Originally created 02/11/00

Rodman on his best behavior in return

DALLAS -- Now that Dennis Rodman has played his first game for the Dallas Mavericks, the wait begins for his first outlandish act.

There was no reason for Rodman to dye his hair a new shade or to try anything wild on the court in his debut Wednesday night, a 117-106 loss to Seattle. His mere presence already had him where he wanted to be: in the spotlight.

The key with Rodman will be how he responds once people get used to him being around again. That's when he's likely to start pulling the stunts that have made him more famous than rebounding ever could have.

Another way to push his buttons is for the Mavericks to lose a lot, something that's entirely possible. Just because Rodman knows Dallas' past doesn't mean he's ready to lose more often than he wins.

Still, no matter what Rodman does is interesting to a lot of people. His return to the NBA after 10 months of making movies, wrestling and generally getting into trouble was truly a big-time event.

The game drew 18,203 fans, the second-largest home crowd in the Mavs' 20-year history. More than 150 media credentials were issued, triple the typical amount.

Plenty of fans were watching at home, too. Fox Sports Net reported Thursday that it was the most-watched Mavericks game the regional sports network has televised since it began receiving ratings in 1994. Viewership peaked at 111,700 from 8:15-8:30 p.m. and there were an average of 94,065 television homes tuned in throughout the game.

With so much buildup, all Rodman had to do was show up. And he did, even arriving five minutes earlier than he had to.

Rodman played 32 minutes without any problems.

He grabbed 13 rebounds and played tough defense. He committed five fouls and drew just as many. He missed his only shot, an attempted tip.

"Same old Dennis," said Sonics forward Horace Grant. "He is still the same, pushing old Dennis."

Rodman got away with one of his old tricks -- locking his arms in another player's, then acting like he was the one knocked down when the other guy tries to get untangled. And he was effective at doling out shoves in traffic; Emanual Davis still may not have regained his balance from one particular jolt.

But Rodman will need to learn about the NBA's new rules limiting contact. While he's at it, he should consider a refresher course in illegal defense as he was twice caught out of position.

Teammates were excited by what they saw Wednesday. They figure that as he gets into the swing of things, he'll become more of a force.

"He just has to get his lungs and his feet ready for basketball," teammate Cedric Ceballos said.

Rodman told The Dallas Morning News he doesn't consider his return a sideshow.

"I think this is a real good opportunity for me to come back and one, just to see if I can do it," Rodman said. "Two, the people here are very generous and nice. Three, to prove a point. If I can make this team get to the playoffs, my job is done. My job is done.

"It's a challenge, a hell of a challenge to try to turn this team around. Even though I'm not the Michael Jordan of the NBA, I can do something to make this team a little more physical, a little more hard-core minded that they can go out there and say, 'Hey, we can't be beat. If we're going to get beat, let's go out there and fight our butt off every night.' "

If it happens, the perception of Rodman being a grand disrupter could change.

If the plan doesn't work, then don't be surprised if Dennis the Menace returns.


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