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Calamity, Corruption & Collusion: Repairing The Fantasy Of Amateur Basketball

Posted in Basketball, nba, NBA Draft, NCAA, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2018 by MtAiryPhil

University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller (via Arizona Daily Star)

Don’t blame Dwane Casey. 

Casey, the Toronto Raptors’ longest-serving and winningest head coach, who is enjoying a notably good season. He recently celebrated his 300th win with the franchise and is seen by many as as a top contender for the NBA’s Coach of the Year. But at one point, he was an assistant at University Of Kentucky, where he had played for and captained the National Champion Wildcats under Joe B. Hall. Then a Fed Ex envelope addressed to a recruit split open mysteriously revealing $1,000. Though the University and Casey both denied that they had any role in this incident, the NCAA banned Casey for five years and he would spend his basketball exile in Japan, where he coached for 6 seasons all the while expressing no remorse, and claiming it was a set-up. Coaches all over the country took umbrage and most immediately took the opportunity to remind their base that “we do it the right way,” even as their top players tooled around campus in new luxury autos, including one notable freshman who arrived in a drop-top Ferrari, fully loaded with a sticker price of 89K and not an eyebrow raised.

Maybe it was Chuck Taylor, the great basketball player of the early 1900’s who would, after his playing career ended prior to the existence of the NBA we know today, convince a sneaker company to put his name and a star on the side of their shoes. He would become synonymous with basketball and one of the most recognized names in America as he spent the next forty years criss-cross in America selling sneakers out of his car to teams, while simultaneously running  clinics on each campus. What we know today is that Chuck used these clinics to develop relationships with the top high school athletes and coaches. Taylor became the de facto agent for these high school All-Americans, and if your University wasn’t wearing Converse, and running Chuck Taylor clinics annually, you had no shot at the top players. But don’t blame Chuck, I just like get to play the begat game, and Chuck fathered Nike, Adidas, and ultimately the seven figure shoe deal that provides generational wealth for the athlete whose skills and personality are marketable to a global audience of “sneaker heads” hungrily buying these iconic shoes via the Internet, and lining up hours before the shoe is released to drop a paycheck for them.

Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Power Memorial High School (via Getty Images)

Pay to play, despite the phony outrage accompanying each new disclosure, isn’t new! We’ve all heard tales of families wooed by street agents when their teenager reaches 6’5″ in 7th grade. You’ve heard the rumors of certain schools who suddenly have a national ranking because of one amazing freshman who changes the arc of a mid-major school while everyone wonders why they chose Anonymous U. Think back to 1969, when a 7-foot phenom out of Power Memorial High School in NYC turned down a million-dollar offer from the ABA to sign the next day with UCLA. Yes, they had a incredible run of NCAA titles and the legendary John Wooden at the helm, but today we know that Sam Gilbert, a wealthy booster, matched the ABA offer to Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and had been doing so with other players throughout the course of the “dynasty” shepherded by the “Wizard of Westwood.” Not to single out UCLA, but just to point out the fallacy and fantasy of the “clean” and amazingly successful college program. Everyone is dirty. Believe it or not, they all cut corners, otherwise they wouldn’t recruit a player who they KNOW is only staying for a season, with no pretense of being a student-athlete. The entire team wouldn’t be wearing sneakers provided by one company in exchange for “promotional consideration” and coaches wouldn’t have contracts that are far more lucrative than the university’s president.

Meanwhile, the NBA sits atop this conspiracy. The collusion, calamity, and criminal acts committed along the way all have the same end goal. While we knew that the odds of all the manipulation, shenanigans, and flat out deceit that are perpetuated along the way are paying off at about a million to in, it hasn’t stopped it. In fact, the basketball community has mostly been able to turn their heads away as long they weren’t getting caught themselves. The NBA cannot. Their desperation to maintain control over the entry and distribution of talent into the league has been massaged, manipulated, and re-fashioned as they felt necessary to stay one step ahead of the courts. From the “hardship rule” of the 70’s to Moses Malone and Bill Willoughby coming straight out of high school, to today’s 2-round edition. The National Basketball Association has exhibited a deathly fear of a player challenging the draft’s legality, (highly unlikely, considering it would wend its way through the courts for years and an athlete would be finished by the time he won) and having their process abolished. What other professional cannot choose where they hone, or practice their craft? Engineer? Pharmacist? Sanitation Worker? Nurse? Nope. Their ability as a league to slot their picks and control their location and income is something most fans take for granted, but the league doesn’t. Not for a moment. The NBA owners, watching the cost of contracts skyrocket over the last 3 seasons to ridiculous levels, need desperately to control entry level costs. Which also drives the value of the first ten picks in the draft. It’s a complicated but simple machine that’s lead to where we are today. Kids, parents, coaches and hangers on committing criminal, selfish acts to preserve and further the NBA dream. Can it be fixed? Yup. I’ll do it now. Here at N THE ZONE NETWORK we play chess, not checkers.

