Muhammad won't dispel perception of negativity


It’s not about the rule, about the NBA disallowing those players at its three-day rookie transition program from having guests in their hotel room.

We’re not talking bank robbery here. We’re not talking auto theft.

I’m not even sure we’re talking jaywalking.

It’s more about this for Shabazz Muhammad: perception.

His continues to be viewed worse and worse by others.

Muhammad was sent home early this week from that transition program in New Jersey for having a female guest in his room, hours after players were told they weren’t allowed guests unless approved by a program administrator.

The rookie for the Minnesota Timberwolves and former Bishop Gorman High School standout also was fined and will have to attend the program again next year. Life will go on. Muhammad will begin his first pro season and be judged mostly on how he produces on the court.

Most will forget this infraction.

But he won’t gain many fans over it, and, while I’m not sure that point matters to Muhammad, he continues to be involved in situations that define his as an elitist attitude.

As one who never has believed rules apply to him.

This was Muhammad before the program:

“Just carry yourself the right way. And make sure you’re nice to everybody, because you’re carrying out your brand, and it will really help you as a basketball player, and not only as a basketball player but as a person as well.”

He sure seems to say the right things. He just doesn’t always do them.

He might start by making better decisions and showing a jump shot’s worth of maturity every now and then.

The transition program is important for all those willing to follow its rules, a series of seminars and classes on things such as handling one’s finances and personal and social responsibilities as representatives of the league and character and ethics and leadership qualities.

No cellphones. No agents.

No women in your room.

Muhammad couldn’t last a few hours.

It’s all sort of pathetic.

He had earned public relations points recently when informing reporters that his father no longer would be involved with the basketball portion of his life, that Ron Holmes would have to take a permanent seat in the stands and no longer would have any influence in the gym.

The same father who was revealed in a Los Angeles Times article in March to have shaved off a year of his son’s age to give Muhammad an advantage when playing against younger competition across the AAU circuit and at Gorman.

At the time the article was published, Muhammad was 20, not 19 as everyone was led to believe.

There was that nugget of impropriety. There was having to sit out three games at UCLA and repay $1,600 in impermissible benefits when it was found that Muhammad accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial recruiting trips, travel arrangements made by his father.

It’s a foolish pattern, one that takes another hit with Muhammad being sent home from the very program that would benefit a player like him most. One whose transgressions have caused many to wonder whether he could prove himself a trustworthy professional, whose reputation has been a me-first guy for years now.

Others have been dismissed early from the program. Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur were sent packing in 2008 after being found with marijuana and women in their rooms. Michael Beasley was fined $50,000 for later admitting he was in the room before sneaking out to avoid getting caught. Muhammad did nothing illegal. He just couldn’t, or better yet wouldn’t, fall in line.

NBA veteran Matt Barnes offered his opinion on Twitter, saying he thought Muhammad getting kicked out of the program was “BS,” that a grown man should be able to have a woman in his room if he wants, that the story was blown out of proportion and Muhammad now will enter the league with a “bad wrap” before he has played a game.

Barnes doesn’t get it. He attended the program. He got through it without issue. It’s not about the rule. It’s about perception, about showing an ability to conform with a group and work as a team and not always snub your nose at authority.

Shabazz Muhammad, who might be a man but often acts like a child, apparently still hasn’t figured that out.

For his sake, I hope he produces on the court, or all this nonsense off it will be the only things defining his basketball career.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.