Playing through pain, McMillan gives lift NBA Finals notebook

June 14, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- As Nate McMillan walked onto the floor at Key Arena yesterday, he was making his way toward one of the first-row seats on the sidelines. "Hold it," somebody told McMillan, steering him instead toward a podium along the side of the court.

"And microphones and speakers, too," McMillan said admiringly

as he set up shop.

McMillan in one game went from Jack Haley-like status to a person that people wanted to talk to as he shook off a back injury to play 14 minutes in Seattle's 107-86 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday that staved off elimination.

The sore back forced McMillan to miss games 2 and 3 of the series. Just before game time Wednesday, McMillan, gaining some inspiration from Willis Reed limping out on the court for the New York Knicks in the seventh game of the 1970 NBA Finals, told George Karl that he was going to suit up.

"I hope I was an inspiration, the motivation for this team," McMillan said. "That was my whole approach. We don't have anything to lose. Suit up. Do what you can. Just be there."

When McMillan, one of Seattle's top reserves when healthy, entered with 1: 28 left in the first quarter, the crowd roared. That noise was duplicated when he hit a three-pointer. For the game, McMillan had eight points, three rebounds and three assists. And he played the point, allowing Gary Payton to roam some at shooting guard and sit some.

"He gave them a big lift," the Bulls' Scottie Pippen said. "Gary was a lot more active on offense, and Nate allowed him to get some rest."

McMillan, who had to be helped to the locker room for treatment several times in the game, was surprised the way he felt yesterday.

"It feels better than I thought it would," McMillan said. "I felt I would have more soreness, and I don't. I've always been able to shoot the ball with the injury, my problem has been sprinting, covering guys and rebounding."

Payton on Jordan, Part II

Voted the league's top defensive player this past season, Payton was given a lot of credit in "holding" Michael Jordan to 23 points Wednesday.

"[Payton] was fronting him on the post a little, he was a lot more aggressive with him," Hersey Hawkins said. "Gary didn't win Defensive Player of the Year for nothing. He's an incredible talent on both ends of the court."

Jordan said yesterday that his Game 4 problems stemmed more from an off shooting night and the way the game was being

officiated, than Payton's defense.

"It was a bad day at the office, and I'd just like to forget about it," Jordan said. "He was fighting me for position and, after I was called for an offensive foul [in the first half], I couldn't be as aggressive.

"When I make the shots and get into rhythm, I'm not worried about the defense," Jordan said.

Bored in Seattle

Since arriving in Seattle, Dennis Rodman has taunted Frank Brickowski, hung out with Cindy Crawford and appeared on a style show modeling a thong. So what does Rodman plan now that the Bulls have a few extra days in Seattle?

"Nothing, really," Rodman said. "They have too many coffee shops here. . . . People are bored and their lives are miserable."

Rodman said that people in Chicago probably want the Bulls to lose again tonight "so they can see us win it at home on Sunday."

Asked whether the Sonics could come back and win the series, Rodman said no.

NTC "This team can't be beaten four times in anything," Rodman said.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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