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Locks, Talk and Two Smoking Razors

Terrell Brandon may be cutting up the court in Minnesota, but in the hardscrabble northeast section of Portland, his hometown, he's got a whole staff wielding scissors. In the same building as his sportswear store, TB's Place, is Terrell's favorite off-season spot: his namesake barbershop. Around the corner from his childhood home, the chop shop is part civic center, part NBA hangout, the place to get the goods on hoop stars and community happenings-and the tightest fade in the West.

HIGH MAINTENANCE Terrell (on the tube) is very fussy, says Daunte Paschal, who's been cutting Terrell's hair since they met in sixth grade. The mustache must be really thin; he likes his nose and wants it to stand out. Brandon's hair? The wavier the better. Not too short. Perhaps childhood trauma made him so finicky: When Brandon was 10, a barber shaved his head by mistake. "Oh, I cried and cried," says Brandon. "I looked terrible."

THE RULES

Conversation runs the gamut, but keeping it clean is crucial. It's one of the codes of conduct listed on a sign at the door. Other prohibitions: "No smoking around the building other than tobacco; No unattended children; and Absolutely no credit or checks." 'Course, hoopsters get a little slack on the credit and the language at least when they come in after hours.

MIGHTY MOUSE? The hairline, Damon Stoudamire says, is the most important thing for a black man. Paschal uses a pink toothbrush to meticulously comb down stragglers, then gingerly buzzes them away. But forget about the post-shave alcohol facial rub: "Damon nearly jumped through the ceiling the first time I cleaned him up." Mighty Mouse says he does it himself at home. Paschal is dubious: "I hope he does."

TEASING IT Barbershop banter is rampant when the Blazers fill the chairs. "I should stop getting it cut so tight; I think I'm going bald," says 20-year-old Jermaine O'Neal. "Man, you're always going on about something stupid," jokes fleecy headed Carlos Rogers (in cap). "Shut up, man." "No, you better shut up." The exchange is typical. "Those two," says J.R. Rider, "are so sensitive."

CUTTING COSTS The business portfolio was just one reason to open shop. "I wanted a fun, positive, classy place for the neighborhood I grew up in," says Brandon, whose off-season home is nearby. He's kept the cuts cheap ($10, up to $20 for more sculpted dos) and the atmosphere casual and kid-friendly. Books like Dazzle the Dinosaur line the magazine racks. Race cars and crayons are behind the counter. The community responds in kind: The shop sees 50 to 60 heads a day.

KIDS IN A CANDY STORE The guys are notoriously slow in leaving. Certainly the dish entertains. ("These pants aren't tight! I've got no ass for tight jeans.") There's music (Erykah Badu, Blackstreet and local hip-hop band cool Nutz), TV (tuned to Terrell's most recent game on tape or Jerry Springer) and copious snacks, like peanuts and red licorice and-Stoudamire's fave-Gummi Bears.

YES MEN The shop has two barbers and is hiring two more. candidates must have cutting acumen and be role models. When Paschal (in white shirt) had his first of three children at 20, he dropped his hoop dreams and went to barber college. Now he runs the place and holds kids charity events. His cousin, barber Kenny Warren (in dark suit), played pro ball in Colombia and Sweden, has a BA and hosts a local TV talk show, Keep It Real.

CREATING A BUZZ Since Terrell has been with three different NBa squads in as many years, the barbershop has had a built-in clientele right off. It doesn't hurt that he plasters ads for the place in visiting locker rooms and offers free door-to door car service when the fellas are in town. Hornets David Wesley, Chuck Person and Anthony Mason and, naturally, all the Blazers (including Rider, who comes in once a week) have taken him up on it.

RUFF CUTS Absent teammates are prime fodder for dish. "We should start calling Rasheed 'The Spot,'" says Stoudamire regarding the quarter-sized puff of white hair floating on the left side of Wallace's head. "He needs to get that nappy head trimmed down," says Walt Williams (seated). Paschal muses on Brian Grant's snaking dreads and the ferocity of his game. "It's brash the way he's playing, so I like it, but if he were someone else, I'd cut them above his eyes."