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Stoudamire Penalties Wiped Away

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PORTLAND -- Damon Stoudamire had his indefinite suspension lifted
Wednesday, his $250,000 fine rescinded and admitted he has a problem.

He did not, however, say he has a marijuana problem.

Not directly, anyway.

The Trail Blazers' guard did say the "one common denominator" in his
troubles the past two years is marijuana, but ...

"Is there a problem with marijuana? I don't think so," Stoudamire said,
speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest in Tucson in July.
"But that's been the one common denominator that has gotten me in trouble.
That's something I don't need in my life, and that's why I was where I was
working on that."

Where was he?

At John Lucas' rehabilitation center in Houston for nearly three months.

Stoudamire said he has been clean for 90 days. He headed to Houston on July
4, one day after he was arrested at Arizona's Tucson International Airport
on misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
His attorneys challenged the legality of the search during a hearing on Monday.

That case is ongoing.

If convicted, Stoudamire faces a possible $2,500 fine and six months in jail.

The incident in Arizona was Stoudamire's third involving marijuana in a
span of 18 months. Police responding to a burglar alarm found a small
amount of marijuana in his house late in the 2001-02 season, but a judge in
Oregon ruled the search illegal.

After a game in Seattle last fall, Stoudamire and teammate Rasheed Wallace
were passengers in Stoudamire's Hummer when the vehicle was stopped for
speeding along Interstate 5.

Police found a small amount of marijuana in the automobile.

Stoudamire agreed to seek counseling and stay out of legal trouble for a
year, but he faces at least a day in jail in Washington if he's found
guilty in Arizona.

After the arrest in Tucson, the Blazers fined Stoudamire $250,000 and
suspended him indefinitely in July. Instead of paying the fine, Stoudamire
and the Blazers each will donate $100,000 to Albina Head Start early
childhood program. In December, Stoudamire donated $250,000 to the Portland
Public Schools.

The Blazers promised after last season to take a tough stand against
players misbehaving. With new management, they promised to rehabilitate the
organization's image.

After Stoudamire's arrest in Tucson, president Steve Patterson dared teams,
"Make me an offer."

But Stoudamire's suspension?

It amounted to zero games, zero practices. He will start training camp on
Friday, like the other veterans with guaranteed contracts.

"My objective at the beginning of the summer was not to create an
environment which would be solely punitive to Damon, and certainly, I'm not
trying to create an environment where Paul Allen takes a quarter of a
million dollars from the players," Patterson said. "The objective is for
Damon and the franchise to be as successful as we can possibly be. I think
Damon's made a great contribution to the community, with his donation to
Albina Head Start.

"We could go down the road battling with the union over what was the
appropriate size of the fine or length of the suspension," he continued.
"But at the end of the day, this is about Damon doing the right thing for
himself, for the community and for the Blazers."

Stoudamire said he is not trying to buy his way into good standing with the
fans: "I could have put that money in my pocket. ... By no means am I
trying to win people over by donating money."

Stoudamire, who was attending classes at the University of Arizona, was on
his way to New Orleans when he set off the metal detector in the airport.
That led to a search and subsequent arrest.

"I don't really know what my mindset was," Stoudamire said. "Are you asking
if I'm an idiot? ... I really don't know what I was thinking. I know I'm
not an idiot. I know I'm not dumb. I would like to think of myself as a
pretty smart guy. Things happen."

Was this a cry for help?

"I don't think it was a cry for help," Stoudamire said. "I think it opened
my eyes to a lot more in my life. ... It allowed me to go down to Houston,
work on myself, relax, do the things I need to do to better myself."

He repeatedly said marijuana is not the problem; it's the "common
denominator." As Stoudamire talked, Lucas stood by a wall to the side and

"What he's saying is, 'I realize this denominator has been a problem,'"
Lucas said. "That's an admission without an admission."

Lucas had to answer similar questions during his career, which was wrecked
by drug abuse. He called what Stoudamire did Tuesday "a public cleansing."

Stoudamire talked about the expectations when he was acquired from Toronto
five years ago and the frustration of not living up to them, of not being
able to lead the team and of not being allowed to be himself on the court.

Last season was particularly difficult. Besides being stopped after the
Seattle game, Stoudamire plummeted from starter to forgotten man as
management allegedly tried to force him to renegotiate his contract.

"I've always led every team I've played on, and I haven't been able to do
those things," Stoudamire said. "That frustrates a guy. At times, maybe
that will lead you to do one thing or another. What I found out this summer
is I can't be class president anymore."

When asked if Stoudamire will receive aftercare, Patterson said, "We're
comfortable with the processes that have been put in place." Counseling
doesn't necessarily need to be a part of that process. Lucas said: "He
needs to be able to vent to somebody."

Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said of Stoudamire: "We're trying to get him
back on track. That's the main thing."

Stoudamire called the incidents embarrassing, said "childish things have

"Imagine being inside of me and driving your own self nuts," Stoudamire
said. "That was what part of this summer was about for me. It was about
going to find myself again, bringing out that person who I know I'm capable
of being. ... I'm just ready to flourish.

"This is an opportunity for me to turn a very negative situation into a
positive situation. I understand what's at stake here."

Pubdate: Thu, 02 Oct 2003
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2003 The Columbian Publishing Co.
Contact: letters@columbian.com
Website: | Columbian.com