It's that time when our zany cast of characters looks ahead and vows to get it right next year:
Michael Jordan--Let's see, 30 days have September, April, June and November, all the rest have 31. . . . OK, 173 more days of Dennis, max.
Jerry Reinsdorf--Next dynasty, I'm definitely getting quieter guys.
Jerry Krause--Like Albert Belle, boss?
Dennis Rodman--I'm going to be more one of the boys. You want this garter belt, bro?
Penny Hardaway--Where's Shaq when I need him?
Brian Hill--Next time I get a super center, he wants the ball, he gets the ball.
Rich DeVos--Next time I get a super center, he wants to coach, he gets to coach.
Shaquille O'Neal--Where's Penny when I need him?
Kobe Bryant--Where's that Duke brochure?
Brian Williams--No, honest, next week I'm really coming back.
Fred Slaughter--If I were into resolutions, I might think about getting a client signed before the season once in my career, but I'm still not talking to you running dog lackeys of the imperialist Clipper press.
Stanley Roberts--I'm definitely coming in in shape next season, before my career slips away from me.
Benoit Benjamin--That goes double for me.
Moby Dick--I hear you.
Bill Fitch--No, really, they say anguish is the latest thing in cardiac rehab.
Donald Sterling--Hello, Anaheim? Where were we when I got that call on my other line last spring?
M.L. Carr--What does Red say to resolve a situation like this?
Red Auerbach--Drop back 15 and punt. Fire the coach. Oh, you're the coach?
Dave Checketts--No new resolutions. We're right on schedule. This summer we'll re-sign Patrick for $10 million a year and jack up the courtside seats to $1,500 a game. We'll fire Van Gundy next February, hire Rick Pitino back and hike courtside to $2,000 in '98. . . .
Patrick Ewing--If they think I'm finishing my career playing in front of these ingrates, they'd better think again . . . $10 million a year? OK.
Jeff Van Gundy--Hello, Riles? Keep that seat next to you warm. I'll be down with some great Dave stories.
Allan Houston--Hello, Detroit?
Larry Johnson--Hello, Charlotte?
David Falk--Next summer I'll take Mike to the Knicks and Patrick to the . . . Bulls! In '98, how about Barkley to the . . . um . . . Lakers? In '99 I'll move Iverson to the Knicks and sign Mike with Converse. In 2001, we'll have the strike and see who's running this league. Now, when they do the movie of me, I don't think anyone can play me better than me.
Jason Kidd--I've learned a lot about this league in three seasons. On my next team, when I get a date with a singing star, I'm not telling the guys until afterward.
Jim Jackson--I don't understand why he was so upset. I had Toni's CD first.
Jim Cleamons--Hello, Phil?
Cotton Fitzsimmons--Next time Jerry Colangelo asks if I could do him a favor, I'm going to ask what it is.
Dick Motta--Next time Bernie Bickerstaff asks if I could do him a favor, I'm going to ask what it is.
Charles Barkley--Two games off was nice. I think I'll bump some ref about Feb. 7 and go golfing in Phoenix over All-Star break. Cleveland in February? Have a good time, boys.
George Karl--I feel great about next year because our young players finally understand and are assuming leadership roles. And the UCLA job might come open and Dean Smith might retire and . . .
Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard--Hello, Michigan?
John Calipari--Hello, UMass?
P.J. Carlesimo--Hello, Seton Hall?
Del Harris--Hello, Earlham?
Larry Brown--Hello, Nuggets, UCLA, Nets, Kansas, UCLA, Spurs and Clippers?
David Stern--Can you believe I'm merchandising this? They ought to take Jerry West's profile off the logo and put mine on it.
NAMES AND NUMBERS
Now he's the Arizona Kidd: The Dallas-Phoenix swap was a stunner, giving the Suns a once-in-a-generation point guard, whatever his struggles, such as last week's "sore neck" that coincided with agent Aaron Goodwin's announcement that Cleamons' slow-down offense was depressing his client. "Come on, [Kidd] isn't missing layups because he's all of a sudden a stiff," Goodwin said. "It's because his heart just isn't in it. His game is running and they've got him walking."
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the five-year rebuilding program just became a 10-year rebuilding program: The Mavericks get Michael Finley, who plays the same positions as Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn and George McCloud; A.C. Green, who's 33 and has three more years--at $13 million--left on his contract, which is why the Suns were desperate to dump him, and Sam Cassell, a shoot-first point guard who'll be a free agent next summer, meaning the Mavericks will have to pay him a king's ransom.
Dallas is trying to unload Mashburn--and his surgically repaired knee and four more years at $25 million--and may have to give him away. The Indiana Pacers, lacking firepower, are interested. . . . Bottom line: The new Ross Perot Jr. administration, still staffed by amateurs, couldn't get much for Jackson--a free agent in '98--or anything for Mashburn, so they moved the only player anyone really wanted. The giant sucking sound you hear is the air rushing out of their balloon.
Even in a Bulls' romp, the Pistons' Hill dazzled everyone, zipping past Pippen, finishing with 27 points and eight rebounds. "He's on the trail of being a great player," said Pippen, who also had 27 and eight. "In due time, he's going to be a lot better than me." . . . This week it's Good Dennis. Rodman, who has taken 23, 18, 14, 18, 17, 22 and 10 rebounds since returning from suspension: "I want to get the respect of my teammates and the coaches and the city of Chicago. I know they lost a little confidence in me, so my main goal is to strive to get back to the dance. I'm ready to play now." Oops: In his next game, Christian Laettner scored 37 against him and outrebounded him, 14-10, as the Hawks topped the Bulls.
The Argua-Bulls are at it again: Said Jackson after cutting Thomas Hamilton, a 7-foot Chicago prep star who skipped college and whose weight is estimated in the mid-300s: "That was a Jerry Krause project."
Aside from that, it might be a good idea: With the Celtics off to their worst start, Carr is being asked delicately if it wouldn't be wise to let Dennis Johnson coach. Said M.L., something less than indignant: "I just think it wouldn't be a good sign if I was to walk away from this team like that at this point. We're still trying to get things across to these players."
The Celtics had lost every opening tip until Dino Radja won one from Vlade Divac last week. "What can I say about it?" Radja asked. "I am not a center. I am a forward with bad knees. If you put $10 million up at a height and told me to jump up and get it, I couldn't do it. It's not that I'm not trying, it's just that I cannot jump that high." . . . The good news is, someone wants him: Former Bruin George Zidek is on the outs in Charlotte where Divac and Matt Geiger are getting all the time. However, the Milwaukee Bucks and Vancouver Grizzlies have expressed interest.
There's a big test coming in negotiations for a broader substance abuse policy between the league and new players' union director Billy Hunter. Stern wants to include alcohol and marijuana. Hunter is defending the players' right to get high in private. Said Hunter, "What a player does in the privacy of his own home that can't be shown as a detriment to the team or his own personal well-being, I am extremely conscious of not touching that." If talks stall, as expected, we'll know we're on pace for the big strike of 2001.
The Portland Trail Blazers, 10-6 in November, are 5-9 in December. Rasheed Wallace is out because of a broken thumb and Isaiah Rider's constant absences and benchings are driving everyone crazy. "We have more problems than basketball on this team right now," Kenny Anderson said. "The hell with the game, you know what I'm saying? It's getting kind of worrisome." . . . Washington Bullet players said they were shocked at Kevin Duckworth's size when they saw their former teammate. Rod Strickland, who was with him in Portland, inquired about Duck's extensive pet collection. "I asked him if he was eating all his animals," Strickland said.