Pistons and Rockets trade off a similar urge


As a wise general manager once said, some of your best trades are the one you don't make.

That is certainly a feeling shared by the Detroit Pistons' Billy McKinney and the Houston Rockets' Steve Patterson after they resisted temptation and opted to retain Dennis NBA notebook

Rodman and Hakeem Olajuwon, All-Stars who repeatedly have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Both players had been suspended and fined -- Rodman by Detroit this season and Olajuwon by Houston last year -- when they were accused of feigning injuries in seeking a trade. But after weighing the pros and cons, the Pistons and Rockets figured they were much better teams with their unhappy campers than without them.

Just how much Rodman means to the Pistons was evident after he rejoined the team Nov. 24. With the forward averaging 20.8 rebounds, Detroit won five straight before losing to the Knicks in New York on Friday night.

A few weeks ago, the Charlotte Hornets could have obtained Rodman in exchange for reserves J. R. Reid and Del Curry, but ultimately dealt Reid to San Antonio for Sidney Green and two future draft picks.

Had the deal materialized, can you imagine rival teams trying to snatch a rebound away from a Hornets front line of Rodman, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson?

But the Pistons are only too happy that Rodman is still on their side. Said Pistons captain Isiah Thomas: "It's like a kid's puzzle where you have a lot of little pieces and one big one. Well, Dennis is the big piece on our team."

Adds Pistons president Tom Wilson: "People think Dennis is faking us out by being on his best behavior. But how do you fake 20 rebounds a night? Meanwhile, he's made us competitive again and only increased his trade value."

In Olajuwon's case, most of his ongoing problems with the Rockets stem from his desire to constantly re-negotiate his contract. But the Houston brass has held firm, and it would take a blockbuster deal to pry away a center who averages 24.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 4.67 blocks.

With Olajuwon in a cooperative mood, the resurgent Rockets (11-6) have won four straight and are only a half game behind Utah in the Midwest Division race. In struggling his first two years as a pro, Seattle point guard Gary Payton was accused of talking a good game.

Now the former Oregon State star, who was the second player picked in the 1990 NBA draft, is credited with being the biggest reason the SuperSonics are contending for the Pacific Division lead.

Recently, Payton enjoyed a string of five games without a turnover. He is averaging 15.1 points, 5.8 assists and shooting 53 percent from the field.

"Gary is giving us the maturity we didn't have last year," said Sonics coach George Karl. "The biggest improvement is not his shooting, but his professionalism. He's stable and strong, and the type of guy his teammates want to stand behind."

Famous last words

When his team, boasting seven new players, got off to a surprising 10-3 start, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy warned they were not as good as their record. The Bucks then lost their next game to the Washington Bullets to start their current seven-game skid.

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