It had been more than a year since your humble reporter attempted to speak to Rasheed Wallace. You can only go to the well without water so many times before you seek out other places to quench your thirst.
But in the interest of Tribune readers, I ventured to the former All-Star's locker after Saturday's home opener against Cleveland to see if the Trail Blazer tri-captain might have had a change of heart.
Would you answer a few questions, Rasheed?
'Good win, man, bottom line. I ain't got nothing too much to say. It was a good win, and we needed it. That's all I'm saying.'
What were your impressions of LeBron James?
'I just told you, it was a good win. That's what we needed, and that's what we got.'
So you are not answering the question about LeBron?
'That's what y'all want to see and talk about. I don't get into that (blank).'
Keep in mind, Wallace's stock answer last season to anything asked of him after a game was, 'It was a good game. Both teams played hard.' He was fined $30,000 by the NBA for refusing interviews during the playoffs, after which bootleg T-shirts were issued in his honor, reading: 'Both teams played hard.'
There is no way of telling why Wallace has chosen not to answer questions from reporters or, in most cases, even acknowledge them, because he won't offer reasons. One theory is that he thought he was burned by the media a few years ago, which is poppycock, of course. Wallace has scorched himself with his own behavior, both on and off the court. In a lot of cases, he has been handled with kid gloves in the media over the years, but he doesn't appreciate that at all.
Other NBA players face up to their personal issues and deal with media questioning (e.g., Jason Kidd, Chris Webber, Magic Johnson), and they have recaptured at least a portion of their good image. Wallace stubbornly resists cooperating with a Portland media throng he could have eating out of his hand if he wanted. Out-of-town reporters get the same sullen treatment.
Odd thing is, Wallace can be a good interview when he wants to be. Several years ago, for an article in a major publication, I spoke to him for about 30 minutes on nearly every facet of his life. He was provocative, reflective, insightful. The next time I spoke to him, it was like I didn't exist.
For the first time Saturday night, I felt a twinge of sadness for Wallace. You worry about the lingering bitterness in his soul that never seems to go away. Maybe he thinks if he talks to reporters now, he is giving in. That's too bad. The fans are losing in that deal, and so is he. But the biggest loser of all is the Portland organization, which is perhaps at its lowest point of popularity with the public in franchise history. It could use more cooperation from its most talented player, indeed, a man making $17 million this season.
LeBron James exited the Rose Garden wearing a customized Nike brand University of Oregon football jersey Ñ No. 23 on the front, James on the back Ñ and a UO baseball cap.
'It's because I'm in Oregon, of course,' the Cleveland rookie said. 'That's self-explanatory. Yeah, I'm a Duck fan.'
He paused, then said twice, 'But it's Florida State first.'
Agent Aaron Goodwin explained that on a visit to Nike's Beaverton campus, James had told Phil Knight he is 'a big fan of the Duck uniforms. So they said they would make up a jersey, home and away, with LeBron's name on it.'
Nike President Charlie Denson sat with James' mother, Gloria, in Nike's courtside seats at the Cleveland-Portland game. Knight? He was in Seattle, surely second-guessing himself after watching the Ducks' disastrous 42-10 loss to Washington.
Before the 2001 NBA draft, the Hornets Ñ then located in Charlotte Ñ had Michigan State freshman Zach Randolph in for a workout. Coach Paul Silas liked what he saw, but the Hornets, drafting 16th, passed on Randolph and opted for Indiana forward Kirk Haston. Three picks later, the Blazers took Randolph, who pinned 21 points and 13 rebounds on the Cavaliers, now coached by Silas.
'Zach always teases me,' Silas said after Saturday's game. 'He looks over at me tonight and says, 'Coach, you made a mistake, didn't you?' I told him, 'You're damn right.'
'He has his game all together now. He's very clever around the hoop. He's going to get nice shots off. He's almost impossible to stop with his quickness. He's either going to outquick big people or overpower smaller guys.'
Silas says he notices a difference in this year's Blazer team.
'They have always had pretty good talent,' he says, 'but it seems like they are liking each other now. They play pretty well together. At least they did tonight.'
The new Blazer regime, President Steve Patterson and General Manager John Nash, did right by honoring Bill Schonely at halftime of Monday night's game against Philadelphia. The legendary broadcaster, treated poorly during the Bob Whitsitt era, deserves to be brought back into the fold.