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As the Lakers Turn

April 13, 1999|MARK HEISLER

Diary of a mad organization:

Jan. 31, 1999--Frustrated by the Lakers' inability to land the power forwards they wanted, Chris Webber, Tom Gugliotta, Charles Oakley or Horace Grant, Shaquille O'Neal says he could play with Dennis Rodman, whom he'd recently called a "bum," while noting his grandmother would have five rings if she'd played with Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.

Feb. 3--Lakers acknowledge they're talking to Rodman's people. Kobe Bryant and Del Harris sign on to the idea.

Feb 5--Before the Lakers' opener, Jerry Buss calls Dennis a friend and reiterates their interest: "As far as I can read the public, they want to win as badly as I want to win. They're very hungry for a championship. It's been awhile. . . . I think a lot of people would forgive him as long as he tried to act somewhat orderly."

Jerry West, looking stressed, says he hopes to get it settled in the next few days.

Feb. 12--The Times reports Rodman has decided to play for the Lakers.

Feb. 15--The Associated Press reports Rodman will be in uniform within a day or two.

Feb. 16--Not so fast. Rodman is discovered, registered under his own name at the Las Vegas Hilton. A call to his room at mid-afternoon is answered by a man who says he'll see if Dennis is awake.

Feb. 18--Rodman and his sister, Debra, finally agree to meet with a Laker official--Buss--but without Dennis' agent, Steve Chasman.

Feb. 19--On ESPN's "Up Close," Rodman says Buss told him he was too visible to sneak any money under the table--a suggestion Dennis asked for some. (Indeed, sources say Rodman asked for a "mansion" a "piece of land" or $600,000 to pay off gambling debts in Las Vegas.) Rodman says he'll play for Miami or the Lakers, a transparent bluff since the Heat pulled out weeks before.

Feb. 23--Rodman holds a press conference at Planet Hollywood in Beverly Hills, tries his Miami-or-Lakers scenario again but, hectored by incredulous reporters, announces his choice. It's the Lakers!

Feb. 24--With the team in a three-game losing streak, Del Harris is fired.

Feb. 26--Rodman finally joins the Lakers, taking down 11 rebounds in 26 minutes against the Clippers as the Lakers win the second game of what will be a 10-0 run.

March 8--Rodman misses his first practice. He calls and the Lakers excuse him.

"Because it's Dennis, everybody's going to blow it all out of proportion," Rambis says. The story runs on the ninth sports page in The Times.

March 12--Glen Rice arrives but Rodman's on his way out, asking not to go back into the second half against the Warriors here because his right elbow is sore. It's his first Friday night fade.

March 13--More than his elbow is bothering him. Rodman arrives at Saturday's practice late and says he can't go on the six-game trip because of personal problems. Everyone says compassionate things.

March 14--The 10-game winning streak ends at Sacramento.

March 16--The Lakers learn Rodman has been in Las Vegas. Rambis says he will be fined. TNT analyst Kenny Smith says Rodman should be free to spend his leave wherever he wants.

March 17--Buss, headed for Europe, tells West he can resolve the situation however he thinks best.

March 21--Rodman returns, looking so lethargic at first, NBC's Doug Collins says it looks like Dennis' body is there but not his mind. The Lakers rally from 24 points behind to beat Orlando as Bryant scores 33 points in the second half.

"Oh, I'm here for the rest of the season," says Rodman. "I've used up my hall pass."

He says the Lakers fined him $100 a day during his one-week absence.

March 26--Another Friday, another brief era of good feeling ends. Rodman refuses to go back in for the closing minutes, saying his body has tightened up. Sacramento wins on a last-second tip-in by Chris Webber.

March 27--Another Saturday late arrival. Rodman is an hour and 15 minutes late for practice, arriving with Chasman for a 30-minute meeting with Rambis.

"I think we have come to an understanding that he is an important part of this ballclub and we need him to make a more concerted effort to be a part of this team," Rambis says. "Be at practice, be on time, all of those things."

April 6--Rodman's Beverly Hills PR firm announces that Carmen Electra and Rodman "have mutually agreed to end their six-month-old marriage under amicable circumstances" but "are and will remain friends."

Karl Malone goes 12 for 12 against Rodman and the Jazz brush the Lakers aside in the fourth quarter to win, 106-93.

April 9--Another Friday night flight: Rodman refuses to go back in during a 96-89 victory over the Timberwolves.

April 10--Rodman is more than an hour late for practice.

April 11--Rodman plays well but the Lakers lose their fifth home game of the last nine.

That's one leave of absence, three refusals to go back into games and four practices missed or arrived late for, in six weeks.

And counting. . . .

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