Arizona freshman standout and potential #1 overall NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton (via USA Today)

Here’s your solution. Thank me later.

Eliminate the fantasy of the “amateur” NCAA basketball player. The NCAA and it’s member teams are raking billions of dollars off the play of these teenagers. It’s time to compensate them, thus eliminating the possibility and/or necessity of them being corrupted. Here’s the scale. Pretty simply, each athlete on scholarship would receive a monthly stipend based upon the cost of living. THAT plus their academic scholarship would allow for a comfortable collegiate life equal to that of their on-campus academic peers. When they’ve graduated or completed, whatever commitment the player made to the university, they would receive a check equal to the tuition average of every member school on the NCAA times the number of years they spend academically eligible in school. This guarantees that every school’s compensation is equal, eliminating any incentive to go where the payoff is better. This ensures and encourages the kids to work towards a degree, while being able to do so without financial pressure. Simple way to finance. Each member school donates 5% of their basketball revenue to a pool. When a school wins an NCAA tournament game, 10% of their winnings go into the pool. Do the math. You could build a league. No one is going broke in this machine. Time has come to stop pretending and fix what has been broken for years on end. The NCAA also will contribute. The TV contracts are ridiculously lucrative. Thus, we’re going to need this association of dedicated institutions to kick in 5% of the TV money, and a share of the commercials featuring these kids in their promos. That money can buy an island and start a league now and no one has missed a meal. But we’ve gotta compensate these kids above the street money.

Here’s where the true payoff comes. Now that we’ve figured out how to pay the elite, and those who we know are in it only for basketball, let’s address the true student-athlete. Each member school will be required to maintain 4 roster spots for walk-ons. Those kids for whom a scholarship was not offered, who may never play but are more reflective of what the collegiate athletics experience is alleged to be. However, once this kid makes the roster he’s compensated the same as the McDonald’s All American. Graduates and receives the same check from the same financial pool as the kid who’s going first in the draft. Now we’re making progress.

Sports agent Christian Dawkins (via NY Daily News)

Finally, it’s time for the NBA to right their wrongs. Step in and help fix what’s so horribly broken. Here’s what the league can do. Expand the draft from two rounds to 7. Why? Because we’re going to open a true developmental league. I’m not talking about that “G” League that’s going now. But every NBA team will have a farm team. They can choose their geographical location. But the team must underwrite it 100%. Stop whining. The NBA’s new TV deal is worth 29 billion dollars over 8 seasons. That’s 3.5 billion per team spread over the length of the contract. That’s more than enough to stock, maintain and develop a roster of 12 “minor leaguers” and actually utilize the opportunity to refresh their talent pool from within, and just maybe find and build a late round gem instead of whispering “go to Europe, call me in 2 years, work on …….” Each player will receive 100k per season plus insurance and housing. This will prevent kids from having to schlep around Europe, China, and other foreign outposts to keep their NBA dream alive. The deals will all be uniform. Two years at 100k each, team and player option for year 3. I don’t see how this isn’t successful. Now we’ve provided a landing spot for all the kids dedicated to getting better over the course of their college careers and beyond, lessened the need to be “one and done” and disrupted the narrative that a player who stays four years in college isn’t NBA material. You can graduate from your school, play two years in a “REAL” developmental league and still be just 24 years old and ready to contribute to an NBA franchise. This is progress. Will it eliminate all the problems, kill off the parasites? Probably not.

Here’s the final step.

Keep it real.

Create a real ZERO tolerance policy in NCAA.

