Pippen in the Space City
On January 22nd, 1999, the Rockets finally landed their man, in a sign-and-trade deal with Chicago, which sent Roy Rogers and a second-round draft pick in the 2000 NBA Draft in exchange for one of the top players in the league. The biggest aspect of the deal for Pippen was the new contract he’d signed as part of the execution of the trade.
All in all, Pippen was set to make up to $82 million over the course of five years, with $15 million in incentives. All in all, Pippen went from making $2.6 million per season to making $11 million per year in the Space City. Although Pippen developed a distrust with the Bulls’ front office, they actually helped Pippen by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal, because the Rockets could have only given him a four-year deal worth up to $45 million if they signed him outright in free agency.
This meant the Arkansas native made at least an additional $22 million by being traded, which was actually more than the $21.5 million he had made in the previous 10 years. Charles Barkley re-negotiated his contract with the Rockets so Pippen could land the massive contract, and form a super-trio of Pippen, Olajuwon, and Barkley.
Ultimately the experiment didn’t work, as Pippen averaged 14.5 points per game, which was his lowest scoring average in the previous nine years. The 6-foot-7 defensive ace also shot 43.2 percent from the floor, which was a career-low, while posting averages of 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
Although Pippen missed out on the All-Star team, he was named to the First-Team All-Defensive team during his lone season with the Rockets, but it didn’t culminate in any team success. The Rockets went 31-19, which was good for fifth-best in the Western Conference, and landed them a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Rockets were ultimately eliminated within four games, in a series that saw Pippen post averages of 18.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Pippen finished second in scoring and rebounding, behind only Charles Barkley, while leading the team in steals and assists. But Pippen struggled to find his shot, as he went 32.9 percent from the floor, and 27.3 percent from long-range.