In one of the most idiotic chants in the history of the NBA, Cleveland fans "insulted" LeBron James by calling him "Scottie Pippen" this last season. It was a clear shot at James deferring to teammate Dwyane Wade and becoming a number two option.
The truth is that being a "Robin" is hardly that simple a task, and has become an increasingly derogatory term that shouldn't be. It's much harder to be a Robin than a Batman.To be a Robin it takes a certain kind of mentality.
On the one hand you still need that killer instinct, but on the other you need to be able to subjugate that instinct and defer to "Batman" when necessary. It requires the perfect balance between pride and humility. Pippen had it for most of his career, though some would point to "final shot" argument as evidence to the contrary.
In the video above you see that Pippen wasn't gong to back down from any opponent. He had a cockiness to him. It's almost as though he thought the only player in the world that was better than him was Jordan, so that was the only player he would defer to.
When Jordan was off the court, Pippen took over. He often led the bench to huge scoring sprees while Jordan sat on the bench. It was as if Pippen knew as soon as Jordan sat down he was the best player on the court.
Deng has humility but he needs to develop a little more of a "Pippenesque" ego. He needs to be more aggressive when Rose is on the bench and take command of the team. If he believes in himself the team will believe in him too.
There were moments last year, such as the game winning shot against Miami, where he stepped up, but there were too many where he stepped away.
If I had a chance to give Deng one word of advice, it would be go have lunch with Scottie Pippen and just have Pippen give him some advice on how to be the perfect number two, because Pippen may have filled that role better than anyone in history.
Sure there were better tandems than Michael Jordan and Pippen, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, but in terms of the mentality of a number two, I don't know who filled the role better. Deng could learn a lot from Pippen in that regard, and it might be the most important thing he could learn from him.