OF KINGS AND WORMS
If Net coach Chuck Daly has trouble down the road with recent acquisition Bernard King, he will have only himself to blame. Though it was New Jersey general manager Willis Reed's idea to take a look at King, a 36-year-old former All-Star, it was up to Daly to say yes or no. Daly said yes, his decision made solely because of the Nets' desperate need for scoring off the bench: New Jersey reserves are averaging an anemic 23.8 points per game. King, who averaged 28.4 points per game two seasons ago for the Bullets, can certainly supply scoring, even if his medical miracle of a right knee—a torn anterior cruciate ligament in March 1985; arthroscopic surgery in August 1991—is not 100%.
It's the bench part that's in question.
For now, all the right words—"role player," "contributor," "just happy to be here"—are tumbling from King's lips. But we'll have to wait and see what he says in March if he isn't getting major minutes. And if he is getting those minutes, we'll have to check the mood of Chris Morris, the incumbent small forward. Moreover, if King is getting major minutes and taking crunch-time shots, we'll have to train the pout-o-meter on go-to guys Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic.
Only a secure coach would have picked the defiant King, who was released by Washington after tensions with the Bullets reached the boiling point. Daly obviously greeted the deal with open eyes. "I have concerns," he says, "but I don't know if we have great chemistry anyway."
Daly has long been known for his ability to handle difficult personalities—e.g., his unofficial second job as mentor and confidant to the Pistons' Dennis Rodman. Daly, who resigned as Detroit's coach last May after nine seasons with the team, returned to Motown last week with the Nets and spent much of his time with Rodman, who was expected to be activated this week after missing 13 games because of an injury to his right calf.
Last Thursday in Detroit, hours before Daly and his team arrived for a Friday-night game ( New Jersey lost 106-97), Rodman was at the center of a disturbing incident. A friend of his, who had become concerned because Rodman was not home late into the night, called police around 5 a.m. and reported that Rodman was missing, as was a gun Rodman usually kept in the house. The friend said he was worried that Rodman, who has endured a number of personal trials in recent months—some related to Daly's departure and some to Rodman's pending divorce—might be contemplating suicide. Piston officials were notified, too; it was team president Tom Wilson who found Rodman shooting baskets in the deserted Palace at Auburn Hills at 6:30 a.m. The .22-caliber rifle was found in Rodman's truck, which was parked outside the arena.
"I'm O.K., I'm all right, I'm fine," said the Worm. Those who know him, Daly included, insisted that the situation had been overblown. Rodman has a license for the gun, and it is not unusual, believe it or not, for him to shoot baskets at The Palace in the early-morning hours. Actually, that's when he gets his best shots, since he rarely takes any during games.
Yet that afternoon Daly and Rodman spent two hours discussing Rodman's problems. The Pistons will come to a crossroads with Rodman at the end of the season, if they haven't already. They value his rebounding and defense but wonder if he will ever get his head together.
Daly, meanwhile, would love to add Rodman's toughness to the Nets. It will be interesting to see if Detroit would consider reuniting Rodman with the only coach he really respects.