CHICAGO — There's a real battle at the NBA finals after all, with the Chicago Bulls up, 3-1, in position tonight to win a third consecutive title, and not about to give ground in the perception department.
It started with a question Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan didn't even allow to reach completion:
"If you had a player like Dennis Rodman . . . "
"First of all," Sloan jumped in, "I wouldn't have him. That makes the question real simple. . . . Would I sacrifice everything for all the other guys on the team? It's never that important. I'd just as soon lose if I have to be put in that situation."
To Rodman's defense, in rode Sloan's Chicago counterpart, Phil Jackson.
"Well, you know we think John Stockton is almost the identical player Dennis is," Jackson said. "He does all those cheap things along the way. He does all those extra-type garbage stuff when he's playing defense.
"As far as being a model citizen, John might be a model citizen. But their play on the floor, it's very similar. Obviously, Dennis has some strange behavior off the court. But he's ready to play."
Laker assistant Kurt Rambis recently had an informal interview with the Clippers regarding their vacant coaching position, but his chances to become a serious candidate don't look encouraging, since the team has said it prefers someone with previous head-coaching experience.
Paul Westphal is believed to be the only person General Manager Elgin Baylor has interviewed in person. Westphal is also in the running for the job with the Seattle SuperSonics.
The Clippers' interest in the fired George Karl continues, but they have yet to speak with him.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the SuperSonics won't hire a coach to replace Karl until the NBA finals end so they can talk to the Bulls' Jackson.
The 5-year-old son of Bull guard Steve Kerr is a major you-know-who fan, to the point that three months ago he wanted his parents to name his new little brother Michael Jeffrey, as in Jordan. Kerr and his wife decided to pass.
"Nothing against Michael, of course, but it just wasn't the name we were looking for," said Kerr, who played at Palisades High. "I told my son I had to draw the line somewhere. . . . Naming our third child after him, that's a whole other deal." They went with Matthew.
The Lakers have exercised an option to take the No. 45 pick in the draft, acquired as part of the Sam Bowie-Benoit Benjamin deal with the New Jersey Nets five years ago, but declined to use No. 44, available from the Knicks as a condition of the Doug Christie deal in October 1994. It will instead be returned to New York for financial compensation.
So the Lakers have three picks June 24: their own at 26, Vancouver's at 31, and now the 45th. But there's a chance at least one could be used as part of a package deal or be swapped on its own, even the first-round choice, since it means a guaranteed contract and they think they might get just as good a prospect five spots later.