Rocket science

Sports blotter: "Houston hydroponics" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  September 14, 2007

HOUSTON HIGH: Justin Reed got caught with a baggie of chronic, earning finger wags from moralistic journos.

Weed for Reed
Tough, tough summer for the Houston Rockets, arrest-wise. It’s certainly bad enough that former street-ball sensation/starting Rocket point guard Rafer Alston bagged not one but two arrests in a single month, one for allegedly slashing a guy’s throat during a scuffle in a New York night club.

Even worse was the jailing in late August of former Rocket standout Vernon Maxwell, one of the great raving lunatics in NBA history. Mad Max, you might recall, has been a frequent target of media criticism from the likes of Jim Rome, who in recent years has frequently ripped the shiny-bald off-guard for his failure to pay child support (Max was delinquent more than $160,000 back in 2004). Now Max is back in jail in Florida for violating the terms of his probation on three separate charges: not paying the state for his supervision, possessing a controlled substance, and failing to pay court-ordered child support.

It is not easy to be sent to jail for three separate probation violations. Usually you’re back in the hole after two. It takes effort and dedication to work in three strikes before you get violated. But Max was always a high-effort player.

And that, of course, was not the end, as far as the Rocket family went. Former Rocket Eddie Griffin died this summer — he drove his SUV through a railroad warning gate and was struck by an oncoming freight train — marking the sad end to an even sadder story. A former national high-school player of the year, Griffin was a star at Seton Hall (earning Big East rookie-of-the-year honors) and the seventh overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft. His on-court success, however, was soon eclipsed by off-the-court trouble: as a Rocket, Griffin struggled with depression and alcoholism, and was involved in the beating and shooting of a woman at his home. That was before he got shipped out of town to Minnesota, where his substance-abuse problems continued, and where he became famous for being the first NBA player to be arrested for masturbating to porn while behind the wheel of a moving SUV. Even at his most insane and unhinged, Griffin was a tremendous shot blocker who will go down as one of the all-time tragic stories in the league.

Now we’ve got another arrest, this one with a local connection, as former unused Celtic and current Rocket pine-rider Justin Reed was busted this past week after police descended upon a “known drug location” in Jackson, Mississippi, and caught him holding a baggie of marijuana.

Poor Justin always seemed like a nice kid, and the amount of press coverage surrounding his bust has to be judged excessive by any standard. Particularly irritating is the way that sportswriters always manage to find a “disappointed” fan to issue an anti-drug dictum at the bottom of their finger-wagging, moralistic bust stories. In this case, the Clarion-Ledger dug up a Pascagoula local named Bill Glenn, who said, “Reed is an NBA player making good money, and he’s still hanging out at places like this? I don’t understand why athletes today, who live the good life, continue to associate themselves with people who are only going to get them in trouble.”

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