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THE NBA / MARK HEISLER : Whatever Happens, It Has to Be Big Improvement

November 06, 1994|MARK HEISLER

Remember last Tuesday's sports on TV log?

Sport Time Event Channel Baseball 10:30 a.m. Arizona Fall League, Prime Ticket Chandler at Scottsdale (tape) Boxing 9 p.m. Joe Hipp vs. Rodolfo Marin; USA Andrew Golota vs. Jesse Ferguson at Las Vegas (delayed) Volleyball 10 p.m. Women, FIVB World Championships ESPN at Sao Paulo, Brazil (tape) Soccer 10:30 p.m. English League competition (tape) Prime Ticket

This is what we were reduced to?

Instructional league baseball? Anonymous boxers? Women's volleyball and English soccer? And not only that, all of it taped?

In this spirit--desperation--we welcome the NBA back, to fill in the vast and howling wasteland suddenly carved this fall between "Monday Night Football" and the college and pro games on the weekend.

We not only have actual, live, weeknight games again but box scores, rotisserie leagues, controversies, larger issues like the racism alleged by Glenn Robinson's agent in denying his client a $100-million contract, silly issues like Dennis Rodman's hair, heroic undertakings like the Spurs' attempt to rewire the insides of Rodman's head at this late date, even stories with political implications like Charles Barkley's insistence that he will run for governor of Alabama.

You might have noticed, this league isn't exactly like the others.

NBA players still run their mouths, speak their minds, play their roles and, not uncommonly, make fools of themselves. In short, they act like big kids excited at the privilege of being paid millions to play a game they love. They might not talk as often or say as much as they used to before prosperity set in, but it's still the wackiest ship on the sea of American sport. It's fan-tastic, not to mention heaven's gift to sportswriting.

So without further ado, let's get ready for these sure-to-come stories:

Barkley announces his plans, relative to his season, career and future life. Not one will come true.

Boston Coach Chris Ford, reportedly already grousing about Dominique Wilkins in private, goes public. A month should do it.

The Celtics, who have announced they're a playoff contender, hold a players-only meeting when they discover they're not. Two weeks should do it.

Elden Campbell, whom the Lakers pump up every summer, nods off again in fall. Oh, it's already happened? Sorry.

Alonzo Mourning is named player of the month for December. Charlotte owner George Shinn gives him a $150-million extension.

After a New York slump in January, an anonymous player rips Knick Coach Pat Riley. Riley fines Anthony Mason $10,000. When Riley subsequently learns the leak came from Patrick Ewing, he fines Mason another $5,000 for having been a bad influence on Ewing.

On a San Antonio trip in March, Coach Bob Hill rips Rodman's headphones off, discovers he's listening to a Madonna CD and fines him another $10,000 for harboring fantasies on a team charter. This raises Worm's season total to $2.1 million.

Orlando goes 65-17 but is swept in the first round by New Jersey.

Indiana comes out of the East.

Phoenix comes out of the West.

The Pacers win the NBA title in seven games. During the victory parade in Indianapolis, Larry Brown announces he's going back to UCLA, noting his decision to leave was the biggest mistake in his life. "Both times," he says.

IT'S NOT JUST A JOB, IT'S AN ADVENTURE

And now back to real life, more or less. . . .

Robert (Call Me General) McDermott, retired Air Force one-star and newly arrived chairman of the Spurs' board, has cracked a few tough nuts in his time, so Rodman had better watch out.

Unfortunately, the General can't jail Worm or make him clean the Alamodome latrines or shoot him for deserting in the face of the enemy.

Never fear, there's always a way to instill discipline in a young man. How about. . . .

Busting him down for violating the dress code?

Perfect! When the Spurs announced they were suspending Rodman for three games--$90,740 worth, added to his previous $15,000 fine for a preseason total of $105,740--they cited seven acts of "conduct detrimental to the team" but wouldn't describe them.

No wonder. One was reportedly wearing blue jeans on the team charter. Designer jeans are permitted but Rodman had the common kind on.

Another was assault on a superior officer.

Rodman, taken out of an exhibition game, picked up an ice bag and flipped it a few feet. One wire service reported that he had thrown it at Coach Hill, although he obviously had not.

Said Hill, defending the sentencing: "I mean, c'mon. This is the way the world works."

I mean, c'mon?

Under the new para-military standards, Rodman, who habitually came late to practices, blew off shoot-arounds on the theory that he didn't intend to shoot in the game and rarely spoke to teammates off the floor, would have missed all last season, forfeiting his $2.5-million salary plus whatever the Spurs fined him.

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