Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gene Wojceichowski- Still Full of Drivel

Even when he picks a very defensible angle on a topic he still comes out sounding like a dummy.

This is that special time of the year when the nation's best freshman basketball players appear in front of the TV cameras, say that deep in their hearts they'll always be a Bruin-Wildcat-Trojan-Tiger-blah, blah, blah, and then announce their decision to leave school for "the next level."

I like how that's in quotes. As if it's worth questioning whether or not the NBA is the next level above the NCAA.

That's what UCLA's Kevin Love said: "I'm in the right spot to take my game to the next level."

That's what Kansas State's Michael Beasley said: "It's time for me to take my game to the next level."

That's what Memphis' Derrick Rose sort of said: "… I feel that it is the right time for me to take this step."

That's what Arizona's Jerryd Bayless sort of said: "It's the right time to move on."

That's what they all say: Love, Beasley, Rose, Bayless, USC's O.J. Mayo, Indiana's Eric Gordon, maybe even Beasley's K-State freshman teammate, Bill Walker. The basketball Class of 2011 just became the One and Dones.

Well, ten or so of them, anyways. The other several hundred are remaining in school, well aware that they don't have the necessary talent to compete in the NBA.

First of all, if the NCAA and the NBA really want to improve our lives, they'll outlaw the use of "the next level."

Because the NBA is really "the previous level?" Because it would be better for kids to come up with a different, untrue reason for leaving school? Sure, it's a cliche, but it's one that has enough truth to it to not bug even someone as critical as myself.

While we're at it, no athlete is allowed to say, "It's not about the money," because, dude, we know it's about the money.

Sometimes. In many cases because the athlete in question grew up with almost no money at all, and has a family they want to provide for. This cliche is worthy of being complained about when it's said by a pro athlete choosing $50 million over $30 million, but I don't see any problem when it's a college athlete choosing $15 million over $0 million.

And on a more general note, no airline pilot is allowed to say, "Well, folks, we're just waiting on some paperwork and then we'll be on our way." There is no paperwork. You're stalling. Just go ahead and tell us the flight's been delayed 40 minutes.

OK, Peter King. Thanks for the Annoying Travel Note of the Week. Tell us about how nice the concierge at the Best Western in Saskatoon was while you're at it.

Anyway, technically speaking, the "next level" for these guys is the National Basketball Developmental League. The next level after that is the NBA.

Oh, yeah, I bet you'll be seeing all of those guys you just mentioned suiting up in the D-League come this fall. No doubt about it. I'd be shocked if Gordon cracks an NBA roster before 2010. What, you think Kevin Durant just came straight out of college and started contributing for the Sonics? Poppycock.

The NBA isn't kidding when it says its league is where Amazing Happens. Amazing because the NBA forces the very best high school players to wait until they're 19 (or one year removed from their high school graduation) before they can declare for the NBA draft.

That's not amazing. It's a (kind of) well intentioned rule. If that's amazing, lots of stuff is amazing. I won't even make a list. OK, maybe just one example- cardboard boxes.

That's the only reason why Love spent a season at Westwood, Mayo at L.A., Beasley at Manhattan, Rose at Memphis, Gordon at Bloomington. What a deal. The NBA gets a free minor league system, and the college programs rent a star player for nothing more than the price of room, tuition and books.

Whether it's working out this way or not, the NBA is merely trying to improve the overall talent level in the league and prevent guys like Lenny Cooke and Taj McDavid from ruining their careers before they have a chance to get off the ground. It's not really exploitation from that angle. The NCAA is a different story, but it's not like they made the rule. They've been exploiting athletes for years, but this doesn't do much to change that. It just means they get to exploit some super-talented athletes that otherwise would have never passed through their system.

And, as usual, the player is used as a commodity. He becomes -- what's the term? -- "product."

Agreed, but I don't think the NBA sees them that way. The NCAA does, but still- not their policy, not their fault. The one-and-done rule has nothing to do with them.

USC coach Tim Floyd didn't attend Mayo's farewell news conference. But he did issue a statement thanking Mayo, who wore NBA logo socks in his final game, for "everything O.J. did for all of us the year he was with us."

