For all his strangeness, Rodman is a wanted man

On The NBA

February 07, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said, "He'd make me a better player." Penny Hardaway said he'd love to be on the same team with him. Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl has gone to his front office and said he'd like the opportunity to coach him.

Say what you want about the weirdness of Dennis Rodman. He's a winner, as evidenced by the number of teams trying to sign the free-agent forward.

Rodman, the only major free agent still unsigned, is the one player who can change the balance of power in the NBA. If he signs with the Lakers, they might coast to the Western Conference title. And if he goes to the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers might see their front-runner status disappear.

The Houston Rockets were anxious to make a run at Rodman, who would have had to accept a role off the bench. But Hakeem Olajuwon was against it.

"The team chemistry, everything so far has worked," Olajuwon said. "The team and organization would be very skeptical to bring that risk of distracting chemistry."

Olajuwon's teammates were not happy.

"I'm at the point I just want to win a championship," said forward Eddie Johnson. "All I know, when that guy gets on the floor, no one outplays him."

Karl, who once criticized the antics of Rodman while coach in Seattle, said he'd roll out the red carpet if the power forward came calling.

"I personally would like to have him," Karl said.

Kemp using his heft

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Shawn Kemp has been heavily ridiculed over reporting to camp at 303 pounds. But the power forward, who has greatly increased the size of Cleveland's front line, said he's not bothered.

"A couple of years ago, I probably would have been hurt," Kemp said. "I would have taken it the wrong way. Now I'm to a point where it's a motivational factor for me out on the court. I'll use it to benefit me to work harder and play better."

The Cleveland media guide listed Kemp at 256 pounds last season, although the Cavaliers' trainer said he played at closer to 270 pounds. Kemp admits that he "picked up some pounds," but said he spent much of the lockout playing basketball.

According to Kemp, the bulking up will make him a more effective player.

"I can't be 240 in the Eastern Conference and go down near the basket and outplay these guys," he said. "I have to keep my size and keep my strength and work on my quickness.

"My shot is feeling pretty good," he added. "Let's get up and down the court and go. If something like that is said about me, I've learned over the years to take that negative and turn it into a positive."

Big fight in mind

When the Knicks play host to the Miami Heat today, it will mark the first meeting between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson since their fight in the opening round of last year's playoffs.

That incident just intensified the bad blood between the teams, and may have permanently damaged the friendship between Heat coach Pat Riley and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who worked with each other in New York.

Mourning has tried to play down the incident.

"Just make better decisions," Mourning said of his action that probably cost the Heat an opportunity to advance. "People that have succeeded in the past have learned from adverse situations."

Asked if he had ever watched a tape of the fight, Mourning said he hadn't.

"It's history," he said.

Around the league

The housecleaning in Chicago continues. Roy Rogers, the only active player the Bulls received in the deal for Scottie Pippen, was waived. The Bulls also waived Chuck Person (the active player in the Steve Kerr trade with San Antonio), Bubba Wells and Martin Muursepp (two of the three players they received from Phoenix in the Luc Longley deal).

With just six players left from last season's team, the Bulls, for the first time, will not have a ring ceremony. They do plan to have a special night for former coach Phil Jackson, and will retire a jersey in his honor.

Cavaliers guard Derek Anderson may want to get a refund for a tattoo he received in the off-season that has a typo. The tattoo reads "D.A., Prosecuter [sic] of No Limit." Anderson's agent is rapper Master P, founder of No Limit records.

Golden State Warriors forward Terry Cummings scored 35 points in 33 minutes while shooting 61.5 percent in two exhibition games, and those numbers have him concerned.

"I don't want to be in a position where I'm carrying the team," said Cummings, who is 37.

Also, Antawn Jamison, the fourth pick by the Warriors in the draft, has the team worried with his poor performance in two preseason games.

Despite scoring 19 points in an intrasquad scrimmage, former Dunbar star Norman Nolan was cut last week by the Pacers.

Does anyone really care that Armon Gilliam has legally changed his first name to "Armen?"

Former Maryland star Joe Smith last season turned down an $80 million contract extension with the Golden State Warriors, figuring he'd get more on the open market. He greatly overestimated his value, and wound up signing for $1 million this season in Minnesota.

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