma. If not for the ABA, I probably would have gotten a job. That was the first time I ever even got in a fight (and left school). I was marked. And in Evansville, Indiana. Big Johnny “Red” Kerr was the guy who gave me my shot. I emailed him when I heard he was sick and reminded him and told him, ‘If not for you, I may never had a chance to be Ice.’ He’s a special man in my life.”

* * * *

Phil Jackson will coach the West All Stars Sunday. He’d heard the rumors about John Paxson and said he felt for all his former players in the GM job, including Steve Kerr and Michael Jordan.

Said Jackson: “I know Michael took it hard with the Charlotte job last year not working out and not feeling so good. This year it is a little better, incrementally. You want to see those guys have success and some joy in what they are doing. But the GM job is very difficult. There is very little immediate joy or success and it takes awhile to build a franchise.”

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