^ROCKET SHIP BREAKING UP<
OLAJUWON-SPORTSPLUS:TB_Losers of eight straight before beating the Clippers on Wednesday, the Rockets have become fodder for a horde of Western teams shooting for playoff position. Like the Bulls, the Rockets' hopes rest with a rookie from this past draft, No. 2 pick Steve Francis, and some pieces picked up when they traded Scottie Pippen. Unlike the Bulls, the Rockets will not be active in the free-agent market because of commitments to aging stars such as Hakeem Olajuwon. It's what happens when the transition is done the Rockets' way. Who is better off? Only the coming years will tell. But it is sad to watch Olajuwon stagger through injuries and decreasing effectiveness, something Bulls fans didn't have to see with their stars.
900 by Sam Smith.
ARCHIVE CARICATURE: Hakeem
MOVED MARCH 25, 2000.
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^A SIGNING OF THE TIMES<
AUTOGRAPHS-SPORTSPLUS:OR_Not surprisingly, athletes are becoming more and more reluctant to sign autographs at all. Some only will sign autographs accompanied by a personal message so as to make it less marketable. Another notable exception is when charities are involved. Still, other athletes are taking a more drastic approach to combat overzealous fans looking to make a few bucks. Some athletes are trying to beat the fans to the pocketbook by charging for signed items.
Pete Rose has been doing it for some time, netting as much as $20 per signature, even though it cost him some time in jail once the IRS caught up to him for undeclared finances. Pro golfer Greg Norman and several other athletes/celebrities have followed suit. Another PGA Tour veteran, Loren Roberts, is afraid of what this might lead to for the fans. He was surprised to find out that a putter he autographed recently fetched $500 on ebay.com.
Bottom line: Signatures mean money.
950 by L. …