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Rodman Returns To Chicago

For one more wacky day, the NBA Finals turned into something resembling Rodmania.

Dennis Rodman found the time to attend practice Tuesday, but gave no explanation for his actions Monday when he blew it off and took part in a pro wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Mich.

"Dennis, in case you haven't noticed, is a little different than the rest of us," teammate Steve Kerr said. "He lives by a different set of rules. Some guys might not be happy about it, but ultimately he comes to play. He's going to be ready tomorrow night."

Rodman's teammates were left to do most of the explaining on the eve of Game 4 after the Worm bolted out the door the moment practice ended. He escaped another $10,000 fine from the league by agreeing to answer questions from an NBA employee who, unlike reporters, had access to the Bulls' locker room.

Actually, another $10,000 fine wouldn't have caused much financial difficulty for Rodman. He was paid $250,000 for his appearance on the wresting telecast, where he didn't actually wrestle anyone but did hit Diamond Dallas Page over the head with a chair.

A photo of Rodman and the wrestler Hulk Hogan appeared on the back page of one Chicago newspaper under the headline "Rodzilla."

"My kid came up and said, `Dennis is on TV,'" Ron Harper said. "I liked it when he got the chair and hit the guy. Give me a chair."

Most of the Bulls found humor in the doings of Dennis. It seemed he was the only thing people wanted to talk about during a second straight off-day.

As a result, there was little discussion of the Jazz's record-low 54-point output in Game 3 when the Bulls took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

The most prolific purveyor of Rodman-speak was Chicago coach Phil Jackson, whose main concern was whether Rodman had actually wrestled someone -- which would be a violation of the NBA player contract.

"Dennis fits well in that (wrestling) world. I think it's great for him to have that, and I hope it's a career for him in the future if that's where he wants to go."

"He didn't walk away from us," Jackson said. "I'm sure it was a planned occasion. They had a chartered jet for him and it was a whole big thing. It wasn't that Dennis missed practice to do something else. Dennis just couldn't make it."

The fact that the Bulls could accept Rodman's absence and shrug it off seemed to mystify the Jazz, whose practice is so regimented that coach Jerry Sloan has been known to whistle everything to a halt if he spots a player with his shirt untucked.

"I couldn't coach him if he didn't come to practice," Sloan said. "We couldn't go in the other direction where there's no discipline and no respect. Those things will always be important to me."

The Bulls also got a kick out of the scene on the United Center court after practice ended. As a medi throng entered the west end of the court, Rodman bolted for the east exit.

"Get him! Get him! There he is!" Scott Burrell shouted as a mob of cameramen and reporters ran toward Rodman.

"Dennis is functioning probably as well as he can under a system like this," Jackson said. "One of the problems is that he becomes an anti-hero figure in this society.

"The thing that is interesting about Dennis is that the kids like him because they see that behavior all the time. You'll find kids from age 7 down are naturally attracted to Dennis."

Rodman has been coming off the bench for the Bulls since the Eastern Conference finals, and his production in this series has been off - no points and 10 rebounds in Game 1, three points and nine rebounds in Game 2, two points and six rebounds in Game 3.

He has drawn the defensive assignment on Karl Malone when Luc Longley has gotten into foul trouble.

"Karl Malone can't beat me off the dribble. He's basically an awkward player," Rodman told the NBA employee. "He's just an average player to me. If the referees let me play, I can play Karl Malone 24-seven -- every day of the week."

Malone and John Stockton also endured many Rodman questions, just like the rest of their teammates.

The whole spectacle seemed to fire up Malone.

"It's always something you think about. You look at things, the way they happen, and I really, truly don't think they're taking us seriously at all," he said. "When you see things like that, it makes you want to play a little harder."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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