This is not to suggest that a telethon is in order, but it has come to pass that a few of the Olympic Dream Teamers—remember them?—were adversely affected by their extended season. Not all of them. Certainly not the scourge of Angola. Charles Barkley, who is having a potential MVP year with the Suns.
But consider a few of the other Dream Teamers: The Blazers' Clyde Drexler underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Sept. 18 and has been slowed ever since (he has missed nine games). He says the surgery might not have been necessary if he had stayed home from Barcelona to rehabilitate the knee, which had bothered him much of last season. Knick center Patrick Ewing got off to a slow start—he didn't block a shot until the sixth game of the season—mostly because he did not have enough time between the end of the Olympics on Aug. 9 and the start of training camp on Oct. 9 to rest the left ankle that he had sprained badly in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls. And both of the Bulls' Olympians, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, have complained this season of physical and mental fatigue. "Even with all the pressure I would've taken [for not playing]," says Jordan, "I wouldn't have played if I knew then what I know now." Neither Bull is having a bad season—Jordan leads the league, after all, with a 32.2-point average, and Pippen leads the Bulls in assists (6.8) and is second in rebounding (8.0) and scoring (18.8)—but both have been more inconsistent than usual. In consecutive losses last week to the Lakers and the Cavs, Jordan shot a combined three for 17 in the fourth quarter. That sounds suspiciously like fatigue.
The Dream Teamers should not expect many sympathy cards. "From what I heard they did over there," says one general manager, "I had a tougher summer dealing with agents and mowing my lawn." That attitude is understandable.
But so is the fatigue. Even the Jazz's Karl Malone, the lone Dream Teamer so far to volunteer for duty in the '96 Olympic crusade, says he feels the effects of what amounted to a 10-month season.
"I don't expect anyone to feel bad for us," says Malone, "but that doesn't mean it's not a factor."
There is nothing ordinary about Piston forward Dennis Rodman, a 6'8" bundle of fist-waving energy. It figures that there is nothing ordinary about the Worm's statistical lines, either. On five occasions this season Rodman has grabbed more than 20 rebounds in a game while scoring fewer than five points. In an 89-83 loss to Miami last week, for example, Rodman took only three shots from the field and two from the free throw line, to go with 24 rebounds. For the season, he is averaging only five shots a game though he is among the league's leaders in playing time, about 44 minutes per contest.
Rodman's reluctance to shoot conjures up memories of a recent bricklayer and defensive dynamo named T.R. Dunn (now an assistant coach with the Hornets), who during the 1987-88 season averaged only one shot every 9.8 minutes for the Nuggets. Rodman shoots about once every 7.8 minutes.
Compare that with some of the game's legendary rebounders. Bill Russell, for example, attempted one shot about every 3.2 minutes. Paul Silas checked in at about one every 3.5 minutes, and Wes Unseld launched one about every 4.2 minutes.
Rodman should be scoring more points off offensive rebounds alone. The Worm's M.O. is to grab an offensive board and cither throw it back out to his guards or dribble toward the backcourt and hand it off.
Could it be that Rodman simply doesn't shoot because he doesn't want to risk being fouled? After all, this season he's shooting just 42% from the free throw line.
TREY KING BENCHED
Craig Hodges, the three-time defending champion of the league's three-point shooting contest on All-Star Saturday, has been waiting for a call to play in this year's contest. It will not come. "For me to contact them [the NBA] just isn't right," says Hodges, who was waived by the Bulls in July and hasn't caught on with any team. "With all I've done in that contest, I think I deserve the respect of being invited."
Rod Thorn, the NBA's director of operations, says the league did not even consider inviting Hodges to the 1993 shootout in Salt Lake City on Feb. 20. "The contest is for active players," says Thorn, "and Hodges is not active. It's simple."
What makes it less simple from Hodges's perspective, however, is the fact that Lithuanian sharpshooter Rimas Kurtinaitis was invited to participate in the 1989 shoot-out in Houston, even though he was not on an NBA roster. And that a sort-of-retired Magic Johnson competed in last year's All-Star Game in Orlando while not on the Lakers' active roster.
"Not the same thing," says Thorn. "Kurtinaitis was an active player, and Magic was voted in by the fans."
Hodges feels that his exclusion goes beyond hairsplitting on the rules. "Political reasons," he says. He feels that NBA teams have been scared off by his religious beliefs (he's a practicing Muslim) and by his strong ties to the black community—he created a program called Operation UNITE, which brings athletes and entertainers together to raise money for urban high school athletic teams.
"When you have teams in this league that can't shoot, and you have a proven player like myself who can shoot, what am I supposed to think?" says Hodges, 32.
One thing is for sure: Hodges and the retired Larry Bird (who won the first three shoot-outs, in 1986, '87 and '88) have given the contest its finest moments. Hodges is the only player to have competed in all seven, holds the single-round record of 25 baskets (of 30) and made a record 19 in a row two years ago. He is truly the game's three-point king. And he deserves to be there on All-Star Saturday.
SI's poll takes on a different look this season. Rather than present our question of the week to coaches and general managers, we have enlisted a panel of 16 NBA players to answer our queries. The panel includes Dream Teamers (Drexler, Malone and the Warriors' Chris Mullin) and reserves (the Nuggets' Scott Hastings and the Bucks' Danny Schayes). It includes three-point shooters (the Bullets' Michael Adams, the Pacers' Reggie Miller and the Mavericks' Derek Harper) and plain shooters (the Hawks' Dominique Wilkins and the Sonics' Eddie Johnson). There are nice guys (the Knicks' Doc Rivers, the Nets' Sam Bowie and the Kings' Wayman Tisdale) and a tough guy (the Celtics' Xavier McDaniel). There is a trash-talker (the Suns' Danny Ainge) and one who is somewhat of a nontalker (the Pistons' Joe Dumars). There are five forwards, eight guards and three centers, a fair representation of the league's statistical breakdown by position.
This week's question: Which city's fans are the most knowledgeable about basketball, and which are the least knowledgeable? Players were not allowed to choose their own fans.
Surprisingly, New York, with eight votes, was a clear winner over Boston (three votes) for most knowledgeable.
"I give New York the nod because basketball has been such a part of the whole city atmosphere for so long," says Schayes. McDaniel was more pragmatic in going with Gotham. "Me and Marcus [Webb, an obscure teammate] went into Harlem once, and people there even knew who Marcus was," says the X-Man. Also going with New York were Dumars, Wilkins, Johnson, Harper, Miller and Mullin, though the latter's vote should probably be considered biased (Mullin is from Queens).
Ainge gave his vote to Washington, saying, "The Washington fans who stay away are the most knowledgeable."
New Jersey and Washington were narrow "winners" in the least knowledgeable category (three votes each), while Sacramento ("It's been blind faith the whole time the Kings have been there," says Johnson) and Minnesota ("They haven't seen good basketball, so they don't know what it looks like," says a panelist who desired anonymity) each got two. Philadelphia ("They didn't realize what they had with Dr. J, Moses and Barkley," says Rivers), Detroit ("They're not as sharp as they used to be," says Wilkins), Dallas ("Cubby fans they aren't," says Hastings), Indiana and expansion teams Miami and Orlando each got one vote.
SI POLL: Most/Least Knowledgeable Fans?