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Going to Pot?

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I keep trying to get the next Blazersedge mailbag done and I keep running into interesting and provocative questions that deserve their own conversation.  So here's another one.

A reader asked what my feelings were on the use of marijuana by NBA players.  Specifically, if an otherwise attractive (non-star, probably) player was available but was known to have a history of pot use, would that affect the decision to bring him to Portland?  Should it?  Feelings are so scattered on this issue, not just because of divergent views on weed but because of the team's history, that I think it's only fair to throw open the discussion in a separate thread.

I don't smoke.  I don't advocate people taking it up.  I understand some people do and I don't really figure it's my business as long as I don't otherwise know about it.  That pretty much sums up my view on NBA players as well.  If I found out through a friend of a friend that a player occasionally took a hit in his hotel room after games to calm nerves or pain I wouldn't blink and I wouldn't consider it a huge story.  I imagine some of the players order (ahem) interesting movies from time to time as well.  Don't know.  Don't want to know.  If you close that door and you don't bring anybody else into it, it's your world.

The point at which I start to have a problem is the point at which your use becomes public.  If you can't keep your business to yourself then one of two things is happening:

  1. You have no discretion, or perhaps no consideration for your image and the team's.
  2. Smoking has more control over you than you think and it's starting to become more important to you than your professional priorities.  This is a concern image-wise, of course, but I'm pretty firmly of the belief that the late 90's-early '00's teams found the issue filtering onto the court.  I don't have proof, only observations and a couple of those whispered stories that aren't solid enough to print.  But let's just say that when professional priorities start taking second place to personal prerogatives performance falls.

Either way, I have concerns for public figures making millions of dollars in a field where people, for better or worse, expect to be able to idolize heroes and where a team's bottom line depends on that perception.  One guy or a couple of teammates behind closed doors?  OK.  Coke-can bongs on the freeway, yellow Hummers with smoke trailing from them, airport security going off, and people finding industrial-sized bricks on your property because somebody gave them probable cause to search?  Not OK.  

I'm not sure how I'd feel about a player getting pulled over.  If you had a taillight out and got caught with a tiny bag in a misdemeanor-level offense, that could happen to lots of people.  If the Coast Guard is pulling you over because of the amount you're carrying, that's different.  If you're doing something radically stupid that you know is going to draw attention and you also have pot on your person, that's different too.  I guess what I'm saying is that I don't need to know you're completely clean, I just need to know you're not completely stupid and I need to know what your boundaries are...mostly by never knowing that this was an issue for you in the first place.

By definition somebody with known marijuana violations would fall into the "been busted publicly" category.  I supposed I'd want to know that they understood how they messed up, if not on the pot issue exactly at least in exposing themselves to the scrutiny.  I think that is important in this town especially given how much focus falls on the team and how badly the public got burned during the Jailblazer years.  If I wasn't sure that the issue was behind them I'd have real concerns bringing them to Portland.  If I was sure I wouldn't let an indiscretion bother me.

What are your feelings on this issue?  Does it matter?  Should it matter?  Under what circumstances?  Please be respectful in your conversation, as this is likely to be a hot-button issue with some folks.  Remember to talk about people's points without devolving into taking about (read: insulting) them.

Oh, and if you have any questions for the next mailbag when it actually does come out, send them to blazersub@yahoo.com.  Please put "Mailbag" somewhere in the subject line to make it easy for me to identify.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)