In end, Rodman made it easy for Lakers

On The NBA

April 18, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

In seven weeks, he helped what had been a disappointing team to a 17-6 record. His "73" jersey was one of the hottest-selling pieces of sports apparel in Los Angeles. He even got the often subdued Hollywood crowd excited about basketball.

Still, the waiving of Dennis Rodman by the Los Angeles Lakers late Thursday was the absolute right thing to do. The move came after Rodman showed up late for practice on Thursday, and then was sent home by coach Kurt Rambis after he "misplaced" his sneakers and socks.

It was an easy decision by the Lakers as Rodman became more and more ineffective. Over the last 12 games with Rodman, the Lakers were only 6-6, with the power forward increasingly asking out out of games. In a blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Rodman begged out of the second half because of a sore elbow.

"I really didn't know what happened," said center Shaquille O'Neal. "I hope he was really hurt, because if he really wasn't hurt I needed him out there."

Lately, Rodman had little success guarding opposing power forwards. Early in the Portland game, Brian Grant repeatedly scored over a seemingly uninterested Rodman in the low post. Over the final five games of his Lakers career, opposing power forwards averaged 21.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 51.8 percent shooting.

Bottom line: While still an incredibly gifted athlete, Rodman, 37, started to actually believe he was bigger than the game. He started to think that his presence alone could help win a championship. Who knows, as inflated as his ego is maybe he thought he was the key to Chicago's last two NBA titles.

The Lakers -- who will still have to pay Rodman $1.1 million next season -- will be better off by ridding themselves of a major distraction prior to the postseason. Over the final games, the team can work Robert Horry and J. R. Reid into the starting power-forward spot, and there is still enough talent -- if not veteran experience -- for this team to go deep into the playoffs.

As for Rodman, on Friday he learned that he won't be able to play in the postseason because players waived after March 17 are not eligible.

And even if he were eligible, what NBA team would be foolish enough to sign a player whose act has become tired?

In one of his best-selling books, Rodman wrote in his last NBA game he wanted to strip off his uniform and leave the court naked. Maybe he should have done that last week in Portland because, in all likelihood, his NBA career is over.

Thank goodness.

Fans tough on Walker

While Antoine Walker might be considered the future of the Boston Celtics, he's getting no mercy at home, where his every mistake results in a loud chorus of boos from fans upset with the team's poor play.

"The fans have got to cut Antoine a break," coach Rick Pitino said. "He's played terrific basketball the last three weeks, and every time they start booing, he starts pressing. He missed a shot from the free-throw line and they were all over him. It's totally unfair."

Could be the fans are a bit tired of the cockiness and on-the-court celebration antics of Walker, who signed a six-year, $71 million deal.

"I'm 22 years old and I'm not going to let a so-so season get me," Walker said. "I want to be here. You can't say the grass is greener elsewhere. I'm committed to being here and I want to be here."

Around the league

According to a story in last week's Chicago Sun-Times, each NBA team playing host to the Bulls will lose close to $10 million with the retirement of Michael Jordan. The numbers were derived from an average decrease of 6,700 fans for Chicago road games, multiplied by the average cost of a ticket ($42.50) and the the $15 average spent by each fan at a game (parking, food, souvenirs). The total: $9.7 million.

When the Milwaukee Bucks drew a season-low 12,085 for a Bulls game earlier this season, Jim Grayson, the director of sales for the Bucks, first attributed the slight draw to a snowstorm, but later admitted, "When Michael played, they could have held the game at 6 a.m. with two feet of snow on the ground, and he would have filled the building."

After the Indiana Pacers lost to the Charlotte Hornets last week, coach Larry Bird called it "an embarrassment to our organization." So the team had a meeting, and the result: the elimination of the pre-game dance that was started in 1993.

"We pretty much took away our privilege of doing things with flair," said guard Mark Jackson. "That has nothing to do with winning or losing, but that's something that was a privilege because we were an elite team. We've gotten away from playing like that, though, so until we show we're there again, we've put it on ice."

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