Rodman Tests Bulls With Latest Absence

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dennis Rodman continued to push the patience of the Chicago Bulls, missing practice during the NBA finals and drawing attention to a negative on the day when it all should have been positive reviews of their very impressive Game 3 performance against the Utah Jazz.

The league immediately fined Rodman $10,000 for missing the mandatory media session. The Bulls indicated they will not offer any disciplines, having long ago realized that would make no impact, but they did offer consternation.

Rodman was seen Monday night attending a wrestling show in Auburn Hills, Mich. He declined to talk to a reporter at the match, instead staying in a luxury box at The Palace.

He was with World Championship Wrestling president Eric Bischoff, wrestlers Hollywood Hogan, Bret Hart and a 7-foot-4, 510-pounder billed as "The Giant," who defended Rodman's absence from the Bulls.

"The beautiful thing about Dennis is that he's the epitome of a free spirit," said The Giant, whose real name is Paul Wight. "If the Bulls try to control him from doing things like this, it would be like cutting off Samson's hair."

The Bulls had a different opinion.

"I think it's very frustrating at this time," Scottie Pippen said after Monday's practice at the United Center. "But you don't want to carry that into the next game, you don't want to carry that into the next practice. You want the team chemistry to stay there and stay as strong and bonding as possible, especially in the situation that we're in right now. We don't want Dennis taking the focus away from the team. He's going to come to practice tomorrow, hopefully, and have some lame excuse, but we're just going to overlook it and just look forward to the next game."

Added Coach Phil Jackson, who said Rodman called near the end of the workout and said he overslept because of problems with his alarm clock: "If there were more people like Dennis, we'd be in chaos. We couldn't have a society.

"We couldn't have lanes on a freeway. You couldn't get people to queue up. He's not a normal person in society."

Though he hasn't been spectacular in the playoffs, Rodman has been solid. His mere presence on the floor gives the team a spark, and unlike last year, he has held his own against Malone.

"We don't like it, but we put up with it," Luc Longley said of Rodman's antics.

Besides, it's not like any of this is anything new. Rodman has been acting goofy for years, and the Bulls knew what they were getting when they signed him three years ago.

"With Dennis comes a lot of baggage," Michael Jordan said. "We just have to carry it and we have to accept it."

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Only a blowout of historic proportions could end NBC's three-game record ratings streak for the NBA finals.

Friday's contest earned a 16.6 rating and 31 share to become the most watched and highest-rated Game 2 in history, according to Nielsen Media Research. Game 3 earned a 16.8 40-market overnight rating, 6% higher than last year's 15.9 for the same teams. (A ratings point represents 980,000 households.)

But it fell short of the Game 3 record of a 17.0 national rating, set in 1993 with the Bulls-Phoenix. When national ratings are released today, this year's third game should finish about even with the 15.8 from Seattle-Chicago in 1996, the second highest in history.

After setting records in each of the first two games of the finals, NBC has a 17.3 national rating through two games, 10% higher than the previous best in 1993 and 12% higher than last year.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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