Debra’s Little Brother

It didn’t take long for Rodman to leave impression on Pistons vets

Joe Dumars reflects on his first impressions of Dennis Rodman as a talented rookie.
Tim DeFrisco/NBAE/Getty Images
Nobody knew much about Dennis Rodman when Jack McCloskey made him the Pistons’ second-round pick in the 1986 draft, as I wrote last week. But Joe Dumars knew something …

About his sister, at least.

“I knew him as Debra Rodman’s little brother,” Joe D laughed Tuesday when I asked him about his first impressions of Rodman. Dumars was entering his second season, entrenched by then as Isiah Thomas’ backcourt partner after moving into Chuck Daly’s starting lineup midway through his rookie season over veterans John Long and Vinnie Johnson, when Rodman arrived for training camp in Windsor as a rookie.

Debra Rodman was a four-year letter winner and two-time national champion for the great Louisiana Tech teams of the early 1980s, a contemporary of Dumars during his time at neighboring McNeese State from 1981-85.

“I knew her from way back in college and I knew that was her little brother,” he said. “So that’s how I knew Dennis Rodman – Debra’s little brother.”

Once Daly opened camp with a team of headstrong young veterans – Isiah, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Johnson, Long and Adrian Dantley among them – well, it didn’t take long for them to appreciate what Rodman could add to the mix.

“Immediately,” Dumars said. “Because Dennis did stuff on the court that nobody else could do and wanted to do. Dennis was diving over chairs and sliding all over the floor and running balls down – the guy was truly just incredible.

His first thoughts: “Incredible athlete. Incredible energy. The kind of guy who is going to help you win a lot of games. Just a unique, different, incredible individual to play with.”

Rodman was a virtual Swiss Army knife of a defender. Any job Daly needed done, Rodman could address.

“He is truly the only player that I know that not only could guard all five positions, but did,” Dumars said. “And did it as one of the best in the game to do it. He guarded Magic Johnson, he guarded Hakeem Olajuwon, he guarded David Robinson, he guarded Karl Malone, he guarded Michael Jordan, he guarded Bird. He guarded ones, twos, threes, fours and fives. I can’t think of anybody else who did that, and not only did it but was great at it.”

The Rodman topic came up in an interview I did with Dumars on Tuesday at the Pistons’ practice facility in which we talked about a number of things, including next week’s trade deadline, the season so far and the development of young Pistons Greg Monroe and Austin Daye, among other issues.

We’ll post the interview in three parts on Pistons.com, beginning Wednesday morning, to help fill the gap in games heading into the All-Star break.