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UNPREDICTABLE RODMAN LETS SPURS DOWN AGAIN

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Dennis Rodman's roller-coaster career in the NBA is taking another dip.

The San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday suspended Rodman without pay for the second time this season after he failed to return from a 31/2-week paid leave of absence. Rodman was scheduled to attend practice Wednesday and meet with coaches and team captains."I have no understanding of why he was not at practice or where he was," Spurs general manager Gregg Popovich said. "The excuse was not acceptable, if that's what you're wondering."

Earlier, Spurs coach Bob Hill said Rodman called at practice time to say he was in Dallas because someone had stolen the keys to a friend's truck out of Rodman's pocket, and some of Rodman's possessions were taken.

"He failed to report. We have no choice but to change his status to suspended without pay," Popovich said.

Popovich said this latest suspension could be lifted when the forward returns to the team and meets with Spurs officials, but the general manager gave no timetable for that happening.

However, Hill said in today's San Antonio Express-News that Rodman could be with the Spurs by tonight's game against the Utah Jazz.

"He won't play," Hill said. "But if all things go well, he'll be here and in street clothes."

Rodman, 33, - known for his tattoos and constantly changing hair color as well as for his rebounding and oncourt antics - has yet to play this season. He led the league in rebounding the last three seasons, averaging 17.3 last year. Rodman makes a reported $2.4 million per year.

The Spurs (7-8) suspended him for the season's first three games for a series of preseason incidents that culminated when Rodman tossed an ice bag toward Hill and was ejected from the team's final exhibition game.

After that suspension, Rodman and the Spurs agreed he would take a paid leave of absence beginning Nov. 12. The leave was to have ended Tuesday, and Rodman was expected to join the team again Wednesday.

"It wasn't that we ordered him back or he said, `I'm coming back.' We all decided together that this would be the day he would come back," Popovich said.

Some news reports have said the leave agreement called for Rodman to receive psychological counseling. Popovich confirmed the leave did have some "guidelines" and that Rodman had met those requirements, but he would not elaborate.

Popovich said he's not the only one tired of Rodman's behavior.

"The players don't like it. We don't like it. The fans don't like it. It's a royal pain in the neck," he said.

But the general manager said he has not tried to trade Rodman.