GC’s out of town taking care of business — I don’t know what he’s doing, although it’s safe to assume it’s not signing Man Man to Matador — but the sports world don’t stop just because he’s away from his computer. All kinds of shit is popping: Mark Cuban has submitted league materials to buy the Cubs; Hobo Charlie Atkins is signing with Denver, probably; the Rockets made a trade, getting the apparently very good Luis Scola and not very bad Jackie Butler from the Spurs in exchange for a spazzy Greek point guard who really doesn’t want to play in America anymore. So, yeah, the sports world kind of stopped. I don’t think GC is to blame for that, but you can draw your own conclusions.
And anyway, no news is good news. Because with nothing much on the breaking news front, we can turn our attention to what matters: the Vegas Summer League. Anyway, it matters to me — I’m working on an article about it that may or may not be published in the next couple of weeks — in large part because of genius bizarro rosters like this (which features seven centers) and this (which features And1 mixtaper Jerry “The Assassin” Dupree and NYC streetball hero Corey “Homicide” Williams). Another member of that second roster, former Iowa Hawkeye star Pierre Pierce, was the subject of one of my favorite pieces of writing from this week — and one I didn’t get around to posting because, uh, I was tired and it’s been too hot — from True Hoop’s Henry Abbott. Pierce just got out of the can in Iowa after a two-year sentence for, among other things burglary, assault and false imprisonment. All in one night. Anyway, he’s currently killing it in the Summer League (18.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.3 RPG). Abbott’s piece on him is long, but unless and until something happens, you and I both have some time to spend with it. Here’s a chunk, but the whole deal is worth a read.
There are people who want to make excuses for Pierre Pierce. (As the story goes, predominantly white community, tired of athlete misbehavior in football and basketball at the University of Iowa, was in no mood for a black player maltreating a white girlfriend, which some say led to aggressive prosecution.) He is not one of them.
Some of what he has to say about his eleven month incarceration at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility, which was followed by close to eight months when the 24-year-old was not allowed to leave Iowa for his parents; Illinois house, which is home for now:
It has been really difficult for me. I just knew that one day I would get an opportunity to play for a spot in this league, and I just tried to stay focused on that.
It just felt great to be able to get out there and play basketball. Finally in May I got a chance to go back home and see my family in Illinois.
In Iowa, I couldn’t really work with the best trainers and I couldn’t play against the best competition. In Illinois, I’m close to Chicago and I can train with the best, like Tim Grover.
Just being home, the last six weeks, it has been good. It has been really good for me. The loss of freedom & It definitely humbled me. Made me wiser as a person. I made mistakes, and being locked up makes you really look forward to getting an opportunity to show you learned.
I read a lot of books. I also worked, on the recreation staff. I set up softball games, refereed basketball games. I even gained some respect for referees. That’s a difficult job.
I have learned from my mistakes, definitely. I understand about taking responsibility for my actions. And personally, where I am right now, I never want to go back to that place again. Hopefully people can forgive me for those mistakes, and see me as the person I am, on and off the court.
And here we join Warriors GM Chris Mullin wrestling with the ethical dilemma of the 2007 Summer League.
Is it wrong to give Pierre Pierce a high profile job? Mullin sounds sincere when he says he has wrestled with that question.
“Someone was really hurt by what he did,” says Mullin. “He might have ruined someone’s life. I’m not discounting that. If people were upset that he is playing for us, I would understand that. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m not condoning what he did.
The key to Mullin’s decision, however, was hearing the kinds of things that Pierce said to Mullin directly. “I met with him and his dad,” says Mullin. “They were both 100% ready to admit that he had done wrong, and they did not pretend that he hadn’t. And they seemed like people who were ready to learn and move on. Talking to them made me comfortable enough to feel like it was an OK thing to do to give him a chance.”
When you listen to Pierre Pierce talk, it seems to be an insane argument that the world would somehow be better, or safer, or more fair if, instead of playing basketball on TV, he were bagging groceries or clerking in a law office or whatever it is he’d be doing. Not that the way one acts in the lobby of a hotel for a half-hour is the best window into one’s soul.