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On D-Rod, surprises and the rumor mill

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Posted: Tuesday February 23, 1999 01:58 PM


Got an NBA question for Phil Taylor? Click here.

The NBA Mailbag is back because, like Dennis Rodman , we just want to give the people what they want. And while we're on the subject of the Worm, I thought his press conference showed several of his many sides. There was Dennis the publicity hound, mugging for the paparazzi with Carmen Electra . There was Dennis the arrogant superstar, reminding everyone how many championship rings and rebounding titles he had. There was Dennis the victim, weeping about how nothing he does pleases the media. (His mini-breakdown, by the way, was probably the only moment of the entire event that wasn't carefully calculated.) The guy has more personalities than I can count. He says he needs to play. I say he needs a good therapist.

As for the Lakers, I don't think D-Rod is the answer. They're not the right team for him. On a stable team, like the Knicks or even the Suns or Sonics, Rodman might be the final piece of a championship puzzle. But the Lakers are a team in chaos, and Rodman will only add to that. He'll get his rebounds, sure, but he's not going to be the guy to get the Lakers to execute better down the stretch, or work harder in practice, or develop a more professional attitude. If anything, he'll only increase their problems in those areas. I think this experiment will work out more like Rodman's stint with the Spurs than his time with the Bulls. The Lakers aren't mature enough to make this work. And poor Del Harris . At least Rodman can't make his hair turn any whiter.

Anyway, that's my rant. On to your questions. There were a lot of good ones this week, more than I can answer and still have time to write for the magazine. So remember, some questions that don't get answered in a given week might get dealt with in weeks to come.

Who have been the biggest surprises for you in the first two weeks of the season?
-- Joe Smamich, Knoxville, Tenn.

The biggest surprise is rookie Jason Williams , the Sacramento point guard I wrote about in last week's SI. I'd heard that he was supposed to be a flashy, entertaining player, but I had no idea how good he was until I saw him in person a few times. I was working on a Tom Gugliotta story a couple of weeks ago when I saw Williams against Phoenix, and he was so good I decided to drop Googs and do a story on Williams before every other newspaper and magazine did. Believe me, this kid has only shown a little bit of what he can do. I think he's going to be one of the elite point guards for a long time.

The biggest individual disappointment to me has been Vin Baker in Seattle. Vin's a good guy, a hard-working guy, so I was surprised that he showed up out of shape, and now he seems to be playing with very little confidence. He didn't have a good postseason last year, and that seems to be having a carryover effect. Whatever the reason, he's not playing like an All-Star, and Gary Payton can't carry the Sonics by himself.

The most surprising team so far has been Orlando. Penny Hardaway and Chuck Daly simply didn't like each other last year, and I wasn't sure that relationship could be mended. But Penny has played well and Nick Anderson is playing better than he has in about three years. I think the East is pretty wide open, so the Magic could become an even bigger surprise before it's all over.

Have there been any free-agent moves from the offseason that already look like duds?
-- Sam Samuelson, Winnipeg

The high-profile players like Scottie Pippen , Tom Gugliotta and Antonio McDyess are all earning their money. But I think the Suns might find that Luc Longley isn't the answer at center, at least not at the money they're paying him. The other potential busts are the lesser players who hit the jackpot after one good year, or even less. Matt Geiger doesn't look like he's going to be worth the money the 76ers paid him, and Golden State might regret signing Jason Caffey to a long-term deal. The Warriors were so concerned with re-signing Caffey that they shied away from trying to trade for established power forwards like P.J. Brown and Brian Grant because they were afraid Caffey would go elsewhere. This is all because Caffey finished last season with a good 10- or 12-game stretch. The moral of this story is that it's dangerous to lock up unproven guys with long-term contracts.

What do you think about the new trend of players representing themselves and dismissing agents? Ray Allen should be everyone's new hero!
-- Craig L. Yost, Milwaukee

Careful, David Falk is going to put you on his hit list. But I agree with you. More guys are going to negotiate their own deals, which makes sense since the maximum salaries are cut-and-dried. This isn't to say that all agents are bad guys, but in general they've been getting far too much influence, and anything that dilutes their power a little is a good thing.

Since there have been a lot of rumors about Stephon Marbury wanting to play in a larger market, do you think the Timberwolves should consider trading him?
-- Kevin, Memphis

They definitely should consider a Marbury trade, especially since rumors are flying that he's headed to Chicago as a free agent next year. He definitely doesn't want to be in Minnesota, and that won't change even if he decides to re-sign with the T-wolves because he just can't pass up the money they're offering, which is more than any other team can offer. It's not smart to have a player who really doesn't want to be there, which is why I think you'll see the T-wolves looking at a sign-and-trade deal for Marbury. If Sprewell works out in New York -- a big "if," I know -- the Knicks might be willing to part with Allan Houston to get Marbury.

What is the latest on the rumored Glen Rice-to-the-Lakers deal for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell? Do you think this will happen, and if so, when?
-- Ryan Letcher, Eugene, Ore.

Everything I hear is that the Rice deal will happen as soon as Rice recovers from elbow surgery. Eddie Jones has already been talking to some of the Hornets about the situation in Charlotte and how he'll fit in. He never did anything like that when he was being shopped to Sacramento, so I think Eddie sees the writing on the wall. As for Rice, I hear that David Falk has convinced him to stop pushing so hard for the Lakers to extend his contract and pay him the maximum, because the endorsement opportunities he'd get from playing in LA would be so great. Still, Rice is the loose cannon in this thing. There's an outside chance that he'll keep the deal from happening.

Do you think that Michael Jordan would ever come back and coach an NBA team? I think he would be a great coach.
-- Scott, Pittsburgh

I agree with you that he could be a good coach because he obviously knows how to motivate players, but MJ has always said that the one thing he would never do is coach. Now, he's been known to change his mind from time to time, but I believe him on this one. I could see him in more of a front-office role, either as an owner or a GM in the Jerry West mold. Can you imagine anything sweeter for Jordan than to replace the fired Jerry Krause in Chicago after the Bulls struggle for a few more years? He'd love that. He'd probably fire Tim Floyd and re-hire Phil Jackson .

Got an NBA question for Phil Taylor? Click here.

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