Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let the High Schoolers Back In

I am not in support of any high school kids -- except maybe those who are once-in-a-lifetime special -- such as LeBron James or Kobe Bryant (not Robert Swift) to go straight from high school to the NBA Draft. But something has to change with this current system that mandates high school players to attend college for one year or be 19 years old and one year removed from high school to enter the NBA Draft.

It should be no shock that kids are finding ways to circumvent the rules either by heading to Europe for a year or cheating to get into school (perhaps the case of Derrick Rose, pictured above) because they have to burn that year anyway, so it might as well be in college. I don't think this was what the rule was designed for. Wishful thinkers like me thought that the one-year rule would allow kids who thought they were ready but weren't to remain in school and even entice those who were ready for the NBA to stay longer because they actually enjoyed college.

Well that hasn't happened as much as I think supporters would have liked. Kids who would have bolted for the NBA after high school are still leaving after one year. Players such as Jrue Holiday, who averaged 8.5 points per game at UCLA, and B.J. Mullens, who was a major disappointment at Ohio State, are staying in June's NBA Draft. They were not affected by the harsh reality that they may not be ready for the next level and are willing to get taken solely on potential.

So here's what we do: We mandate that kids entering school stay for two years, which will allow those preps who just can't wait to enter the draft and those who know they aren't ready to become seasoned for two years. I really don't like high school kids entering the draft, but there really isn't anything we can do about it.

Like tattoos, reality shows and fro-hawks, jumping to the league has become a trend, especially when those shoe piranhas and street agents are telling these kids they are ready. The NCAA and NBA tried keeping these kids away from the chaos, but if they are going to go to Europe, cheat on SATs or drop out after ine semester just to kill time before the NBA Draft, then something needs to change.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

So how should we treat Michael Vick?

Michael Vick was released today from prison, allowed to serve the final two months of his sentence from Hampton, Va. home, where he will be permitted to participate in a work release program, earning $10 per hour at a construction company. So the question is how do we treat Vick following what some perceive as a heinous crime of dogfighting and dog torture?

While I believe his crime was reprehensible and cruel for those innocent dogs, many of whom are used a means of some men trying to justify their manhood, Vick didn't inflict any harm on a human being, didn't slap his girlfriend, didn't kill anyone driving drunk or any other of the inexcusable crimes committed by many athletes who not only didn't serve jail time but are free to play in the NFL or NBA or MLB. We have to ask ourselves, was Vick the victim of a society that was looking to make a rich, arrogant and callous black man pay for his stupidity and viciousness with animals? The answer is yes. In Seattle, two teenagers received 36-week stints and another 72 weeks in a juvenile facility for beating to death a middle-aged man who played the tuba in front of every major Seattle sporting event.

Vick served 19 months, lost more than $200 million and a significant chunk of his career for dogfighting. We definitely know Vick won't be the grand marshal at the Westminster Dog Show or a spokesman for Purina, but we should embrace the man because he served his punishment and hopefully will change his life and is ready to atone for his sins. Let's allow him that right and provide him the second chance we all deserve for our mistakes. And maybe he can provide us some more thrills on the football field and prevent youngsters from following in his footsteps.

Vick's playbook is rather ambitious, yet he is capable of doing a lot more than scoring touchdowns. Let's root him on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Missing Showtime

You might as well call me old school right now, but it's hard to understand how my peers who grew up in Los Angeles like I did could be such big fans of this current Lakers team, especially when we spent our childhood gloriously watching a team prance to five NBA titles in 10 years -- beating real teams with real stars and not taking days off. These 2009 Lakers play with a sense of entitlement and I am stumped as to why. They took a day off in an embarrassing Western Conference semifinal loss to Houston on Sunday and now fans are fired up after a 40-point Game 5 win over the undermanned Rockets. Remember, this team is lacking two All-Stars in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. We ain't exactly talking about the Fo-Fo-Fo Sixers here. This edition of the Lakers takes plays off, coasts for stretches of minutes off and tends to get bored with opponents and I am still trying to figure out why. Why such a sense of accomplishment for a roster filled with players feeding off Kobe Bryant?

Has Sasha Vujacic been spoiled by his success? I am not sure why. He's averaged just over five points per game over five seasons. Luke Walton doesn't have any championship rings. Neither does Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol or Jordan Farmar. The lone Lakers who have tasted that championship champagne are Bryant and Derek Fisher, so theoretically, the rest of the Lakers should be hungry for that success, not allowing 5-11 Aaron Brooks scorch them for 34 points, including an alley-oop to end a quarter. Before fans start celebrating a semifinal win over the Rockets, let's hope that these Lakers learn a little something from their predecessors about pride. Let's face it, the Bad Boy Pistons, Larry Bird Celtics or Dr. J 76ers aren't out on that court. We're talking Von Wafer and Luis Scola. The Lakers are capable of much better and until I see it, I will dream of Showtime.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What might have been in Seattle?

This blog is a personal one for me, because for three years I watched these two guys combine to make the Sonics at least respectable and potentially a playoff contender with the right compliments. Now, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are facing each other in the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, far removed from their Seattle past, fighting for an NBA title. Meanwhile, Seattle is an empty NBA shell, with no team, no hope for a team since the state legislature voted down a potential bill that would have refurbished KeyArena and only memories to grasp to.

If the Sonics had retained Allen and Lewis -- Allen was traded and Lewis signed with the Magic within four days in June 2007 -- perhaps Seattle would still have basketball. While Oklahoma City -- formerly the Sonics -- prepares to be a contender in perhaps 2013, Allen and Lewis are seizing their opportunity for championship success now, which is the only thing that really matters. How many times have we seen teams that were supposed to be juggernauts in the future and it never materialized. Chicago was supposed to resurrect the Jordan days with Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. How did that work out?

Dallas was supposed to push Houston, Utah and San Antonio in the mid and late 1990s with Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson, but those three couldn't get along. Fact is, that preparing for the future is a smart move but never guaranteed. Proven commodities such as Allen and Lewis potentially bring a much bigger return than unproven rookies who may never reach their potential. Seattle learned that the hard way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

This series is beyond ridiculous

What happens when to talented teams with little discipline and two below average coaches face each other? You get the Atlanta-Miami series, which reached another low point Friday when the Heat beat the uninterested Hawks 98-72. How in the world can two teams come out so consistently flat for a damn playoff game? General manager Rick Sund retained coach Mike Woodson for this season and if Atlanta loses this series, it's quite possible he could be out as coach. The Hawks can't seem to hold their attention on winning back-to-back playoff games since they have become somewhat of an Eastern Conference factor. This club has Mike Bibby, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Flip Murray. Atlanta shot 37 percent and the Hawks and the Heat are taking turns being terrible. Somewhere, LeBron James is playing his Kid-n-Play CD and giggling at the possibility of playing either opponent in the second round.

There may not be a less anticipated Game 7 than Sunday's Heat-Hawks game in Atlanta. NBA playoff basketball has to be better than this.

And I'm changing paragraphs because that Game 7 does not deserve to be in the sam sentence as Bulls-Celtics Game 7 on Saturday.