DENVER -- Can Dennis Rodman do it?
From the radio shows, to the water cooler to the street corner, one big debate among avid to casual sports fans in Denver right now is would the former NBA rebounding champion and renowned bad boy Dennis Rodman be a contributor or a distraction to the Denver Nuggets. Well, the Nuggets have nothing to lose by giving him a workout and spending some time with him in order to find out.
The Nuggets have been searching hard, to no avail, for a veteran big man. Former NBA star Shawn Kemp came in for a workout recently, but he wasn't in the type of shape to garner the interest of the now-running Nuggets. Yugoslavian forward Ognjen "Ogi" Askrabic, who worked out for the Nuggets this week, may have a better chance next season. The Nuggets would've loved to have Dikembe Mutombo back in the place where he started, but the allure of the Big Apple and playing in a New York Knicks uniform was too much to pass up. So, that leads us to Rodman and the Nuggets.
"He's a fan of (Nuggets heralded rookie) Carmelo Anthony," said Darren Prince, Rodman's agent. "They've definitely made some moves during the offseason to make themselves competitive. Dennis wants to take a team that hasn't been successful and make them successful. It's not like they're trying to win a title this season. They're trying to get to the playoffs and have some progression over the next few years.
"He feels he was blackballed from the league. It's not about winning a title. He's got five rings ... If he could leave his mark and knowledge with some of the young guys from his experience, he has done his job and gone out the way he wants to go out."
The way Rodman went out previously in 2000 is something that he apparently is not proud.
Rodman ranks 18th all time in the NBA in rebounds with 11,954 and has played for five championship teams in Detroit and Chicago. He also has caught the public's eye with his ever-changing hair color, tattoos, body piercings, cross-dressing and partying lifestyle. He also had problems arriving to practice on time and has had several problems with the law. His off-court antics have been a distraction. Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe has said the knocks on Rodman are "definitely a concern," but he has known him for a long time and respects him.
Rodman hasn't played in the NBA since the 1999-2000 season when he suited up for 12 games with the Dallas Mavericks before being waived on March 8, 2000. Vandeweghe worked as an assistant and director of player development for the Mavericks while Rodman was there.
Prince said Rodman is in prime shape from working out on a treadmill or exercise bicycle nearly two hours a day, six days per week and also lifting weights for 90 minutes. But Rodman is also now 42 years old and his basketball playing consists of an occasional rebounding drill.
Rodman is also now married and has a 3½-year-old son named Dennis, Jr., and 2-year-old daughter named Trinity. So instead of ending his career on a wild and disappointing note, Rodman would like his young kids to see daddy go into the sunset in respected fashion and as a Hall of Fame candidate. With the Nuggets' numerous offseason additions, they are probably one solid inside player away from having a good chance of making the playoffs as an eighth seed. Prince says Rodman believes he could be that player with the goal of averaging between eight to 12 rebounds per game. The agent also says Rodman would show up to all practices and shootarounds on time and be ready to concentrate on basketball.
"If (Rodman) was able to take (the Nuggets) to the playoffs? Michael (Jordan) wasn't able to do it in two years (with Washington). If Dennis can do it, it could really solidify his legacy and hopefully get him into the Hall of Fame," Prince said.
As of Thursday morning, Vandeweghe still wasn't certain if Rodman was going to come in to Denver for a workout. Such a workout would consist of 2-on-2 drills with selected Nuggets players, but probably wouldn't take part during practice. If given the OK for the workout, Rodman could come in Monday morning. Vandeweghe has a small window to watch since he will be leaving on Monday to the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York City. After the workout, Vandeweghe said Rodman would meet with Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik. And in the end, Bzdelik would have the final say.
The Nuggets should grant the workout since nothing has to be guaranteed at that time. If Rodman is impressive, the next step is to hold a meeting that includes Bzdelik and other key franchise members. Vandeweghe, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, Nuggets assistant and Rodman's former teammate Adrian Dantley and two key Nuggets like Anthony and Andre Miller should be there for evaluation, too.
The Nuggets should then lay down some ground rules in order for Rodman to be a part of the team. For example, he must always be at practice, shootarounds and games on time and participate as needed, he must not get in trouble with the law and he has to be a positive influence. In order to protect the Nuggets further if they have sincere interest, Rodman could receive a one-year contract paying the veteran's minimum for a player with 10-plus years of NBA experience for $1.07 million that would include bonuses based
on performance and a strict character clause. Since the Nuggets are well under the salary cap, they can afford the incentives. Such a contract wouldn't be totally guaranteed until the beginning of the New Year.
If Rodman really wants to end his career on a better note, he would say yes to the aforementioned requirements. If Rodman really wants his kids to see him play positively, he would say yes to the aforementioned requirements. If Rodman really wants to make a last push for the Hall of Fame, he would say yes to the aforementioned requirements. And then, the protected Nuggets may indeed have the veteran power forward they have been looking for.
"A lot of people are curious," Vandeweghe said. "There is good and bad with Dennis. But there is also no obligation (with a tryout)."
Said Prince: "He'll be there for the camaraderie and the synergy with the teammates (at practices and shootarounds). But he also does need to have his own routine. It's something we'd have to discuss with Kiki and the Nuggets if the opportunity presents itself."
Possibly the biggest hurdle for Rodman is Nuggets forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
After a tough rookie season, the 7-foot-1 Tskitishvili gained 25 pounds of muscle and has been impressive in training camp. He scored 20 points in Tuesday's Blue & Gold scrimmage, is taking the ball to the basket hard and is playing with confidence. The 20-year-old could see about 20 minutes per game without Rodman and continue to develop. Tskitishvili, however, could see a lot less minutes and his development would be postponed with Rodman. But the Nuggets could be a playoff contender with a productive
Rodman and haven't played in the postseason since 1995.
So what do the Nuggets' fans think? As of Thursday afternoon, 74 percent of 3,160 fans who voted on the Nuggets' web site were in favor of the tryout. Many of the Nuggets players are curious about the idea, too.
"We'd love to have Dennis," Anthony said. "We know how hard he would work."
So can Dennis do it? I admit that I am curious to find out the answer. Whether the Nuggets really want to find out remains to be seen.
"Dennis really likes the situation there," Prince said. "He can definitely help with getting them to the playoffs."
Marc J. Spears, who covers the NBA and Denver Nuggets for The Denver Post, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.