What Mayo did was increase average attendance at USC's Galen Center from 5,798 a year ago to 9,647. Cha-ching.

I'm sure Floyd sees Mayo as nothing else. Just an ATM in sneakers.

Anyway, Floyd will soon welcome USC signee DeMar DeRozan, "… probably the best NBA prospect on the West Coast and maybe in the country," Floyd told the Los Angeles Times. In other words, another one and done.

Whom Floyd hopes will help him win, but only because Floyd wants more money. His motives are entirely financially motivated and have nothing to do with putting the best team possible on the floor except inasmuch as it helps him get a new contract.

Meanwhile, K-State coach Frank Martin told reporters at Beasley's recent news conference that "Mike has put our brand out there again, let people know Kansas State basketball is back, and he's put us on national television."

Branding. Television exposure. Revitalized K-State hoops. That's super.

Now then, what exactly did Kansas State do for Beasley?

What exactly does any school do for a student athlete who doesn't graduate? What's the difference between being a superstar like Beasley and leaving after a year with no diploma, or being one of the hundreds of role players every year (particularly among the ranks of men's basketball) who finish out their eligibility and have to leave school without earning a diploma? Gene has correctly identified the problem- unfortunately, he's still working on figuring out the fact that the NBA's age policy has nothing to do with it.

Sorry, but I'm not seeing the upside for the players here. Everybody conveniently benefits from this mandatory, one-year sentence except the actual freshmen. K-State gets its precious brand and TV games. USC gets its attendance spike. UCLA gets to the Final Four. Memphis does too, and coach John Calipari gets a new contract.

As for NBA teams, their scouts get a whole year to evaluate the freshman talent against college, not high school players. And here's the best part: The NCAA provides the talent free of charge!

Just like they always have! And yes, the NBA does want to give teams an extra year to evaluate talent. They're protecting their league from unnecessary dilution, and protecting unprepared players from themselves. For a year anyways. It's not much, but it's something.

In return, the players are deprived of the opportunity to go directly from high school to the NBA, even if their games are ready or near-ready.

That's the idea, yes, because many players in the past have proven to be horribly poor judges as to how ready or near-ready their games were. If they're really that good, that draft pick and those dollars will be waiting for them just a short year down the line.

They also risk injury. IU's Gordon and his left wrist can tell you all about it.

Take out an insurance policy. If they're really that good, they can afford to pay it because they'll be making big money 12 months later. This isn't that complicated.

Did I mention how academic integrity takes it in the shorts?

I'm getting very frustrated at this piece, because I know I'm not being funny or saying anything new. But really, Gene? Seriously? A buttsex joke? Academic integrity has been "taking it in the shorts" from the NCAA for decades now.

These freshman stars are only required to attend at least one semester's worth of school. Once the season is finished and they declare for the pros, anything goes. They can phone it in, skip classes or quit altogether.

Of course, the downside to that is something called the Academic Progress Rating. If a program's APR is too low, the NCAA can take away future scholarships. So if, say, Mayo, decides to quit going to classes this spring semester, USC pays the price.

OK, good. So you realize that. While it's an imperfect system, it's still a system. The NCAA has a long ways to go but they're at least trying to look like they're coming close to making an effort.

The entire arrangement needs a bar of soap and a shower. Worse yet, there's talk of the NBA possibly adding another year to the draft ban. Dumb. The NBA ought to get out of the minimum age requirement business.

After all, amazing happened when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted an 18-year-old King James, and when the Charlotte Hornets drafted a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant.

Sure, let's let the exceptions dictate the rules. Have fun pretending like there aren't dozens of high-school-to-the-NBA failures for every Kobe or LeBron. I'll be here in the real world, realizing that some promising careers might have been saved had the kids been forced to go to school and grow up a little bit before entering the league.

And the NCAA ought to get out of the enabling business. Being at school isn't the same thing as being in school. Rationalize it any way you want, but one and done is mercenary sports, nothing more.

OK Gene, I'm going to stop you right there. This is it, we're done. The NBA's fucking age rule has essentially nothing to do with the massive academic problems faced by the NCAA in revenue sports.

