And I had such high hopes for his return to the Celtics too ... Sigh.
Fight is for life, not career
By Michael Holley, Globe Columnist, 2/13/2004
For basketball reasons only, I never wanted the Celtics to trade for Vin Baker 19 months ago. For reasons that had nothing to do with the game, I recently hoped the Celtics wouldn't be able to find an honest reason to terminate his contract.
If that meant the team's owners would have to pay a luxury tax at the end of this season, so what. If it meant fewer dollars to spend on free agents, so be it. Saving a buck isn't nearly as important as saving a man's life.
Anyone who has ever seen alcoholism up close has to be worried about Baker's life. He is someone who gets a lot of his self-worth from playing basketball, and he no longer has a basketball job to train for. The Celtics are expected to waive him this morning, putting an end to the forward's 89-game Boston career.
Games. The irony is that they didn't define the native New Englander's time here. The problems did. Baker is a 32-year-old man with a tagline -- recovering alcoholic -- that will last much longer than the 11 years of his NBA career.
"Addiction is a demon," John Lucas said yesterday, "and the demon never takes a day off. It's patient. It's quiet. It always, always wants you back."
Lucas, the No. 1 pick in the 1976 NBA draft, played until 1990. He has been sober for nearly 19 years. Many of those years have been spent educating people about addictive diseases. One of those diseases is so commanding that it can bring a 6-foot-11-inch millionaire like Baker to his knees.
The intensity of addiction was clear to Lucas when he played for former Celtics coach Bill Fitch in Houston. Fitch knew Lucas had a problem, so Fitch would make the guard watch film with him -- in the coach's hotel room -- until 4 a.m.
"At that point he would say, `The bus leaves at 7. I think it's safe for you to go to bed now,' " Lucas recalled. "He gave me that kind of attention, and I still didn't make it that time. I wanted to, but I couldn't.
"I think athletes need to understand that it's not knee surgery. It's not a bad ankle. It's not going to heal and go away. It's going to be there."
Who knows why it's there for Baker?
There is no cliched, made-for-Sociology 101 answer. When you talk with Baker, you quickly realize how gentle and thoughtful he is. He is rich. He was raised in a two-parent home. His father is a preacher. He has received recognition, awards, and even an Olympic gold medal.
None of those things matter, obviously, when it comes to alcoholism. Baker's struggles with the powerful disease not only put his own job in jeopardy, it led to the demotion of the general manager who traded for him.
I still remember the afternoon I called Chris Wallace and asked him to sell me on the Baker deal. He mentioned many things, many of which I disagreed with. But at least they were all basketball-related. Wallace was convinced that he could get 10 points and 5 rebounds a night out of Baker.
That wasn't too much to ask of a big man in the Eastern Conference, and especially not someone with Baker's history. The Celtics never got their consistent 10 and 5, and Wallace never got a chance to put a sober, at-peace Baker with Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker.
We all blasted Wallace for making the trade, and a few people reasoned that the GM should have done his research first. I'm sure he did. I'm also sure that he talked to Baker and found himself taken with the engaging forward.
Wallace is not the first person to fall into that category. And Baker is not the only person who was able to function on the job -- for a time -- as an alcoholic. Lucas said he has met and heard from many people who don't refer to themselves as alcoholics, but who drink for the same reasons that some alcoholics do.
"What makes this subject so compelling is that it's not all about drinking," Lucas said. "It's about life. Let me explain. There are several layers to addiction. There is a compulsion of the mind; your mind tells you that you really need that drink. But there is also an emotional and spiritual bankruptcy there. That person has lost his way, lost some of his values. There is something going on with that person that they find unacceptable. There is something that makes them feel that a drink will take the pain away."
Lucas knows Baker, but he wanted to make it clear that he was speaking generally. He also said the tugs and doubts never fade. Part of recovery is handling ordinary problems without needing a drink.
Four months ago, Lucas found himself confronted with turning 50. "In my mind, I'm the only one turning 50," he said. "I'm saying, `My life is over. Where's my AARP card?' But that's silly, isn't it? I'm not the only one who's 50. Life is just beginning."
Let's hope that's the case for Baker. There will likely be lots of appeals from the NBA Players Association, regarding the status of his contract. The Celtics will likely attempt to void it while the union will try to protect one of its own.
But there are lots of things more important than contracts in this case.
Celtics ownership and management will have to answer a lot of questions before 2004 is over. They'll have to answer arbitrators as well as their own consciences. Did they do all they could to help Baker?
And Baker will have to submit some truthful answers, too. Is he continuing to do all he can to help himself?
Whether he plays another game or not is irrelevant. He is a recovering alcoholic, so he is no longer on an NBA schedule. The opponent is inside Vin Baker now. He'll be fighting for the rest of his life.
Michael Holley is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alessandro "Hercules" Boondy
Just so you guys know: 75% of this crap [you read on the internet] is made up, either by the writer, or the wrestler the writer is getting the dirt from. Just so you know. -- Statement by "Tammy Sytch", from Hyatte's Dec. 29th column ... Lest we forget.
I actually have a bet with my boss...he wins if Vin averages 10 ppg and plays in 41 games. Vin's at 37 games played now, and if he steps on the floor in four more games without scoring he'd be at 10.2 ppg. So we have to wait to see if a team picks him up...*snicker*.
“To get ass, you’ve got to bring ass." -- Roy Jones Jr.
