Who is the most influential player to enter the NBA Draft in the past twenty years?
Kobe? LeBron? Renaldo Balkman?
No, no, no – you have to think less talented than that. I know what you are asking, and my answer is: yes… even less talented than Balkman.
Future NBA journeyman and recent New York Knicks newbie Randolph Morris is the solution.
Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane to rekindle Morris’s story. Back in 2005, the highly-touted 6’11″ freshman posted modest stats, averaging 9 points and 4 boards on a very good Kentucky team. Falsely believing that NBA teams would consider selecting him for his potential and large stature, Morris succumbed to the lure of a professional basketball player lifestyle by entering that year’s draft.
Big mistake. Or was it?
Of all the names called out that day, Randolph Morris was not one of them. It definitely seemed like Morris, a former McDonald’s High School All-American, had overplayed his hand and would be forced overseas to begin his career. However, the most infamous of draft loopholes allowed Morris to return to school because he had not signed with an agent. Granted, he was no longer draft-eligible, but he could continue playing at Kentucky while becoming an NBA free agent.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
After serving a minor suspension, Morris went on to play two additional seasons at Kentucky before becoming the first player to complete a college season then sign with an NBA team and finish their season with them. That’s where Morris’s journey ends – at least for now – but it was only the beginning of what I like to call the Randolph Morris effect.
The college basketball nation took notice, resulting in ever increasing numbers of underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft without bringing an agent on board. The players love their newfound flexibility – without an agent, they can declare for the draft and withdraw prior to it if their status isn’t to their liking; or they can “pull a Morris” – take their chances, hope the hype is legitimate and their name will be called, all the while knowing their college eligibility is still intact.
Often times borderline players having trouble sifting through all of the pros and cons of entering the draft will have multiple sources telling them that their status is higher than it really is. That motivates the impressionable underclassmen to throw their name into the bidding, knowing full well they’re not committed to anything other than exposure if they don’t hire an agent.
Early-entry draft aspirants travel around showcasing their skills at pre-draft camps, attempting to kindle positive recognition from potential employers. And while this experience can provide valuable – though potentially inaccurate – feedback for the players on the likelihood they will be selected and where, it also creates complications.
Universities commit vast amounts of money and support to their student-athletes, but that commitment isn’t always reciprocated. College coaches especially are put in a highly undesirable situation when their athletes use the Randolph Morris effect to their benefit. Simple questions like who will be on the roster for the following season become complex. Recruiting grows even more difficult.
Not only do coaches have to convince potential team members that their school is the perfect fit for them, but now they have to try and anticipate what moves might be made by players teetering on the brink of an NBA career. Broken promises and uncertainty on scholarship availability becomes inevitable. It used to be cut and dry – if they were in the draft, they were there to stay.
The basic idea of loyalty is also challenged. Many schools might hold a grudge against players like Morris and not welcome them back to their program at all. Their move could be taken as a slap in the face. While the benefits of not hiring an agent are obvious, it can also mean hard times for athletic programs attempting to make strides.
I don’t like calling the influx of underclassmen declaring for the draft a trend, because trends fade out – I see this as more of a permanent fixture of the NCAA-to-NBA transition. As long as players have the elasticity they currently enjoy, agent signings will be postponed later and later. And this fact can be attributed to one source – the Randolph Morris effect.
Picture Courtesy of Rivals.com
If you follow any kind of sport, you understand that certain qualities are desirable. Characteristics such as speed, power, and agility are a few desirable attributes for athletes to possess. Another trait associated with various sports is toughness. Being tough can mean different things to different individuals, but the general idea that you need a certain level of fortitude to engage in sports is universal.
I decided to attempt to figure out what sport you have to be physically toughest to play. Since toughness can be interpreted in so many different ways, I elected to create some criteria upon which I will base my selections. I have come up with five ways to measure the toughness of a sport.
The first criterion is the risk for injury. While you can get injured playing virtually any sport, the threat of being hurt playing ping pong differs greatly from playing football. In my eyes, a sport that has a high risk for injury takes a tougher person to play.
Second is the tolerance for pain. This factor has to be looked at in the broadness of the sport rather than the narrowness of each individual. Some athletes can endure more than others, but sports such as marathon running and Olympic lifting innately require a high pain tolerance.
The third aspect is the nature of reckless abandon in the sport. We have all heard the term “sacrificing your body,” and that is exactly what I am referring to. An example would be going after a puck when you know you will be smashed into the boards, which takes plenty of courage and toughness.
Next, the length of one’s career in a sport is a good indicator of how tough it is. Usually, the shorter the career, the more physically challenging the sport is. Boxing is notorious for fighters retiring early in their careers because of the physical demands of the sport.
