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Thursday, December 11, 2003
Wallace: Young players get exploited

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The NBA has fined Rasheed Wallace for the length of his shorts, for his many technical fouls, for his refusal to speak with reporters and for a postgame run-in with officials.

So perhaps not surprisingly, the Portland Trail Blazers forward doesn't hold the league in high regard. In an interview published in Thursday's edition of The Oregonian, Wallace said the league's establishment is exploiting young athletes to enrich itself.

"I'm not like a whole bunch of these young boys out here who get caught up and captivated into the league," Wallace, 29, said. "No. I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about. I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league."

Wallace added that teams are drafting high school players because they want athletes who are "dumb and dumber."

"That's why they're drafting all these high school cats, because they come into the league and they don't know no better. They don't know no better, and they don't know the real business, and they don't see behind the charade."

Wallace is aware of his status among the fans, some who have said they will not renew their season tickets unless Wallace is traded. They see him as the prime example of everything that has gone wrong with the team in recent years.

"I know I'm Public Enemy No. 1. Fifty percent (of the fans) hate me and 50 percent love me no matter what I do," Wallace said. "I can't worry about that. If you're not part of my inner circle of family, it don't matter."

Wallace also said he's not concerned with NBA officials, who whistled him for a record 41 technical fouls in 2000-01.

"That's just the fire in me. Some of the technicals I deserved. Cussing at the officials or throwing something," he said. "But some of them I didn't deserve.

"I'm not scared of the NBA. I'm not scared of the NBA officials. If I feel as though myself or my teammates have been dealt a wrong hand, I'm going to let it be known. I'm not going to sit up here like most of these cats and bite my tongue. That's not me."

Wallace is in his eighth season with Portland and is making $17 million this season. He is the only Blazers player who lives in the area throughout the year, not just during the NBA season. Wallace said he and his wife of five years, Fatima, like the city and would prefer to stay.

"It's real nice and pretty in the summer," Wallace said. "All the trees, flowers and everything else is more colorful. It's nice out here in the summertime, and it's a good family atmosphere."

Wallace said his wife helped him realize that some of his actions can have a negative effect on their family, such as when he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession in November 2002 while riding in a sport utility vehicle with guard Damon Stoudamire.

Wallace says he didn't regret the incident initially. Then he heard from his wife.

"It was embarrassing from the standpoint of my family. That's one of the things my wife made me realize. She was like, 'I know how you are. I know stuff like that doesn't really affect you too much. But it affected us,'" Wallace said. "She meant her and my kids. That made me sit back and think about it, and she was right. A situation like that, I have to think past myself. I got a family. Got a wife. She was telling me what was happening with my kids. After I talked to her about it, I regretted the whole situation."

But Wallace, who's one of the more charitable Blazers, doesn't consider himself a role model and doesn't feel he needs to constantly represent the Blazers and the NBA in public and in front of the media.

"It doesn't have to take a Portland Trail Blazer or a professional basketball player to do good things in the community. You can work at a bank or work at a 7-Eleven. You donate your time or money to the local Boys & Girls Clubs or PAL (Police Activities League) Club. They won't see you as a role model, but you are. I don't know why they see a basketball player as a role model."

Still, he knows participating in charitable events for the Blazers is part of his job as an NBA player. But once again, he prefers doing it his way. That doesn't always include posing for pictures.

"They try to glorify stuff with the media being there when they do things in the community, but that's not me. I don't need a TV camera to let me know on the inside that I'm doing something good."