I've been pretty quiet regarding the announcement of Brandon Rush's suspension for failing three marijuana drug tests last season. This is mainly due to an illogical amount of family activities this past weekend combined with a brace on my right arm that takes the fun out of working on a computer.
Logistics aside, though, I've also been trying to figure out why I feel so indifferent to the news. Are my senses dulled to any bad news from the Fieldhouse? Did the news about Lance Stephenson's assault allegations completely recalibrate my outrage meter?
Kind of, although I think my reaction to both players is tied to my personal thoughts on each player and what they did. I'd like to think I'm so fair that I treat every player (or person in general for that matter) with equal objectivity, weighing both the good and bad of their body of work on and off the court against the same set of standards.
But the bias of human nature and experience aren't easy to mask and in the cases of Rush and Stephenson my feelings are fueled by my expectations.
The visceral reaction I expressed over the gruesome allegations levied against Stephenson, was driven by my personal disappointment in a great story gone bad. Stephenson the player, was already exceeding expectations at just 19 years of age. I wanted the story of redemption to play out over the course of his career. The kid can play and his game could eventually help revive the good times for the Pacers. Continue to mature, take care of business -- the Hollywood script was there to be written.
We were due. Everyone who follows the Pacers had to be thinking, "You know, maybe our fortunes are changing." Young talented players with plenty of promise arrived in the draft. A morale-boosting trade landed a coveted young point guard. Momentum is a wonderful thing and Big Mo' was rolling down the tracks for the Pacers.
Just like that, Stephenson de-railed a promising summer, slapping everyone in the face with the cold reality that there is still a long way to go for the Pacers and he won't be a short cut to the promised land. We'll see how the case plays out, but until the story is refuted the trust is gone and the expectations along with them. That was tough to take, lowering the expectations that were flying high.
That's the difference with Rush's case, the expectations.
My expectations for Rush had already dwindled to the bottom floor, so there was nowhere left for them to fall when this news hit. In fact, in a strange way the news that he's among the league leaders in torching herb makes sense. (Tons of NBA players smoke you say? Sorry, the numbers don't lie. If you fail three tests during the season, you're among the elite dope-heads.)
Prior to the suspension, Rush had done little to inspire any confidence that he would develop his considerable talent into a lead role with the Pacers. His quiet and aloof personality shows up on the court in the times he floats through games. Off the court, his goal with any interview is to finish his answer, forget the content. Following his Twitter feed often raises the eyebrows especially in the late night/early morning hours. I'm still not convinced Rush is aware that anyone can read his Twitter feed. Either that or he has zero public relations awareness regarding the image he projects to the public.
This is not a guy the Pacers can rely on for the future, but that was obvious before the suspension was announced. The front office will never say it but they've known it too. Recall last spring when Larry Bird and David Morway were separately trumpeting the young core players on the roster but both seemed to leave out Rush. Of course, the "Tarmac Trade That Didn't Go Down" when T.J. Ford and Rush were minutes away from being dealt to Charlotte showed the team's willingness to part with Rush. No doubt, he's remained on the trading block since that deal fell through.
So, Rush is not part of the future and now he's sullied his reputation and put more heat on the front office. What should the team do?
I was surprised to read Bob Kravitz call for swift and decisive action with Rush. While I agreed with the bulk of what Kravitz had to say about Rush, I completely disagree with his suggested course of action.
Once again, team president Larry Bird will have to trade a player with a gun pointed at his temple -- but it's got to be done.
Why does he have to trade Rush now? The fans aren't coming out as it is. I can't imagine a big boycott due to Rush's five game suspension. The team was starting to build up some good will with a roster of solid citizens. Certainly they can weather this suspension to avoid making a lopsided deal. Winning a few games in November will bring fans to the Fieldhouse, not dumping Rush in a bad deal.
This isn't a situation like Jamaal Tinsley and Stephen Jackson. Not only did those guys have high-profile incidents around town but they also involved the general public. More importantly, they were supposed to be two of the leaders of that team. Drastic moves were warranted.
Rush does not fall into that category. Plus, he's still on a cheap rookie contract. Make him earn his playing time off the bench and in the meantime if a team offers a 2nd round pick ala Shawne Williams to Dallas, then take it. Otherwise, don't pick up his option and let him go after the season.
We know what we have here with Brandon Rush and it isn't real pretty. I think the paying public would rather see the Pacers make prudent decisions in this case that take into account the impact to the team in the future. No sense compounding the problem by taking on someone else's issues just to get rid of Rush.