The Sports Scoop

My View on the World of Sports

The Randolph Morris Effect

Think about this question carefully…morris.jpg

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.

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Picture Courtesy of Rivals.com

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, NBA Draft, Randolph Morris, Sports | Leave a comment

Strike a Pose-y

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.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, Chicago Bulls, James Posey, NBA, Sports | Leave a comment

NBA Playoffs Preview: Tough Competition in the West

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:

Eastern 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.

Western Conference 
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.

April 18, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, Playoffs, Sports | 2 Comments

The season of meaning is upon us

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.

April 7, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Sports | 1 Comment

Welcome to the NBA Draft…one year too late

nbadraft3.gifNow that the college basketball season is complete, it is time to look ahead to the NBA draft. 

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. 

April 4, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, College Basketball, NBA Draft, Sports | 2 Comments

So the Committee Does Know Basketball

 This is post is probably coming a little late, but I was just talking about this today, so I thought I’d write it down.

After all of the heat the NCAA Tournament Committee took for their selections, it actually looks like that might have gotten it right.  I don’t recall ever seeing so many top seeded teams winning, and my bracket has suffered immensely because of that.  Aside from Wisconsin, who just isn’t the same team without Brian Butch as weird as that sounds, the rest of the higher seeds proved to be “who the committee thought they were!”

Looking back, you can still argue they messed up a little with leaving out Syracuse.  ncaa.jpgThat’s the one slip up.  They definitely should be been in over Arkansas, but in reality, did the committee deserve the lashing they received over that? 

I really think that no matter who is put in the tournament, there is going to be a plethora of columnists saying how bad the committee messed up.  It’s a tradition.  I already once mentioned John Feinstein and his hating ways.  His friend can make better selections with a six pack in him. But then again, don’t we all have that buddy, or maybe that buddy is yourself, that could put together a better bracket over a few cold ones? 

It’s fine that we bash the committee really, it gives us something to talk about and debate.  How about we give some credit where credit is due now.  I saw Selection Committee Chair Gary Walters get drilled with question after question about their reasoning behind all of their picks.  Now, it looks like his committee knew what they were doing after all.  Maybe CBS should bring the guy back and show him some love.

March 26, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NCAA, NCAA Tournament, Sports | 1 Comment

I’ll have a Number 32, Hold the O.J. Mayo

O.J. Mayo, the high school senior touted my many as the number one prospect for the class of ’07, recently finished his high school career.   To put an exclamation mark on his four years, this is how he completed his season.

It’s not the greatest video, but what you can see is Mayo throwing the ball into the stands after a dunk and subsequently getting ejected.  I learned of this through deadspin, who has a better video, if you want to check that out.  Deadspin says that it’s difficult to argue that it wasn’t worth it for him to throw the ball into the stands and get ejected.  I am honestly not sure how to react to this, the action and deadspin’s statement.

My initial attitude toward this situation is that there is no place for that.  Correction, the place for that is with the And1 Mix Tape Tour where the games don’t matter and it’s just for entertainment.  I’m glad he got ejected and hope Tim Floyd has a good plan in place to try and contain this kid’s ego.  It seems to be that he is all about self promotion.  That happened in the state championship game, where team accomplishments should be first and foremost.  Instead, Mayo took the opportunity to shine the light on himself.  That should tell you something about the character of this soon to be USC Trojan.  As others have already mentioned, O.J. must spell it “teim” because with him, there is definitely an “I” in team.

What baffles me even more is the fact that this isn’t his first headline for misconduct.  He had a marijuana situation that has since been dropped and was ejected earlier in the season for knocking over a referee.  He has all of this negative media surrounding him, and then he just builds on it with this.  In my opinion, it’s a little too early to be defying the system already, but I guess he’s just practicing for the future.

I can see the counter arguments already.  It was his last game, the game was already practically over, the fans went crazy over it, he got punished for it by being ejected, blah blah blah.  In reality, all of those things are true except the talented part, which has yet to be proven on at the college or professional level.

I have seen a lot of film on this guy, and he looks to be a solid player.  But we see this kind of self promotion all the time in professional sports, and it only leads to negative situations.  Teams are starting to learn that distraction players break up teams no matter how talented they are.  There are tons of talented players out there that won’t bring the extra baggage.  Mayo better learn to check his ego if he plans to cash big checks in the future.

March 21, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, O.J. Mayo, Sports | 8 Comments

Cinderella Who? and Other NCAA Tournament Thoughts

After watching over 14 hours of college basketball in the past two days, I feel it is only appropriate to discuss what has transpired.  Here are a few of my thoughts from the preliminary action.

   –  The term “Cinderella” is being extremely overused and needs to retire.  Winthrop was dubbed a Cinderella team by ESPN a few hours after they beat Notre Dame, even though half of the United States predicted that outcome.  If Jackson St. beat Florida or Niagra stunned Kansas, then I could see how we might have a Cinderella case on our hands.  Last year, George Mason was a definite Cinderella because no one picked them to win anything, and they ended up going far.  You need to have both of those qualities to be a true Cinderella.  So let’s not get too Cinderella-happy though and start dubbing every team that beats someone ranked higher them.

   –  What is Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s real name?  I heard them called Texas A&M and Corpus Christi, Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, and simply Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  There’s no doubt in my mind that it really doesn’t matter.  I just thought it was funny that the announcers had no idea either.

