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March 09, 2010

Suspension smoke monster gets Allen

This MSU basketball season is kind of like watching "Lost." As the season comes to a close, all these seemingly random incidents finally start to make sense and form a picture. Kind of.

    Maybe that's reading too much into Chris Allen's suspension for Friday's Big Ten Tournament opener (and perhaps beyond, if Allen doesn't do some convincing in the next couple days), but look at the picture now. Lucas in December. Summers in February. Allen in March. Izzo constantly reminding us that these are not knee-jerk decisions made on a whim. That they're decisions made over time, with input from assistants and staffers and former players.
    It's almost as if Izzo knew all along that he was going to have to send a message to all three juniors -- close friends, roommates, extremely talented players and let's face it, guys who drive him nuts at times -- at one point or another. A loud message. This was all a big plan! Jacob has been pulling the strings all along!
    Then again, as you'll see from Izzo's comments to follow, something obviously happened between the Michigan game and Tuesday morning to act as the "last straw." It sounds kind of like a skipped team social function, but that's pure guesswork. I also used to think that Walt was the chosen one and The Others were aliens.
    Heeeeere's Izzo (after a lively practice, by the way, in which players and coaches were laughing, joking and having a blast. This beat is never boring):

    On the reason for the suspension:
    “Just not being a good teammate. There’s some guys that don’t understand that your team is the most valuable thing you have. You have a responsibility and an obligation to your team. He’s not demonstrating that to me or my staff, and so I told him to take the day off, which he did. But I’m telling him he’s taking a game off, and we’ll go down there and try to compete without him.”

    This is a basketball issue?
    “Yeah, it’s a basketball issue.”

    Will he travel with you?
    “In the next two days I’m gonna determine if it’s a game or a weekend. So if it’s a weekend he’s not traveling, if it’s a game he’s probably coming down separately on Friday night.”

    When will you determine that?
    “That’s a good question, probably … (laughing)… I’m not making fun of it, because it’s not funny. Probably me and my staff and my captains are gonna sit down and just figure out what you’ve got to do to just be a more valuable teammate. Have some responsibility to the guys. And you know I’ve always been big on the program, the program, the program. This is a decision not for the program, not for the coaching staff, this is a team decision. In my mind, I’m trying to make our team better and everybody understands you’ve got an obligation to your teammates. And everything you do, and how you work and how you play, and everything that goes on.
    “And you know, to his credit now, this has zero to do with the (Michigan) game, from the standpoint of he did a great job. Didn’t get any shots and I was more mad about it than him. Absolutely no issues with that. He’s just got to learn that he has a responsibility, whether it’s curfews, whether it’s a practice, whether it’s caring about one another. If I tell guys they’ve got to do stuff with each other. All those things.”

    So this is a violation of team rules?
    “Yeah I’d say a violation of team rules or responsibility to your teammates. Pick either one. I like the responsibility to your teammates. You’ve got a responsibility to your teammates on what you’ve got to do.”

    What was his reaction?
    “He was a little disappointed, I think understood. His teammates, one thing about us right now, we’re galvanized, man, we’re like steel. We’re battling through different adversities and we’re handling them. And you know what, we had a great, spirited (practice).”

    Another question trying to find out what Allen did...
    “An accumulation of things. I just, I want him to be a better teammate, I want him to spend more time with his team. I want him to understand he has an obligation to his team. If we don’t understand that, we’re not winning big without everybody. Does that mean he (is a) problem to his teammates? No, it really doesn’t. It means he has not bought in to obligations that make you a better teammate.”

    Who starts Friday?
    “I don’t know, maybe we should have a poll like ESPN and decide. But I could move Ray to the three and Delvon back in, depending on how he’s doing. I could move Day-Day back into the starting lineup. I could move maybe even Austin or Zeke in there. That has not been determined yet, to be honest with you, but it will by tomorrow.”

    You seem positive.
    “I am jacked. I am jacked.”

    Even with all the drama?
    “It’s not drama to me, hell, between what I’ve gone through, it’s not drama. But it’s what’s right. It’s what’s right. And sometimes you go through a year and you’ve got these little issues all over, which I’ve kind of openly sort of discussed with all you. There’s always been something, academically -– and some of his is that too –- and you have these little issues. And they become bigger issues. And you know what? I don’t want them to become big issues. This is too good a team, too good of players. I’ve just got some guys that are a little immature, and don’t want to take care of their business that I think they need to take care of. And with him, it’s teammates, it’s academics, it’s all those things.”

    Is it fair to say his response in next couple days will determine whether he plays after Friday?
    “I’d say that’s fair, but to be honest with you, it gets time, I mean, you guys know the deal. There are no decisions that are made over Sunday’s game or –- it’s an accumulation. I mean we’re not idiots around here. And so, one ‘You know what, I’m gonna do this right, coach’ isn’t gonna do it either. So that’s what I have to figure out with talking to him. Whether he wants to make those commitments – if he doesn’t, then I would be even more different.”

    Will he practice?
    “He will practice, whether it’s with the team or not I don’t know. He might have an individual with me, that would be a lot of fun.”

    Alone with you?
    “Yeah, that’d be fun, huh? That’d be a good practice.”

    How is he taking this?
    “He’s disappointed, but I think he knows. I think he knows, you know? Whether it be academically giving him a few chances. Chris is a very good student. Just, you have a responsibility, and to me, he’s shirking the responsibility to the program and to the team, on some of the things he’s doing. I swear to you, that’s it.”

    Is this surprising because he’s bought in the court, on defense?
    “Yeah it is, but still, when you’re starting to talk about these things as a junior, that’s concerning, too. I mean we had the Morrises of the world and by the end of their sophomore year, you know, they’re ready to move on. We’ve got a couple guys that are in their junior year and still immature. And my job is to make sure that they either get mature -– you know, I know this will sound trite and stupid. Probably 50 percent is for my team, none is for the program, none if for me, and the other 50 percent is probably for him. And I swear to you, that is the truth.”

    Izzo also mentioned that he told Morris Peterson seven times that he wasn't going to take him to Hawaii, and on the eighth time he finally decided to leave him home. As you know, Morris eventually made it back to the island.

  

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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