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Lakers’ Rambis Wanted Rodman Out

April 17, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Los Angeles Lakers coach Kurt Rambis decided it was time for Dennis Rodman to leave, and never return.

Thus, the Rodman experiment with the Lakers was deemed a failure after seven bizarre weeks.

``I think it was justified,″ Lakers standout Kobe Bryant said Friday in the wake of Rodman’s release by the team a night earlier. ``When a guy shows up continuously late ... Yeah, it was definitely justified.″

Rambis, who took over as coach of the Lakers on Feb. 26, the same day Rodman played his first game with the team, recommended to management that the seven-time NBA rebounding champion be cut loose after yet another incident Thursday.

According to Rambis, Rodman arrived late for the team’s practice at Los Angeles Southwest College, and was slow getting ready because he couldn’t find his socks and shoes.

Rambis sent him home, and later had a pointed conversation with club executives Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak.

``This is a time where we need an ultimate focus and concentration,″ Rambis said after Friday’s practice and just before the Lakers left for Utah, where they’ll face the Jazz on Saturday night. ``I just think this is better for the team.″

Rodman had not been given an ultimatum before Thursday, Rambis said, adding he was disappointed the move had to be made because of what Rodman had shown what he was capable of doing.

``The in-and-out just got to be too much,″ Rambis said. ``I felt we needed everyone to be on the same page. I gave my recommendation to management, a minimum of a suspension. It was my belief we should waive him at this time.″

And so it was done.

Speaking by telephone from Phoenix, Kupchak said the move probably wouldn’t have been made at this time had Rambis not spoken up.

``Kurt and our staff keep us apprised daily,″ Kupchak said. ``Quite frankly, the recommendation that Kurt made, we readily agreed to. We can’t make that decision because we’re not the ones at practices, at the games.

``This was a culmination of acts that led to the waiver. Yesterday’s act alone would have never led to this kind of action. It’s another in a series of actions.″

Bob Steiner, a spokesman for Lakers owner Jerry Buss, said Buss’ reaction to the move was, ``They did what they had to do.″

Kupchak said to the best of his knowledge as of late Friday, nobody with the team had spoken with Rodman after he was sent home from Thursday’s practice, although Steiner said he believed Buss would make an attempt to speak with the now ex-Laker as a friend.

It was Buss and Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal, who were most in favor of signing Rodman, a member of five NBA championship teams including the last three with the Chicago Bulls.

O’Neal declined to speak with reporters after Friday’s practice.

Kupchak said he tried to call Rodman late Thursday, and spoke to his representative and bodyguard, but Rodman didn’t return phone messages.

Kupchak said Steve Chasman, Rodman’s agent, acted surprised about the move.

``I find it difficult to believe he was surprised,″ Kupchak said. ``We try to do things the right way. Everything we do is well thought out. This is a decision we had to make. We’re the ones who have to make these decisions.″

Kupchak had words of praise for Rambis, saying, ``Jerry (West) and I feel Kurt has done a wonderful job. Regarding Dennis, he handled it the same way Jerry and I would have handled it.″

Matt Labov, Rodman’s publicist, refused comment Friday.

Rodman, who turns 38 next month, reacted to being released Thursday night by telling Fox Sports News he was a scapegoat for the team’s problems, and said the Lakers were ``cowards not to take the fall for some of the things that have happened this year.″

Kupchak said he was sorry Rodman felt that way, but added, ``I understand his disappointment. Dennis is entitled to express his feelings. That’s his option and privilege.″

Kupchak said Rodman’s refusal to return to games _ something that happened four times including his final game Tuesday night in Portland _ ranked high on the list of negatives.

There were also the other times he was late to practice, not to mention the four-game leave of absence he took last month.

``We felt like he could have gone to war with us a little more,″ Bryant acknowledged, referring to the games when Rodman opted not to return.

However, Bryant also said, ``I’m a little disappointed. I wanted Dennis to hang around. He’s very unpredictable. Winning cures everything. He helped us out, to be honest with you. When he was here, he did provide us with a lot of energy. I would love to have Dennis right now. If we had won the last two games, he would still be here.″

The Lakers were 17-6 with Rodman in uniform, but 6-6 in the last 12 games after starting 11-0.

Rodman averaged 2.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 28.6 minutes in 23 games.

The Lakers (25-15) have 10 games remaining before the playoffs, starting with their game against the Jazz (30-8), winners of nine straight games. Utah has the NBA’s best record.

Rodman’s place on the roster was taken by forward Travis Knight, who was activated from the injured list.

Rambis said J.R. Reid would replace Rodman in the starting lineup against the Jazz.

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