Forgive me if today’s column isn’t quite as sharp as usual or my barbs aren’t as witty. I just spent hours searching the Trail Blazers pledge to fans for some fine print, a forgotten 26th pledge or anything for that matter, that would explain the otherwise inexplicable way the team has handled the Darius Miles situation. I read the pledge on the website, I downloaded the file version and I even called the Trail Blazers to make sure that I wasn’t missing something.
Sadly I wasn’t.
Maybe I’m just out of touch. Maybe a two-game suspension for hurling racial epithets at your coach fulfills the organization’s pledge "to hold our players accountable." Maybe a two-game suspension is "authoritative action" for someone who half-asses it on the court and then questions his coach’s ability.
|The first seven pledges of the Trail Blazers 25 point pledge to fans
1. To evaluate character along with basketball talent when selecting players.
2. To establish a player code of conduct and to hold our players accountable for their actions both on and off the court.
3. To challenge every obstacle that would prevent us from taking quick and authoritative action for any behavior that compromises our expectation of our players acting responsibly at all times.
4. To help our players represent our team and community with pride by creating a player program and development position.
5. To educate our players so that they will understand why Portland and Oregon is a special place to play and what it means to be a Portland Trail Blazer.
6. To acknowledge and address franchise highs and lows in a clear, straightforward and timely manner.
7. To build a competitive team on the court, which fans can also be proud of off the court.
-Full pledge available online at http://www.nba.com/blazers/
Darius Miles did all those things to Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks. Nobody questions that. What is questionable is how an organization that has invested so much in public relations could so blatantly disregard the principles at their core. Like a contestant on Extreme Makeover who later decides to engorge himself on Bon Bons and ice cream, the Blazers disregard for the pledges that had revitalized their organization is baffling.
We wouldn’t even be discussing how the organization compromised pledges two and three if it had heeded the first pledge, "to evaluate character along with talent" when selecting players. They could have listened to the people who said Miles was immature and not ready to be a star in the NBA and let him walk as a restricted free agent during the off-season.
Instead they went with talent and gave him a six-year $48 million contract. In NBA lingo, guaranteed contracts translate to blank checks to do whatever you want and those who ignore character pay for their own laziness. Bob Whitsitt paid the price two years ago – John Nash and Steve Patterson are paying the price now.
That means the organization has already violated the first three pledges. Unless you think racial slurs are representative of Portland and the surrounding community, the organization has also dropped the ball on pledges four and five to represent and interact with the community better. Ex-player development expert Jerome Kersey’s only legacy is the Qyntel Woods playing card sitting atop some highway patrol officer’s mantle and new hire Darnell Valentine’s tenure is off to a lousy start.
All of this isn’t intended to say that "the new regime" of Blazer management has doomed Portland fans to another Whitsitt-inspired dark ages.
Nash and Patterson are a class above Whitsitt and they have breathed fresh life into a moribund organization. What they need to do is heed pledge six and "acknowledge and address franchise highs and lows in a clear, straightforward and timely manner."
This incident is a low.
They need to make sure that Miles understands that. He already apologized to fans and reportedly, half-heartedly to his coach, but there he was after the Denver game joking it up with reporters claiming he was going to "take the high road."
Where exactly is this "high road" going? Out of the crevasse Miles threw himself into?
As far as I can tell, the problem is that Miles rolls along the same low-character roads his illustrious Jail Blazer predecessors have tread.
He’s only 23, seemed personable until recently and is yet to be arrested – all reasons to be optimistic about his future. Hopefully the Blazers organization will listen to their own words and get him to pledge allegiance to the principles it has rebuilt itself around.
Maybe then they can fulfill pledge seven, "To build a competitive team on the court, which fans can also be proud of off the court."