DALLAS -- Now that he's finally gone, gone, gone, the worst possible reaction is remorse for Roy Tarpley. What Tarpley deserved, Tarpley received. Life proved to be extremely fair in this case.
If the human element has to be involved, then reserve your sympathy strictly for fellow Dallas Mavericks Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper and Brad Davis. Those three teammates had to endure Tarpley the longest. And what a hardship it must have been.
Otherwise, this is nothing more than a great business deal. Tarpley's permanent removal from the Dallas Mavericks because continuing drug problems is the same as the disposal of a rotten piece of $8.45 million real estate. Tarpley and his guaranteed contract were holding this franchise in public relations bankruptcy.
And while the Mavericks had desperately sought a financial escape clause with Tarpley, it was Tarpley himself who finally liberated the team.
During the last two days, he repeatedly refused to take a drug test; under NBA rules, strike three was declared yesterday. Tarpley is hereby banned for life, but becomes eligible for reinstatement in two years.
Basically, nothing he ever did off the court made sense, but this is the ultimate puzzle. He walked away from $8.45 million and possibly his basketball career by becoming the first player in NBA history to be booted for refusing to be tested.
And now the Mavericks -- as an organization, as a team, and as a viable part of our community -- are free, free at last from the Tarpley shackles.
Basketball-wise, of course, this is a disaster. The best player in franchise history, and the key to the current roster contending in the Midwest Division, is history.
But Tarpley's lifestyle, particularly during the last month, had proven to be such a concern that the 7-footer's immense basketball talent had become secondary.
As feared, his early September acquittal by a Dallas jury in a well-publicized driving while intoxicated case plunged Tarpley off the deep end of Greenville Avenue.
"After the trial, Roy hit the streets thinking he was bulletproof," one club official said.
There are at least one million sordid stories a week unfolding under the neon on Greenville. Of late, Tarpley was involved in something like 900,000 of them. And still counting.
There were constant reports to the Mavericks and media outlets about Tarpley's heavy use of alcohol in nightclubs. And this from a guy who was supposed to be involved in a substance-abuse rehab program.
And then there's this story from Greenville Avenue last week:
A Dallas cop pulls his police cruiser up to a stop light. He glances over at the car in the next lane. Staring back at him is Roy Tarpley, who is with friends.
The cop looks away. Tarpley doesn't. The cop looks again. Tarpley still is staring with a "you-can't-touch-me" smirk. The cop doesn't want trouble. The light turns green, and the cop doesn't move. He wants Tarpley to move on. Roy refuses. Tarpley also sits at the green light, continuing to evil-eye the cop, obviously getting his kicks and showing off for his pals. The cop finally makes a quick turn off Greenville just to avoid an incident.
If not for the events of yesterday, it was merely a matter of time before Tarpley was involved in something from which no high-dollar lawyer could rescue him. Now more than ever, Tarpley was a ticking time bomb.
Yes, the Mavericks' Rick Sund and Norm Sonju gambled with Tarpley 18 months ago. They traded away a motherlode of first-round picks to build a veteran team around him, a team that could contend for an NBA title.
You read it here in June 1990 that the right moves had been made. That assessment proved very wrong. The eventual loss of Sam Perkins to free agency had not been factored into my opinion. Perkins was a shocking loss. And then came bad luck with the November knee injuries to Tarpley and Fat Lever. But regardless of the excuses, trading the three No. 1s last year now becomes a blunder. Those moves hitched the team to Tarpley, and he was totally unable to handle this kind of trust.
Unfortunately for Harper, Blackman, Lever, Rodney McCray, etc., the Tarpley backlash won't end with his departure yesterday.
This is a team now headed in another direction. Veterans must be dealt for draft picks and younger players as a total rebuilding process begins. Model Dallas citizens and great players such as Harper and Blackman must be sacrificed as a result of Tarpley's being a fool.
Gone, yes. But it will be forever before the Mavericks escape the long, dark shadow of Roy Tarpley.