"Your input has been noted. I hope you don't take it personally if I disregard it." -- Guru Zim
Is there anyway they can find a loophole to dump Raef (coughMichaelSmithIIcough) Lafrentz's contract while they are at it? If they can dump Baker's contract off the cap (still doubtful), Ainge really looks like an idiot, as letting Walker go after next year and letting Eric Williams go after this year would have actually put Boston under the cap. Instead, we get Raef and his bad knees for over 10 million per through 2009. Anyone know if we can trade Ainge and bring in Joe Kleine as the new GM?
The Patriots and Red Sox are doing well. The Bruins are, well who cares about the Bruins, Boston sports fans need a punching bag (yes Boston can't stand prosperity). Ainge is going to get big time heat
Originally posted by redsoxnationIs there anyway they can find a loophole to dump Raef (coughMichaelSmithIIcough) Lafrentz's contract while they are at it? If they can dump Baker's contract off the cap (still doubtful), Ainge really looks like an idiot, as letting Walker go after next year and letting Eric Williams go after this year would have actually put Boston under the cap. Instead, we get Raef and his bad knees for over 10 million per through 2009. Anyone know if we can trade Ainge and bring in Joe Kleine as the new GM?
And if you let them walk and get nothing in return, it's like the Sox letting Clemens go and getting nothing. Plus lots of cap space doesn't necessarily mean you will get any big FA's (see Bulls, Chicago and Clips, LA).
You can complain about Raef's salary and I wont argue (BTW, he doesn't break $10M per year until 2006). He still still should come back healthy for next season so I'm reserving judgement until then. And it's more than unfair to compare him to Michael Smith (I don't think Smith was among the league leaders in blocks during his career). Welsch is also looking to becoming a very good player too.
Williams brought Davis and Mihm in. I really liked E-Will but he brought you in a proven 20 ppg scorer who is still young (24 yrs old). He might have been a 20 ppg scorer on a bad team but both Walker and Pierce were once that too. Mihm is also Ricky's age and does have some potential to be one of the better centers. BTW, if you are going to talk about a player with bad knees, Battie is on the injured list again and before this year, he missed 65 regular season games to injury from 2000-2003 vs. 21 for Raef. And Kedrick is now starting to rack up DNP-CD's or just getting around 5 minutes a game.
Do I like what's happened with the c's this year? no. I'm willing to give Ainge the benefit of the doubt for now, but I might jump on the "Trade Ainge" bandwagon soon. If you want to cast blame for the C's woes, look no farther than Chris Wallace. You know, the guy who actually traded for Baker and blew the 3 picks the c's had in the 2001 draft. Guys available at picks 10 and 11 then were Richard Jefferson, Troy Murphy, Vlad Radmanovic, and Zach Randolph. Guys at pick 21 were Tony Parker and Jamall Tinsley. If Wallace had got the right players at those picks and never traded for Baker, he probably still has his GM job and the C's would've been one of the top 2 teams in the east for the rest of the decade.
(edited by BOSsportsfan34 on 14.2.04 1148)
Patriots win another Super Bowl. So much for that idea of a "Curse of Jim Plunkett" book.
If we want to go back to Wallace's trades, the big mistake was sending Joe Johnson to Phoenix and keeping Kedrick Brown. At the time of the Ricky Davis trade, I thought it might be a good move (of course, Baker was relatively sober at the time). However, instead of Pierce being a good influene on Davis, Davis appears to be a bad influence and causing Pierce to revert to playground basketball. And of course, if the C's are tanking this season (and considering the way they are playing, they better be trying to lose, because if they are playing to win, they must really be bad), why isn't Kendrick Perkins playing? If he's our center of the future, let him have his growing pains now, instead of waiting until next year, when Ainge can then say they would try to make a run, but Kendrick needs to get experience so Danny can't be blamed for another bad season.
Originally posted by redsoxnationIf we want to go back to Wallace's trades, the big mistake was sending Joe Johnson to Phoenix and keeping Kedrick Brown. At the time of the Ricky Davis trade, I thought it might be a good move (of course, Baker was relatively sober at the time). However, instead of Pierce being a good influene on Davis, Davis appears to be a bad influence and causing Pierce to revert to playground basketball. And of course, if the C's are tanking this season (and considering the way they are playing, they better be trying to lose, because if they are playing to win, they must really be bad), why isn't Kendrick Perkins playing? If he's our center of the future, let him have his growing pains now, instead of waiting until next year, when Ainge can then say they would try to make a run, but Kendrick needs to get experience so Danny can't be blamed for another bad season.
I'll say this about Davis, so far he seems to be on his best behavior (because if he wasn't, both Bob Ryan and Peter May would've ripped him by now). He does seem to be hustling out there and being unselfish, though I think his D really needs to improve. As for Pierce I think he's trying to do too much and not really figuring out to pass instead of shoot and vice versa.
As for Johnson, yeah they probably should've sent Brown instead. The Rogers/Delk for JJ/#1 in 2002 I had no problem with. The problem was letting Rogers walk. If they had taken at #11 say Troy Murphy, Rogers loss could've been filled by him. Even still, Wallace made a panic trade in going to get Baker. And yes I think Perkins should be playing more too.
(edited by BOSsportsfan34 on 14.2.04 2004)
Patriots win another Super Bowl. So much for that idea of a "Curse of Jim Plunkett" book.