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Wayward `Worm’ steals Bulls’ spotlight

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It was a scene straight out of a B movie.

As soon as the Chicago Bulls completed practice Tuesday, dozens of writers and broadcasters ran onto the floor of the United Center in pursuit of Dennis Rodman. The wayward forward, however, eluded capture.With several members of the media playfully screaming "Rod-zilla! Rod-zilla!", the Bulls' monster-child ran off to the locker room. After missing practice Monday morning and later turning up on a nationally televised wrestling program in Auburn Hills, Mich., Rodman had stolen the spotlight away from the NBA Finals.

And Michael Jordan, for one, didn't appreciate attention being drawn away from Chicago's quest for a sixth world championship.

"We don't want incidents like this to obstruct what we're trying to accomplish," said Jordan, who told coach Phil Jackson that Rodman should split the $250,000 he reportedly received from World Championship Wrestling with his teammates.

"The guys got on him today," Jackson said. "They joked with him, they messed with him, they wrestled him and they called him `Rod-zilla.' "

Not everyone, though, welcomed Rodman back with open arms. Scottie Pippen said whether the regular-season NBA rebounding champion likes it or not, he is one of the team's leaders and must accept that responsibility.

"We've been through this situation with Dennis for the last three seasons. We realize that he's a guy that we're not going to be able to gain full control of," Pippen said of Rodman's antics. "He's going to be like that at times. We have to try to bring him back in and let him know that right now this is more important . . . he needs to be dedicated to the ball club."

If not, Pippen said, the Bulls need to move on. Three games into the NBA Finals is no time to wait and see if Rodman self-destructs. All Chicago needs is 10 days of his somewhat undivided attention.

"He's amazing. He loves the limelight of being out and partying - whatever you want to call it," Pippen said. "But still with all that said and done, once he's on the court he's able to give us something that no one else can give us. So to some degree we have to live with it."

Ron Harper is among those who believes that Rodman comes out and plays hard every night. And what he does off the floor is just Dennis being Dennis. Among other things, Harper refers to Rodman as an entertainer, a free spirit and a great businessman. Even with $10,000 fines from both the NBA and the Bulls, Harper said his teammate still cleared $230,000 for missing practice and making the wrestling trip.

Economics aside, the question remains: Will Rodman's latest antics prevent Chicago from cashing in on its 2-1 advantage over Utah in the NBA Finals?

Jordan said he and his teammates will make sure Rodman comes back to work and focus on the task at hand. Everything else, he added, is management's concern.

Advice is being offered from all sides. A Chicago sports columnist even suggested the Bulls immediately distance themselves from Rodman by cutting him before Game 4. Others, including Steve Kerr, have taken a more comical approach to the man with blue-and-green hair's behavior.

"It's starting to rub off on other guys. Jud Buechler didn't even show up for practice today, so it's getting out of hand," Kerr said. "Of course, his wife's having a baby. But besides that, his excuse was not very solid."

Chicago's resolve, however, remains firm despite the sideshow surrounding Rodman.

"Everybody is making a big issue out of it and I'm pretty sure people are going to point to it if we happen to lose a game," Jordan said. "I'm sure his motivation is higher to make sure we don't lose a game and that he won't be blamed for it.

"And in some ways that is positive," Jordan continued. "But we can do without it. I'm pretty sure."

Rodman, himself, tried to return the focus to basketball when he eventually made himself available to the media.

"The outcome of the game is all that matters," he said. "We are just going to go out and do our job."

Perhaps easier said than done, Rodman went on to call Jazz star Karl Malone an awkward player and Utah a place he doesn't want to revisit this series.

He couldn't help himself. After all, boys will be boys and Dennis will be Dennis.