RODMAN AWOL AGAIN: Send him home. Bench him. Fine him. The Chicago Bulls have done all those things to punish their wayward forward of many hair colors, Dennis Rodman. They just haven't been able to change him. Not completely.

"We know basically he's on behavior modification anyway as far as we're concerned. All the time," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said Monday, attempting to explain Rodman's latest flare-up.

Rodman missed his second practice Monday in as many days and his third in less than a month.

Jackson, who's been extremely patient over the last two years-plus with Rodman, claimed it would not distract the Bulls as they got ready to face the Indiana Pacers tonight in a showdown for the best record in the East.

"We're not going to wrestle and tussle with this because it's not something major. It's not anything that's causing us to lose," Jackson insisted.

SPREWELL HEARING ENDS: The final wait has begun for Latrell Sprewell.

Sprewell's arbitration hearing concluded Monday with 7 1/2 hours of closing arguments at a Manhattan law office. Sprewell, hoping to win reinstatement to the NBA, must wait until arbitrator John Feerick issues his decision sometime within the next 30 days.

"We remain hopeful," said his agent, Arn Tellem.

Feerick has given no indication of how long he will take to issue a ruling. Before the hearing began, he turned down a motion for an expedited decision.

The transcript from the hearing runs almost 3,000 pages. Given the time Feerick will need to review it, no decision is expected for at least a few days.

Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler spent almost three hours making his closing argument at the Manhattan law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.


DEFECTOR TALKS TO TEAMS: After Cuban baseball defector Orlando Hernandez had two workouts in front of scouts last week, his agent has contacted almost every major league team to talk about a contract for the free agent pitcher.

Agent Joe Cubas was in Tampa on Monday to meet with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays about signing Cuba's former top pitcher. Cubas said he spent the rest of the day on the phone with "just about every club" discussing terms for signing the brother of World Series MVP Livan Hernandez.

"We are in the middle of negotiations right now," Cubas said. "I've been on the phone all day. There seems to be a great interest out there."

Cubas would not discuss terms of a possible contract for Hernandez, a 28-year-old right-hander.