I must admit I was utterly dismayed on Wednesday, first to learn that second-year Rockets forward Terrence Jones was arrested for harassing and stomping on the leg of a homeless man in Portland, and second, that his lawyer seemed befuddled by the charges.
Every indication is that Jones, who only played sporadically in his rookie season, is a good kid. And make no mistake, he is a kid. At only 21, he's barely old enough to drink, so it stands to reason he will do some stupid things on occasion. But there were also whispers out of Rocket-land last year that Jones didn't get as much playing time as he wanted or thought he deserved because he wasn't working as hard as coaches would have liked and he had a tendency to grumble about it.
Kevin McHale is old school. He doesn't really put up with dissent in the ranks, especially when it comes from a rookie. But by the end of the year, Jones was arguably the team's best option at power forward. Going into this season, he is the odds-on favorite to start alongside Dwight Howard.
But this type of behavior cannot be excused. According to police reports, an officer who witnessed the entire incident said Jones yelled at a homeless man who was asleep on the sidewalk and then "stomped" on his leg. The man was not injured and declined to press charges, so maybe stomp is too strong a word, but the very act of a millionaire athlete messing with a homeless guy sleeping on the street is pretty disgusting.
If that were all, and Jones apologized, maybe it wouldn't bother me as much, but then Jones's lawyer opened his mouth.
Kevin O'Connell was quoted in the Chron story thus:
"I'm convinced this is not a criminal incident," O'Connell said. "He's charged with harassment, and it will go away, I'm sure. It should not be a criminal matter. I think Terrence told him, 'You better wake up,' or something. The fella was sleeping on the sidewalk.
"He's very embarrassed by this. He's a young kid who can't understand why this happened. He's really upset over it. He's not a person who would do something spiteful."
First, the obvious. He SHOULD be embarrassed and, yes, he's a young kid who should be upset. I also doubt he is a spiteful person. But what exactly does "can't understand why this happened" mean? It's pretty simple. If the reports are true, Jones acted like a punk, thought he would get away with it and a cop who was nearby thought otherwise. There is no surprise to this story. You kick some guy who is literally down in front of a cop, and you are probably going to get busted.
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Now, since the man was not willing to press charges, Jones was charged with harassment, a Class B misdemeanor. In reality, this and the bad publicity -- not to mention whatever the league and/or the Rockets decide to do about it -- are probably enough for what happened, especially if Jones is truly sorry for what he did. But O'Connell's response to the charges is baffling.
"It will go away." Um, what? Who are you, a mafioso? This is Terrence Jones, not Michael Jordan. And even if it could just "go away," that isn't exactly how it works when it is out in the media. Until he answers those questions a BUNCH of times, this incident isn't going anywhere. He's just lucky it happened two months before training camp starts.
And this whole line of bullshit about how all he did was tell him "''you better wake up', or something" because the "fella" was sleeping on the sidewalk paints a pretty damn rosy picture of a 6-foot 9-inch athlete dropping his size 15s (or something) onto a sleeping dude's leg. So WHAT if the guy is sleeping? When did Jones suddenly become the mayor of I'm Going to Clean Up the Streets-ville?
Instead of minding his own business, he decided to act like a jackass and he got busted. It's probably a good thing. He didn't actually hurt anyone and this will no doubt be one of the most embarrassing moments of his career -- at least we can all hope. Maybe that will snap him out of it and he'll mature as a result. It's not like any of us could ever see James Harden or Jeremy Lin or Chandler Parsons or Dwight Howard going Karate Kid on a dude sleeping on the sidewalk. Maybe he'll learn his lesson. Maybe his lawyer will, too.