The final criterion is the average person’s willingness to participate in the sport. I am basing this off of my assessment, but I would be willing to bet that most would agree with me when I say that I would rather try swimming than head down to Australia and get assaulted playing rugby. The exception would be rugby players, of course.
I ranked fifteen of the more physically demanding traditional sports, one through five, based on each of these factors. After totaling up the numbers for each sport, I was able to conclude what the physically toughest sport is. Keep in mind two things. I don’t consider mixed martial arts (ultimate fighting), which would be number one if included, to be a traditional sport, and mental toughness is not included in this assessment, that is a whole different story.
Wrestling, Olympic lifting, and lacrosse narrowly missed the list, but without further delay, here’s the list of the top five:
5. Marathon running – Tolerance for pain and a lack of desire for the average person to participate were major factors here. Remember how miserable it was running the mile in middle school gym class? It’s only that 26.2 times.
4. Football – Reckless abandon and risk of injury are certainly high in this sport. Much depends on the position you play and wearing pads helps prevent some injuries, but you still have to be plenty tough out there.
3. Hockey – I gave hockey similar scores to football, but it edges ahead for two reasons. First, you can do much more damage with a stick and puck than a football, and second, fighting is very common and surprisingly condoned.
2. Rugby – It was difficult to put rugby at two. It is more of a 1b. Rugby is as physical as any sport and participants don’t wear pads, which definitely earns them some toughness points. Having completely no regard for your body or well being pretty much sums it up.
1. Boxing – What really got boxing the top spot was the lack of career length. It’s common to see boxers leave the sport in their prime because it’s just too much. Boxing received high marks for all categories, and like these other sports, it can result in some serious long-term injuries.
The Bulls/Heat series has been all Chicago the first two games, and I am loving every minute of it. The one thing that really gets me though is that flagrant foul that was called on P.J. Brown for supposedly pushing James Posey into the stands. It was obvious that Posey was out of control and didn’t need any help supermanning into the cameramen. It’s also pretty ironic because Posey has a history of intentionally going after Bulls’ players. I unsuccessfully tried to find a video of that play to post here.
That play was called by many the “weakest flagrant foul in history.” Unfortunately, Brown only held that honor for a few hours because the NBA recinded the call shortly after the game. It was that bad of a call that they didn’t even need to sleep on it.
So if you can’t tell by now, I am not a big James Posey fan. Here are a couple of videos that show how dirty of a player Posey is.
That is last year’s playoff series where Chicago’s disdain for Posey began.
That video is this year. I love how the announcer says “Posey always does that!”
Easily my favorite Posey video. The crowd really gets into it with a chant of “Posey sucks!”
I tried to find a video on Posey breaking Tyrus Thomas’s nose earlier this season but couldn’t come up with that one either.
Posey is the type of guy that should be suspended for awhile because he blatantly goes after players and tries to hurt them. I really hope the Bulls finish out this series strong and send the Heat packing. A little icing on the cake would be to throw Michael Sweetney on the court and have him launch Posey into the upper deck.
With the 2007 MLB season just under a month old, we are starting to get a feel for how the season might pan out. However, the season is long and full of uncertainties. Injuries to key players, hot or cold streaks, and the potential of the all important mid-season trade are all factors that can make or break a season.
One of the biggest question marks is the production a team will get from its young, unproven players. Every season players emerge seemingly from no where to become stars and household names. Last year, we saw such players as Francisco Liriano, Prince Fielder, and Robinson Cano have breakout years and play large roles on their respective teams.
This season will be no different in that a handful of previously unknown players will grab the spotlight as a result of their superb play. You may not know these players right now, but my guess is that you will become quite familiar with them by the season’s end.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers – Kinsler is off to a hot start after a solid rookie season last year. Seven home runs in his first fourteen games have him sitting second to A-Rod for the lead in that category. Kinsler is exceeding all expectations up to this point and is not looking back. Don’t expect him to keep up the pace, but he should finish the season with some of the best numbers for any second baseman in baseball.
Josh Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds – This may be a player you’ve heard of before, but you’re bound to hear much more about him as the season goes on. He’s a center fielder with such talent that the Reds moved Ken Griffey Jr. to right field to make room for Hamilton. In his first 30 at-bats this season, he belted five home runs and has a slugging percentage near .900. It seems as though the sky is the limit for this left-handed slugger.
