Notebook > Sports

Blazing a new trail

Sports | Portland uses draft, trades for an image makeover

Issue: "All heart," July 14, 2007

Goodbye "Jail Blazers." Hello Greg Oden. After years of fielding teams with players of ill-repute, the Portland Trail Blazers seem poised to finally reinvent their club and shed their outlaw reputation. Over the years, Portland's reputation as a harbor for malcontented-and criminal-basketball players has been hard to shake, despite some public oaths from Trail Blazer management and the exile of some bad seeds. After winning the draft lottery and choosing Ohio State center Greg Oden with the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, Portland can't afford to corrupt its potential franchise player.

Just how troubled were the 2002-03 Trail Blazers? The lowlights reel included Damon Stoudamire, who in 2003 racked up his third arrest for marijuana and endured a three-month suspension; Ruben Patterson, who had to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to the attempted rape of a nanny he hired to watch his child in 2000; Qyntel Woods, who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in 2004 after police charged him with organizing dogfights; Rasheed Wallace, who earned a seven-game suspension in 2003 for threatening an official on a loading dock after a game; and other players. (Wallace, now a Detroit Piston and the NBA's all-time leader in technical fouls, is well-regarded for his charity work.)

With newly hired general manager Kevin Pritchard at the helm, the Trail Blazers seem poised to change their ways. Oden could eventually give the Trail Blazers the sort of rare inside presence that the Lakers (Shaquille O'Neal) and Spurs (Tim Duncan) used to win multiple championships. And Portland shouldn't have to worry about Oden's character. Most observers wouldn't have blamed Oden for doing the bare minimum in the classroom to get by, since his departure from Ohio State at the close of his freshman year seemed a foregone conclusion-but Oden, an honor roll student in high school, managed a 3.7 GPA, according to his coach.

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By selecting Kevin Durant, the talented and good-natured forward from Texas, Seattle (which had the second choice) also appears to be clearing its roster. If either or both teams can return to the top of the Western Conference, their fans will be even more excited that the NBA's draft lottery balls bounced their way.

'It's about honoring and serving God'

By Brad Locke

Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium

"Christian Family Day" on June 23 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis featured a Cardinals game followed by music and testimonies from players Braden Looper, So Taguchi, Adam Wainwright, and Albert Pujols.

Pujols' wife Deidre said he gets nervous in public speaking, but Pujols told WORLD, "I came to a point about five years ago, I'm like, you know what, it's not about Albert Pujols, it's not about being scared, it's about honoring and serving God."

This summer, 10 major league teams are having Christian Family Days. Third Coast Sports, which helps organize these events, is also behind 46 Faith Nights scheduled this year at minor league parks across the country.

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