A sad tale out of Houston (from Lindsay Wise of the Houston Chronicle):

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s office has identified former Rockets power forward Eddie Griffin as the man who died when the SUV he was driving plowed into a moving train in southeast Houston last week.

Officials said Griffin, 25, drove his Nissan SUV through a railroad crossing barrier, past flashing warning lights and into a moving train in the 5300 block of Lawndale about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 17.

The accident remains under investigation by Houston police.

Griffin’s vehicle burst into flames on impact with the Union Pacific train that was hauling plastic, burning his body so badly that investigators had to use dental records to confirm his identity Tuesday.

Griffin, whom the Rockets acquired for three first-round draft picks in 2001, faced off-court troubles throughout his NBA career. A power forward, he was released by the Rockets in 2003 after several run-ins with the law.

One of those three picks, of course, was Richard Jefferson. And Griffin had been such a giant high school star in Philadelphia that when the Rockets first suspended him, the Philadelphia Daily News sent down a writer to check in.

A bit more from the same piece:

“If this is true, then Eddie is free now,” said former Rockets guard and NBA coach John Lucas, who worked with Griffin in Lucas’ Houston-based substance rehabilitation program. “I’m just sad. Just so sad.”

Rockets spokesman Nelson Luis said Griffin was trying hard to get his life back together after he left the Rockets.

“All the potential, all the dreams his family had for him for what his career would and could be, to see it end like this is just tragic,” Luis said. “He was a very quiet, introverted kid. But you could tell there was a current of trouble underneath the surface with him. It’s a shame.”

UPDATE: ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande raises the question I resisted asking, i.e., did the poor guy kill himself or was it just the ultimate in self-destructive recklessness?

And as for this comment, yeah, probably a bit too soon, though you’d think any serious obituary would mention the incident.