Journeyman Tony Massenburg started at center for Vancouver in its opener on Sunday against Sacramento because Bryant (Big Country) Reeves, the fourth-year player the Grizzlies had signed to a six-year, $66 million extension, reported to camp 40 pounds overweight (page 78). On the surface this sounds like yet another athlete growing complacent once he gets his payday, but Vancouver's staff believes Reeves's real problem is his hometown. "There aren't a whole lot of pro basketball players in Gans, Oklahoma," explains president and general manager Stu Jackson.
Hoping to keep Reeves on the straight and relatively narrow, the Grizzlies decreed that he will be shadowed by an assistant coach during and after the season. Coaches are thrilled at the prospect of spending a hot, dry summer in eastern Oklahoma. "We're through being angry with him," Jackson says. "Now we just want to help him."
Reeves, who says he was lulled out of his off-season workout routine by the seemingly endless lockout, doesn't need to be flogged any further. He is contrite and has embraced his new salad days. "No excuses," he says. "A screwup is a screwup."
Reeves, who reported to camp at around 318 pounds, is now below 300. He's working hard not only to lose weight but also to regain the respect of his teammates. "They have a right to be disappointed," Reeves says. "I haven't said anything to them. I won't until I'm back in a position where my words mean something."
As the Worm Turns
Is Dennis the Rodman Out?
Orlando coach Chuck Daly was sitting in Gibsons Steakhouse in Chicago about four years ago when Dennis Rodman, who had helped him win two championships with the Pistons, first hinted at his master plan for world domination. "He said he had won defensive player of the year, rebounding titles and two championships, and he had nothing to show for it," Daly said. "He told me, 'Coach, I think it's time to try something different.' "
Shortly thereafter the shy young player who had celebrated the Pistons' first title wearing blue jeans and sipping a soda reinvented himself as the most outrageous athlete in professional sports, with moods as changeable as his hair color.
Rodman, the last marquee free agent on the-board this season, had a number of teams bitterly split last week over whether to enlist his services. The Lakers, Magic and Rockets believe his special rebounding talents could put them over the top, but they all realize that he could just as easily send them over the cliff.
The Rockets' front office discussed, then ultimately dismissed, the idea of adding the Worm to Houston's already crowded bench of big egos, news that left some veterans, among them Eddie Johnson, bitterly disappointed. Meanwhile, center Hakeem Olajuwon could barely suppress his joy. In Orlando, Penny Hardaway voiced his admiration for Rodman even as one of his teammates, standing just 10 feet away, shook his head and said, "He has no idea what he's wishing for. Dennis would eat him alive." Daly campaigned tirelessly for his former player—"I wanted him because he makes you play as hard as he plays," Daly says—but Orlando's ownership and upper management remained queasy. In the end it was a moot point; after trying unsuccessfully for 48 hours to set up a face-to-face meeting with Rodman, the Magic moved on.
By week's end Rodman was courting the Lakers. Owner Jerry Buss, a pal of Rodman's, lusted after him, and while front office head Jerry West publicly said L.A. was interested, team sources confirm that West privately voiced strong objections. Shaquille O'Neal, meanwhile, lobbied hard for Rodman and seemed sanguine about coach Del Harris's ability to navigate turbulent waters. Asked about the distractions Rodman might cause, Shaq said, "That's Del's problem."