Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Rice better learn Jackson knows best

INDIANAPOLIS - Phil Jackson gave Dennis Rodman the go-ahead to hang out in Las Vegas during the NBA Finals a couple of years ago. Rodman cruised the strip but returned to Salt Lake City in time to give Karl Malone fits as the Chicago Bulls won the title in six games.

Jackson also survived Scottie Pippen's shocking refusal to re-enter a playoff game in the final seconds against the Knicks because Jackson diagrammed the last shot for Toni Kukoc.

Kukoc's buzzer-beater won the game.

For better or worse, Glen Rice made Jackson feel right at home.

Rice's temper-tantrum earlier this week regarding his lack of playing time in the Los Angeles Lakers' Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers wasn't without merit.

Despite Kobe Bryant missing the contest with a sprained ankle, Rice sat for all but the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter and finished with only seven points.

Rice's decision to speak out in the thick of the championship series was selfish and distracting to the Lakers, who assumed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series last night with a 120-118 overtime victory over the Pacers.

"I want to be out there playing," Rice said. "If we are losing and I don't get the opportunity to do what I can do, then I'm upset."

Jackson's response: "I play who I want to play when I want to play them and how hard they play and what I think is best for the team and that's it."

In other words, get over it Glen. If you think you should be playing and shooting more, prove it. I have six championship rings.

How many do you have? The answer is zero.

Rice started last night and scored six points in the opening seven minutes (including a rare four-point play) before going to the bench with two quick fouls. He finished with 11 points.

His critical remarks came only after conferring with his wife, Christina, whose criticism of Jackson went beyond anything Rodman could have dreamed up.

Like any loyal spouse, Christina defended her husband.

She said Jackson, annoyed because Lakers owner Jerry Buss and vice president of basketball operations Jerry West wouldn't trade for Pippen (who plays Rice's position) because of his huge contract, is not playing Rice to spite Buss and West.

"How many players would have stayed quiet for as long as Glen has? But finally, when the team is affected, you have to say something," Christina Rice said.

"Now if it was me, I would have already been Latrell Sprewell II."

Rice, who doesn't live with Jackson, agrees with Christina. Smart man, No. 41.

"If people here don't think I can help this team win, I shouldn't be here," he said.

After this season, title or no title, Rice, a free agent, will probably be changing his address. Don't expect Jackson to try very hard to keep him. He wants a forward who's a better fit for the triangle offense.

At 33, the former Michigan standout is on the downside of a 11-year career. He averaged 15.9 points this season, the lowest since his rookie campaign.

Rice is a stone-cold scorer. He has a 20.2-point career average and bagged big shots in the Lakers' Game 4 win over Portland in the Western Conference finals and in Game 2 of the finals.

When Rice has been hot, knocking down shots from all over the floor, he has usually stayed in.

If, as Christina insists, Jackson has a vendetta against Rice it's because of his unwillingness to play a total game - offense and defense.

In Game 4, Rice jump-started the offense and played defense the best he could.

Jackson knows what he's doing, all right. If you beg to differ, check out the rings on his fingers.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist.

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