   –  The lack of upsets this year is killing me.  The two “big” upsets have been VCU and Winthrop, both of which were not shockers.  After that, almost everything has gone as planned.  The main reason for this is that the lower seeds cannot finish games.  I’m going to pick on Illinois because they absolutely blew their game.  Up by 10 with 4 minutes left, they somehow managed to give the game away.  And that’s a very appropriate way to describe it since they turned the ball over on something like 7 of their last 10 possessions.  If you play the same way you did the first 36 minutes, you should be able to close out a game.  Instead, they decided giving the ball to the Hokies and trying to stop them on defense was a better idea.  The Chicago Bears do the same thing; it must be an Illinois thing.

   –  While we are talking about the Illini, how about that Big Ten!  John Feinstein has to be hating Purdue for winning and loving Illinois for blowing it.  The Big Ten is 5-1 so far in the tournament.  Not bad for a conference that some think only should have had 3 bids.  Now watch as they all lose in the second round – except Ohio State and Wisconsin.

I love this time of the year.  With March Madness in full swing, I do believe it is time to go watch some more basketball.  Go Georgetown!

March 17, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, College Basketball, NCAA, NCAA Tournament, Sports | 1 Comment

NCAA Tournament Prediction; Hoyas to Take the Title

Michael Wilbon says that he likes Georgetown to win the NCAA Tournament. I have to agree.

Let me start off by saying that I have liked the Hoyas all season. I made them my tournament favorite sometime in early January when they knocked off Notre Dame for the first time. From that point on, they were on ESPN basically every game they played, so I got a good look at them. I really liked how they played and they’ve been my pick ever since.

When the brackets came out, I started out by putting Georgetown in the spot for hoya.jpg“Champion” and went to work from there. North Carolina vs. Texas seems like an inevitable match up, with the winner likely the only competition Georgetown will face before the final four. After that, I have the Hoyas taking down Texas A&M in the semi-finals before handling Kansas in the National Championship game.

Georgetown has the ability to play both up tempo and in the half court. Their defense is solid (held Pittsburg to only 42 points in the Big East Championship) and they get after it on the boards. They shoot free throws at a high percentage and have a difference maker in Jeff Green that they can rely on if needed. This team really has no glaring weakness.

The one thing that I believe can stop the Hoyas is their lack of depth. They mainly use a 6 man rotation with some other players grabbing a couple of minutes here and there. If Georgetown’s players, especially their guards Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace, get into foul trouble, then the bench will have to really step up – something they haven’t been asked to do in big games this year.

Apparently, Georgetown is now a fashionable pick to win the tournament. As much as that should reassure me that I’m on the right track, I feel less confident as a result of the popularity. Maybe it’s because people are on the same wave length as me which is a rarity. Anyhow, I’m sticking with Georgetown to take home the title.

March 14, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, College Basketball, NCAA, NCAA Tournament, Sports | 3 Comments

Do Players of the Past Receive Too Much Credit?

I have a feeling that could potentially catch some heat for this post, but let’s give it a shot anyways.  Please be gentle with your criticism.

It seems to me that retired players sometimes receive too much credit.  When I say that, I mean that I have heard countless times, “If [insert very good retired player’s name here] were playing today, he would hit 80 home runs,”…or average 40 points per game, or whatever it may be.  You get the idea. 

The same thing goes for teams.  Apparently, today’s teams just aren’t that good.  Even if the Dallas Mavericks finish the regular season with 72 wins and take home the title, they won’t be viewed as equivalent to the record setting 95-96 Chicago Bulls team.  Is it just our nature to assume that things in the past were better?

I thought of a couple of reasons why this might be the case.  First of all, maybe it’s true.  Maybe teams and players of the past were simply better.  Maybe Babe Ruth transported into our era would dominate like no other.  I don’t believe it, but I guess it’s possible.

Longevity is a key factor that I think could explain some of the disparity.  Some of the retired greats earned being called that by playing at a high level for 15 years.  With current players, we are always skeptical of whether or not they can keep it up.  Sometimes I think we are too skeptical.  Like with A-Rod right now, I have heard a lot of talk about how he’s slowing down and whatnot.  Slowing down after a .290/35/121 season? 

I can hardly imagine that the competition 30 years ago was as good as it is today.  By that, I mean that the gap has narrowed between the “good” players and the “bad” players.  You are forced to bring your best every game today because there is not one unworthy player in professional sports.  Except for maybe Ron Artest and Pacman Jones, but that’s another story.  Since there are all good players in the league now, it’s going to be harder for today’s players to put up the kind of numbers that were put up back then.  I really have no evidence to back that up, but I just feel that the overall level of play in sports is higher right now.

Another reason might be that when we look back on players, we tend to think of their primes.  We might overlook struggles in player’s careers and make them seem like they are better than they were.

The more I write, the more I feel like there is no logical way to compare players of different generations.  You can only judge a player or a team by what they did against who they played.  However, I still think that those who believe a player from the past could dominate today is crazy.  Could an all-time great be successful today?  Absolutely.  But I know that I wouldn’t pay Mickey Mantle $100 million per season to play for me today (a little play off of joeyballgame’s blog :)).

March 12, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Sports | 4 Comments