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All whine, no cheese for Pippen

Every child, at one point in his life, hears the same thing after beleaguering his parents to grant some insignificant desire: "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it." Someone should have told that to Scottie Pippen. Pippen is not a newcomer to the NBA by any means, but he, like many superstars, has finally finished regressing into emotional childhood.

"Trade me," he said to the Rockets' management. "I wanna go to the Lakers," he insisted. Well, he got traded, all right, after only a single year in Houston that failed produce even a playoff series win, let alone a championship. But he didn't go to the Lakers. He got a one-way ticket to the Portland Trailblazers, the only team in the league that could afford his immense salary. The Blazers got a whiner who has never shown the ability to lead a team, and the Rockets got six players who together earn as much as Pippen would have. Almost. These six players, two of whom have already been cut from the Rockets' already huge roster, might actually try complementing Charles Barkley instead of insulting him.

Just like a child who has realized that people are disappointed in him, Pippen got abusive and mouthed off to ESPN about Barkley and the team. Obviously, Scottie, if you're accused of not respecting the fans and the team, of course the best thing to do is insult them to the national media. And while you're at it, you might as well insult a superstar player who has been in the city for much longer than you have. Barkley, one of the greatest players of all time, played for only $1 million last season so the Rockets could slip under the salary cap with Pippen's $67.2 million contract in tow. Pippen performed miserably last year, recording the lowest shooting percentage of his career, and yet had the gall to blast the Rockets for not getting him the ball more often. Maybe he should have made the most of the opportunities he had before demanding extra shots.

Pippen's childish behavior has been going on for years. However, when he was with the Bulls under the watchful eye of Michael Jordan, his antics seemed less obtrusive and less overtly immature. Compared to Dennis Rodman, Pippen was a model of virtue and responsibility. Still, not many people in Chicago have forgotten that during the 1994 playoffs, while his Airness was off playing baseball for the White Sox, Pippen refused to re-enter the game when Phil Jackson chose Toni Kukoc over Pippen to take a last-second shot against the Knicks. Pippen seemed nicer while he was with Jordan and the Bulls—more likeable and mature. On his own, though, he has shown himself to act more like an adolescent ill-prepared for reality.

Unfortunately, in today's professional sports world, Pippen's reaction is more the norm than the exception. Had he succeeded in getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, he would have joined fellow complainers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. For a rapper whose latest record is titled Respect, Shaq has always shown little respect for his teams, his fans, or his management. He and Bryant have reluctantly shared the court in L.A. out of necessity; were it possible, neither of them would ever speak a word to the other. Not even the stabilizing effect of Jackson at the helm has proven enough to stifle the childish instincts of the Lakers players. It's a wonder that Laker practices aren't broken up for naptime and snacks.

On any team that has more than one superstar, egos will inevitably clash and someone will be hurt until a star succession is established. In Houston, no one knew whether the main star would be Barkley, Pippen, or Hakeem Olajuwon. Pippen has shown no leadership qualities; all he had to do in Chicago was recline in the Laz-E-Boy and follow Mike to the finals. Had Pippen gone to the Lakers, he then would have had to contend with both Shaq and Bryant. Even Pippen's past history with Jackson would not have convinced the coach to elevate Pippen to team leadership over players with more proven ability in that department. It has yet to be seen whether Pippen's ego will mesh with the Blazers, where management has recently added Detlef Schrempf to their sardine can of high-priced stars. Pippen questioned whether Houston had the desire to win a championship; Blazers owner Paul Allen seems more than willing to buy one.

NBA athletes are, for the most part, adults. Whether they act like mature human beings is another matter. When salaries swell to multi-million-dollar levels, egos expand proportionately. Whether it's also a necessary consequence for maturity levels to decrease is open to debate. But the next time you hear a voice complaining about someone's "fat butt," try not to mistake the NBA for a playground game on Saturday morning. Scottie Pippen may have wanted a trade, but it's unclear whether he knew what he was asking for. His fervent desire to leave Houston may come back to haunt him. He should watch what he wishes for in the future.

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