Israel Bayer of Street Roots -- a Portland-based newspaper that focuses on street issues -- offers some thoughtful commentary for SI.com about the importance of the Portland Trail Blazers to Portland's homeless population. Bayer was prompted to write on the subject following the recent arrest of Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones for allegedly stomping on a homeless person.
I don't know Terrence Jones, but I do know the streets. I know that the NBA cares about the poor, and I also know what basketball means for people on the streets. Many people without a home look to their local basketball team as a vehicle of hope. There's not a day that passes during the regular season that people on the streets of Portland are not talking about the Trail Blazers.
Basketball transcends cultural and class lines and brings us together. We collectively root for our favorite players and/or teams, regardless of our economic circumstances. We rise and fall together as communities and sports fans, from the homeless man or woman sleeping in a doorway listening to the game on a wind-up radio to the family enjoying the action courtside.
Jones, the 18th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, can still have a long and fruitful career. I would love to see Portland, Houston and other NBA cities cheering for him instead of rooting against him. This is an opportunity for Jones to stand up and be a responsible person. It's a chance for him to educate himself on homelessness in his hometown of Portland and in Houston, where he'll face mounting scrutiny.
KGW.com reported that a police officer allegedly witnessed Jones, a Jefferson High School graduate, stomping on a 46-year-old homeless man after coming out of a downtown Portland nightclub in July. Jones pleaded not guilty and will appear in court in September.
Jones, 21, averaged 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds as a rookie last season. He spent two seasons at the University of Kentucky after leading Jefferson to three straight 5A state titles from 2008 to 2010.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter