Jeff Pendergraph, in his first season in the NBA, is already one of
the more interesting characters playing for the Trail Blazers. Smart
and outgoing with just a bit of crazy mixed in, Pendergraph has assumed
the role of quirky post player with Arizona ties that was vacated when
Channing Frye left Portland for Phoenix.
To get a better grasp on what makes Pendergraph
tick, we'll check in with the rookie from time to time in a occasional
series known henceforth as "Jeff Pender-graphs".
Jeff Pendergraph doesn’t mind going by his given name, or by his initials. “Jeff” is a nice enough name. And “JP” works in a pinch as well if you’re happen to be one of those people who simply don’t have the time to pronounce a four-letter word.
But people like nicknames. Seems that to some, there’s no better way to welcome someone into your inner circle than to think up a cleaver handle for the new guy other than the one his parents gave him. It denotes familiarity, and Pendergraph is one of those guys everyone wants to be familiar with.
Mike Rice was the first person to float the name “Snake” for Pendergraph, who owns a few of said reptiles, and then proceeded to repeat the nickname ad nauseum while providing analysis alongside Mike Barrett. Reaction to Pendergraph being dubbed “Snake” by the man known to many as “Wild Rice” was mixed at best.
“Snake? I don’t know about that,” said Pendergraph. “It’s from a movie that I myself have never seen and only heard of when he told me what it was. That was over my head.”
That movie is “Escape From New York”, which stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a one-eyed war hero turned bank robber who is tasked with rescuing the President of the United States after Air Force One crash lands in Manhattan, which by 1997 (the movie was released in 1981) has been turned into a maximum security prison city. Seems plausible enough.
Whether Rice thinks Pendergraph resembles Snake Plissken, despite a few obvious dissimilarities (Pendergraph boasts two functioning eyes and is, for the time being, sans feathered mullet) is unknown, but what is obvious is that when it comes to giving Pendergraph a new moniker, there’s no shortage of suggestions.
“I’ve heard ‘JP’,” said Pendergraph. “Someone told me ‘JP’ stood for ‘Just Psycho.’ I heard ‘Enforcer.’ I heard ‘The Problem Child.’ That one is kind of cool. That’s all right. I might have to go with that one.”
“Enforcer” already belongs to Maurice Lucas, and while “Just Psycho” has a nice ring to it, it’s too close to the nickname Pacers rookie Tyler Hansbourgh, who was dubbed “Psycho T” during his days at North Carolina. Radio analyst Antonio Harvey calls Pendergraph “Lil’ Bit”, as in he’s a “lil’ bit” crazy, a “lil’ bit” strange, a “lil’ bit” different, and so on.
Other nicknames been offered up range from those describing his style of play (DePender-graph) to his facial hair (Pender-stache) to the tools used to attain his degree in accounting from Arizona State (TI-31 Graphing Dunkulator). There’s “Turnt Up” which describes Pendergraph’s approach on the court, but that suggestion was promptly shot down by the rookie.
“Turnt up?” said Pendergraph. “That’s not even a nickname. That’s just me.”
As of now, no one nickname has really caught on. Maybe some kind of amalgamation of various suggestions ends up. Maybe nothing ever sticks. It’s not exactly something you can predict, and as Pendergraph points out, it’s not something you can control.
“I’m not the one to make up my own nickname,” said Pendergraph. “That’s kind of weird.”