Rich Hill, SP, Chicago Cubs – Hill is a southpaw whose strong finish in 2006 has carried over into 2007. In his three starts this season, Hill has only given up eight hits and one run over 22 innings. Not really an overpowering pitcher, the lefty changes speeds well and has had pinpoint accuracy to start this season. His 3-0 start has some wondering if he should be considered higher than the fourth starter in the Cubs’ rotation.
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Iwamura is one of many talented young players that make up the Devil Rays’ roster this season. Thus far in his first Major League season, he has been impressive with his patience at the plate and solid play at the hot-corner. After receiving little pre-season recognition, Iwamura could be a threat to steal a few AL Rookie of the Year votes at the end of this season.
Joel Zumaya, RP, Detroit Tigers – If you love watching 100+ MPH fastballs, then this is the pitcher for you. Zumaya really brings the heat and has a fastball that has been clocked in at 104 MPH. With a 1.94 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 83 innings last season, Zumaya is currently playing set up man for veteran closer Todd Jones. If not this year, look for this guy to have some big years playing closer in the near future.
Back in early November, there were 30 NBA teams with the hopes that they would be contending for an NBA Title this season. The early favorites, Miami, Dallas and Phoenix, got off to slow starts, and it did seem like it could be anyone’s year. However, as the season progressed, early season predictions started to round into form. With the playoffs less than a week away, there are only a dozen teams with a legitimate chance at this year’s title.
I say a dozen because of the lack of success from the bottom two seeds of each conference over the past 20 years. Only once, the 1999 New York Knicks, has a seven or eight seed gotten past the second round of the playoffs. That team actually lost in the finals, but the odds are in my favor when I say that no seven or eight seed will greatly impact this year’s playoffs (my apologies to any Lakers’ fans).
Here is a look at the top six seeds from each conference:
Detroit Pistons – Should be the favorite to come out of the East. They have the best defense in the conference and plenty of scoring options on offense. They also have loads of playoff experience on their roster. The one team that could give Detroit problems is the Chicago Bulls, who they are only 1-3 against this season.
Chicago Bulls – Their strengths lie in playing harder than their opponents and finishing games strong. The Bulls will have to work extra hard to out hustle teams in the playoffs. Tyrus Thomas has emerged in the past month as a threat on both ends of the court and could be a major factor. They have to rely on outside shooting for the majority of their scoring and don’t have a constant inside threat which could prove problematic.
Toronto Raptors – The surprise team in the NBA this season, the Raptors play best when they are working the offense through big-man Chris Bosh. Rookies Andrea Bargnani and Jorge Garbajosa provided solid support this season, but Toronto will need to find other options as Garbajosa will miss the playoffs with an injured ankle and Bargnani is just now returning from an injury. This team’s inexperience in the playoffs might hurt them.
Miami Heat – After a poor first half of the season, Miami has looked much better this second half. Shaq and D-Wade are back on the floor together after injuries limited both of their action during the regular season. The big question will be whether or not the Heat can once again mesh with one another given their lack of time playing together this season. Regardless, they have the superstars and the experience to make another run at the title.
Cleveland Cavaliers – This team can be summarized by one player, LeBron James. As he goes, so do the Cavs. LeBron guided Cleveland to a first round series win last year before falling to the top-seeded Pistons. They will lean heavily on King James this post-season but could be in trouble if some role players don’t step up. Look for the supporting cast to play a big role if Cleveland wants to advance deep into the playoffs.
Washington Wizards – Could be the Nets, I know, but I am making a prediction on this one. Anyways, here is simply a team headed in the wrong direction. Injuries to superstars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler have left this team without their top two scorers. That will be a problem in the playoffs considering they surrender the most points in the Eastern Conference. Antawn Jamison and DeShawn Stevenson will need to pick up the slack, but it still looks like an early exit is inevitable for the Wiz.
Dallas Mavericks – They are undoubtedly the team to beat in this year’s playoffs with all of the right pieces to take home the title. Dirk Nowitzki leads a balanced attack that can beat you in the half court or in transition. Dallas needs to develop the killer instinct that they lacked last year. If they are able to finish out both games and series, it could be the Mavs hoisting the trophy.
Phoenix Suns – Phoenix is one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA. Steve Nash and company lead the league in scoring and play the run-and-gun game better than anyone else. They are fast at every position and usually leave teams in their dust. Defense has always been the question mark with this team. Playing solid defense will be necessary for this team to advance out of the tough Western Conference.
San Antonio Spurs – This team is all about the fundamentals. They play together and have years of experience at grinding out solid possessions on both offense and defense. Tim Duncan may be the leader of the team, but Manu Ginobili is going to have to step up and carry some of the scoring load as he has done at times this season. When he plays well, so do the Spurs.
