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Randolph keeps the grief coming

On Sports
by: , RANDOLPH

We learned a lot last week about Zach Randolph, the Trail Blazers and even some of the team's fans.

First, of course, there's Randolph. Some people are wondering what the big deal is after reading our online story about what he was up to during his 'bereavement leave.' But I think Randolph's actions finally may have sealed his departure from the Blazers.

Just to recap, Randolph was granted the leave last Monday after a cousin of his girlfriend was shot dead in Marion, Ind.

On Tuesday night, the Blazers were playing Washington at the Rose Garden - and Randolph was spotted at 11:30 p.m. in a strip club on Northeast Columbia Boulevard.

It was just a brief stop and he was on his way to the airport to catch a red-eye, Randolph reportedly told a club official. Well, OK. But I doubt it, because according to a travel agent and the Blazers, the last late-night flight headed toward the Midwest departs PDX at 11:04 p.m. There isn't another one until after 6 a.m.

And I guess, too, his $106 tab doesn't indicate any time spent in the place, merely his generosity in buying a round for the house during his 'brief' stay.

Understand, please, I'm not saying Randolph should be in any trouble for being in a strip club - that's between the guy and his girlfriend, who is probably used to it.

Those places seem - and I'm sure Commissioner David Stern is so proud of this - to have become the No. 1 hangout for NBA players.

The whole point is, I think Randolph betrayed his coach and his team - even if he was, instead, at the opera or a chamber music recital.

There was little question that when Nate McMillan was contacted by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune on Friday, the coach had no idea Randolph was still in Portland on that Tuesday night. Randolph had had two days to leave for Indiana by then.

If the guy's in town but his mind isn't right and he can't play, shouldn't he still be on the bench supporting his teammates, rather than supporting Portland's stripper economy?

Yes, I understand Randolph may have been dealing with grief issues. But seriously, Ime Udoka lost his father last Oct. 17 and played in an exhibition game, on the road, two days later.

And, no, don't tell me about Udoka needing to play because he was trying to make the team - that would seriously belittle his reaction to his loss.

What has been most amusing to me is the front office's reaction to Randolph's not-so-excellent adventure. For all the bragging about changing the Blazers' culture, the team is once again covering up for a player.

The lame statement issued by the team (but only released to those media outlets that requested it) didn't even mention Randolph's name. I just don't think you can let your players manipulate you in this manner.

Oh, they're just trying not to ruin his trade value, you say. To that, I'd counter with laughter. You think the people who really matter in the NBA don't know all about this guy? There are no secrets in this league.

It's surprising how many Blazer fans want to excuse Randolph for this. A lot of people miss the point, confusing the strip club part of it with his responsibility to his teammates and his employers.

A bereavement leave usually lasts two days - sometimes it isn't allowed except for a death in the immediate family. The Blazers were overly generous to Randolph, and he spit on them.

But for fans and front-office executives, the level of tolerance is often related to the player's performance. That's no secret.

Isn't it funny that so many of the people scoffing at the hubbub over Randolph are the same ones who thought it was so appalling in January 2005, when Blazer guard Derek Anderson was spotted going through a drive-through window at McDonald's while his team was playing a game at the Rose Garden?

Of course, Anderson was having a terrible season and was an easy target.

Fans, even some media, were in an uproar back then - telling us how Anderson, suffering from tooth pain, should have been at the arena supporting his teammates.

Anderson was traded shortly after that, though. And I have no doubt that Randolph has ensured he's now on the same path.

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