After dealing with temperamental Rod Strickland the past two seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers raised some eyebrows when they acquired Kenny Anderson, Rasheed Wallace and Isaiah Rider in the off-season.
All three had notorious reputations, but apparently the Blazers' management thought the friendly environs of Portland would have a calming effect.
Well, Anderson and Wallace have been fine. But Rider's bizarre behavior has continued. The latest episode got the talented guard suspended for disappearing from practice on Dec. 10.
The day before going AWOL, Rider missed a game-day shoot-around. That led coach P.J. Carlesimo to bench him for the first quarter that night. The next day, Rider drove to practice but left without speaking to anyone.
"I couldn't get into the arena, you know what I mean," said Rider, explaining that the gate to the parking lot was locked. "And then once I came in, me and P.J. we didn't have an argument or anything, we just rubbed each other the wrong way.
"Maybe it was early in the morning. Maybe he was sick. Maybe I was sleepy. Whatever it was, we rubbed each other the wrong way."
Rider, who averages 13.7 points and is shooting only 40 percent from the field, missed a team bus earlier this season because he said a cab driver drove him to the wrong location for departure. Over the summer, Rider was arrested for having a crudely made marijuana pipe. He also was cited for shooting dice and possessing an illegal cellular phone. Those came after numerous incidents as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"We would be less than candid if we said we were shocked," Carlesimo said.
A Nugget of patience
Five years ago, Denver Nuggets center Ervin Johnson was TC bagging groceries at a New Orleans supermarket, not even thinking about college.
Yesterday, Johnson, who will turn 29 tomorrow, took a flight home to receive a bachelor's degree from the University of New Orleans. He was a commencement speaker.
"It means more than getting in the NBA," Johnson said. "I'm going to be the first person in my family to get a college degree."
Johnson didn't feel the graduation warranted publicity. "I think we get patted on the back enough," he said. "Why should it be known that I'm getting my degree when every day somebody else is getting a degree who is working 9 to 5."
He reflected on his days in the supermarket, when his life seemingly had no direction.
"Those are the days that made me the person I am. I walk around my house, and I think of them, and I realize how blessed I am."
Johnson, who played with the Seattle SuperSonics last season, has struggled for the Nuggets (5.9 points, 9.2 rebounds). But on Wednesday, the night before his graduation, Johnson scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds in a win over Sacramento.
Around the league
When Allan Houston left the Pistons to sign with the New York Knicks last summer, there was a quick example of bitterness. Houston invited every Detroit player to his August wedding. Only Don Reid attended.
"I'm sure they were busy," Houston said. "I didn't take it the wrong way. I don't want to get into an 'if-it-were-me' scenario, but it was a difficult situation. [Team vice president] Ron Campbell showed up at the wedding, and that meant a lot to me."
Houston played against his former teammates on Wednesday in Auburn Hills, Mich., and he was booed every time he touched the ball. It obviously had an effect because he scored two points in New York's loss. A banner read, "Houston, we have a problem."
Yinka Dare career assist total update: zero. Because of injuries to Jayson Williams and Shawn Bradley, Dare started Wednesday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and in 12 minutes had three points, five rebounds and, of course, no assists.
Think Miami guard Tim Hardaway is high on his ability? Asked where he would rate himself among point guards, Hardaway said, "Based on my career, I'm right there top five. This season, I'm top one, two."
Recently signed Toronto Raptors guard John Long played Monday in the same NBA game with his two nephews, Detroit Pistons forwards Grant Long and Terry Mills.
You can e-mail Jerry Bembry at Jeryol.com
Pub Date: 12/20/96