And no, Jermaine O'Neal, it also has nothing to do with racism. Go back to being injured and cashing enormous paychecks.

I'm sure some people out there will disagree with me or want to point out something stupid I said. I'm not around during the day to check comments and defend myself, so feel free to carry out the blogopages equivalent of suckerpunching me or kneeing me in the balls. It's fine, I won't notice. My favorite baseball team has now lost four straight games which they were leading in the 8th inning. The world of sports can't get much worse for me right now. Life is just so damn tough.


Anonymous said...

I'm not going to say the policy is exploitive, but the NBA does gain financially from it. Top picks like Oden and Durant came into the league with a built in fan base that they wouldn't have had if they had been drafted out of high school. As for the racism thing, I don't think the NBA was being racist in making the rule, but a lot of the commentary that accompanied it had the tinge of racism. 18 year old basketball players not being ready for millions, but no complaints about 18 year old tennis stars and so on.

Good point about graduation rates. If you don't graduate, there's not much difference between playing 1 year or playing 4 years. Also, Bill Walker isn't one and done. He didn't play a lot of games last year, but getting injured doesn't mean he stopped having to go to class.

Martin said...

Typical of a writer to not actually come up with a solution though. Gene tells teh NCAA to get out of the enabling business....but how? They can't make a kid stay in school, even if they had the balls to start giving out guaranteed 4 year scholarships. This is nothing more then a Gene Indignant Rage article. He's teh oldest Angry Young Man at ESPN and most of his articles are useless crap like this.

Tonus said...

"Now then, what exactly did Kansas State do for Beasley?"

Besides giving him a scholarship and an opportunity to get a semester's worth of education if he wanted, as well as a year's worth of playing competitive basketball before heading to the NBA?

I agree with the sentiment that the NCAA is pretty much making lemonade with what they've been given. The NBA instituted a rule to protect themselves and it leaves the NCAA in an awkward spot, and they're making the best of the situation.

And yeah, maybe instead of a column's worth of pissing and moaning, Gene could've offered a realistic solution.

PS- [insert opportunistic slam at larry b here]

Anonymous said...

"But if the NBA insists on an age minimum, then the least it can do is consider Major League Baseball's draft stance. It isn't perfect, but it beats this mess.

MLB drafts high school players. But if you sign with a four-year college instead of the pros, then you have to wait until after your junior season (or 21st birthday) to be eligible for the draft again. If you drop out of college, you have to petition the commissioner's office for entry into the draft. "

- He offers the MLB way as a potential solution. Read the article.

Larry B. has no talent. HA! Can't defend!

Bengoodfella said...

I think the biggest difference in the NBA and the other professional sports when it comes to players coming out of high school is the simple math of the problem. Bottom line is that it is a much more difficult to make the roster coming out of school early in the NBA and if you don't make the roster, there is no proven minor league system where you can learn to play better. The NBDL sucks and everyone knows it.

The NBA has 12 spots on a roster. If a player comes out early from high school he has to produce early and often or he is either (A) going to be traded or (B) be released from the team. An NBA team can not afford to take the time to develop a player who is not ready to start his third year and be a productive player. At that point his rookie contract is almost up and they don't want to develop him for another team to pick up and reap the rewards of their hard work. So they either don't play him and destroy his confidence or play him and watch him become overmatched. They could send him to the NBDL or somewhere else to learn to play but the odds are not good he is coming back to the pros because the next year there is a new crop of players with guaranteed rookie contracts playing for his spot.

Without a great minor league system and actual support for these kids, it is a big gamble to go pro out of high school. I don't know if there should be a commandment saying they have to go to college for a year, but reasonably something has to be done. In the NHL, tennis and MLB when a player comes out of high school to the pros he has a few years to develop in the minors (or on the tour for tennis) and then he/she can brought up when he/she is ready to be a productive player.

The NBA rule is not racist nor classist, it is simply making the best of a bad mathematical situation. Even in the NFL a team can afford to stow away a player for a few years to see if he is going to be good, but the NBA does not allow this luxury. With only 12 spots available on a team, something has to be done to allow these kids an opportunity to play professionally and succeed. Gerald Green is a perfect example of the numbers game being unfair.