It goes like this. If you get caught cheating, your basketball program is closed for three seasons. Period. That’s progress. This is my solution and I believe it is viable. Simple, yes, but that’s just what we need to create an umbrella that protects everyone, establishes an environment of healthy sports at the collegiate level and not a dumpster fill if used up broke 20 year olds wondering “what’s next for my life if the NBA can’t use me.”

Your thoughts are as always welcome, but that’s my theory and I’m all in with it…..

Follow me on Twitter @MtAiryPhil

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Let’s Hoop – NBA First Round Playoff Preview

Posted in Basketball, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2016 by ALNTheZone

The A-Train here…I want to bring on our NBA contributor Robyn Browning and she has your preview for the upcoming first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Robyn, the floor is yours.Larry O'Brien Trophy

ROBYN:

The regular season ended on a historic and spectacular note with Golden State setting the record for most wins in the season (73) and Kobe Bryant ending his career with a 60 point effort to defeat the Utah Jazz, thus securing his name as a basketball legend. Now, the playoffs are here and hopefully the NBA will build off the energy of Wednesday night and extend it through the playoffs. Here are my predictions for the first-round series in order of seeding.

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

Golden State wins if they keep applying pressure on offense with quick ball movement, pressure defense with closeout double teams, and aggressive rebounding.

Houston wins if they take the red pill from the Matrix and become the team in an alternate reality in which Harden plays defense, more plays are run for Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard becomes a 70% free throw shooter.

Players to Watch: Harrison Barnes and Trevor Ariza

My Pick: Golden State in 4

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)

Cleveland wins if they become the playoff team we expect them to be. LeBron James will run the point, be efficient from the field, and open up spot-up shooters. Kyrie Irving must contain Reggie Jackson in pick and roll situations.

Detroit wins if they wear down Cleveland through offensive rebounding and pick and roll play with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. They must play with the same confidence and fire that led them to defeat Cleveland during the regular season.

Players to Watch: Andre Drummond and Cleveland’s three-point shooters (JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Kevin Love)

My Pick: Cleveland in 5

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

San Antonio wins if they control the tempo and no one gets hurt.

Memphis wins if they transform into the Monstars from Space Jam.

Players to Watch: Danny Green, Spurs bench, and Jordan Farmar vs. Spurs point guards

My pick: San Antonio in 5

Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

Toronto wins if they shoot well from the perimeter, drive to the basket, and get to the foul line a lot.

Indiana wins if they win Game 1 and fluster Toronto’s confidence. Indiana’s front court must get Luis Scola and Jonas Valaciunas in foul trouble.

Players to Watch: Toronto’s backcourt vs. Indiana’s frontcourt and DeMarre Carroll (Is he healthy?)

My Pick: Toronto in 5

Oklahoma City Thunder (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)

Oklahoma City wins on talent alone. Russell Westbrook is too much for Deron Williams to handle and Kevin Durant can pour in points by the handful.

Dallas wins if they can contain the Thunder—not outright stop them defensively, outscore them, and coach Rick Carlisle changes the lineup so much that the Thunder stay off balance.

Players to Watch: Wesley Matthews (Can he keep up with Kevin Durant?) and Russell Westbrook (watch for a triple-double game or two)

My Pick: Oklahoma City in 5

Miami Heat (3) vs. Charlotte Hornets (6)

Miami wins if their veterans will use their post-season experience to their advantage and Hassan Whiteside can defend the rim, keep fouls to under control, and wear down Al Jefferson.

Charlotte wins if they forget about the 2013-2014 playoffs when they were swept by the Heat, Kemba Walker’s mid-range game stays great, and Jefferson, Nick Batum, and Marvin Williams lock down Miami defensively.

Players to Watch: Charlotte’s defense and Jeremy Lin and his hair

My Pick: Miami in 6

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

Los Angeles wins if they continue to play with confidence and overpower the Blazers in the post.

Portland wins if Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum break down the Clippers defensively to score inside and outside the paint and set up their teammates for easy shots.

Players to Watch: Lillard vs. Chris Paul (top-notch NBA point guard play) and Clippers bench

My Pick: Clippers in 6

Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Boston Celtics (5)

Atlanta wins if Paul Millsap takes advantage of the Celtic’s frontcourt, especially on pick and roll plays and make the Celtics run half-court offense.

