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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

Once a phenom, Griffin struggling

December 28, 2003

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— He once was one of the brightest stars to emerge from the world of Philadelphia high school basketball.

Today, at age 21, Eddie Griffin is without a job and with an uncertain future.

Griffin was released by the Houston Rockets last week. He is available to any NBA team that wants a 6-foot-10 forward with quickness, shooting range, rebounding ability and a knack for shot-blocking, but no general manager is going to go near him for the foreseeable future.

For Griffin faces two trials in the Houston area, one for a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge of assault with bodily injury, and the other for a misdemeanor charge of drug possession.

Griffin was released earlier this month from voluntary substance abuse and depression therapy. A Houston judge, ruling at a Dec. 10 hearing on the assault charges, ordered him to observe a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. His drug trial starts Jan. 20.

The Rockets, who had counted on Griffin to be a key figure in their rebuilding program when they obtained the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2001, have been quick to put Griffin in their rear-view mirror.

Houston players found out about Griffin's release in the newspapers. Guard Steve Francis, the team captain, said he was surprised at his release.

"You've got to give somebody a second chance," Francis said. "Hopefully, he'll have a good support group of people trying to help him."

Jeff Van Gundy, in his first season as Rockets head coach, said Griffin's actions "set us back as an organization and as a team."

"We didn't do this to Eddie," he said. "Eddie did this to himself and to us."

Rockets GM Carroll Dawson said he worked with Griffin "many times" in the last year and a half and tried to help him, as did the coaching staff, and that his intentions were "to do the right thing."

"It didn't work out that way," Dawson said. "It's disappointing. But it's real life."

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