Ailene Voisin

Randolph’s pot arrest first blemish on Kings’ makeover. Can he police rookies now?

Zach Randolph warms up before the Memphis Grizzlies’ game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 27. Police say Randolph was arrested on a marijuana charge after several police cars were vandalized when a large gathering became unruly at a Los Angeles housing project on Wednesday. Randolph was taken into custody on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
Zach Randolph warms up before the Memphis Grizzlies’ game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 27. Police say Randolph was arrested on a marijuana charge after several police cars were vandalized when a large gathering became unruly at a Los Angeles housing project on Wednesday. Randolph was taken into custody on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell. AP

We need more facts, details, specifics about what exactly happened at that block party in Los Angeles late Wednesday night. Was Zach Randolph simply relaxing and enjoying himself? Was he overly boisterous and causing a disturbance? Was he in possession of marijuana that he intended to sell, per his felony arrest and the police reports?

 
Opinion

The last thing we need – as a city, as a state, as a country – is a rush to judgment. Let’s start with that.

The Kings and the NBA are declining to comment, other than to say they’re aware of the matter, and the league is conducting its own investigation. Randolph’s agent, Raymond Brothers, told The Bee the incident was a “false report, completely misleading.”

As for the public’s take? When the investigation is complete and the pertinent information available, then weigh in, by all means. The screamers on sports television networks and radio stations should feel free to rip and roar as well. Until then, take a breath and hold the tongue. And lest anyone forget, this is pot-friendly California, where one ounce of weed is legal and dispensaries are as commonplace as the corner coffee bar.

It’s different for the Kings. They already have every right to be miffed. And concerned. And disappointed. They didn’t sign up for this.

They lured Randolph, 36, to town with a two-year, $24 million contract and the chance to finish his career as a respected role player and paternal figure in the locker room. That was the plan. The hope was that he had truly matured and evolved, that his troubled past was exactly that – a past life – and that after eight seasons as a beloved presence with the Memphis Grizzlies, he would share the love and positive vibes at Golden 1 Center.

But now you have to wonder. Regardless of how the matter is resolved, and let’s even assume no charges are filed and the matter goes away, Randolph’s lack of judgment is troubling. He put himself in harm’s way. The circumstances teemed with danger signs. Late night, loud music, blocked-off street, lots of booze, marijuana in the air, other narcotics and two guns on the premises, according to authorities. And he is supposed to police the rookies?

Police said a disturbance erupted when officers attempted to disperse the crowd. Some people began throwing bottles, smashing windows and slashing tires on the police cars. Besides Randolph, who was released after posting a $20,000 bond, Stanley Walton was arrested on suspicion of carrying a gun with a previous felony record.

It is a bad look, plain and simple, and it certainly doesn’t square with the Kings’ attempt to shed their reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.

General manager Vlade Divac wants no part of a 2016-17 repeat performance, either on or off the court. In September, Darren Collison pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery and was suspended for the first eight games. In December, Matt Barnes was involved in a violent altercation at a New York City nightclub and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins, who was with him at the time but not charged with any crime, are being sued by the victims.

As the February trade deadline approached, Divac finally sold principal owner Vivek Ranadive on dismantling the roster and moving in a completely different direction. He talked about wanting good characters, not characters. He traded Cousins to New Orleans, waived Barnes, and during the offseason declined to pursue free agents Lawson and Collison.

Instead, he committed to a youth movement and brought in Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter to provide a veteran presence in one of the league’s youngest locker rooms.

Hill and Carter will arrive at training camp next month virtually blemish-free. Until these past few days, the same could said of Randolph over the past several years. The popular “Z-Bo,” with his infectious smile and now-famous work ethic, has been universally praised for overcoming a troubled childhood that included arrests for underage drinking and battery; a bruising experience in Portland as a youngster on the “Jail Blazers” squad; and a two-game NBA suspension for DUI.

In 2010 in Indianapolis, a friend driving one of Randolph’s cars was pulled over and a cooler of marijuana was found in the vehicle. But the Marion, Ind., native said he was not involved and no charges were filed.

Randolph’s former high school coach, Moe Smedley, provided fascinating insight about his former player in a profile written by ESPN’s Jonathan Abrams in November 2012. “Zach is like a chameleon,” Smedley said. “What I mean by that is, if you and I are sitting in a room and Zach comes in for a half-hour and sits down with us, he would fit in perfectly. But then he can walk right out of that door and get in a vehicle with two guys he has no business being around, he can fall right into that trap and fit in. Whoever he’s with, he can assume that identity.”

So here it is five years later, and Randolph is a King, and an important piece in the makeover. At this point in his career – in his life – one truly hopes the deep past is the deep past.

NBA veterans Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill say they're honored to be Kings at their introductory press conference Monday in Las Vegas.

Ailene Voisin: 916-321-1208, @ailene_voisin

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