Tattooed Rodman leaves winning imprint on Spurs


It was obvious that those at the scorers' table at the USAir Arena were waiting for the moment all afternoon. San Antonio Spurs forward Dennis Rodman got mad, and in anger he slammed the basketball against the basketball post.

And at the push of a button, the theme song from the Looney Tunes cartoon filled the arena for the next 30 seconds.

Rodman has heard worst. But as strange as he appears -- from the body tattoos to the ever-changing hair color -- the bottom line for the Spurs is that Rodman gets the job done.

"Some of the stuff that Dennis does, I don't necessarily understand," Spurs center David Robinson said. "But I respect the fact that most of the time I think he knows what he's doing -- on the floor, that is."

On the floor Rodman is a solid defender, and the league's best rebounder. He grabbed 19 rebounds in yesterday's win over the Washington Bullets, a little over his 17.3 average. Eliminate his offensive rebounds, and his 435 defensive rebounds alone would rank him second in the NBA with a 12.8 average.

To the Spurs, Rodman, who averages few shots and just 3.8 points a game, is the type player to make them a championship team.

"He brings the experience, he brings the toughness and the edge that a lot of these guys really need," Robinson said. "Not a lot of guys get a chance to play around a championship-type guy. Dennis [who won two titles with the Detroit Pistons] can bring that experience."

And he also brings different hairstyles on the court. He started the season as a blond, and later dyed his hair red. Lately he's been playing with a blue-do, which is one reason he's a favorite target of hecklers.

"It doesn't bother me -- the fans have a good time," Rodman said. "I play around with them most of the time and it energizes me. The more they scream, and the more we increase our lead, the less we hear. I like that."

And Rodman likes his surroundings, unlike the past two seasons when he expressed his dissatisfaction with the Pistons.

"I can't ask for anything better," Rodman said. "I go out there and run free, and do what I want to do. I like that.

"[Coach John] Lucas knows me, he knows my game, and he knows how I like to be treated," Rodman added. "So I have no problem."

And neither do Rodman's teammates -- as long as he continues to do the dirty work.

"I can live with the other stuff because I know he wants to bring the team together and I know he's all about winning," Robinson said. "If I had a different feeling, then we'd have a problem. But there are no problems."


Doubting Thomas

By now you've heard that Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was selected to play on Dream Team II, replacing Golden State's injured Tim Hardaway. With the aging Thomas having an off-year, the move was an injustice to Phoenix Suns point guard Kevin Johnson, who is having the best year of his career.

Johnson, who a month ago made known his interest to play on Dream Team II, didn't hesitate to voice his displeasure.

"It's a joke," Johnson told reporters last week. "I guess they'll name Nick Van Exel and maybe Avery Johnson to the All-Star team.

"Maybe there's another country I could play for. But it has to be a team that has a chance to win. Maybe the Brazilian team. I'm sure there's one of my ancestors we can link up on that."

The haves and Mav-nots

Here's the joke making the rounds in Dallas these days:

Question: What do the Dallas Mavericks, the Texas Rangers, and Dallas Cowboys have in common?

Answer: None can play NBA basketball.

The woes of the Mavericks continued on Saturday when Dallas lost to the Spurs, 104-87. The loss was the 17th straight at Reunion Arena, setting an NBA record for consecutive losses at home (the Orlando Magic, before Shaquille O'Neal, had the old record of 16).

"I wasn't even aware of it," said guard Jim Jackson. "I don't pay attention [to streaks]."

By season's end, Jimmy, you may be paying attention to another record. At 2-32 the team already has the worst record after 34 games. The NBA's record for futility for a season was set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73 when they finished 9-73.

Dallas was on its way to that record last season until Jackson, a holdout, signed toward the end of the season and helped spark a late surge that helped the team to an 11-71 record.

Barring a trade, winning more than nine games is not going to happen. One reason is that point guard Derek Harper, who provided veteran leadership, is gone, now with the Knicks.

Another reason is that, although Jackson and rookie Jamal Mashburn may someday be great players, they still are too young to carry a team. A third reason (and there are many) is that the Mavericks only play the Minnesota Timberwolves five times (both wins have come against Minnesota).

You have to figure that, with 24 home games left, the Mavericks will win a game in Dallas this season. Then again, with a team that paraded Darren Morningstar as its starter center earlier this season, maybe not.

Perhaps a ranking in the NCAA Division I Top 25 is more like it.

"I'm sure we can set a lot of records," center Sean Rooks said. "After a while you just start concentrating on a win, once the losses start building up.

"It took us 17 games to get here," Rooks said of the current record. "We've had plenty of opportunities to stop it."

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