EL SEGUNDO — Scotty Pippen Jr. was born after the parades were long over. He grew up knowing his father was a legend in Chicago without ever having seen any of the Bulls’ six championship runs.
But games of one-on-one were a reminder that his father, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, had tremendous stature in the game – well, at least when his dad was winning. That started to change two years ago, when both were locked down at home during the early days of the pandemic, according to the son.
“I was wearing him out,” Pippen Jr. said, tongue-in-cheek. “I used to beat him, and he’d fake injuries and stuff. He wouldn’t give me the credit so we stopped playing a while ago.”
For the next few weeks, however, Pippen will have all the competition he can handle. One of the Lakers’ new two-way contract players, he’ll join the Summer League team for tournaments in San Francisco and Las Vegas as one of nine rookies.
The Lakers’ team is highlighted by the franchise’s lone draft pick this year, No. 35 overall Max Christie out of Michigan State. Meeting with L.A. reporters for the first time on Tuesday, the wiry 19-year-old acknowledged how much work he has to do this summer.
“I think one of the biggest things is getting my body right,” he said. “Just the biggest goal for me is just to learn as much as I can, coming to a team with four or five Hall of Famers, let alone a bunch of veterans … There’s been guys that have been there before and I’m sort of the new kid on the block. So I’m just trying to soak it all in.”
Christie, a 6-foot-6 guard, should get long looks at playing time, along with two-ways Pippen (Vanderbilt) and Cole Swider (Syracuse). The team also includes a number of returning players from the Lakers’ G League affiliate: guards Mac McClung and Mason Jones and center Jay Huff.
The roster also includes 6-foot-10 Shareef O’Neal, the eldest son of Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal, who joins Pippen as the son of a blue-blood NBA star.
“I would definitely say there’s a different type of camaraderie for guys whose dads played in the NBA,” Pippen said. “Because going through this whole process since we were little kids, there’s always a different type of pressure on us, I would say. A different type of expectation. So I tip my hat to all those guys.”
It is unclear who will coach the team, though a person with knowledge of the team’s plans said it was unlikely to be first-year head coach Darvin Ham, who attended Tuesday’s practice. Several of Ham’s new assistant coaches, including Jordan Ott (Brooklyn) and Schyuler Rimmer (Milwaukee) staffed the practice, as well as returning Lakers assistant Phil Handy.
Christie called the first practice “fun,” though acknowledging that he’s had a lot of “adult things” thrown at him since he was drafted by the Lakers last week and ushered to Los Angeles after just one year in college. It helped, he said, that new teammate Russell Westbrook texted him the day after he was drafted: “He seems like a great person already.”
Growing up in L.A. for much of his childhood and attending Sierra Canyon High, Pippen already has a leg up on some faces around the organization – most notably LeBron James, whose sons attend the Chatsworth school. Pippen has been friendly with Bronny James for years, he said, and now could start getting to know his dad as a co-worker.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” he said. “It’s a weird feeling being a little kid and seeing LeBron, who he is, and being able to be alongside him, I think is a weird feeling.”
Wait until the one-on-ones start.
The team opens the California Classic on Saturday at 2 p.m. against the Miami Heat in San Francisco. The Lakers face the host Golden State Warriors on Sunday (4:30 p.m.), then, after a day off, conclude the event against the Sacramento Kings (Tuesday, Jul;y 5, 2:30 p.m.).
The Lakers’ Las Vegas Summer League opener is against the Phoenix Suns on July 8 (7 p.m. PT). The Lakers also have games on July 10 (vs. Charlotte), July 12 (vs. the Clippers) and July 15 (vs. New Orleans), with at least one more to be determined after that.