Taking His Best Shots
New Knick Glen Rice is still steamed about how he was treated by
the Lakers last season
The NBA championship ring arrived in the mail from Los Angeles on
Nov. 8, and it was handed to Glen Rice in the Knicks' locker room
following New York's 99-97 loss to the visiting Cavaliers. Rice
held the ring up so that his new teammates could take a look at
it on their way to the showers. Not quite the celebration he had
Win a championship, and all your dreams come true, players
throughout the league are told. "That sure wasn't the case with
me," says Rice, the 33-year-old forward who, three months after
helping the Lakers win the title, was dealt to the Knicks in the
four-team Patrick Ewing trade. "I was lied to."
The Lakers seemed committed to keeping Rice for a long time when
they got him from Charlotte for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell
in March 1999. Coming off three straight All-Star seasons, Rice
was a career 20.8-points-per-game scorer whose outside shooting
seemed certain to take pressure off Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe
Bryant. The trade almost fell apart because Rice feared his
scoring opportunities would diminish with L.A., reducing his
value as a free agent. But the deal was finally consummated,
according to Rice's agent, David Falk, when the Lakers agreed to
ignore the 1999-2000 option year of the contract Rice had signed
with the Hornets.
Falk says Los Angeles owner Jerry Buss informed him an hour
before the 1999 draft that the Lakers would pick up Rice's option
year, and under the terms of the contract they paid him $7
million last season. "Glen had had an operation [to his right
elbow, in January 1999], and we wanted to see him play before we
made any commitment," says Buss.
At an Oct. 7, 1999, meeting at L.A.'s training-camp hotel in
Santa Barbara, Calif., Lakers executive vice president Jerry West
tried to make amends. He confronted Buss--in the presence of Rice
and Falk--over the Lakers' broken promise to Rice. "Jerry Buss
said he hadn't made any promises about the option," says Rice,
"and Jerry West told him, 'You did.' Jerry West basically said,
'We broke a commitment to this guy, and we need to do something
to salvage it.' Buss was pretty upset."
According to Falk, Buss eventually shrugged off the disagreement
as a misunderstanding and invoked the Lakers' long-standing
tradition of taking care of their star players. "Buss said,
'I've never had a player here who was unhappy about money,'"
Falk says. "Jerry Buss looked at Glen Rice and said, 'If we
win--and we don't necessarily have to win the whole thing--I
promise I'll make you happy.' So what happened? The Lakers won
the title, and he didn't even make Glen Rice an offer. He broke
two commitments to Glen Rice."
Buss told SI he never promised to make Rice happy, and West
declined to comment. However, league sources say that the Lakers'
broken promise to Rice was a factor in West's decision to retire
in August. At the same time, they point out that West stepped
down for many reasons, not the least of which was his concern for
These sources also say that Falk subsequently broke a promise to
the Bulls when he pulled Rice out of a one-year, $7.5 million
agreement with Chicago last summer to get him traded to the
Knicks, with whom he signed a four-year, $36 million contract.
Falk all but concedes that he broke his commitment to the Bulls.
"I feel very badly that things happened that way for Chicago," he
Rice was deemed expendable in part because he had a hard time
fitting into coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense. Rice contends
his limited role with Los Angeles was the result of a power
struggle between Jackson, who had urged the Lakers to trade for
Scottie Pippen, and West, who preferred to stick with Rice.
"Besides my wife, the only person who kept me motivated about
being there last year was Jerry West," says Rice. "He told me
over and over, 'I want you to end your career here.'"
Though he helped the Lakers win a title, Rice's reputation took a
beating in L.A. If he wants to prove he is a player who will
sacrifice his personal stats for the good of the team, he has
found the perfect home in New York. Barring another trade, the
Knicks' hopes depend upon Rice's ability to excel in a limited
role while sharing the ball with the Knicks' top two offensive
players, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. So far, Rice is
doing his part; he didn't balk at starting the season on the
bench. "I've asked him to emphasize defense and rebounding, and
he's trying very, very hard," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy says.
Responds Rice, "I've told Jeff I'm so happy to be here. After
what I went through last year, New York is a relief."
Vancouver's Fast Start
Big Forward Steps Forward
While the fast starts of the Cavaliers and the 76ers turned a lot
of heads, the most surprising team of the early season had to be
the Grizzlies. On Nov. 8 in Dallas they went on a 25-3
second-half run to overwhelm the Mavericks 101-74, a win that
pushed their record to 4-1. That's the best start after five
games for Vancouver in its five seasons, during which the team
has never won more than 22 games. "I certainly wouldn't have
predicted this," says new coach Sidney Lowe, a Mike Fratello
disciple who preaches team defense and unselfish play. "We just
have to stay together."
Toward that end the Grizzlies hope they can change Othella
Harrington's mind about playing in Vancouver. Since being traded
from Houston in August 1999 as part of the 12-player deal that
sent Steve Francis to the Rockets, Harrington--like Francis before
him--has been adamant in his demand to be dealt. The 26-year-old
power forward doesn't care for the dreary Vancouver winters or
for the high Canadian taxes.
Unlike Francis, Harrington has little leverage to force a trade,
and it's not in his nature to use it anyway. During his three
years in Houston, which acquired him with the 30th pick of the
1996 draft, Harrington earned a reputation as one of the
hardest-working players the Rockets had ever had. In previous
years the Grizzlies might have been willing to unload Harrington,
but new owner Michael Heisley is eager to improve the franchise,
and the 6'9", 235-pound Harrington--who was averaging 13.3 points
and 7.1 rebounds at week's end--has been a major factor in the
team's strong start. Harrington's solid play has also allowed the
Grizzlies to bring Stromile Swift, their top pick this year,
along slowly while providing him with an example of hard work. "I
haven't heard any griping," Lowe says of Harrington. "He's a joy
Harrington has noticed changes for the better in the franchise.
"If we keep playing like we're playing, I don't see why we can't
become playoff contenders," he says. Is his trade demand set in
concrete? "I'm not saying it is, and I'm not saying it isn't,"
Harrington says. "As the saying goes, winning cures all ills."
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus more news from
Ivan Maisel and B.J. Schecter, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN
COLOR PHOTO: JEFF VINNICK/NBA ENTERTAINMENT Vancouver hopes the hardworking Harrington stays north of the border.
Around The Rim
Tim Hardaway made weight on Nov. 6 in the first of 24 weekly
regular-season weigh-ins. "He was at 195 pounds today, 7 1/2
percent body fat, so he's really committed to conditioning,"
Miami president and coach Pat Riley said. "I'm proud of him." The
Heat signed Hardaway to a one-year contract that could pay up to
$14 million this season and hopes Hardaway will earn $6 million
of that in weighty incentives--an average of $250,000 each time he
steps on the scales and doesn't tip them....
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has told Lisa Sealy, widow of
Minnesota guard Malik Sealy, who was killed by a drunk driver
last spring, that he will cover four years of college expenses
for her three-year-old son, Remington....
At least 14 players began the season stashed away on injured
reserve with cases of patellar tendinitis, the knee malady that
seems to have plagued almost every player in the NBA. The
afflicted include Cleveland's Mark Bryant and J.R. Reid and
Vancouver's Brent Price and William Cunningham....
Looking for a holiday gift for Isaiah Rider? Try an alarm clock.
For the second time this season the Lakers' backup shooting
guard was late for a team function; last week in San Antonio he
missed a team bus after the hotel failed to give him a wake-up
call. Rider produced a hand-written note to Los Angeles coach
Phil Jackson from the hotel manager, but Jackson was not
impressed. "It's not an excuse," said Jackson. "You have to be
responsible for yourself."