Two of the players who came off worst in last February's Sports Illustrated exposé about disciplinary issues in the UCLA basketball program are seeking to repair their reputations in entirely different ways.
Reeves Nelson is suing the magazine. Drew Gordon is embracing the chance to let NBA teams see he has matured.
According to TMZ, Nelson hired entertainment lawyer Keith A. Fink and will file a $10 million lawsuit against Sports Illustrated and writer George Dohrmann. The suit claims the magazine "recklessly and negligently failed to investigate" claims in the story that Nelson started fights, intentionally injured teammates and urinated on a pile of teammate Tyler Honeycutt's clothes on his bed.
Nelson, a 6-foot-9 forward from Modesto, was expected to be UCLA's best player last season after averaging 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds as a sophomore and making the All-Pac-10 team. Instead, he was suspended multiple times for conduct detrimental to the team before being dismissed after only six games, contributing to the Bruins missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
The lawsuit is Nelson's latest attempt to combat the damage the SI story did to his already battered image. He previously gave his side of the story in an emotional TV interview. And in a Feb. 29 letter to SI also forwarded to members of the media, Nelson's lawyer refuted many of the claims levied against him.
Gordon's response to the SI article, by contrast, has been far more understated. The New Mexico big man told the San Jose Mercury News he looks forward to the opportunity to meet with NBA teams personally and prove he's no longer the hot-headed, uncoachable personality he was portrayed to be during his year plus at UCLA.
"We were freshmen, and we weren't getting much playing time," Gordon told the Mercury News. "So we did take advantage of the college life and make some ill-advised decisions. But when I read that article, there was so much negativity there. It was hurtful."
Unlike Nelson, whose hopes of being drafted in June were all but torpedoed by the way his UCLA career ended, Gordon has the advantage of three trouble-free years at New Mexico to demonstrate his character. Questions about his character, erratic jump shot and lack of a back-to-the-basket game will still pop up in the next month, but he will very likely at least get selected in the second round or invited to a training camp.