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PIPPEN TRASHED HIMSELF WITH HIS PETTY LITTLE STRIKE

SHARE PIPPEN TRASHED HIMSELF WITH HIS PETTY LITTLE STRIKE

The Bulls lost another lead. The Knicks lost again in Chicago. Derek Harper lost his cool, which will cost him two games of suspension. The league lost a little more glamour because of one more ugly brawl.

And Scottie Pippen lost a great big chunk of his reputation. That was the biggest loss of all.The Bulls and their fans and the rest of the league now know that in a moment of crisis, Scottie Pippen of the Dream Team and three championships just might let his personal resentments take him out of a game. Literally.

Going into Sunday afternoon's rematch, the Bulls will have to remember that Scottie Pippen took himself out of a game because he was angry.

The Bulls will remember that while Pippen was steaming on the bench, Toni Kukoc, the stranger, the alien, the anti-Jordan, the tall and soft Croat, the I-knew-Magic-Johnson-and-you're-no-Magic-Johnson point guard, hit a gorgeous jump shot at the buzzer to win Friday night's game, 104-102, and perform CPR on the Bulls.

Even marred by another fight, it was a classic playoff game, distinguished by sensational play early by Pippen and sensational play late by Patrick Ewing. And in the end, Scottie Pippen lost a big slice of foxhole respect from his peers.

Soldiers know whom to trust in battle. Cops know who will back them up in a disturbance. Take it from an old news reporter, you know which of your colleagues will help you out in a riot or a disaster and which ones are prima donnas.

And now the Bulls know that Pippen's contempt for Kukoc, his self-centeredness, bubbled up with only a few ticks left on the clock.

The other defects of Friday's game can be patched or painted or perfumed. Phil Jackson is saying, well, at least the Bulls have played well in nine of 12 quarters, even if they have coughed up three leads. The Knicks can surely say the Bulls are vulnerable at home.

Commissioner David Stern also levied fines, but the way these galoots are paid, money isn't important. My theory is that the league could limit these brawls by suspending every player who leaves the bench.

And since Friday's brawl took place just about in Stern's lap, he might determine whether the Chicago security guards were trash-talking to John Starks, as Checketts claims. But all of this is, alas, getting to be normal.

Pippen's loss of face could be permanent.