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NBA kicks back at Rodman 11-game suspension could cost Bulls star more than $1 million

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For years, Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman has tried to play basketball by a different set of rules, at times almost daring the NBA to take serious action against him. Yesterday, the league, finally fed up with his act, did just that.

Rodman was suspended for at least 11 games without pay and fined $25,000 for kicking a courtside cameraman during Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is the second-longest suspension in league history. And Rodman stands to lose more than $1 million of his $9 million contract because he has a clause tied to the number of games he plays this season.

Under terms of the suspension, Rodman is required to meet with a counselor approved by the league. Rodman then must meet after the Feb. 9 All-Star Game with NBA commissioner David Stern and tell him why he should be reinstated after the 11 games.

"Until Dennis can provide meaningful assurances that he will conform his conduct on the playing court to acceptable standards -- including not placing others at physical risk -- his suspension will continue," Stern said in a statement.

Players at last night's Washington Bullets-Miami Heat game at Baltimore Arena were surprised at the amount of games, but not that Rodman was suspended.

"That's a lot of games," Bullets guard Rod Strickland said. "What he did was wrong. But I don't know what to say about the amount of games."

Added Bullets forward Chris Webber: "You knew something was going to happen, especially to a guy like Rodman."

The suspension is being challenged by the National Basketball Players Association, which claims the penalty is too severe.

"While we do not condone Dennis' action, the discipline the league seeks to impose is excessive and unprecedented," said Bill Hunter, the union's executive director. "We have filed a grievance, and we intend to forcefully challenge the league's action."

Rodman's agent, Dwight Manley, also criticized the penalty.

"This is excessive and unjust," he said. "There's no precedent for it whatsoever, and to say he needs professional help from a counselor is unfair. He's perfectly sane and cognizant, and besides, it's a team's job to attend to a player's mental affairs. And the Bulls are happy with his state of mind."

The only suspension longer than what Rodman received occurred in 1977, when Los Angeles Lakers forward Kermit Washington was penalized 26 games for punching Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich in the face.

Rodman may be facing a lawsuit as well. The cameraman for the Timberwolves, Eugene Amos, has secured the services of a lawyer. Amos was kicked after Rodman, after battling for a rebound, twisted his ankle when he stepped on a camera.

As Rodman lay on the ground, Amos, who was seated right next to him, turned his camera toward the Bulls forward. That's when Rodman kicked Amos with his right foot. Amos, after exchanging a few words with Rodman, collapsed. And he lay prone for several minutes, before being carried away on a stretcher. He was treated at a Minneapolis hospital that night, then released.

Amos, in an interview with a Minneapolis television station, said he was surprised by the penalty. Rodman also faces criminal charges, which could be filed sometime next week.

"I'm glad he's not going to get away with it, and I think it sends a message to a lot of guys who treat the media like this," Amos told the television station after meeting with police yesterday.

It's the second time this season that Rodman has been suspended. Earlier this season, Rodman went off on an obscenity-laced, post-game tirade that was carried live on television in Chicago. The Bulls suspended him for two games without pay.

Longest NBA suspensions

26 games: Kermit Washington, Lakers. Punched Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich, 1977.

11 games: Dennis Rodman, Bulls. Kicked courtside TV cameraman, 1997; also fined $25,000.

10 games: Vernon Maxwell, Rockets. Went into stands and hit fan, 1995.

7 games: Nick Van Exel, Lakers. Shoved referee, 1996; also fined $25,000.

6 games: Rodman, Bulls. Head-butted referee, 1996; also fined $20,000.

Pub Date: 1/18/97

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