Boston wins if Isaiah Thomas continues to score as he has for over a month, get Atlanta to turn the ball over, and have more points in transition than half-court.

Players to Watch: Isaiah Thomas vs. Jeff Teague/Dennis Schroder (Teague/Schroder turnover-prone & Thomas can capitalize in a major way)

My Pick: Atlanta in 7

 

You can follow Robyn on Twitter. Her handle is @robynbirdfly.

A Few Questions….with Nadine Liverpool

Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Special, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by ALNTheZone

Ladies and gents of St. Louis (and all over the world), The A-Train would like to introduce a young lady who is a very talented sports media personality on the rise…AND SHE’S NOT EVEN FROM THE US OF A…but she hopes to one day to dominate over your American TV screens with her charm and voice, she is none other than Canada’s daughter in the sports world…Nadine Liverpool.

A-TRAIN: How you doing today, Nadine?

NADINE: I’m doing good thanks.

A-TRAIN: From what I have seen, you have an impressive resume already in just 3 years, and dammit, not going to lie, you are an attractive female.

NADINE: Aw, shucks.

A-TRAIN: Not trying to flirt with you, I hope you understand.

NADINE: Yea we gotta keep it professioNAAL.

A-TRAIN: Exactly. As long as you know. Let’s move to the questions: What made you want to get in this business?

NADINE: Well, I’ve played soccer my whole life growing up and was actually pretty good. I played on the Canadian national team in high school and then got a soccer scholarship to play at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (Go Blazers!) The thought of doing beep tests for the rest of my life scared the sh*t out of me, so I decided to stop playing soccer and pursue another path. I moved back to my hometown of Toronto and my plan was to save up for a year and then move back to the States and get my masters in sports management but a lot of people were like, “You should pursue sports broadcasting.” I guess people think I’m bubbly or what not. So I ended up taking a post-graduate sports journalism program in Toronto and fell in love with it. I always used to watch Hannah Storm on NBA Inside Stuff or Robin Roberts anchoring Sportscenter when I was a young lad and think, “Wow, they have the coolest job.” But the thing was I had no idea how to pursue it and this was my chance so I went for it and haven’t looked back.

I then created my own YouTube channel called SportsNAYtion, where I talk about the sports topic of the day. I guess you can call me a sports vlogger. It started to get a lot of attraction and the channel has grown a lot. Besides that, I also host, report, do play-by-play, produce, shoot, edit, a whole of bunch of stuff. You can say I’m the jack-of-all-trades trying to become the master of one.

A-TRAIN: Yep, I can actually say that you are. But knowing who I am, I have to ask you this… Who are you blaming for what is going on with the NFL? The refs? The fans? Roger Goodell?

NADINE: Roger Goodell hands down. The NFL is a billion dollar industry and it’s ruining the integrity of the game to have these incompetent referees on the field. And over what? Some chump change? It’s not fair to the teams, the players, and especially the fans.

A-TRAIN: Sooooo…..Would you rather be watching the CFL or better yet…college football?

NADINE: The CFL? What’s that? Lol No just kidding I know what the CFL is but three-down football is not my cup of tea. I watch NCAA football every week. Alabama is going undefeated this year. Member you heard it here first.

A-TRAIN: Duly noted. I’ll remember to mark this on my calendar. So, is the NFL hurting your fantasy football team?

NADINE: I’m in three leagues right now and I’m doing good in 2. My third one is a 20-team league and if you don’t draft well, you’re pretty much screwed. And lucky me, I have Fred Jackson and Aaron Hernandez who are both injured, so I’m taking constant L’s. 

A-TRAIN: Damn. Are you saddened that there is a work stoppage in the NHL…again? Stating that you are Canadian and you love hockey, right? Or am I making assumptions?

NADINE: I like to call myself an Anti-Canadian sports fan. Meaning I’m not a big fan of hockey or baseball. Basketball-Football-Soccer. That’s all me. So quite frankly, the NHL could go on strike for 10 years and I wouldn’t really care.

A-TRAIN: Hmmm interesting. Let’s move away from that for a sec, so if you were not covering sports like you are now…what would you be doing?

