Tinsley finds wrong place at wrong time, again Print
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Sunday, 09 December 2007 23:56
NBA Headline News

 Man, have times changed. Athletes being targeted by loudmouths looking to prove how tough they are is nothing new. What's different these days is that some of those guys flapping their gums also happen to be armed to the teeth.
The Indiana Pacers' Jamaal Tinsley was reminded of that after an early morning shootout across downtown Indianapolis that left a friend wounded but could have been worse.
``The streets are pretty bare that time of the morning,'' Sgt. Paul Thompson said after his department determined Tinsley's attackers used an assault rifle. ``If it happened during rush hour, God knows what would have happened.''
Ten years ago, we practically celebrated Charles Barkley's willingness to take the knuckleheads on. Like lots of ballplayers whose workdays effectively start at 8 p.m., the Chuckster liked to go out on the town afterward and one thing often led to another. Back then, though, nearly all of them were settled with fists.
Barkley punched out one guy who provoked him in a Cleveland bar in 1996, turned down an offer to settle, then won the case and laughed, ``Why should I give him $12,000? He doesn't get a rebound. He doesn't get hit in the head by Karl Malone.''
A year later in Orlando, Fla., a man threw ice and a glass at a table where Barkley sat with three women. Chuck caught the guy and threw him through a plate-glass window. Barkley joked at the time he'd become such a magnet for trouble that, ``if I go out to a bar tonight and someone gets killed, I'm going to get charged with conspiracy to commit murder.''
Nobody's laughing now.
Not after Tinsley and his posse exchanged words with a rival group outside a nightclub, sparking a running gun battle around 4 a.m. Sunday that left Joey Qatato, the team's equipment manager and a backseat passenger in Tinsley's Rolls Royce, with gunshot wounds to both elbows. It was only the latest in a series of violent crimes against athletes recently, from stickups at the Chicago-area homes of NBA players Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker this summer, to the shooting death of the Redskins' Sean Taylor during a botched burglary at his Miami home barely two weeks ago.
Blame Tinsley for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you wouldn't be far from the truth.
The incident marked the third time since last October he's been in the middle of a violent disturbance at a bar or nightclub. Considering he arrived with three carloads of friends and relatives - a few packing their own heat - Tinsley can't say running into trouble was a complete surprise. The Pacers wouldn't buy it, anyway.
``This is something we can't just put right behind us and walk away from,'' team president Larry Bird told Pacers.com. ``It's something we'll have to discuss. I don't know how long it'll take and we'll continue to talk about it. We have to make a change, there's no question about it.''
Exactly what that ``change'' involves remains to be seen. Tinsley was excused from practice Sunday and even though he's been Indiana's early season MVP, the Pacers could try and unload him, which they did with tenured troublemakers Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson. Or suspend him for a few games, as they did with forward Shawne Williams even after marijuana charges against him were dropped.
What the Pacers can't do - and won't even try - is to stop Tinsley or any other player from going out.
``These guys have every right to go to a nightclub. I have a right, everybody here,'' coach Jim O'Brien reminded reporters, ``can be out till 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. It was not a good decision and that's basically it. I'm sure he knows that and I'm sure there will be a lifestyle change for him.''
Teammate Jermaine O'Neal suggested the first step might be to leave some of the buddies, the bling and attitude at home.
``You cannot stop living, but you can do a better job putting yourself in better situations to prevent these type of incidents happening,'' he said.
Back in the day, Barkley vowed to continue going wherever he felt like going and he did. Few athletes were more accessible and none quite as entertaining. One of the great treats of the traveling pro basketball carnival was watching him hold court in a bar after holding court on the court - and reading about how Barkley sometimes dispensed his unique brand of justice afterward.
But that was then. Today, the distance between pro athletes and some of the rest of us has widened to the point where asking for attention is almost the same thing as asking for trouble.
``Obviously, it's time for these guys to take a look at everything that's happened throughout our league, throughout professional sports,'' Bird said, ``and step back and take a hard look at it and make smarter decisions.''
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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org
 

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