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Vancouver, Toronto still short of ticket goal

Although the NBA has voted to accept Toronto and Vancouver for the 1995-96 season, neither expansion franchise has met the final criterion _ selling 15,000 season tickets.

Vancouver has about 8,500. Toronto started its campaign this month. The deadline is Dec. 31.

"Our feeling is if a team can't show it has support, then maybe it doesn't make sense (to expand)," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said recently. "We don't have to expand. We will only do it if we are sure it will be successful."

Orlando general manager Pat Williams, who can empathize with officials in Toronto and Vancouver, agrees that season tickets are critical and the league shouldn't accept less.

Orlando didn't hit its required mark (10,000) until just before Christmas 1987 and Williams said he spent the last six months that year doing nothing but pushing the community for support.

"The demand the NBA puts on this is hard, very hard," Williams said. "Is it good? In the long run, yes. It guarantees success. More than any single thing, that made this franchise work. That's two-thirds of our building, in our case. The NBA knew what it was doing."

Not what he thought: Washington point guard Scott Skiles, obtained in the summer from the Magic, didn't know what to expect of his new teammates. He only knew the Bullets had averaged 53 losses the past six seasons.

"I wondered if I would come in here and see a bunch of losers," he said. "I haven't seen that at all. I've seen players with good attitudes. Since I've been here I've seen good, talented players that are lacking leadership, in all honesty. And that's what I'm here for."

Security for the guard: Houston sharpshooter Vernon Maxwell wants a contract extension as a sign that the Rockets feel he's an integral part of the team.

"I'm not saying I've got to be paid this year," said Maxwell, the former Florida guard who's scheduled to make $1.7-million this year and next year. "I signed a deal and I'm content with the contract I've got. Right now, they're telling me I'm not in their future. If that's the case, I'd rather be somewhere else where they'll appreciate me and take me seriously."

He's set a deadline of Jan. 1 and promised that if nothing's done by then, he'll walk.

The game remains the same: New San Antonio coach Bob Hill, an assistant with Orlando last season, said Thursday afternoon that he has a good relationship with the talented but eccentric Dennis Rodman.

Rodman missed the first practice and met with Hill and Spurs general manager Gregg Popovich the next day for more than hour. At one point, an exasperated Popovich was heard to say, "Help me understand Dennis Rodman."

Rodman replied: "You'll have to find that out for yourself."

"Dennis probably was allowed to get away with some things and was on his own agenda last year," Hill said. "We're going to do things differently and he's aware of it. He's cooperated."

Postscript: On Thursday night, Rodman failed to show for San Antonio's game against Milwaukee and was fined $15,000.

Difference of opinion: New York star power forward Charles Oakley is suffering with a dislocation of the second toe on his right foot. While team doctors said surgery is unnecessary, Oakley is nonetheless considering that option, which would sideline him nearly two months. He is scheduled to see a specialist today in New York.

"If I don't have surgery, it'll probably bother me all year," he said.

Oakley also is still smarting from New York's refusal for a one-year contract extension at $10-million. The club even went so far as to inquire about trading for Utah's Karl Malone.

Life of Riley: New York has a five-year contract worth $3-million per year on the table for coach Pat Riley, but he's not acted on it. Riley is looking for a piece of the team.

"It's (the negotiations) been going on for over a year; it's been over a year with three different owners," he said. "I believe that's where the problem is. I really don't believe it's an issue right now. I tell the players there's a business side of things and a basketball side and you should never mix the two. The business side will take care of itself."

Last word: "When I saw him play in college, I thought he would be a great player in this league in two years. I've revised that from two years to two months." _ Detroit All-Star Joe Dumars on new teammate Grant Hill.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.