As Jksnake99 has pointed out in his diary, both ESPN and Jason Quick are reporting that Zach has been suspended for the Toronto game. Two thoughts:
--While I'd prefer Zach playing from a win-loss perspective, I am actually somewhat encouraged that the team is taking pre-emptive action, not waiting for the league to discipline him, and imposing a fairly harsh penalty without delay or excuse. First of all it shows some integrity within the organization, which people need to see. Second it shows the players clearly where the line is and that it can't be crossed by anyone. If you're throwing the book at Zach you'll throw it at anyone. On a more speculative note, I think this shows that the team is at the end of its rope with Zach. Not that they're intent on trading him or are completely dissatisfied with him--in fact I think they love his play--rather that he's used up his last bit of leeway and there simply is no more to be given.
--I've read on various boards (and forgive me, I can't remember if one of you mentioned it here) that this will show everybody what the team is like without Zach. The implication seemed to be to disparage fans who don't like him and want him traded, as we'll likely lose the game. I'm sorry to anyone who might have said that, but to me that's hogwash. It's one game, and a game we thought we'd have him playing in. If we come out and pull off a semi-lucky, energy-driven win that doesn't mean we're a better team without him. Similarly if we lose it that doesn't mean that we can't win at all without him. It just means that we have a hard time winning without him when our game plan was predicated on him being there.
An analogy: Let's say we were planning to serve lunch to 100 people. Let's also say our main dish was peanut butter sandwiches. Then at the last minute, just as people are filing in, somebody comes in the kitchen and says, "Guess what guys? We're out of peanut butter!" Obviously we'd be screwed. But that doesn't mean we're a crappy lunch-making bunch, nor does it tell us a thing about our ability to make bologna sandwiches, hot dogs, or liverwurst. In fact if somebody came in the room just after the botched meal and said, "This conclusively proves that every lunch from now on must be based around peanut butter! You can't live without it!" you'd think he had a screw loose. All the misfortune would mean is that when you were counting on peanut butter, when your game plan was designed around peanut butter, and then all of a sudden you don't have peanut butter and have to throw together whatever you can find in the cupboards you're going to have sub-optimal results.
Maybe our best bet is peanut butter. On the other hand maybe we'd be better off planning around lunch meat. Whichever you feel, this one game won't tell anybody a darn thing either way.
Update [2006-12-10 3:39:49 by Dave]: Jason Quick's report highlights some interesting facts about the strength of the punishment. The big kicker is that Randolph's suspension will cost him $133,000. Michael Vick's fine for making the same gesture a couple weeks ago was $20,000. Bonzi Wells got docked $10,000 for saluting the home fans a couple years ago. In short, the Blazers are being pretty tough here. Expect there to be trouble. It would not surprise me to see an appeal. It would also not surprise me to see an under-the-table kickback of some of that money, nor would that disturb me. Unlike the Miles-Cheeks incident two years ago this offense has precedence and that precedence is being exceeded. The Blazers can still be plenty tough only taking half that money, or even a third.
Of further note is that all this is happening in a week where there has already been tension between Zach and Nate. Fractures are showing through the framework a little. If both sides hold firm I wouldn't be surprised to hear thinly-veiled demands for a trade resurface from the Randolph camp, either directly or through his agent. After all, we've heard that song from him before.