Whats J.R. up to these days? Thats hard to say
At 30, Isaiah Rider Ñ you may remember him as 'J.R.' Ñ is out of basketball.
The talented, enigmatic former Trail Blazer guard, who has never needed a road map to find trouble, was waived by Denver early in the year. What has happened to him?
In the interest of good reporting, and out of curiosity, I came up with a cellphone number for our old friend. The first few attempts resulted in a voice-mail message that said only, 'Rider Records.'
Checking the Web site for RiderRecords.com reaped little more than a post office box in Eagles Mere, Pa. An e-mail to the site was returned undeliverable.
Repeated calls to Rider's agent, Arn Tellem, went unreturned. I spoke twice with Alyson Sadossky, the 'senior director of media relations' for Tellem's agency, SFX Sports (this gets complicated, doesn't it?). Sadossky said she wasn't sure if Tellem was still working for Rider but would give me an update on what he is doing. I never heard back from her.
Finally, I reached Rider. I identified myself warmly.
'What do you want?'
An update, J.R. Are you in the music industry now? Are you living in Oakland? Are you playing any basketball? What are your plans?
'Talk to me in October.'
One more try, I thought, mentioning that a coach from another team had inquired about him.
'Tell him to give me a call.' Click.
When you are on top of the world, you can treat people like that.
• Portland State is losing talented guard Aaron Fitzgerald, who told the Seattle Times he didn't care for the social life on the Park Blocks and that differences had developed between him and coach Joel Sobotka, especially during the second half of the season.
The 6-2 freshman from Seattle started 20 of 28 games for the Vikings. He was often their leading scorer early in the season, going for a season-high 28 points against Loyola-Marymount in January. His playing time diminished as the season wore on, though, and he finished with averages of 9.9 points and 4.5 assists.
Fitzgerald says he doesn't know where he will transfer. The departure leaves Sobotka with two available scholarships, which he will probably fill with a post player and a point guard.
Two other rides will go to Westview High senior Marshal Hartman and former Benson standout Ben Coffee, who are in the 6-6 to 6-7 range and will challenge for starting jobs next season.
'We hope Marshal will be a player similar to what we had in Anthony (Lackey) Ñ an inside/outside power forward who could eventually be a small forward, a guy who can score inside and rebound and knock down 3s, but also is strong and physical enough to guard bigger players,' Sobotka says.
• NBA scouts think Oregon's 7-2 center, Chris Christoffersen, will be chosen in the June 26 draft.
'Frank Layden's line with Mark Eaton was, 'You can't teach height,' ' says Denver's Dave Fredham. '(Christoffersen) has some work to do skill-wise, but there are so few big guys, I would be surprised if he is not one of 58 (drafted).'
Says a second scout: 'Defensively, he has a presence. That will count for something on draft day.'
nÊThe University of Oregon's success in football and basketball has translated into a huge, unusual jump in sales of Nike's UO-licensed apparel. In the past year, Oregon has zoomed up the Nike charts, going from No. 20 to No. 9, passing No. 10 Texas and threatening to overtake No. 8 Florida State. A Nike spokesperson says a jump of 11 spots is extremely rare.
Sales of Nike apparel with the Oregon logo have surpassed $2 million in the past year, putting the Ducks in the upper echelon with Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State and others.
nÊPeter Jacobsen, Nick Faldo and Nancy Lopez are the latest on-air talents hired by The Golf Channel.
• Most of the Seattle Mariners are understandably less than thrilled with having to participate in tonight's exhibition at PGE Park. Not Paul Abbott, who pitched parts of three seasons with the Portland Beavers from 1990-92 while with the Minnesota organization.
'I told (pitching coach) Bryan Price last week, 'If there's a chance I could pitch there, I would like to pitch there,' ' Abbott says. 'The mound was the best mound in the league. The first year I was there, it had a brand new turf, and the stadium was really nice. Older, but nice. Those were fun years, with some good teams. It was kind of my introduction to the big leagues, being around some guys you had seen play up there in the past.'
• Speaking of the Mariners, you might have already seen parts of their new TV ad campaign. There are seven spots, created by Seattle agency Copacino and available for viewing on the club's Web site (www.seattlemariners.com).
Personal favorites: 'Meteor,' with Lou Piniella repositioning outfielder Mike Cameron seconds before a meteor drops where he had been standing (Lou: 'Just a hunch'); 'Step Up,' with retired skinhead Jay Buhner passing the mantle to Bret Boone (Boone: 'You really think Boonie Buzz Night will catch on?'); and 'The Wizard,' with Ichiro bouncing a ball on a bat, a la the famed Tiger Woods-Nike ad, then racing out to catch the ball in the outfield with a behind-the-back move.