It was with considerable amusement -- though, let's face it, not complete shock -- when we read yesterday about J.R. Rider's hope of returning to professional basketball. The money quote came from his agent, when he was asked if Rider would consider a return to the Timberwolves: "He'd go in a heartbeat. He's humbled now ... he's matured."
Just think about that for a minute. Even if there is some shred of truth to it -- we know that times change and people change -- why would there be any reason to believe it? But that is the beauty of some athletes. They can so conveniently forget the past, and expect everyone else to forget it too. And they can't understand why people find fault in the logic. Yesterday they were lying; today they're telling the truth. It's even more amusing with an athlete like Rider, who hasn't played in the NBA since a short stint with the Nuggets during the 2001-02 season. Then again, there's also a certain poetic justice. If we are to give Rider the benefit of the doubt and consider that he might have realized what a clown he was 15 years ago, it's likely too late professionally -- at least in any meaningful way.
Same goes for Jeff George, who will be trying to convince teams to give him another shot until his arm falls off. The hot rumor this summer was that the 41-year-old George created an Uncle Rico-esque workout tape that showed off a million dollar arm. To tweak a phrase from Bull Durham, however, it's hard to see on tape whether George still has his 10-cent head. As PFT notes:
As one league source told us told, "Regardless of his skill set, he was hated by his teammates and was never a leader."
And yet athletes like Rider and George try to hold on and wonder why they can't seem to catch any big breaks these days. For the younger generation, perhaps there is hope. We point you in the direction of a recent Q&A with ex-Wolves guard Rashad McCants. If you read McCants' Twitter feed, you find a pretty genuine and funny guy who is hardly a saint but can be considered likeable. Still an unsigned free agent after the expiration of his initial contract, McCants is starting to understand that his image has something to do with it. He'd like to change it. That said, we'd hardly say he's figured it all out. Here he is talking about his North Carolina days and how the perception of what kind of person he is started:
"I think when you have one player handling all the controversy, it’s on the player, not the team – and that’s the role I pretty much played when I was in college. … That’s why I’m a little bit bitter about not having a job right now, and being labeled – when truly, I’m the one that took everything on my back. I was always tough-skinned and hardworking, and I didn’t really care what people said about me, because I knew my ability. But now, after five years, it’s still around, and it’s still haunting me from getting a job and being successful."
You get the feeling McCants almost kind of gets it, but a delusion about his talent level and an "everyone vs. me" mentality are holding him back. Delusion is a powerful, warming force when you're wrapped up inside it. it remains to be seen whether McCants can fully emerge before -- unlike Rider and George -- his entire career passes him by.