SPORTS

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February 19, 2002

Van Exel and Wallace should stay put

This week is the final week before the passing of the NBA trading deadline. Across the nation (and even into Canada), fans are holding their breath in anticipation of the roster shake-ups that may occur in the coming days. Practically every team has been mentioned in the torrent of rumors circulating throughout the league, and nobody in the league will really know what will happen until midnight on February 22, at which point everyone can start to breathe again.

Quite frankly, I think that the trading deadline is one of the most exciting times of the year. The concept of teams switching players with the season in full swing is exciting. It reminds me of a NASCAR pit stop in that you do not know if the tune-up will be successful until after it has taken place. Anticipation of a race car driver realizing as he leaves the pit that his wheels are not quite tightened, or that a basketball team acquired a washed-up forward in a misguided attempt to improve, is quite suspenseful and can also be entertaining as long as nobody gets hurt.

One player that I don't want to see traded is Nick Van Exel. The Denver Nuggets pay this point guard an absurd sum of money to bring the ball up the court. He's making somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million over the next four years, and he complains. Little Nicky wants a trade because he just isn't happy in Denver any more. I've got news for you, Nick: you are still on the Nuggets because you aren't good enough to justify those 5,000 Gs that are coming your way. Nobody wants Nick because he is getting up there in years and can't walk half the time because of creaky knees. I think that Nick should be content to play for the Nuggets, and if he isn't, I still want him to have to stay there. He annoys me, and if he stays in Denver, that is about half the distance between Chicago (where I live in the winter) and Portland (where I live in the summer), so I never have to get too close to him.

This brings me to my next point. I have no idea what the Portland Trail Blazers should do with Rasheed Wallace. Half of me wants to say that they should just end his relationship with the team. But then again, he's one of the 10 most talented players in the league. This also means that a trade involving him would certainly bring the element of "mixing it up" to the table, which, as I stated before, is exciting. But then again, I am a Blazers fan in my spare time, and I have this feeling that if he went somewhere else, they would get him to shape up, shut up, and play basketball.

Wallace is a crybaby; he's probably more of a crybaby than Nick Van Exel. Wallace set the NBA record for technical fouls two seasons in a row. You probably are thinking that that is not such a big deal, since Charles Barkley, whose record Wallace shattered like a the window of an abandoned warehouse, was still a really popular player. What Wallace doesn't understand is that his play has to back up his voice — it doesn't work the other way around. You see, Barkley was a fan favorite because he was a media darling. He would sit around and talk with reporters after the games, giving them good storylines. He made the press like him, which made them write positive stories about him, no matter how poorly he behaved. This concept is lost on Wallace, who refuses to answer questions from the press in a way that would communicate to the world what the hell he's thinking.

A memoir by Wallace would be a best-seller. It would do better even than Augustine's Confessions. Instead of talking about how he found God and was sinful and lustful in the past, Wallace would talk about how his anger towards official grew over time, why he couldn't just play the game of basketball, and, more comprehensively, what drives 95 percent of his actions. Someone could tell him the story of an NBA great in the past who actually had a passion for the game. I can just imagine Wallace writing about how he was overcome by shame at his shameful actions towards the referees, media, and the fans in the past. He would stumble into the Rose Garden (the arena where the Blazers play their home games), sit at center court under the video screens suspended above him, and weep. He would weep until rivers of tears flooded the court. Then he would hear the voice of a small child, who could not understand why this grown man wouldn't just play basketball, whispering "just play basketball, just play basketball."

But this is all a bit of a digression from the subject of a trade of Wallace. I guess my fear is that he would have a revelation of this sort away from the Blazers. This is, after all, the team that picked Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Sam who? Exactly. The Blazers just have horrible luck in these sorts of things. So I don't want them to get burned again.

This brings me to my conclusion. Nobody should get traded. Nick is stuck where he is, unhappy, and I am pleased about that. Wallace is a brat, but I'll hope that he has his revelation in Portland, though I'll probably start to rot before that happens. Besides, though it may be exciting to have trades, it is really pathetic to have to watch a broken down team with three wheels limp to the finish line of the season.