Saddle Up

When Jason Gardner goes pro, he'll need a posse. Here's the man to lead it.

Dear Jason Gardner: I realize there is still a month before you start official practice for your senior season as the leader of the University of Arizona basketball team, but I wanted to contact you before things started getting hectic. Before long, you're going to be (as the cool people say) taking your game to the next level and playing in the NBA. And then, if you do really well in the NBA, you might be able to take it to the next level after that, which is playing for Argentina or Yugoslavia.

Anyway, if you're going to be a pro basketball player, you're going to need a posse, and I'd like to apply for a position in that posse. I know that there are two other seniors who might go on to the NBA, but really, Rick Anderson has beach volleyball written all over him and I sunburn real easily. As for Luke Walton, he listens to the Grateful Dead.

Have you ever heard the Grateful Dead? Do you know where they got their name? It's that after being subjected to their music, that's what people feel like when they finally are. Here's an old joke you can pass on to Luke:

Q. What did the Grateful Dead fan say when the drugs wore off?

A: Dude, this music SUCKS!

Anyway, those other two are cool and all, but you're my guy. We have a lot in common. We share the same birthday, for example, although I am a few years older than you. You play point guard in college; I played point guard in college. (Of course, when I played, it was illegal to dunk, so all the sweet lob passes I threw went to guys who would catch them, come down, fake two or three times, rub off the assist and then go up for the lay-up.) And there's a young woman who sat next to you in one of your classes whom I used to coach when she was in high school.

It's fate.

Now, you might be skeptical about this. You've probably seen the articles in Sports Illustrated and in some of the papers that put the whole posse scene in a bad light. That's just another example of The Man tryin' to keep us down.

I mean, look what they did to Mike Bibby. What's wrong with a guy having two or three or nine kids with some woman and still only referring to her as his "girlfriend?" Heck, if he doesn't move on, in four or five years, he might start calling her his "fiancée."

And what's the big deal if he makes his posse members get matching tattoos on the north end of their butts that read "Team Dime?" That's just a reference to the fact that he wears No. 10 when he plays. Just think what you could do with the 22 that you wear. Double Deuce. Two-two. Veinte Dos. The possibilities are endless.

People make too much about that whole tattoo thing, anyway. The fact that they had to get those tattoos doesn't mean that Bibby owns them. That would be demeaning and probably illegal. He's just renting them until such a time that they come to the realization that they've traded what little self-respect they had for a nice ride.

And what a nice ride! New Escalade SUVs for everybody. Heck, I know guys who would suck the tattoos off Bibby's chest and transplant them onto their own bodies in exchange for a Cadillac.

I realize that there is a great chance that you might not even want or need a posse. Your mother moved here to be near you and I have the utmost respect for her. Most mothers are really cool.

But just in case you are thinking of having a posse, please keep me in mind. Among my qualifications are:

· I have two kids who both played multiple sports from the time they were little, so I'm really good at just sitting in a vehicle, waiting for an athlete to walk out of a gym and then be driven home.

· I keep up with the latest trends, so I could give you really cool nicknames, like J-to-the-Izzo-G-to-the-Something-o or J-Rock or En Garde! ... ner. I'll work on those.

· I understand basketball, so I can commiserate with you after games. I can say things like "What's up with those refs?" and "What's the deal with your teammates droppin' all those passes and messin' with your stats?"

· I know lots of people, so I could recruit new members to your posse, several of whom already have their own cars. That could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Just the other day, I was talking to this guy I know named Alex Raptis. He was born and raised in Nogales to Greek and Mexican parents, where his folks ran a restaurant. (Can you imagine a Greek-Mexican restaurant? When you get done eating and try to break the dishes, all the melted cheese holds the broken pieces together.)

Anyway, Alex says he's in. He loves your game and claims that he is an ardent supporter of the Posse System. Actually, he fluctuates between ardent supporter and passionate proponent. I suggested that he could help other NBA players find the right guys to do their every bidding. Sort of a Posses R Us. (Of course, for some of those dolts, we'd have to keep it real and call it We Be Posses.)

In all sincerity, I'm a big fan of yours. You showed me a lot when you came back from that disastrous NBA tryout and then had an All-American season. I expect even greater things from you this season.

Of course, there's a simple explanation for that NBA tryout thing. You needed Alex and me standing on the sidelines, dressed in baggy, wildly overpriced denim clothing, shouting, "Yeeeeeaaah! That's my boooooooy!"

Anyway, good luck this season and please keep me in mind.

Your Posse Leader-in-Waiting, Tom

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