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Rodman Is Tardy Once Again

Pro basketball: Player is 65 minutes late to practice, a day after refusing to enter a game, but remains a Laker.

April 11, 1999|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dennis Rodman remained with the Lakers on Saturday, although that's a relatively liberal interpretation of this rocky union.

A day after declining his coach's request to report into a game for the third time in his 46 days as a Laker, Rodman was more than an hour late to practice--the third time in as many home Saturdays that Rodman has missed some or all of the team's workout.

And, though team officials two weeks ago warned him that his disruptions probably wouldn't be tolerated much longer, the Lakers haven't released him.

Hey, what's another 65 tardy minutes between friends?

"You gonna write about this?" Rodman said as he and his entourage walked past reporters onto the Great Western Forum floor, where he proceeded to ride a stationary bike for about 20 minutes while his teammates and Coach Kurt Rambis wound down the practice.

Then, as he strolled off court at the end of the workout: "You've got a story today."

He waved off reporters seeking to ask him questions.

After practice, Rambis did his best to avoid escalating the drama of the Rodman soap opera.

But Rambis did not dispute that there is a pattern of behavior--Rodman refuses to reenter a home game on Friday nights, saying either that he is emotionally or physically unable to play, and that carries into missed practice time Saturday.

On Friday during the Laker victory over Minnesota, Rodman refused to come back into the game in the fourth quarter, saying he had been out for too long and was stiff.

"It's something I'm just going to have to deal with," Rambis said. "It's not what I wanted to happen, but hey, it happened."

Rambis said that Rodman called the team Saturday morning to say he would be late to practice because he had to pick up his son, who accompanied Rodman to the Forum.

But Rambis said he didn't discuss the matter with Rodman after practice to see if it would be an excused tardiness, and wasn't sure when he would.

"All I know is I can only do the best job I can with what I have," Rambis said when asked if he could count on Rodman during the playoffs. "I can only do the best job with the players that want to go out and perform on the court."

Even Rambis acknowledged that a player would be punished "in normal circumstances" if he did what Rodman continues to do, but Rambis did not have to add that these are far from normal days.

"If something happens that I feel I have to deal with in a stronger fashion, then I will deal with it," Rambis said. "But I can't give you an answer to a what-if question."

Kobe Bryant said the players will accept Rodman's eccentricities--as long as he shows up to games mentally prepared.

"We knew what we were getting into when we signed Dennis," Bryant said. "We knew what kind of guy he was.

"But we knew what kind of positive things he could bring to this basketball club. And I think the method of thinking was that his positives were going to out-weigh the negatives that he has."

And have they?

"So far," Bryant said, "yeah . . . Hopefully, we just get a ring."

So, back to Rambis, then. Will Rodman start today against Seattle?

"If," Rambis said with a tiny smile, "he shows up."

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