Utah Jazz – Deron Williams has emerged as one of the league’s best point guards. His play ignites the Jazz and had them playing some of the best basketball most of the season. They have struggled of late to keep up the pace, but the return of Carlos Boozer should help to rectify that. Like some of the other teams, inexperience might come back to haunt Utah.
Houston Rockets – The Rockets are thanking their lucky stars that Yao Ming has finally turned out to be the player than thought he could be. The scoring combination of Ming and Tracy McGrady is one of the best in the NBA. Keeping their two superstars on the floor and healthy will be vital for
Houston. If Yao plays tough and his teammates continue to feed him the ball, the Rockets could be a tough match up.
Denver Nuggets – After all of the speculation of whether or not Allen Iverson would be able to coexist with Carmelo Anthony, it seems as though they can. The Nuggets enter the playoffs as one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Scoring will not be a problem, but Denver needs to continue to work together and play on both ends of the court to be successful.
Around this time of year, there is plenty to be excited about in sports. March Madness, the start of the baseball season, NBA and NHL playoff races, you know what I am talking about. There is a distinct connection between all of these events which makes this time so special. All of these games are played with meaning and purpose.
It could be a single elimination tournament, you might need to win two out of three games to make it to the post season, or you might want to start the season off on the right foot, but the players actually play and the fans actually care during this time of the year.
Compare this to mid-June when (insert your favorite baseball team here) are playing their 50th or so game of the season. The mentality at that time is completely different. It is like, “Who cares if we lose this one, we still have over a hundred more games to play.” Not only for the players, but the fans, too.
This will never happen, but the MLB and NBA ought to make their schedules considerably shorter.
From a sport standpoint, there is no reason to have such long schedules. 162 MLB games and 82 NBA games? I say cut those numbers in half. Players and fans alike start to lose interest. Individual games start to take on less and less meaning because there are so many more games to get back on track. There is no sense of urgency.
From a revenue standpoint, I understand why the seasons are drawn out. Lots of games equals lots of money, I get it.
The NFL is one league that has it right, which is one reason why it’s passing up baseball as America’s favorite sport, if it hasn’t already. Every game has a large impact on the season as a whole. Players can’t just take a day off and go at it hard tomorrow. Fans cannot wait until Sunday rolls around. The league has the whole package. It’s exciting and meaningful; I wish other leagues would take note.
I don’t really have a clever way to end this post, I’m drawing a blank. No big deal though. After all, the blog season is year round, so who really cares about this meaningless entry.
While many players used this season as an opportunity to improve their game and raise their draft stock, there were a few players who hurt their draft value by coming back for another year.
This is due, in part, to the fact that the 2006 draft was pretty weak. Some decent players have emerged, Brandon Roy and the Raptors pair of guys come to mind, but overall, it’s not hard to argue that it was sub-par. That, in itself, would have been a good reason for the soon to be mentioned players to test the draft waters.
However, the main reason these players should have left early is because they didn’t perform this season like they were expected to.
So without further ado, here are the five players who have most hurt their draft stock by staying in school.
1. Joakim Noah, Florida - This is an easy one, and I love putting him at the top of the list because I cannot express how little I like this player. Last year, Noah would have been a number one pick candidate. This year, he’ll likely fall somewhere in the middle-late top 10, which is still to high in my opinion. He has the energy and athleticism, there is no question about that, but he just doesn’t have basketball skills. He makes horrible decisions (on and off the court, as is evident by his SEC Championship “dance” and NCAA Championship post-game comments) and sometimes forgets that the only thing he does well is hustle. Most of his stats are down from a year ago, but they don’t do justice to how average he looked at times.
2. Glen “Big Baby” Davis, LSU - Davis would have been perfectly suited to come out last season after LSU made their tournament run and Davis/Tyrus Thomas was the duo to be reckoned with. Instead, he comes back a pre-season All American and went on to severely disappoint. LSU had a horrible season when they should have ran away with the SEC West, and Davis never stepped into the dominant leadership role he needed to. He was the talk of the town last year, but now, he’s almost an afterthought.
3. Josh McRoberts, Duke – It is basically the worst case scenario for McRoberts to enter the draft this season, but he’s going for it. Last year, he was just a freshman who was getting used to the game. He didn’t try to do too much, showed some good passing skills, and made a few plays here and there. More importantly, his lack of aggressiveness and assertiveness could have been pinned on his inexperience. He would have gotten drafted high because of his potential. However, this year he proved that is just how he plays. He also didn’t step up on a young team that needed a leader. He would be better off staying in school and learning under Coach K.
