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.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Even when he picks a very defensible angle on a topic he still comes out sounding like a dummy.