With only Jason Kidd, Danny Manning and Steve Nash under contract
for 1998-99, the Suns were headed for major off-season changes
even if they hadn't been eliminated in the first round of the
playoffs for the third straight year. Cliff Robinson disappeared
in the team's 3-1 loss to the Spurs (he had a nasty habit of
vanishing with the Trail Blazers, too), which means he'll
probably disappear from Phoenix next season. Dennis Scott is
telling friends that he's expendable because the Suns want to
make a serious run at free-agent-in-waiting Scottie Pippen.
While Rex Chapman will return, Kevin Johnson is likely to retire
unless he can swallow hard and accept being paid about half of
the $7 million he made this season.
The most important decision facing Phoenix involves 6'9",
220-pound Antonio McDyess, 23, perhaps the most athletic young
power forward in the game. Though the Suns have doubts about
whether he'll develop into a superstar who can win it all for
them, they do believe in his upside. That's why they will give
strong consideration to paying him as much as $80 million over
the next seven years.
"I would love to have this guy my entire coaching career,
because of his talent and because he does whatever you ask,"
Suns coach Danny Ainge says. "He wants to get better. So many
young guys don't care about that."
McDyess cares--perhaps too much for his own good. Nearly a year
ago, after the Nuggets granted his request for a trade by
dealing him to Phoenix, Denver officials declared that he would
never be a franchise player. McDyess is still stung by that. He
had hoped to leave the Nuggets without rancor, but instead he
felt betrayed by the team's management. "I said nothing but good
things about Denver," says McDyess. "Then I read all these
comments. I couldn't believe it."
He lugged that baggage to Phoenix. McDyess struggled as he tried
to adjust to a new role, a new system, a new coach. Before the
All-Star break he averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. "I put
too much pressure on myself," he says. "I came in here thinking,
I'll show the Nuggets they were wrong. I didn't want anyone in
Phoenix to think they made a mistake by getting me. I was trying
so hard to fit in. And then there was the money thing. Was I
worth this or worth that? Sometimes, it got inside my head.
Finally I just said, What have you got to lose? Just play."
McDyess's numbers in the playoffs: 17.8 points and 13.3 boards.
More than anything, he needs seasoning--and a little more
cockiness. Consider Game 1 against San Antonio. With 10 seconds
to play, the Suns, trailing 100-96, ran a play that called for
McDyess to receive the ball near the free throw line. He could
look for a cutter in the middle, kick it back to the wing for a
three or take the shot himself. McDyess wound up with both a
wide-open 14-footer and a lane to the basket, but he was so
intent on exploring the other options that he passed up the
easiest and best ones: his own. He kicked it out to Scott, who
missed a hurried three, and the Suns lost 102-96. "I didn't want
to make a mistake that would cost us the game," McDyess says.
"Next time, I won't think twice about shooting it."
"Look," Ainge said, "we don't need him to be a superstar
overnight." True. But for $80 million, sometime soon would be
Chicago's Next Coach
PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1
Iowa State coach Tim Floyd does not talk publicly about the
He does not study game film of Michael Jordan. He does not
hobnob in the owner's box at the United Center. Yet his name
sends a chill through the Chicago locker room, where players
have grown to hate this genial man they've probably never met.
Floyd's crimes? He is the favorite fishing buddy of Jerry
Krause, the Bulls' vice president of basketball operations. He
is the heir apparent to Chicago coach Phil Jackson. He is a
wedge between Krause and Jackson that might force Jordan to
leave the Bulls. For all that, he has become one of the most
vilified men in Chicago--after Krause, of course.
Was it the 44-year-old Floyd's fault that Krause invited him to
his daughter's wedding last summer and sat him at a table with
some Bulls employees? Was it Floyd's fault that Jackson--who has
never met his probable successor but calls him Pink Floyd in
private--was not invited to the affair? And why is that an
issue? Isn't it painfully obvious by now that Krause and Jackson
do not show up on each other's social calendar?
Floyd would not return phone calls from SI. (He doesn't talk
about the Bulls--ever--remember?) But UTEP coach Don Haskins,
who hired Floyd as a graduate assistant in 1977, says, "Tim
certainly would fit right in there, because no team plays the
half-court offense better than the Bulls, and Tim is outstanding
at teaching that."
This much we can tell you about Floyd. He has a wife named
Beverly, a 17-year-old daughter named Shannon and a poodle named
Ollie. He was a gym rat as a kid, tagging along with his father,
Lee Floyd, the highly regarded coach at Southern Mississippi for
14 years. Tim walked on at Southern Miss from 1972 to '74. Then
he transferred to Louisiana Tech, where he played one game and
failed to score.
Floyd is a worker. The players at Iowa State drive by his office
at midnight and see the light on. In Floyd's first three seasons
at Ames, beginning in 1994-95, his efforts paid off. Playing
aggressive defense, the Cyclones were 69-29 and went to the NCAA
tournament each year. But in 1997-98, Iowa State went just
12-18. "Some credentials for the pros," says one NBA assistant.
Krause isn't the only one who has had his eye on Floyd. Sources
say Floyd could have had the LSU job when it opened up before
last season, but he declined to be interviewed, keeping his
focus on the NBA. (Privately, you see, he talks about the Bulls
Those who know Floyd say he is a genuine, caring guy. In another
time, another place, Jordan might have liked him. It's not
Floyd's fault that he has come to symbolize the end of Chicago's
dynasty. His fishing buddy is going to have to take the fall for
For more NBA news from Jackie MacMullan and Phil Taylor, go to
NOTE FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Rebel with a Cause
In the waning moments of the Bulls' first-round sweep of the
Nets, Dennis Rodman appeared to be jawing at the New Jersey
bench. In fact, he was asking Nets assistant coach Don Casey,
"How's your wife?" Rodman had become friends with Dwynne Casey,
a breast-cancer survivor, during a junket in the summer of 1991.
After his 11-game suspension last season, Rodman donated an
amount that equaled his NBA salary for one game--some
$50,000--to a support group for breast-cancer victims.
AROUND THE RIM
The Trail Blazers became the first team to lose in the first
round in six consecutive seasons. They bowed to the Lakers in
four games, and Shaquille O'Neal has a good idea why: "I own
[Arvydas] Sabonis--write that down." Shaq outscored the Portland
center (29.0 points a game to 12.3), outshot him (65.3% to
45.0%) and outrebounded him (11.8 to 7.8). Sabonis plans to
re-sign with the Blazers for three more seasons....
The team with the least expensive roster still playing: the
Hornets, whose $27.8 million payroll ranks 19th in the league....
The Nets have told center Rony Seikaly that they plan to pick up
the two-year, $8.75 million option on his contract....
Former Suns coach Paul Westphal would like to take the vacant
Clippers job. Though Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has expressed interest
in coaching, the Clippers don't want him....
While the Pacers began this postseason with 455 games of playoff
experience, no one on the team has won a championship, and only
one player, reserve center Mark West, has been to the NBA
Sixers president Pat Croce, whose contract expired last month,
has been told by chairman Ed Snider that the team wants to
In anticipation of labor unrest, agents formed an advisory
committee last year. The 20-member group will meet this Friday
to discuss, among other things, whether a majority of players