The NCAA is not using players any more than the players use the college for their own purposes. The numbers in pro basketball do not allow teams the luxury to develop young talent, unless they are 6 foot 11.

Martin said...

No, the MLB formula is not a solution for the NCAA, which is what Gene is harping about. It's more of a solution for the NBA, but in the same article he criticizes the idea of expanding the rule to two years from one, so he needs to make up his mind. In either case, it's not a solution, it's an alternative. The NCAA is stuck having to deal with whatever rule the NBA comes up with, and there is no solution to that basic problem.

Bengoodfella said...

I actually agree with you and think it is funny that NCAA basketball thrives no matter what scheme to better NBA basketball David Stern comes up with. I actually enjoy seeing a player in college ball before they go to the NBA, but I don't think that is a good reason to make a athlete stay two years before the NBA.

What the NBA should do, in my opinion, is create an actual minor league system with each team having a minor league team that is actually affiliated with the NBA team and the NBA team can use that "farm team" to stash players who need playing time to get better. I don't mean just one or two players but an actual entire team. This could potentially help foreign players decide to play in the US when they are actually drafted by NBA teams, if they know there is another league here they could play in and potentially get called up. I think this would be both good for the NBA and for the player. This will not happen though.

Bengoodfella said...

Oh and Larry, why can't you check the comments during the day? Do you have a JOB or something?

Jeff said...

Here's my question. Who the fuck has a problem with the current system?

NBA - do you have a problem? Nope. Less guys trying to make the leap from HS, and players come in with a better fan base.

NCAA - do you have a problem...nope...we now have good players again.

Players - do you have a problem? Oh, like 5 of you do? Tough shit, go to school for free, bang some sorority chicks and get ready for the NBA in a'll be fine.

Gene wososeroski has a problem? Who cares.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1 here. You're overstating the numbers issue, BenGoodFella. Yeah, there are only 12ish spots per team, but there never were a ton of high schoolers entering the draft anyway. The number of high school to pros players that didn't make a team straight out of the draft is way lower than for the number of college players that don't. Anyway, why is it anyone else's responsibility to legislate for that sort of thing? Why make a rule to remove that risk, rather than just let the player decide for themselves? And tennis and golf doesn't have a minor league system for teens to fall back on if they fail in the pros.

I agree that its not actually a problem though. The rule improves the talent in college and marketing for the NBA. Its win-win.

larry b said...

Ben- yes, I do have a job. And I'd like to add: fuck that job.

Bengoodfella said...

Of course there are more players who did not make the team coming out of college, simply because, as you said, there were not a lot of high schoolers coming out. I was not trying to overstate the numbers issue, I was just trying to say that an NBA team does not have a lot of time to fairly evaluate a player due to the roster constraints. The difference in tennis and golf is that it is an individual sport, which makes them different in that the player's development is able to be fairly evaluated compared to the competition based on ranking systems. The players can also quit the tours at any point and get right back in when they feel they are better prepared. Jennifer Capriati did it and so will Michelle Wei. Kwame Brown can not quit basketball until he develops fully and then jump right back into the NBA.

I do agree with you though that no one should legislate all this. It is hypocritical for those who claim the young high schoolers are taken advantage of in the draft process to also want these young players to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to play the sport. If they are not mature enough to make a reasonable decision then they should probably be in college or not be given access to hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think the player should decide for himself, but to also realize if they are mature enough to play in the NBA, they also have to be mature enough to know when they can be taken advantage of. If an agent can take advantage of a player, can't a business associate or a basketball groupie. It is all about maturity to me.

I love the fact the good college players have to stay for one year. It makes it all that much better to watch the games.

Larry's dad said...

Yes, you're damn right he has a job. I have just had it with him hanging out in the basement day after day after day, eating my food and playing that garbage he calls "music". There is no reason why he can't be out mowing lawns and scooping up after the neighborhood dogs, so I asked around and found him some work. He'll thank me someday.