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Treason or Not, He Remains a Good Sun

God told A.C. Green: “Phoenix.”

Go, my son, and be a Sun, He said.

(Or She.)

And so, this man who was, perhaps, the Lakers’ noblest role model is leaving us to side with Charles Barkley, the man who spits on the concept of being a role model.

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These two, as different as A.C. and D.C., will unite in an effort to keep the Lakers from succeeding. That’s right--from this day forward, forward A.C. Green will do everything in his power to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, beginning with the season opener Nov. 5 at the Forum.

When that night comes, we will give A.C. a well-deserved standing O.

But not today.

Today is the first day I have ever felt like booing A.C. Green.

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Not only did he leave the Lakers of his own free will, not only did he reject their generous offer--don’t go blaming either Jerry, Buss or West, for this--but A.C. grabbed the green from the very team L.A. is trying hardest to catch.

OK, he felt he had to go.

Did he have to go there ?

Playing for Phoenix is sleeping with the enemy. If there is one thing I never wanted to see inside the Forum, it’s Green wearing purple.

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Neither did Jerry West.

“A.C. Green has been a valuable member of the Lakers for eight years and we thank him for his contributions to the franchise and wish him every success in the future,” the Laker general manager said Tuesday.

“To be quite honest, however, we don’t understand A.C.'s decision. We said all summer that re-signing A.C. was our No. 1 priority, so naturally we’re disappointed to have him leave. However, it seems clear that for whatever reason, A.C. simply didn’t want to be here any longer.”

Like football player Reggie White, with whom he has ministerial callings in common, A.C. Green is an inspirational athlete who one day awakened to a divine notion: Thou shalt be a free agent.

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Each of these men forespoke publicly that God would instruct him what to do. And God, during a break between creating mighty rivers and healthy babies, eventually decided that Green Bay needed help along the defensive line and that Phoenix needed somebody who could guard Scottie Pippen.

And so, the Laker breakup continues.

Kareem, then Coop, then Riles, then Magic, then Byron . . . Now A.C.

James Worthy, last vestige of Showtime. Last of the Laker Mohicans.

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At camp, James will be calling out to teammates, “Hey, you!”

Kareem got old. Earvin got sick. Pat Riley got out of the business. (Temporarily.) Sam Perkins got traded. Michael Cooper and Byron Scott lost a step. But this is different. This is basketball treason. Nothing forced Green out. He chose to go. He has chosen to play for the team that eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs. He left the lambs to lie down with the lions.

Does this make A.C. a bad guy?

Heavens, no.

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All it means is that even the best of souls are lured by temptation.

I rather hoped that if Green had to go, he would go to Portland. That way, he could say he missed the old hometown. Even though the Trail Blazers, too, play in the Lakers’ division, at least we could be sympathetic. The man still spends much of his summers up there in the woods. He has taken the Lakers for home-cooked meals.

I guess in Phoenix, he can take them to Dan Majerle’s restaurant.

Or maybe double-date with Sir Charles and Madonna.

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Now I know how Boston Red Sox fans must have felt when Wade Boggs went to the New York Yankees. It hurts to see someone go voluntarily to your main rival. Yet what makes this Green matter sadder is that Boggs’ popularity had bogged down with some Boston fans. But name me anybody who disliked A.C. Green.

I know guys popular as a player but not as a person. I know guys popular as a person but not as a player. A.C. Green was the whole enchilada.

Not once did this man give anyone cause for disrespect. Never spoke out of turn. Never malingered on the job. Never told anyone away from the court, “Get out of my face.” Never got caught with his pants down.

I can’t call him a saint. I’ve seen push come to shove. I’ve seen him square off with opponents. But, to quote from the Book of Hershiser, Chapter 1, Verse 45, “Being a Christian doesn’t mean being a wimp.” Green could play mean without being mean. He could talk the talk and walk the walk.

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Now onward goes this Christian soldier. He gets to play Jekyll to Barkley’s Hyde. Mr. Saturday Night Live meets Mr. Sunday Morning.

A.C. Green, the good Sun.

As going-away gifts, we could give him a bar of soap so he can wash out Barkley’s mouth and a tube of lipstick so he can kiss off L.A.

Nothing obviously means as much to A.C. Green as winning. Not his fans, not his teammates, not anybody who has ever set foot in Inglewood. Winning. That’s it. It isn’t like he is leaving for more money. It isn’t like he is leaving because he has never won a championship. It isn’t like he is leaving because the boss calls him names or the media call him worse.

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He is leaving because he would rather be with somebody else.

To quote from the gospel according to Whitney Houston, A.C., weeeeee will alwayyyyyys love youuuuuu .

But, for today, shame on you.


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