Summer Fun In The NBA

September 29, 2002

If you spent your summer vacation visiting Six Flags Over Butte,
or the Hanging Gardens of Gary, or just dozing in a lawn
chair--the new Tom Clancy A-framed across your gut--you might envy
the go-go lifestyles (and three- or four-month holidays) of your
favorite NBA personalities. What did they get to do on their
summer vacations?

Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was arrested last week and
charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Setting
aside the image of a 7'3" Lithuanian undergoing a field sobriety
test near Cleveland, we might instead ask ourselves this: Why
can't my life be more like his?

Just 48 hours before Ilgauskas was busted, Jazz broadcaster Hot
Rod Hundley--the only announcer in the team's 28-year history--was
stopped in Salt Lake City on suspicion of drunken driving. (At
week's end no court date had been set.) The arrest was
breathtaking, and not just literally, because alcohol is about as
welcome in Salt Lake City as leprosy, and more difficult to
obtain. Still, Hundley does get to answer, at age 67, to the name
Hot Rod, and that would be neat, wouldn't it?

Speaking of hot rods: 76ers forward Derrick Coleman was arrested
this summer on suspicion of drunken driving when he was clocked
outside Detroit doing 100 mph in a 70-mph zone. Coleman pleaded
guilty and was given a 60-day suspended sentence. While he
acknowledged having had a "couple of glasses of champagne,"
Coleman registered a blood alcohol level of .13 (the legal limit
in Michigan is .10), suggesting that the 270-pounder had most
likely had more Dom than Mrs. DeLuise.

On his summer vacation, Suns point guard Stephon Marbury was
sentenced to 10 days in jail in Scottsdale, Ariz., after pleading
no contest to a February drunken driving charge. This summer
Marbury was also honored in The Sporting News's annual "Good Guys
in Sports" issue. (And why not? He visits prisons in the
off-season.) Elsewhere in Scottsdale this summer, Pistons forward
Clifford Robinson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of
marijuana possession, stemming from a 2001 incident in which the
6'10" C-Rob was driving drunk, inconspicuously, in a
banana-yellow Porsche. Cars, champagne, good-citizenship awards:
Who wouldn't want to live like this?

Clifford Robinson is no relation to Glenn Robinson, who was
charged outside Chicago this summer with misdemeanor counts of
domestic battery, assault and unlawful possession of a firearm.
(A court hearing is scheduled for Monday.) Prosecutors say the
two-time All-Star forward was intoxicated when he forced his way
into the residence of his ex-fiancee--and mother of his
daughter--and declared himself "ready to die." (He didn't, though
the Big Dog did receive an extremely harsh sentence when he was
traded from the Bucks to the Hawks.)

Of course there were plenty of NBA stars this summer whom police
did not arrest. Alas, Pacers guard Ron Artest--whose name is an
anagram of "not arrest"--was arrested, in July, after turning
himself in to police in New York City, where he was charged with
harassment and criminal contempt for violating an order of
protection. (The case is pending.) Artest allegedly left a phone
message threatening to "hurt" the mother of his young son.

Ironically it was Sixers superstar Allen Iverson who got all the
attention, for a daisy chain of charges--all eventually dropped--in
his own domestic dispute. Even for the exonerated, it seems, the
off-season is a perilous high wire, strung between the end of May
and the beginning of October. Trail Blazers guard Damon
Stoudamire appeared in court this summer on a felony
drug-possession charge after police discovered (last February) at
least 150 grams of marijuana in his house. A judge has ruled that
the pot, which police found while responding to a burglar alarm,
cannot be used as evidence. But Stoudamire still suffered the
doobie-less distinction of having the fuzz publicly bogart his
stash.

So did free-agent forward Keon Clark, who was ticketed for weed
possession in Danville, Ill. (he paid a $510 fine), shortly
before signing a multimillion-dollar deal with the Kings, whose
star, Chris Webber, was indicted this summer on charges of lying
to a grand jury about payments he allegedly received at the
University of Michigan, where he was a teammate of Jalen Rose,
the Bulls guard who was driving a rented Bentley in Los Angeles
this summer when a gunman approached and fired eight times,
point-blank, into the car, hitting Rose's passenger in the face.
(You may inhale now.)

We haven't even mentioned the summer's manifold tragedies
involving former NBA players, like Sly Williams (convicted of
kidnaping and sentenced to five years in prison), Jayson Williams
(awaiting trial on charges of shooting his limo driver to death)
and Bison Dele (the erstwhile Brian Williams), feared to have
been murdered at sea (page 70). And those are just the
Williamses.

So if you find yourself, next summer vacation, jackknifed in pain
from some picnic potato salad gone iffy, consider yourself lucky
to lead such an ordinary life. You might be turning green. But at
least it won't be from envy.

COLOR PHOTO: PETER GREGOIRE

Even for those exonerated, the off-season has been a perilous
high wire, strung between May and October.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)