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MIKE PENNER

Trashing a Few Theories

November 03, 1995|MIKE PENNER

The state of the NBA, real or imagined, as of Opening Night '95:

The Chicago Bulls go for 70 victories.

With Luc Longley and Bill Wennington at center? With Ron Harper and Steve Kerr at point guard? Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc have been christened as this season's Fab Four, but how does Phil Jackson get all of them on the court at the same time? With Rodman in the middle? The postman always rings his nose twice?

Put the Bulls down for 60-22, give or take, and pull up a chair for the ride through the playoffs. Seat harness and air bag required.

Michael Jordan is over the hill.

This theory is getting bounced around by a lot of bored NBA beat writers, which is curious, because many of the writers are big on the Bulls-to-win-70 theory. (NBA theorists, apparently, also work with a 24-second clock.) So which is it--is Jordan done, or is Jordan about to eclipse the 1971-72 Lakers?

Out of shape and out of sync after tiring of life as a Double-A banjo hitter, Jordan still averaged 27 points during his 17 regular-season appearances and shot nearly 49% from the field in the playoffs. But he lost in the second round! Yes, he did. To Orlando. Orlando had Shaq--Jordan had Will Perdue. The man splits defenses, not the Red Sea.

At 32, the only one capable of stopping Michael is still Michael. And he almost did, until David Stern and the NBA rank and file pulled a back door on Jordan's decertification whim and decided there would be a regular season.

Dennis Rodman is one wild and crazy madman.

Only if those videos on VH-1 haunt you in your sleep.

Let's see: Rodman dyes his hair, paints his fingernails, pierces his nose, tattoos his shoulders, pierces his ears, occasionally wears women's clothes, occasionally wears a dog collar, occasionally has a drink at a gay bar, occasionally takes off his shoes during NBA games, doesn't shoot, doesn't bond with his teammates, says he has contemplated suicide (either before or after dating Madonna, I forget)--his routine reads like the "How To Shock Middle America" primer for beginning publicity hounds.

It has all been done before, in every issue of Spin, Interview and Details magazines. Rodman is a quick study, and it's made him rich and famous, but his next act of uncalculated social outrageousness will be his first.

Good rebounder, though.

Shaq is out two months and the sky above Orlando is falling.

Relax. It's a six-month regular season, and nothing much of consequence happens in this league until May and June, anyway. Shaq will be back by then. The Magic will be back in the playoffs. They'll have to face the Bulls some time in the tournament--and does it really matter if four of the seven games are played at the United Center or Orlando Arena?

Either place, Shaq had better nail his free throws.

Matt Geiger, Public Enemy No. 1.

If he had broken Jon Koncak's thumb, no one would have noticed.

The Lakers need to trade for Alonzo Mourning.

What, they don't already have the All-Non-Interview Team clinched?

Mourning for Vlade Divac and two No. 1s--or Elden Campbell, George Lynch and one No. 1--does look inviting on paper, but what about those 13 million dead presidents Mourning is set on collecting this season? And after this season, what about Mourning's impending plunge into the free-agent market?

Look ahead to the summer of '96. Not only should Mourning be a free agent then, but also Shaq and Dikembe Mutombo. It will be a buyer's market for franchise-making big men--and the Lakers will have almost an extra $9 million to spend, under the new salary cap.

Mourning could put the Lakers in the conference finals this season, but Divac got them to the semifinals last spring. Is one more round worth $13 million and draft picks?

Sage advice for Jerry Buss, as tough as it may be to take: Wait 'til next year.

With Brian Williams, Rodney Rogers and Brent Barry, the Clippers will be much improved this season.

Yes, they should skyrocket from 17 victories to 19, no problem.

Antonio McDyess, early favorite for rookie of the year.

And when McDyess gets it, Bill Fitch will insist he'd make the same trade all over again.

The Toronto Raptors begin their inaugural season amid high hopes.

And in Barney pajamas, believed to be an NBA first.

The Vancouver Grizzlies begin their inaugural season with Benoit Benjamin starting at center.

Big bear there. Hibernation season tips off soon, so hang in there, Big Country.

The Houston Rockets go for the three-peat.

If they get it, Mario Elie will have three more championship rings than David Robinson. And Derrick Coleman. Sometimes life isn't fair, sometimes it breaks just the right way.

For Charles Barkley, it's the NBA title or bust.

Barkley promises that unless the Phoenix Suns win it all, this is going to be his last season.

In other words, he's going for a three-peat, too.

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