Camby, meanwhile, must prove he can provide the consistency New York so desperately needs from him. At week's end he was averaging 10.2 points on 48.7% shooting, along with 7.9 rebounds and 2.24 blocks. He still hears whispers that he's not tough enough, stemming from the stretch earlier in the season when the team asked him to play through painful tendinitis in his left knee, and he sat for two games instead. One other thing: Camby no longer catches opponents by surprise.
"Every time the ball goes up, there are two guys keeping me off the glass," he says. "One guy is banging me at the three-point line, then another guy is hitting me at the free throw line. Then there are teams who send a spy out on me. Like the Pistons. Every time I check into the game, they send in Jerome Williams to bother me. That kid, he's crazy."
As the Feb. 24 trading deadline nears, rumors will swirl about the Knicks' upgrading their two-headed point guard, Ward and Chris Childs. There will be talk of Ewing's role and questions about Sprewell's position. There will be updates on the relationship between Van Gundy and Camby.
New York survived far worse turmoil to reach the Finals last year. Camby, who found a way to thrive under those conditions, has a handle on what it will take to get back there. "We don't all have to be best friends," said Camby, "but we've got to play like we are."
New Owner in Dallas
Taking a Flier on The Worm
He is a 41-year-old billionaire who races to the top of the steps of Reunion Arena, sits in the cheap seats and chants for the Mavericks, the team he is in the process of purchasing for $280 million. He is the spendthrift who sent limousines to the homes of coach Don Nelson and his players last Thursday because there was an ice storm and he didn't want anyone getting injured driving to the arena. He is the man who is giving Dennis Rodman another chance.
He is Mark Cuban, a dot-com-era NBA owner who, after a disheartening Dallas loss at New Jersey on Jan. 22, ordered every Mavs player and coach to have a massage. "Then I served them a six-course spread," Cuban says. "You should've seen Nellie's face."
Innovation is Cuban's speciality. In 1995, frustrated by his inability to follow his beloved Indiana University basketball team while living in Dallas, Cuban cofounded AudioNet, a service that provided radio feeds of sports via the Internet. The company, later renamed Broadcast.com, was sold to Yahoo last year for an estimated $6 billion.
Barring some last-minute glitch, Cuban—who is already making the team's financial decisions though his purchase has yet to be ratified by the board of governors—hopes to sign Rodman to a one-year, $475,610 contract this week. Cuban knows he'll be considered nuts for making this his first transaction, but he doesn't care. In fact, he was willing to hold off on the deal so the 39-year-old Rodman could attend a Super Bowl party. "What's the worst-case scenario?" Cuban says. "I'm called an idiot. People will say to me, 'You should have known.' In the meantime, who do the Mavericks turn to when they need a defensive stop? Nobody. Who do the Mavericks turn to when they absolutely need that big rebound? Nobody."
Will Rodman, out of basketball for close to a year, deliver anything more than a little publicity? His brief dalliance with the Lakers last season was a disaster. "I think the mistake some organizations made with Dennis was trying to fit him into a certain mold," says Cuban. "I brought him in here and said, 'Dennis, what does it take to make you successful? You set the rules. If you do, then there are no misunderstandings.' Dennis realizes if he doesn't perform on the court, he's not going to be successful in his other ventures."