This is not to suggest that a telethon is in order, but it has come to pass that a few of the Olympic Dream Teamers—remember them?—were adversely affected by their extended season. Not all of them. Certainly not the scourge of Angola. Charles Barkley, who is having a potential MVP year with the Suns.
But consider a few of the other Dream Teamers: The Blazers' Clyde Drexler underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Sept. 18 and has been slowed ever since (he has missed nine games). He says the surgery might not have been necessary if he had stayed home from Barcelona to rehabilitate the knee, which had bothered him much of last season. Knick center Patrick Ewing got off to a slow start—he didn't block a shot until the sixth game of the season—mostly because he did not have enough time between the end of the Olympics on Aug. 9 and the start of training camp on Oct. 9 to rest the left ankle that he had sprained badly in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls. And both of the Bulls' Olympians, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, have complained this season of physical and mental fatigue. "Even with all the pressure I would've taken [for not playing]," says Jordan, "I wouldn't have played if I knew then what I know now." Neither Bull is having a bad season—Jordan leads the league, after all, with a 32.2-point average, and Pippen leads the Bulls in assists (6.8) and is second in rebounding (8.0) and scoring (18.8)—but both have been more inconsistent than usual. In consecutive losses last week to the Lakers and the Cavs, Jordan shot a combined three for 17 in the fourth quarter. That sounds suspiciously like fatigue.
The Dream Teamers should not expect many sympathy cards. "From what I heard they did over there," says one general manager, "I had a tougher summer dealing with agents and mowing my lawn." That attitude is understandable.
But so is the fatigue. Even the Jazz's Karl Malone, the lone Dream Teamer so far to volunteer for duty in the '96 Olympic crusade, says he feels the effects of what amounted to a 10-month season.
"I don't expect anyone to feel bad for us," says Malone, "but that doesn't mean it's not a factor."
There is nothing ordinary about Piston forward Dennis Rodman, a 6'8" bundle of fist-waving energy. It figures that there is nothing ordinary about the Worm's statistical lines, either. On five occasions this season Rodman has grabbed more than 20 rebounds in a game while scoring fewer than five points. In an 89-83 loss to Miami last week, for example, Rodman took only three shots from the field and two from the free throw line, to go with 24 rebounds. For the season, he is averaging only five shots a game though he is among the league's leaders in playing time, about 44 minutes per contest.
Rodman's reluctance to shoot conjures up memories of a recent bricklayer and defensive dynamo named T.R. Dunn (now an assistant coach with the Hornets), who during the 1987-88 season averaged only one shot every 9.8 minutes for the Nuggets. Rodman shoots about once every 7.8 minutes.
Compare that with some of the game's legendary rebounders. Bill Russell, for example, attempted one shot about every 3.2 minutes. Paul Silas checked in at about one every 3.5 minutes, and Wes Unseld launched one about every 4.2 minutes.