View Full Version : "I am an alcoholic" Baker

09-11-2003, 11:40 PM
ESPN.com news services
Boston Celtics forward Vin Baker, who was suspended by the team in February and did not return, for the first time has acknowledged that he has an alcohol problem.


In a wide-ranging interview with the Boston Globe, Baker talked about his problem and said he has not had a drink since Feb. 27 -- the day the team suspended him for what it called "personal issues."

"I am an alcoholic," Baker told the Globe for a story published in Thursday's editions.

The 6-foot-11 power forward said he started a 28-day rehabilitation program at a Connecticut hospital five days after his season-ending suspension. Baker then spent the next 10 weeks in supervised outpatient treatment with daily visits and testing at the hospital and now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and speaks with a sponsor daily.

Baker told the Globe he is ready to play this season and has been working out, but is uncertain how much he will contribute to the team.

"For me, I've worked so hard this summer physically," Baker said. "I've worked harder mentally and emotionally. What I've worked for is to come back and help the team, whatever way I can help the team. What capacity that's in right now, I don't know."

From a playing perspective, Baker -- whose role diminished as the season progressed -- has no idea what to expect.

"Just coming out and competing and having fun and helping this team win" would be satisfying, he told the Globe. "I really feel like I can help this team win basketball games. Honestly, I can't give you a number on rebounds and points."

Declining numbers the past few seasons were one indication that the four-time All-Star might have a problem. When they traded for him in 2002, the Celtics hoped Baker could give them a low-post presence, but he struggled and often looked awkward on the court in 52 games.

"You're drinking too much [is] the biggest problem, and then you're not playing well," Baker told the Globe. "So, it compounds and compounds. The days keep going. Like I learned up at [the hospital], it's always 'Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.' That's how it was."

Before his suspension, Baker started only nine games, averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds, well below his career averages of 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in 10 NBA seasons.

"Coach [Jim O'Brien] sat me down a couple times and said, 'If you think there's an issue, then we need to deal with it,' " Baker told the Globe. "That was from smelling [the alcohol] in practice. He wanted to deal with it. Obviously, the alcoholism and the alcoholic speaking say, 'No, there's no problem, coach. I'm going to be fine.' "

In February, Baker's problem came to a head with the team-ordered suspension.

"It was a group effort," Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Globe. "We had serious discussions and negotiations about how it all ought to be. But the goal was to give this player the structure and support and incentive that he needed, so, it made it very clear that his best choice was to make a change."

The NBA Players' Association threatened to file a grievance and possibly pursue legal action over the suspension Feb. 28, but now Baker views the move as necessary for his well-being and career.

"The suspension gave me a chance at a new life, gave me a new lease on life, gave me a new chance at my career," Baker told the Globe. "I know a lot of people view the suspension as an ax job and he's out of here. But I didn't view it as that. I viewed it as a chance that they gave me to change my life.

"Obviously, now six months later with not touching a drink, I can see clearly how that gave me a new lease on life."

Baker, the Celtics and the NBA are working out a program for road games, according to the Globe's report. He will attend AA meetings when he arrives in an NBA city, have a member of the Celtics' organization to turn to, and have counselors to call.

The club said Thursday that it stood behind Baker.

"We're going to do the best we can to provide the structure for Vin to be successful," team spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz told The Associated Press.

Baker has eased back into basketball, playing pickup games with players at the University of Hartford, his alma mater, in late May. He has been working with a personal trainer all summer, and with training camp near, scrimmages with the University of Connecticut, playing against heralded center Emeka Okafor.

"Conditioning-wise, this probably is the best I've been in any of my seasons coming back. Now, it's about just getting on the floor and playing," Baker told the Globe. "I've obviously answered the questions for me from the physical standpoint. Now, it's the emotional part, getting back out and enjoying it and playing the game like I played it eight years ago, five years ago. I'm working on that every day."

Baker has three years and about $44 million left on his contract. He and guard Shammond Williams were obtained from the SuperSonics for guards Kenny Anderson and Joseph Forte and center Vitaly Potapenko in July 2002.

"The only thing that I can hope for is that people understand that I went through a situation that was very tough for me," Baker told the Globe. "It's something that was bigger than basketball, bigger than scoring 20 points a game. I hope they can understand that."

Big Boy Laroux
09-12-2003, 07:43 AM
well, admitting it is the first step.

but i thought this thread was going to be about a chef that likes to make a lot of rum cakes...

09-12-2003, 11:18 AM
I hope he can tackle the addiction. Good luck to him.

09-12-2003, 10:44 PM
I was gonna come in here to make a joke until I actually read it. Good fro him for stepping up and admitting he has a problem, that takes balls. GOOD LUCK