“We like the maturity of Martell Webster,”
said Portland Trail Blazers GM John Nash, on draft night last
week. “We like his character.”
Translation: I’m tired of picking up
the newspaper every morning and seeing guys I just gave $10
million bonuses to being ushered out of a Crown Victoria in
handcuffs, with windbreakers draped over their heads. Portland’s
draft-night decision-making was widely panned both by the
media and other NBA executives. Handcuffed by last year’s
pick of self-promoting high school point guard phenom Sebastian
Telfair, the Blazers had to pass on much-ballyhooed point
guard prospects Deron Williams and Chris Paul. The team also
elected to pass on this year’s consensus top high school
player, Gerald Green, mainly due to concerns about “maturity”
– which is the Portland-area euphemism for “potential
member of our local NBA crime syndicate.”
The Jail Blazers, of course, are one of the
greatest collections of professional sports criminals of all
time. In recent years the team has been home to a rapist (Ruben
Patterson), a guns-and-pants thief (Zach Randolph), a black-market
dog-fighter (Qyntel Woods), and a panderer to minor girls
(Marcus Brown). It employed the all-time NBA arrest leader,
Isaiah Rider (21 arrests during his career, the Matterhorn
of sports crime records). It is one of the first teams to
require U.N. blue-helmets to maintain order at its own practices:
just a year ago, Randolph fractured Patterson’s eye
orbit, while reserve center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje required
medical attention after subsequently-traded Rasheed Wallace
whipped a baseball pass at him from across the gym.
Beyond that, a Blazer player last year was
involved in what will certainly go down as the dumbest and
most hilarious traffic stop incident of all time – Qyntel
Woods attempted to pass his basketball card off as a driver’s
license when pulled over by Oregon police.
Nash has tried to trade away his problem players
as fast as possible, with the recent exodus including Woods,
Wallace, and Bonzi Wells. His roster was once the outstanding
ONDCP warning poster of the league, at one point containing
no fewer than five players facing marijuana charges (Rider,
Woods, Wallace, Erick Barkley, and Damon Stoudamire). The
only one of those remaining is Stoudamire, who may now be
out the door as a result of another draft-day Nash decision
– a trade for Georgia Tech point guard Jarrett Jack.
Stoudamire last week made what may have been his last crime
headline as a Blazer. An Arizona judge ruled that Stoudamire
is not eligible for a jury trial in his famous “You
mean like this marijuana?” airport-possession case.
Sports crime buffs may recall this famous incident, in which
Stoudamire, when asked at a Tucson airport if he was carrying
any metal objects, responded by (allegedly) surreptitiously
dropping a wad of weed wrapped in tin foil through his pants
Last week’s ruling comes on the heels
of an Arizona State Supreme Court decision which exempted
misdemeanor crimes of “moral turpitude” from jury-trial
status. The Portland guard would also have been denied a trial,
for instance, if he had been arrested for bottomless nude
ballroom dancing. Perhaps this was what Nash was worried about
when he passed on Gerald Green. In any case, tune in to this
space for more news of the troubled last days of the fabled
Jail Blazer crime spree...
Troubled times at Ole Miss, which has never
had a reputation as a problem program in college football
– at least not with neighbors like Florida State and
Arkansas to keep the headlines filled.
The team last week dismissed incoming freshman
linebacker Wallace Bates for violating team rules. Bates had
recently been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia,
in the latest of what has been a string of Runnin’ Rebels
arrests, many of which are expected to culminate in trials
in Oxford, Miss. this month. Former fullback Lorenzo Townsend
and redshirted safety Keith Houston await trial for rape,
while star defensive lineman McKinley Boykin is also expected
this month to stand trial on domestic violence charges. Meanwhile,
Jamal Pittman was last year arrested on gun charges, while
fullback Rick Razzano was suspended following an assault charge.
The football team remains embroiled in a legal tussle over
he employment status of defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who
was arrested on March 3, allegedly for falling down drunk
in an Oxford Subway sandwich shop. Cullen claims he was wrongfully
terminated after news of his arrest was made public, while
the University maintains he was never fired at all; what promises
to be a heated court action is pending.
The arrest of Cullen, who was once reprimanded
at his previous job in Indiana for striking a player on the
helmet during a game, marked the second time within a space
of six weeks that an Ole Miss coach was brought in on alcohol-related
charges. Assistant coach Charlie Camp had been arrested on
Jan. 29 for that old standby of minor sports offenses: “driving
erratically in the public square.” Camp resigned shortly
thereafter. All in all, the school has had 10 players or coaches
arrested in the last two years – not a high number for
an SEC program, but well above their own average.
