Posted: Thursday December 1, 2005 11:50AM; Updated: Thursday December 1, 2005 11:50AM
Ruben Patterson need look no further than his 36 percent shooting to understand why he's played fewer than 20 minutes per game.
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Having trouble keeping track of the NBA's early-season subplots? Well, think of this as pro basketball's version of Soap Opera Digest, a glossing over of some of the league's juiciest stories to-date -- but with one disclaimer: the only "proposals" you're likely to see here are those for trades ...
Blazers' Patterson a real rube
Player conduct remains a recurring storyline in Portland, where Ruben Patterson has taken top billing as the latest rebel to rage against the machine.
Steamed over a lack of playing time, the eight-year vet allowed his frustration to boil over during a Sunday matinee in New York in late November. A stream of expletives (all of them deleted here) began rolling Nate McMillan's way as the Blazers came to a huddle at the end of the third quarter while trailing the baby Knicks 81-71. Eyewitnesses observed Patterson, then nursing a seat on the pine, telling the new Blazers coach in his most lucid "French" that he was done playing for the night. McMillan, a textbook B-personality type, handled Patterson's outburst the way an experienced parent might handle an indignant 2-year-old -- he ignored it. "[Patterson] said some things that, you know ... we can't allow that to happen," McMillan told the Oregonian.
So why not put him in his place, as you did Zach Randolph when he said something that displeased you during a practice drill, Mac? "My thing is never embarrass a player," McMillan continued, "and I don't want a player to embarrass me." Nor did assistant coach Dean Demopoulos, who stepped in front of Patterson during the tirade in an effort to insulate the Blazers' huddle. Joel Przybilla, playing the Kevin Spacey to Patterson's Sam Jackson, slid in next to the Vesuvian forward hoping to calm him down. ("Never say no to a hostage-taker; it's in the manual.") It wasn't until assistant coach Maurice Lucas firmly instructed Patterson three times to "settle down" that the player abandoned his diatribe. The undermanned Knicks, meanwhile, rode that outburst and a season-high 27 points from Stephon Marbury to a 103-92 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Once back in Portland, the Blazers diplomatically responded to Patterson's uniquely worded request for more playing time by placing him on the inactive list indefinitely. (The next morning, Patterson awoke in a better mood, describing his actions from the previous night to the Oregonian by saying, "It was like the devil hit me and told me to get it out.") Patterson, who still has two years and $13.16 million left on his contract and continues to be paid while listed inactive, surprised no one by expressing his desire to leave a team he's convinced is more interested in playing its younger players than in winning games. "I'm in my prime, and this youth movement isn't for me," the 30-year-old Patterson told the newspaper. "Either trade me or just let me go, because I can't deal with it." Who then will deal with Patterson? New York and Minnesota have been rumored as possible destinations. George Karl has Denver passing for now. ("It might be a de-energizer," the Nuggets coach told the Rocky Mountain News last week.)