Scottie Pippen: If I Were Coach ....
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Pippen
If one player best captured the excellence of the versatile, athletic mid-sized player who helped change the face of the NBA in the 20th Century's last decade, that player would be Scottie Pippen. Teaming with Michael Jordan to help the Chicago Bulls win six NBA championships in the '90s, Pippen out of Central Arkansas, was the best defensive player and top passer during those years. Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Pippen will be offering his insights on a weekly basis throughout the playoffs as if he were a head coach trying to navigate the dangerous postseason waters.

Posted by Scottie Pippen on April 20, 2007, 5:45 p.m. ET

If I Were Coaching the Bulls…

I would have to be very encouraged with this basketball team. They had a great regular season, forgetting about Wednesday’s game against New Jersey. Sure it was a very important game that could have given them a lot better seeding, but things don’t always pan out for you the way you want. Going forward, I would focus on the positive things, things that the team has done well against this Miami Heat team.

In the past, it has really been about pushing the ball, making the game more up-tempo, trying to wear Shaq out, and trying to get Miami to play sort of an erratic type of game, a game that they’re not comfortable playing in. More so, it’s about just trying to keep Shaq on the move, especially on the pick and rolls because the Bulls offense is basically predicated on outside shooting. Miami is a very good defensive team in terms of covering out on the perimeter, but one of their weaknesses, and Shaq’s weakness, is that pick and roll. As coach, I am relying on that.

If I Were Coaching the Heat…

I would have to realize that for the most part this season, this team has not been totally healthy in terms of being able to make a run like they did last year. Knowing that, I am very encouraging with this team, understanding what we have to do against the Chicago Bulls is basically pound it inside. I know Shaq has had some great games against the Bulls.

The fact that they don’t have any size or height to keep Shaq away from the basket makes him a huge threat in this series. Miami has to get back to playing the type of basketball that they were playing a year ago and they have to have a healthy Dwyane Wade. Dwyane has to put his injuries behind him and force himself to go out and play the type of basketball that he was playing early on this season, which I thought was MVP-style basketball. I think that the Heat, even without Wade being in the lineup, have played some pretty stable basketball, but they have to get back to utilizing Shaq if they are going to win this series.

I think in looking back a year ago, the Bulls played the Miami Heat fairly close and since then they acquired Ben Wallace, a better player than what they had at that position last year, so he is going to be the x-factor. If Ben Wallace can step up and play against the Miami Heat the way he has done in the past, the way he has played against Shaq in previous playoff games, he could be a huge factor.

If I were coaching the Heat, I am going after Ben Wallace. I’m attacking him from a standpoint of fouling him, putting him on the foul line, taking his aggressiveness and his confidence totally out of this series like the Heat did last year in the series against the Pistons. Riley went after Ben Wallace and took him out of that series early on and made him less effective and took all the pressure off Shaq. I put it on Ben Wallace. Let’s make a hack-a-Ben and forget about hack-a-Shaq. I think that is going to be something in Ben Wallace’s mind going into this series, that the Miami Heat are going to use their fouls on him.

PREDICTION:

A lot of people have constantly mentioned the Heat, as a result of last season, as a team that seems to have that on/off switch. In the years that I played, I have never seen a team that could just turn it on and turn it off. I think that may be one of the advantages that the Bulls have going into this series compared to last year – they have a Miami Heat team that is lacking a little bit of confidence right now and it’s very hard to just turn it on. Basketball is a rhythm game and right now we know that the Miami Heat haven’t had their best players on the court where they can get into a rhythm. If the Bulls can continue to keep them out of that rhythm, I think the Bulls can upset them in this series. I think it is going to be very difficult for the timing and everything to be there for Miami. Wade and Shaq haven’t been together for most of the season. That familiarity is not as automatic for them. I can see them having some difficulties, but for the Bulls, they haven’t been playing great basketball, so that leaves a little crack in the door for the Heat.

I am going to go out on a limb and go with the Bulls in six. This team is playing better basketball than the Heat right now and they’re going to be in a little bit better rhythm come playoff time. Miami doesn’t have an identity, whereas the Chicago Bulls do.

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