Faced with the possibility of dumping Dennis Rodman for nothing because he had become such a divisive influence, the San Antonio Spurs traded the game’s best rebounder to the Chicago Bulls for backup center Will Perdue on Monday.
The Bulls, hoping for another title run led by Michael Jordan, had been looking for a power forward to beef up a front line that already includes Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc. They used both draft picks to get bigger--Jason Caffey from Alabama in the first round and Dragan Tarlac from Greece early in the second--and now add a legitimate inside force.
The problem is, it’s Rodman.
“You take into account all that goes on,” Bull Coach Phil Jackson said. “You have to take risks in this business. We know what we want to accept. We’re going to go down the road, the straight and the narrow in this particular case.”
Rodman has led the NBA in rebounding the last four seasons and remains one of its best defenders, but he also is a discipline problem, whether playing for a coach like John Lucas, who gave him plenty of rope, or the stricter Bob Hill. He was suspended last season for insubordination, often missed practice, his whereabouts unknown, and during games spurned team huddles.
In the end, his teammates grew tired of the antics, just as they had a few years earlier in Detroit. Rodman was benched for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers, then spent timeouts talking with fans at the Forum. In the next round, upset about being kept out of the final play in a one-point loss in Game 1 against Houston, he responded in Game 2 by shooting two three-pointers within the first five minutes, then by staying on the bench after the final buzzer as everyone else headed to the locker room.
Those antics bothered the Spurs. Team executives considered leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft before deciding to test the trade waters. If that had failed, they would have pondered cutting him to avoid further problems, even if it meant eating the $2.5 million for 1995-96, the final year of the contract.
Leery of the problems that can make Rodman more of a risk than an asset, no team offered much as compensation, and some teams wanted the Spurs to pay part or all of Rodman’s contract if he had to be cut because of attitude problems. San Antonio General Manager Gregg Popovich said Monday it was difficult to find a team willing to deal.
Perdue is a marginal reserve, but in a league so desperate for big men that Ralph Sampson was being scouted last year and Darryl Dawkins attended a Celtic mini-camp this fall, that’s worth something.
A 7-footer beginning his eighth season, Perdue averaged eight points and 6.7 rebounds last season in more than 20 minutes a game. He will play behind David Robinson.