The Nose loves the Portland Trail Blazers. He has a weakness for everything about the team, from Damon's herky-jerky style of play to Bonzi's lightning-quick moves to the hoop. But what the Nose really, truly admires is the way our team maintains, year after year, its reputation as the rangiest collection of millione'er-do-wells in the entire National Basketball Association.
Six years ago this paper coined the term Jailblazers, a handy appellation for the team that General Manager Bob Whitsitt was building. Fresh from ridding the Blazers of good guys Buck Williams, Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler, Whitsitt put together a team he was convinced was a contender, a group of players including Isaiah Rider (assault, spitting, drugs, cheating), Gary Trent (crack dealing), Rasheed Wallace (choking his girlfriend) Dontonio Wingfield (assaulting cops) and Cliff Robinson (assaulting a female cop). Whitsitt failed to find the combination to unlock an NBA championship, but he continued to tinker with the tumblers, adding Rod Strickland (assault, drunk driving), Shawn Kemp (fondness for the white stuff that is not anthrax) and James Robinson (sexual assault).
Bad guys come and go (while some of them stay), but this year Whitsitt outdid himself, signing Ruben Patterson, a big guard who has everything the Trail Blazer organization seeks: 6-foot-5, 224 lbs. of sinew and twitch--and the citizenship qualities of a Taliban fighter.
Here's some background on Patterson that you won't find in the Blazers' media guide:
"[She] knew that Ruben was not going to stop and was afraid for her safety.... Ruben turned her around so she was facing him. He held her head tightly on both sides and placed his penis into her mouth. She performed oral sex on him for only a few seconds before Ruben ejaculated into her mouth and on her face. Afterward, Ruben told her that everything would be all right if she did not to [sic] tell anyone what had happened."
This comes from a report filed by the Bellevue, Wash., police department. It's Patterson's nanny's account of what happened in Patterson's home the evening of Sept. 25, 2000, while the basketball star's wife was in the hospital recovering from a tummy tuck.
At the time of the incident, Patterson was already facing charges in Cleveland, where he had been accused of breaking a man's jaw in two because he believed the man had scratched his Mercedes. Patterson eventually pleaded guilty to assault. In Bellevue, he cut a deal on the attempted-rape charge, entering a modified guilty plea that led to no jail time but earned him a five-game NBA suspension and ended his career with his then-employer, the Seattle Supersonics. "I view the Seattle Supersonics as part of the public trust of our community, and I'm a steward of that trust," said owner Howard Schultz (of Starbucks fame) at the time. "I don't think you can have different rules for different people based on their athletic ability...."
Not a problem. Whitsitt was happy to pick up Patterson (whose major at the University of Cincinnati was criminal justice), signing him to a contract this summer that will pay him more than $33 million over six years. After the ink was dry, Whitsitt noted, "We're very concerned with some of the issues off the court."
Like I said, the Nose loves this team.
Warning: This week's column involves the Portland Trail Blazers and therefore may be unsuitable for younger readers.