DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Eight-year-old Derameo Johnson meekly approached Scottie Pippen and asked the big question: "Are you going to get back on the team?"
Pippen smiled shyly and, almost whispering, responded: "Yeah."
He repeated the same answer to similar questions Thursday at the Chicago Bulls' annual holiday party for underprivileged children -- until the media began asking.
So has Pippen indeed reconsidered his demand to be traded by an organization he claims doesn't respect him?
"Don't pin me down," said the All-Star forward, who is recovering from October foot surgery and has yet to play this season.
"I'm trying to let everything fall in place," he said. "I really don't want to be disruptive to the team. I don't want to start everything back up. I want to get myself ready. I've made my point about what I want to do. If something happens, great. If not, we'll just have to wait and see."
Bulls general manager Jerry Krause has been getting calls from teams interested in acquiring Pippen, one of the best all-around players ever. But Krause said this squad was brought back specifically to win its sixth title in eight years; trading Pippen would go against that philosophy.
Pippen, who can become a free agent after the season, said he's at least three weeks from being ready to practice regularly.
"It's getting better, I think, but it's still pretty sore," he said. "I'm being cautious."
He said he's about two weeks into a six-week rehabilitation program.
"So really, that's four weeks," Pippen said. "But I figure somewhere around three I should have a better feel."
Pippen is the Bulls' No. 2 scorer and rebounder, as well as their primary ball handler, assist man and defender.
Without him, they are 15-9 -- compared with 21-3 last season at this time -- and have struggled offensively. They've shown positive signs recently, with three consecutive lopsided victories. The last two wins came against the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, Western Conference contenders.
"They're playing better," Pippen said. "The stuff surrounding me sort of put them back on their heels. It took their mind off what they wanted to do. I think they're going to be fine."
Michael Jordan was asked what influence he has on Pippen in this regard.
"I use my power by not putting pressure on individuals," Jordan said. "Let Scottie evaluate the situation, utilize his own judgment. I'm not going to try to strong-arm him. He needs time to think about the decision he's got to make."
Meanwhile, the Bulls wait -- and do the best they can.
"We're just trying to get back to our style of basketball without Scottie," Dennis Rodman said. "Hopefully, Scottie will come back, we'll win the championship and we'll all live happily ever after."