SAFETIES IN NUMBERS
The remarkable crime blotter run on NFL safeties
continues. A month ago, New Orleans Saints safety Dwight Smith
was arrested for waving a pellet gun at a pair of fans who
accosted him at a Louisiana drive-thru. Then came the more
serious arrest of onetime U- Miami phenom Sean Taylor, lately
of the Washington Redskins, who was charged with felony assault
in a bizarre incident in which the big-hitting centerfielder
allegedly waved a gun at three people he claimed were stealing
his all-terrain vehicles. Then there was Mike Doss, safety
of the Indianapolis Colts, who was arrested for waving a gun
in public (do you sense a pattern here yet?) in Akron, Ohio.
Then last week came yet another arrest, this
time of a less heralded player — former practice-squader
and undrafted free agent for the Miami Dolphins Quintin Williams.
Williams was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol last week
after he was caught, at 4 a.m., driving 111 mph in a 65 zone
on I-595 near the Dolphins practice facility. Amusingly, Williams
was caught not merely speeding, but drag-racing — against
an imposter-cheerleader! When police busted Williams they
also apprehended one Brandy Lynn Richards, who was clocked
at 109 mph. The speed difference was probably due to the make
and model: Williams was driving a very phat and tricked-out
2006 Mercedes belonging to teammate Travares Tillman (another
safety; he was in the passenger seat), while Richards was
stuck with a 2005 Nissan Maxima.
Upon arrest, Richards identified herself to
police as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, a claim that was vigorously
denied with surprising alacrity by team spokesman Harvey Greene.
"She is not and never has been a Miami Dolphins cheerleader,"
he said. Williams upon arrest was taken to a Broward County
police station and forced to play, and ultimately lose, a
game of breathalyzer roulette. He scored an .087, which in
most Slavic countries qualifies as absolute sobriety but which
in Florida is exactly .007 above the legal limit. Williams
was therefore stuck with a DUI charge, in addition to speeding
and the highly unusual charge of "racing on a highway."
Surprisingly, Williams is the first NFL player to be arrested
on drag-racing charges, and the only celebrity since loathsome
"Survivor" contestant Colby Donaldson.
Now for the funny part. In a press conference
the day after the incident, new Dolphins coach Nick Saban
seemed exasperated by reporters' questions, which seemed to
call for some kind of action to be taken. "What do you
want me to do, cut the guys?" pleaded Saban. Reporters
shrugged. A few days later, the Dolphins went ahead and cut
Williams, which invites speculation about who is actually
running that team. Meanwhile, in other NFL safety news, the
Redskins' Taylor suffered a major blow in court last week
when a Florida judge refused to throw out the weapons charge
against him. Taylor, who has the distinction of being described
by his own team as "the most researched player in NFL
history" — the 'Skins allegedly went all-out on
their pre-draft background check a few years ago — now
faces a mandatory three-year jail sentence if convicted.
It may be time to start placing bets on which
safety gets tagged next. Will it be Lawyer Milloy, for corpse
desecration? Securities fraud charges against Patriots reserve
Antuan Edwards? Adam Archuletta, on 37 counts of serial murder?
NOT IN THE GREEN ROOM
Things could have been so different for Pierre
Pierce. That could have been him in that seven-button purple
double-breasted suit, grinning into the camera with a new
Charlotte Bobcats cap (complete with tag) hanging sideways
off his head, mumbling those magic words: "I'll do whatever
coach asks me to... I just want to help any way I can..."
Ah, but the Iowa Hawkeyes star was not within
spitting distance of Chad Ford, Tom Tolbert & co. Tuesday
night. The NBA draft was not in the cards for the standout
guard, who instead is laboring through the courts in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, trying desperately to avoid a 56-year jail sentence
for burglary and attempt to commit sexual assault against
his former girlfriend.
In Iowa, the upcoming Pierce trial is a statewide
celebrity sensation, sort of a localized Kobe case, attracting
daily coverage by all the major Iowan papers. The brouhaha
stems from a Jan. 27 incident in which Pierce allegedly entered
the home of his ex-girlfriend and assaulted the woman. Since
then, Pierce has been bounced from the team, prohibited by
the judge from attending NBA workouts out of state, and dropped
from the prestigious Chicago pre-draft workouts by the NBA.
Minus the legal problems, he would likely have been a second-round
Last week, papers filed by Pierce's attorneys
revealed the extent of his change in fortunes. In asking the
state to assume the costs of his defense, Pierce claimed he
is living on $170 a month, spending just $50 a month on food.
At the time he filed the affidavit, Pierce had no money in
either his checking or savings account.
Pierce, one of the most celebrated Hawkeyes
ever, goes to trial on August 16. We'll have updates before