Sour fruit

Good guy Theo Ratliff has been getting plenty of attention lately, even within the humble pages of this very paper. A Trail Blazer that hasn’t been getting much attention is Qyntel Woods, still suspended from the team seven games into the season.

The former first round draft pick has seemingly fallen off the globe, despite his once-attractive potential. For better or worse, NBA players are drafted based solely on that mysterious qualifier each year.

Often times the strategy pays off. Other times, less fortunate teams get stuck with the basketball equivalent of an automobile lemon. Enter Woods – lemon extraordinaire, a guy who’s been fooling everyone for two years now.

The latest in the long list of Qyntel problems actually has no relation to the team-mandated suspension the Blazers gave Woods after his little pit bull fighting incident became a full-scale FBI investigation. Woods was issued a five game suspension from the League office in New York as a little pre-Halloween treat for the third year guard/forward out of North Eastern Mississippi CC to chastise him for violating the NBA’s drug policy again.

Since the NBA has no idea when the Blazers will reinstate Qyntel, the suspension officially begins "the first game…for which he is eligible to play," whenever that might be. Apparently the League offices in New York City realize how deep into his own doggie’s dookie Woods has slipped already. So do Blazer fans. It is becoming increasingly clear that Woods has overstayed his welcome in the Rose City and in the already-fragile Blazer locker room.

The Blazers began their torrid romance with the enigma that is Qyntel Woods when they acquired him in the ’02 draft with the 21st overall pick. He played well in that year’s summer league and, though he didn’t play much during the season, many Blazer insiders liked his potential. He played well in last year’s summer league, earning all-team honors. He received almost no increase in playing time and was left to languish on the pine once more. Woods even played well this year at the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league, and named him a top 10 breakout player for this season.

The trouble started on Feb. 18 of last year when he was stopped for driving infractions that led to a small fine. Fans were eager to move on and quickly forgot the incident, which wasn’t serious. A month later, on March 29, Woods was puffing on a joint (a common Blazer theme) driving down I-5 with the window open when he was stopped once again. He would receive leniency from the courts, but public opinion was starting to sway. Blazer fans ridiculed his naivety when they learned he tried to pass off a couple of credit cards and his basketball trading card as legit ID.

Luckily for Woods his skills on the court had not deteriorated as much as his mental acuity and common sense. He started a couple of games last season as the Blazers were suffering through an injury plagued season, and his career high 16 points came in a game immediately following the first of his troubles with the law, in a Feb. 21 contest versus the Boston Celtics.

This October, Qyntel ruined what good graces he had earned back and is facing federal charges for animal abuse, regarding the pit bulls he was raising to fight. With this added drug charge, the Trail Blazers must now seriously consider cutting their losses and waiving him, especially now that they have added guard Geno Carlisle. Woods’ house has appeared on local news stations, with helicopters circling above showing images of Federal officers poking around. Fans are outraged, management is stuck enduring terrible publicity and Woods has found nothing better to do with his time away from the team than to revert to old habits.

The Blazers are reluctant to cut loose a player that has shown so much of the potential that they covet, even though they didn’t protect him in the recent expansion draft. No team wanted to bail the Blazers out on this one, and who could blame them? How long are the Blazers willing to wait on this guy?

Usually if players are going to "break out" it doesn’t take them three NBA seasons to do so. Due to his numerous infractions, mistakes and blunders over the last two years, Woods will have to break out of jail soon if he is not careful. At least then, finally the team would be rid of the lemon that’s costing them so much time, money and embarrassment.