Lakers’ Scotty Pippen Jr. grinds out his own career in Summer League – Orange County Register
LAS VEGAS — The basketball figures in Scotty Pippen Jr.’s life tower over him.
This is figuratively true, but also quite literally. In his first game in the Las Vegas Summer League with the Lakers, his 6-foot-6 coach Jerry Stackhouse watched from a corner courtside seat sporting a Vanderbilt-branded polo. Later in that same game, his new teammate 6-9 LeBron James hoisted Pippen up from the hardwood – Pippen later said “he kinda threw me up a little too high,” with a laugh.
Then, of course, there is his 6-8 Dad, who rolled up Sunday night in non-descript black shorts and shoes and a baseball cap but still managed to receive a standing ovation from the Thomas & Mack crowd. It’s a tough act to follow: Scottie Pippen has six NBA championship rings and is a seven-time All-NBA honoree and Hall of Famer whose name evokes reverence in gyms across the world.
It’s striking then, for all the lofty standards around him, that 6-3 Scotty Pippen Jr. exercises his best basketball skills a little closer to the ground. On Sunday, he plucked three steals – and the way he gets them, by chasing down unaware ballhandlers from behind, is more reminiscent of Jose Alvarado than his father.
“People say my size is a disadvantage; I just use it to my advantage,” Pippen told Southern California News Group on Sunday. “Knowing these bigger guys, the ball is closer to me and I’m lower to the ground, so I’ll just take a steal like that.”
The undrafted 21-year-old has been arguably the Lakers’ most dynamic player through five Summer League games, evidence that talent evaluators often take with a grain of salt in the chaotic playing style of thrown-together squads, but will matter for a shorter guard trying to make his way in the NBA. Pippen grabbed the Lakers’ attention with competitiveness in his pre-draft workout, General Manager Rob Pelinka said, and he has often been the bellwether for how the team fares.
Sunday night was, in many respects, a tough one to have his dad watching. He shot 4 for 15 from the field, and his seven assists were tempered by five turnovers. Pippen is sometimes subject to the same issues that others in Summer League face, being sped up and overeager to make interesting plays happen.
But Scottie Pippen Sr. never seemed to lose a grin as he soaked in his son’s game. The stats in a soon-to-be-forgotten game were beside the point.
“I’ve been around a lot of gyms with my son over the years,” he said in an interview on the game broadcast. “So I’m finally glad to see it’s finally coming together for him.”
There is privilege associated with having Scottie Pippen as a father. Pippen Jr. had access to great teams, great minds and he blazed a trail at Chatsworth’s Sierra Canyon High that would later be followed by Bronny and Bryce James. But he didn’t have the benefit of watching his father play his best years – championship parades in Chicago were only a memory when he was born early in this century.
Even now, he can’t really put a finger on any stylistic traits he might have picked up from the family line: “He’s taught me a lot of moves and stuff like that. … But I don’t know (what overlaps), I think people who watched his game would be able to tell you that better than me.”
The fight he shows on defense might echo with his father’s career to long-time viewers, but that competitiveness has been earned differently. Pippen Sr.’s drive was built paving a pathway out of an impoverished upbringing in Arkansas, then trying to get attention as a walk-on at an NAIA school. Pippen Jr. has been scrutinized closely as a player for his entire career – but his chase is getting to the same league where his father became a star.
There’s a lot of work ahead for Pippen: It’s likely that he’ll play much more for the G League’s South Bay Lakers on his two-way deal than up in the NBA. While his speed, competitiveness and defensive feel are all lauded attributes, his decision-making and shooting are still being developed.
Being as ball-dominant as he has been in Summer League doesn’t readily translate to the Lakers and their ball-dominant stars – at least not yet. Small point guards often have some of the steepest learning curves coming into the league.
But each step of the journey, at this point, feels a little bit like a celebration. He’s wearing an NBA jersey, playing against NBA players with his dad looking on proudly.
“I think just having my dad supporting me is kinda just like a full-circle moment, I think especially for him seeing his son make it,” he said. “But I think it’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamt of this moment.”