Polynice and the Jazz
So Far, It's Golden for Olden
Last summer, when center Olden Polynice was a free agent, he sized up the possibility of joining the Jazz. "When I was young, nobody wanted to play in Utah," says the 35-year-old Polynice. "They didn't like the strong Mormon influence or that Salt Lake closed up before 1 a.m. I used to listen to all that. Now that I'm older, I just want to play for a team that is professional."
Polynice, who had been talking with the Lakers, let Karl Mal-one know he was interested. Since Polynice had been branded a malcontent in his last two stops, with the Sonics and the Kings, he was pleased when Utah responded by offering him a two-year deal. His union with the conservative Jazz and its coach, Jerry Sloan, raised more than a few eyebrows.
Sure enough, in late November, when Sloan noticed Polynice bossing around a couple of young teammates in practice, he blasted him. That night Polynice, near tears, called his agent, Dwight Manley, and said, "I don't know if I can play for this guy. He hates me."
While Manley talked to Utah management to explain how Sloan's approach was affecting his client, Polynice fretted. He had already clashed with Sonics coach Paul Westphal and Kings coach Eddie Jordan. "I'm still angry about [the past two seasons] because I felt like it gave me a bad rap," Polynice says.
But Sloan never cared about Polynice's past. He has put him in the starting lineup, ahead of Greg Ostertag. "Olden's still adjusting to our team," Sloan says, "but he's done everything we've asked." During a seven-game winning streak (which the Pacers snapped last Friday) Polynice provided opportune offense and 2.4 blocks a game. "Olden's made a big difference," Malone says. "Now Greg knows if he wants to play, he better come ready because we've got someone else who can do it. It's been a win-win for both guys. Olden gets minutes, and Greg doesn't have to deal with the pressure of stalling and hearing all the negative stuff if he doesn't perform."
Polynice is starting to feel as if he fits in. Two weeks ago Sloan walked up to him and said, "Olden, can you stop putting that towel over your head? When you do that, you remind me of Latrell Sprewell, and I don't want anyone to ever associate anything in this organization with Sprewell."
Polynice happily obliged, then called Manley the next morning. "He likes me!" Polynice said.
A Not-So-Fine Line
Bulls forward Ron Artest, Dec. 18 versus the Magic: 41 minutes, 0-of-13 FG, 7-of-8 FT, 7 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists. It's getting harder to find the silver lining in Chicago; in rookie Artest's case, hey, at least he got to the line.