Your Los Angeles Lakers got into the second-generation NBA player fun over the summer, inking undrafted rookie point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. out of Vanderbilt to a two-way contract.
During an interview with Natasha Dye of People Magazine last week, the 21-year-old discussed the burden of perhaps outsized expectations for his performance at the next level, given that his father is legendary Chicago Bulls point forward Scottie Pippen, a seven-time All-Star and six-time champion who is generally considered to be one of the very best players in league history.
To be fair, by the time the 1987 NBA draft rolled around, the league was aware that the older Pippen, a relatively unheralded prospect out of the University of Central Arkansas, had the potential to be great at the next level. He was selected with the fifth pick by the Seattle SuperSonics, then immediately traded to the Bulls in a draft night swap. He would go on to become perhaps the best perimeter defender ever, as well as the supplemental scoring cog behind Bulls GOAT shooting guard Michael Jordan, en route to six titles.
"Having a father in the NBA definitely puts a target on your back," Scotty Jr. informed Dye. "So, I think just being able to endure all that and finally say 'I made it,' is a good feeling."
"I would say there are higher expectations because people expect me to be like my dad, but I don't really let that get to me because that's just what people think I should be or should not be," Scotty Jr. continued.
In a fun twist, LeBron James's first year in the league, the 2003-04 season, was Scottie Sr.'s last, when he returned home for a brief 23-game stint with the Bulls. So the Laker legend has now been in the league long enough for two generations of Pippens.
"[LeBron] told me that I've been around the game even if I don't feel like I have, that my dad's put me through this and that, 'You have an advantage over these guys, so at the end of the day just focus on basketball but make sure your family's good, but at the end of the day, you're the only one on the court, so make sure you find something that brings you peace,' " Scotty Jr. told Dye.
The 6'3" point guard, an alum of Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, enjoyed a solid NCAA career with Vanderbilt. He was twice named to the All-SEC Team, and boasts cumulative averages of 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals a night, with shooting splits of .414/.343/.763.
Scotty Jr. enjoyed some nice moments in the Lakers' 105-75 preseason loss to the visiting Sacramento Kings last night, but overall still seemed a bit tentative especially on defense. That is not a reflection on where he's headed, just where he is now. After all, Pippen is a rookie on a two-way deal. He will use at least this season to develop and hopefully grow into a legitimate NBA role.
Pippen did have a rough shooting night, however. In 15:02 of game action, he went 2-of-7 from the floor to score just four points. He also chipped in four rebounds, one assist (plus two turnovers), and one steal. Modest stats, sure, but what an assist!
During the Lakers' 2022 Summer League run in San Francisco, Pippen was playing a bit more freely, and his court awareness proved to be similarly tantalizing:
Scotty Pippen Jr. will probably never be an All-Star, let alone a Hall of Famer. But he has plenty of NBA-caliber tools in his bag, and may eventually carve out a long pro career nevertheless.
Also, a fun anecdote we learned during last night's Spectrum SportsNet game broadcast: the reason Scottie Pippen and Scotty Pippen Jr.'s names are spelled differently is a bit surprising. The elder Pippen's actual name is spelled like his son's, but because he felt like autograph-seekers always assumed it was spelled with an "-ie" suffix, he opted to change it to make things easier.