Pippen back, but Bulls lose

Alluding to retirement is nothing new for Scottie Pippen this season, but the veteran forward became more specific on Tuesday when he admitted it's unlikely he'll play the second season of his guaranteed, two-year deal.

"It probably is," Pippen said, when asked if playing next season is out of the question.

Pippen has a history of making idle threats and contradicting his words.

And Pippen did return to the lineup for a late start against the Clippers at the Staples Center after a one-game absence to rest his chronically sore and surgically repaired left knee.

In doing so, Pippen reiterated his expectation to play this entire season, his 17th, one that already has featured more losing than he expected and another arthroscopic surgery. That procedure alleviated some pain.

But it's clear Pippen will battle this problem all season, which has led to speculation he could retire this season.

"I don't know where that came from," Pippen said. "Yeah, I'm going to make it through [this season]. I'm going to try."

Pippen played eight scoreless minutes in a 102-92 defeat as the Bulls lost for the 21st straight time in opposing Western Conference arenas. Corey Maggette had 28 points, and Elton Brand had 20 plus 11 rebounds for the Clippers.

Eddie Robinson, returning from a two-game absence with a strained groin, led the Bulls with 17 points.

General manager John Paxson acknowledged the risks of signing Pippen, 38, to a guaranteed $10.3 million free-agent contract last July almost before the ink dried.

"He's fighting through what he can fight through as best he can, which is admirable," Paxson said Tuesday. "He wants to play. He's trying to play. I like guys like that. And he has been good for the guys."

The Bulls are willing to be patient with Pippen because of his calming presence when he does play and his veteran leadership when he doesn't.

But his troublesome knee does present challenges. Scott Skiles thought he had Pippen at his disposal for Sunday's game against Toronto until right after pregame warmups.

"I don't know if bind is the right word," Skiles said. "I'd rather know [if he can play], yeah. But I also understand that you can't always know. Sometimes, he goes through his pregame stuff and realizes that he can't go. We can't control it."

Against the Clippers, the Bulls wore league-mandated retro jerseys for the first time this season. The uniforms aren't the only thing that's past.

Pippen knows his best playing days are behind him, and is accepting the inevitable calmly.

"I still enjoy being around the game," Pippen said. "There's no frustration on that part of it.

"I've played when I feel that I'm able to play. I give the team what I have to give them, whether it's in practice or game situations. There aren't a lot of minutes for me even if I was healthy. We're trying to get these young guys to play and gear them in the right direction of how to play hard. My opportunity to play has sort of passed me up. And I realize that."