Insults and Vegas help Rodman relax

Basketball

When the Utah Jazz made it to the NBA finals, Dennis Rodman must have groaned. The wild man of the Chicago Bulls knew he faced long nights in Salt Lake City if the seven-game series went any distance and the home of the Mormons is not the place to find an all-night body-piercing salon.

Sure enough a spotless, religion-driven town proved too much for a cross- dressing exhibitionist like Rodman, who decided to go over the state line to Nevada for a little relaxation in Las Vegas, but only after likening Utah's population to sphincter muscles and telling the media to be sure to quote him.

With one of the most important sporting events in America tied at 2-2, the build- up to yesterday's third game in Salt Lake City was dominated by Rodman. He responded to criticism from the Anti-Defamation League by more or less repeating his insulting remarks and adding that he would not have made similar comments about Jews.

So far the Bulls, who suspended him earlier this season for swearing on television, have kept quiet, as has the Mormon Church. The NBA, aware that there is no precedent for a player defaming an entire religious movement, has reacted tentatively so far.

"If that's what he said, it's indefensible. We will be dealing with Dennis after the finals are concluded," said a spokesman for the association, which banned him for 11 games earlier in the season after he kicked a cameraman in the groin.

Rodman has yet to score since the series moved to the home of the Jazz almost a week ago, a poor return for a player paid $9m (pounds 5.6m) a year to put points on the board.

The Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, said he had not "endorsed" Rodman's trips to Sin City, but did not condemn him. "I didn't endorse where he went," he said. "Dennis is the kind of person that needs to blow off some steam and I imagine he got it done."

For Jerry Krause, the Bulls' general manager, it was just one more way to unwind. "Michael Jordan gets away on a golf course," he said. "Dennis doesn't play golf."

Rodman, sporting a red, yellow and green haircut, spent Sunday and Monday nights whooping it up in Vegas with his rock star friends. "I went and had a good time," he said. "I got rid of this bad taste in my mouth. I'm not married. I don't have to entertain a family, so I wanted to get the hell out and relax."

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