going off on your coach will do it every time

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Ruben Patterson's future with the Trail Blazers is in limbo today after the disgruntled forward was told to leave the team and return to Portland following his outburst about a lack of playing time during Sunday's game in New York.

The team placed Patterson, who has two years and $13.16 million left on his contract, on its inactive list, but he still will receive his salary.

Patterson on Monday said the team needs to trade him or find a way to let him go because he doesn't want to take a lesser role in the Blazers' rebuilding project that he says is putting more emphasis on using young players than winning games.

"I'm in my prime, and this youth movement isn't for me," Patterson, 30, said Monday from his hotel room in Memphis, where the Blazers play the Grizzlies tonight. "Either trade me or just let me go, because I can't deal with it. I just want to win and play hard, but the minutes are not here for me."

A notoriously emotional and volatile player, Patterson has been upset with the Blazers since last season, when the team announced its youth movement following the firing of coach Maurice Cheeks in March.

Patterson's anger reached new heights Sunday during the team's huddle between the third and fourth quarters of a 103-92 loss at New York. While Patterson was seated in the team's huddle, he spoke directly and harshly at coach Nate McMillan, who was seated about three feet away from Patterson in the middle of the team. Patterson repeatedly told McMillan that he did not want to play anymore that night.

"He said some things that you know . . . we can't allow that to happen," McMillan said. "It's really not the time to do that. My thing is to never embarrass a player, and I don't want a player to embarrass me."

McMillan never acknowledged Patterson's comments during the huddle, and assistant coach Dean Demopoulos attempted to block out Patterson's ranting by moving in front of him as team captain Joel Przybilla tried talking to Patterson. But Patterson's ire didn't recede until assistant coach Maurice Lucas told him to "settle down" three times after the Blazers took the court for the fourth quarter.

"I have regrets about going off like that," Patterson said Monday, insisting that there is no animosity between him and McMillan. "It was like the devil hit me and told me to get it out. I was just frustrated because I could see what was going on out on the court and I felt like I could get those rebounds for us; I could lock down on Stephon Marbury or I could dive and get a loose ball."

After the game, Patterson sought out general manager John Nash in the locker room and told him to trade him or put him on the inactive list. The issue was revisited Monday morning when McMillan met with Patterson at the team hotel in Memphis, and the two agreed that Patterson should leave the team for the remaining six games of the Blazers' Eastern trip.

"I understand Ruben's point and he understood mine," McMillan said. "Basically, we talked about what do we do now. How do we handle this situation?"

Nash on Monday said he would like to resolve Patterson's trade request, but he won't endorse a move that doesn't meet the team's criteria of maintaining talent and fiscal responsibility.

"I gave Ruben's agent (Dan Fegan) permission two years ago to find a trade, and I have looked for trades for Ruben, who has asked for one repeatedly," Nash said. "But there are no takers at this point in time under the parameters we have set. I mean, trades just don't fall into your lap, and we are not going to take on a contract that's less attractive than Ruben's. So it remains to be seen if a trade can occur or not."

McMillan said the team probably will activate Viktor Khryapa to take Patterson's place, providing the forward's injured right toe responds well after practicing Monday. McMillan also said that Patterson's absence probably will translate into more playing time for forward Travis Outlaw.

Patterson, who is averaging 19.5 minutes per game this season, down from the 28 he averaged last season, said he will take the next two weeks off to consider his options while splitting time in Portland and his home in Columbus, Ohio.

"I need to get away for a minute and see what's good for Ruben Patterson. My mind is messed up. I've got to get my focus back," Patterson said.

But at present, Patterson said he has a hard time imagining that he will wear a Blazers uniform again.

"Right now, I don't think so," Patterson said. "I know that I don't see myself ending my career with the Portland Trail Blazers. I know some people think I'm a bad guy, but I'm about winning. And I'm not trying to act crazy, and be bad; it's just that I don't think this team is going to be any good for another three or four years."

McMillan wouldn't go as far as to say that Patterson has played his last game as a Blazer. In fact, the coach said the door still is open for Patterson to re-join the team during this trip, which extends through its Nov. 30 game at Washington.

"He's still a Blazer," McMillan said. "And I still have to find a way to use him with this team and work out a rotation that we can try and win games with. But for right now, we've said take some time, reflect, talk with your agent, and go back to Portland. In the meantime, we are going to move on and get ready for (tonight's) game."