Too many burned bridges for Rodman?

Dennis Rodman may be serious about his comeback, but teams aren't lining up waiting for him, writes Marc Stein.

Updated: February 23, 2004, 10:33 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone are all injured in Los Angeles. Dennis Rodman, as of Friday, is playing in Los Angeles.

Dennis Rodman
Rebounding wouldn't be the problem for an NBA team interested in Dennis Rodman, left.
Yeah, right. You saw this coming. Sure you did.

Actually, Rodman is playing in nearby Long Beach, in what passes for the modern-day ABA, but it's still somewhat astounding to see him trying a comeback at nearly 42, given how badly his comeback went at 38. Even Rodman doesn't seem to believe that he made it to a Big West Conference building Friday night to grab 14 rebounds in 28 minutes, playing for the Long Beach Jam and coached by former Pistons teammate Earl Cureton.

"I'm surprised I'm still living, to be honest with you," Rodman said during a recent appearance on ESPNEWS. "Living the life I've lived the last 10 years, I'm surprised I'm still living."

Rodman went on to say that he has joined the Jam to get his legs tuned and "see if I can catch Seabiscuit" and make it back to the NBA. Take it from someone who was there every day in Dallas when Rodman spent 12 wild games with the Mavericks in the spring of 2000: Rodman is going to have to get a handout from one of his friends, like Isiah Thomas in New York or the Maloof brothers in Sacramento, if he hopes to spend another minute in the NBA.

Rebounding is not the problem. Rodman averaged 14.3 boards per game for Dallas, don't forget. The problem is being an NBA human being. Rodman couldn't do that for more than a half or two with the Mavericks, and it's difficult to imagine that he's changed much after a few years on his own.

Rodman's famed ejection and suspension after plopping himself down on the floor for a sit-in referee protest is only the most public example. Rodman routinely avoided team huddles and asked permission to skip practices. He mortified teammates by showering before games but not after, and rarely said anything to them beyond a quick "What's up?" He frustrated his coaches even more by routinely refusing to show up for pre-game team meetings 40 minutes before tip-off, which meant Rodman often had no idea where to be on the floor defensively. He'd simply roam and do whatever he wanted. Dallas was 3-9 with him, after a 10-3 surge that coincided with the arrival of a brash new boss named Mark Cuban.

Those close to Rodman insist that, after a few months of sobriety, this comeback will help keep him sober. If that's really why he's playing again, than even skeptics like us can applaud him. Of course, Rodman also says he's "to finish my career the way I want to," claiming that the Lakers and Mavericks used him like "one of those hookers on Vine in Hollywood."

Yet that doesn't stop Cuban from rooting for his former houseguest.

"I love it," Cuban said of Rodman's return. "It won't be us, but I could see a team picking him up."

Briefly...

Ron Artest
Artest
  • Ron Artest read our recent opus on the history of the Defensive Player of the Year award and thanked us for helping his campaign. And then he said he doesn't care if he ever takes the DPOY trophy away from Big Ben Wallace. "If people constantly say you're the best defender in the NBA, then I take that as being the Defensive Player of the Year," Artest said. Are people constantly telling you that, Ron? "I think so," he said. "I think I'm probably the best."

  • The NBA now has five coaches in their 60s and Cleveland's venerable Paul Silas is only six months away. The six coaches older than Silas: Memphis' Hubie Brown (70), New York's Lenny Wilkens (66), Dallas' Nelson (64 in May), Detroit's Larry Brown (63) and Utah's Jerry Sloan (62 in March).

  • Fan voting for the All-Star Game closes Sunday, so get your last ballots in.

  • Since we know you're wondering, yes, Rodman still plans to walk off the floor naked if he's ever sure that he's playing his last NBA game.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

    Marc Stein | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
    • Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
    • Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
    • Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics
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