NADINE: I would probably be working for a women empowerment non-profit organization. I’m really big on females having their own voice and paving their own path and I would want to help conduct events to teach ladies how to find their inner Beyonce. (Who run the world? Girls!)

A-TRAIN: You are about to make me bring out my inner James Brown. Because (singing) THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD! I’m sorry I forgot I was doing an interview. (Clears throat) So, ummm your best sports interview?

NADINE: It would have to be with Deion Sanders. He was a guest on a radio show I used to host and he was just so much fun, had so much energy. I idolized him when I was a kid, so the opportunity to interview him about making the Hall of Fame was pretty surreal.

A-TRAIN: What or who would be your ultimate interview?

NADINE: KOBE BRYANT. He’s my future ex-husband, you didn’t know? LOL

A-TRAIN: Ummm no I didn’t.

NADINE: My friends always tell me I’m a Kobe groupie like it’s a bad thing.

A-TRAIN: It is a bad thing, LOL. Just kidding.

NADINE: But yea Kobe Bryant, hands down.

A-TRAIN: From your resume, you have worked with The Bottom Line Sports Show, what was your best experience from that?

NADINE: I got to interview some pretty high-profiled athletes like Maurice Jones-Drew, Dwight Howard, Deion Sanders like I mentioned before plus more. The best experience was just to be able to be me and be the female voice on the show. It was a great opportunity to represent and show that ladies know their sports too.

A-TRAIN: I see that you are a huge soccer fan. By the way, I have seen some pics of you in uniform (Looks around) Promise you, I’m not stalking you.

NADINE: Hmm mmm. I swear it was you that liked 25 of my pics the other day Lol

A-TRAIN: (spits out drink and laughs) Ummm, any World Cups in your future?

NADINE: Every World Cup I say I’m going and I never make it. It would be my dream to be able to go and report on it. Who wants to start a donation pot so I can go to Brazil 2014?

A-TRAIN: I can’t. I would love to go though. NBA season is just around the corner…any early predictions?

NADINE: Lakers all day every day, even on Sunday. LA-MIA final with the Lakers winning in 6. The black mamba wins Finals MVP and let the ‘Is Kobe better than MJ’ debates begin!

A-TRAIN: Lord, that better not happen. Favorite sports teams? You know I have to ask.

NADINE: like all the teams that everyone hates. Lakers, Patriots, Duke, Alabama Crimson Tide, Liverpool FC. Their god-awful but I also root for my local teams like the Raptors, Toronto FC, Leafs, Jays, etc. And can’t forget my Blazers!

A-TRAIN: You not making this easy for me especially all the teams that people hate. SMH Just kidding. Favorite athletes?

NADINE: Kobe Bryant, Steven Gerrard, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, and Charmaine Hooper.

A-TRAIN: Alright…before you go, let’s step outside the box. You ready?

NADINE: Born ready.

A-TRAIN: Top 5 songs you listening to right now.

NADINE: My Top 5 is pretty much anything Meek Mill and I’ll throw in Rich Forever by Rick Ross.

A-TRAIN: That’s not 5 but I’ll take it…the 5 TV shows you watching.

NADINE: Well, all the fall premieres are starting up and I’m excited for that. My list would go 1. Scandal 2. Dexter 3. The Newsroom (First season just ended) 4. Family Guy 5. Seinfeld (Can’t go wrong with a classic)

A-TRAIN: Now that’s a top 5. (laughs) Alright, Nadine…I know you are a busy lady and you have a lot going. Where can we find you?

NADINE: Youtube.com/SportsNAYtion. Subscribe! And you can follow me on twitter @SportsNAYtion and LIKE my Facebook fan page (facebook.com/sportsnaytion) For any bookings or inquiries; peeps can email me at Nadine.liverpool@gmail.com. My blog sportsnaytion.com is being done right now and should be up in a couple of weeks so stay tuned!

A-TRAIN: Any shoutouts to give?

NADINE: Shoutouts to you for having this dope interview with me.

A-TRAIN: Awwwww. You trying to make a man blush. Don’t do that. (clears throat) Well, thanks for your time, Nadine. Definitely will give you the support. Once I get my show back, you’re on as a guest. Cool?

NADINE: Oh for sure.

A-TRAIN: That’s Nadine Liverpool from SportsNayTion and Sportsnet. The A-Train signing off.

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