4. Ronald Steele, Alabama – He hasn’t declared yet, I know, and actually probably won’t. Yet, I still think he’s worthy of a spot on this list because what the heck happened to this guy? He had some injuries, but that doesn’t explain going from a pre-season All American to averaging 8.6 points per game. Like Big Baby, Steele’s stock was on the rise at the end of last year and could have used that to his advantage. Now, he has to either put up some big numbers next year or hope some NBA team will forget this season ever happened.
5. Arron Afflalo, UCLA – This was the hardest one for me to put on the list, mainly because I don’t think that he would have been a very high pick last year. However, he definitely didn’t do what he needed to at the end of the season to prove that he could step up when it was needed. Almost his whole NCAA Tournament was bad, with the exception being the Kansas game, after he basically sat back and watched his team implode to finish the Pac-10 season. I don’t really see the potential to get much better in Afflalo, either. I’m still not convinced he hurt his draft stock by returning to school, but he definitely did not help it.
“Returning as juniors to repeat as champions, Florida’s fab five became back-to-back champs Monday night. The Gators used the 3-pointer (10-18) to toppled Greg Oden and Ohio State 84-75.”
I got two, maybe three if you want to be really picky. First, their “fab five” of juniors is really just a fab four with Lee Humphrey being a senior. Next has to be the phrase, ”to toppled?” I’m not an English major, but that is not right. The last is just how they oddly used the phrase, “The Gators used the 3-pointer…” but I suppose that one can slide.
It is surprising to me that they’re so careless. In the long run, it’s really not a big deal. I’m bound to make some errors in my writing, too, but then again, I’m not the face of sports. Ah well, just a little gripe I have.
In the time it took me to write this post, ESPN has already changed its headline. They must have realized their stupidity.
Here is a headline that isn’t out there yet, but I would not be the slightest bit surprised to see it in near future.
If you haven’t heard, USA swimmers are routinely shattering records at this year’s World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. ESPN.com has a terribly written story on what has been going on at the Championships that you can check it out if you dare.
As impressive as the performances are that are happening this week in Australia, I can’t help but have the above headline come to mind. Maybe it’s just me, but there has been so much talk about steriods and growth hormone being connected to professional athletes that I become skeptical of any great performance. I don’t want to believe that athletes are on the juice, but I have a feeling that is more related to my desire for pure sport than reality.
Floyd Landis and his miracle ride, Gary Mathews Jr. going from barely on a roster to an All Star, and Barry Bonds’ head growing to the size of a watermellon can all be explained by hard work and natural physiology, right?
I would like to think so.
So maybe we’ll never have to read a headline like this, and I hope we don’t. But if we do, you heard it here first.
Photo courtesy of SI.com
ESPN.com and the Washington Post recently reported that there have been trade talks between the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins over Lance Briggs. The claim is that Washington is willing to swap first round draft picks with the Bears to get Briggs. The Bears would move up and take the 6th overall pick, while the Redskins would receive the 31st pick in this year’s draft.
I really don’t see this actually happening. The main reason for this is because the Bears’ front office is extremely stubborn. It took forever for them to give Lovie Smith an extension after leading the Bears to the playoffs two years ago and the Super Bowl last year. They gave former Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera the boot because he wanted more money than they were willing to dish out, even though he probably deserved it. And then they slapped the franchise tag on Briggs instead of giving him a long term deal which has lead to this whole ordeal. They have options to move him but aren’t going to do it because it might look like the front office is getting pushed around. Not to mention the fact that Chicago doesn’t appreciate that Drew Rosenhaus doing everything he can to hype this thing up.
That in itself is reason enough for the Bears not to trade Briggs, but I don’t think that the Bears are looking to move up that high in the draft either. The front office feels like they are capable of finding good talent later in the draft. It’s kind of their thing, and they are actually pretty good at it. Chicago only has six first round draft picks on its entire roster. Picking at 6 would go against the way the Bears like to do things. They could get the 6th pick and then trade up in the middle of the first round, but it seems more likely that they would just package their current 31st and 37th picks together in a trade to get in that position.
I like Briggs as a player, but I think he’s replaceable. I would like to see Chicago trade him. They can always use some more draft picks and Briggs isn’t going to do much good sitting on the bench or causing distractions. The front office’s image isn’t going to be any better by them holding their ground and keeping him around. Everyone can see that they mean business, but apparently so does Briggs. Or does he?
Briggs initially said he was willing to sit out the entire season if he had to play for the Bears because he would never wear that jersey again. Now, two weeks later, he has changed his tune and will just sit out the first ten games. Give him a month or two and I bet he will play the whole season…under protest, of course.
That’s probably what Chicago is thinking, too.