Hustle and Flow

San Antonio Spurs Vs. Portland Trailblazers
Tues, Jan 9
AT&T Center
One AT&T Center Parkway
(210) 444-5000
Nate McMillan is one of my favorite coaches in the NBA. After a solid 12-season career as a player with the Seattle SuperSonics, he retired to become an assistant coach with the team before taking over the reins from Paul Westphal in 2000. During San Antonio’s 2005 championship run, the Spurs survived a scrappy six-game series with McMillan’s rough-and-tumble Sonics in the Western Conference semifinals. Throughout, McMillan exuded and exhibited more class than all the other coaches the Spurs faced that post-season combined, including a surly George Karl, a frustrated Mike D’Antoni, and a detached Larry Brown. McMillan eventually accepted more money to coach the Portland Trailblazers, a franchise that desperately needed a strong leader willing to repair its negative image.

The Jailblazer odyssey hit its stride in 2001 with the arrival of Ruben Patterson, the self-proclaimed “Kobe Stopper,” who was acquired by Portland via free agency. While playing for the Sonics, Patterson was sentenced to a year in prison for forcing his 24-year-old nanny to perform a sex act on him. Patterson actually served less than two weeks’ time in the comfort of his Cleveland home, and was suspended by the NBA for only five games. Author Jeff Benedict devotes significant pages to Patterson, who was later arrested twice for felony domestic violence, in his revealing book Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA’s Culture of Rape, Violence & Crime.

“Before he became a wealthy NBA star, Patterson grew up in the Cleveland area, where he had experienced violence from all perspectives: as a victim, a witness, and a perpetrator,” writes Benedict. “According to records on file at the Cleveland Police Department, Patterson was held at gunpoint and robbed while walking on a Cleveland street during his senior year of high school. An incident report indicates that two men pulled up alongside him in a car, aimed a long-barrel handgun at hum, and demanded that he remove his shoes and hand over the gold chain around his neck and the cash in pockets.”

In 2002, Damon Stoudamire reached Jailblazer status when he was charged with felony possession of marijuana after police found more than 150 grams of the drug while responding to a burglar alarm at his house. The charges were later dropped when the courts deemed the search illegal.  Later that year, both Stoudamire and Rasheed Wallace were popped for possession while driving home from a game in Seattle, and in 2003, Stoudamire was arrested again — this time in Arizona, for trying to run a little more than an ounce of marijuana through an airport metal detector. (The pot was wrapped in aluminum foil.) Qyntel Woods joined the ranks when he was arrested for participating in a pit-bull fighting ring, among other offenses; he once offered his basketball card to police officers when asked to provide his license and proof of insurance.

None of the former Jailblazers are currently on the Portland roster, and the franchise has made significant strides towards acquiring players with character, a quality often hard to locate in the world of professional sports.

“Besides money, life in the NBA offers vast amounts of two other things: free time and sex,” writes Benedict. “A pro game takes two hours to play. Throw in a couple hours for preparation and travel, and that leaves a tremendous amount of discretionary time. Much of that time is spent on the road, where NBA players play a minimum of forty-one games a year and spend as many as a hundred nights in hotels. This lifestyle leads many players to spend great amounts of time at strip clubs, topless bars, and other such nightspots.”

Former Spur Stephen Jackson’s shootout outside an Indianapolis strip club earlier this season is just the latest confirmation of Benedict’s assertion, and the recent brawl between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks provides further proof that the league still has plenty of work to do to clean  up the game. To its credit, the NBA has been working hard to address fans’ concerns, while the NFL — the No Fault League — gets a free pass when it comes to off-the-field indiscretions. How many more Cincinnati Bengals need to be arrested this season for us to hold the NFL to the same standards as we do the NBA?

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