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

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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

McHale is NOT the Best GM in Sports

Forbes.com recently released its list of the top General Managers in all of sports.  The article ESPN.com wrote about this can be found here.

Basically, Forbes looked at the four major sports and tried to pick out the best GM.  Their criteria were two fold.  First, they looked at how each team performed prior to the arrival of their current GM and compared it to how they performed with their previous GM.  Second, they looked at how each team’s payroll compares to the league median.  The first criterion was weighted twice as important since winning is the ultimate measure of success.

After all of the numbers were crunched, Kevin McHale, the GM for the Minnesota mchale1.jpgTimberwolves, emerged as the best there is.  What a joke!  This is why Forbes should never try to report information relating to sports.  Ever.

McHale should not even be in the top 10.  The data is skewed because the Timberwolves were absolutely horrible before he took over.  Now that they are average, it seems like he had something to do with it.  A guy named Kevin did have something to do with it, but that is Kevin Garnett. 

If anything, McHale should be looked at as one of the worst GM’s in sports for not putting the right pieces around KG.  Garnett is an unbelievable talent, and I think it’s McHale’s fault that the Wolves haven’t been able to make a serious title run during the Garnett era.  They had a little something going with Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell, but that got broken up.  Now they are sinking back into mediocrity.

Forbes could have randomly selected a GM and been more on target than they were with McHale.  I don’t know who the best GM out there is, although Jerry Angelo, Billy Beane, Joe Dumars, Brian Cashman, and even Jerry Jones come to mind, but I know that it definitely is not Kevin McHale.

March 5, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Kevin McHale, MLB, NBA, News, NFL, NHL, Sports | 3 Comments

Silence Surrounds the Trade Deadline: Chicago the Real Winner

The NBA trade deadline came and went today with no serious action. dixon.jpg Fred Jones and Juan Dixon changed addresses, while Anthony Johnson packed his bags for Atlanta in exchange for a 2nd round draft.  That was about it. 

The big story in all of this is the lack of big name players moving to contenders.  We have heard about Pau Gasol possibly going to Chicago, Jason Kidd heading to LA, and even Mike Bibby being shipped to help out Cleveland, but none of those deals came to be.  Each of these players was supposed to help put their new team over the edge and make them “serious” contenders.

Am I surprised at the lack of activity? Yeah, a little.  I thought that something big would happen.

Kidd to the Lakers would have been a great trade for the present but probably not for the future.  Kidd would have played the distributor role that Kobe has embraced, so Bryant would have been freed upto drop 35 a night.  The Lakers would have more than likely had to give up Bynum though, which would have hurt when he becomes a stud in a couple of years.

Being a Bulls fan, I’m actually glad that Chicago didn’t make the trade for Pau Gasol.  If the Bulls were going to get a low post presence, go for it all and get KG.  We know that wasn’t going to happen, but settling for Gasol would have been a mistake.  I don’t know what Memphis wanted, but if it included either Ben Gordon or Luol Deng, it was already too much.  They are both young and amazingly talented.  I really like the group of players Chicago has right now.  They don’t have that “go to” guy in the post, but they have so many slashers and shooters that they don’t need one in my opinion.  Chicago already has the pieces to come out of the Eastern Conference, don’t count them out.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, Sports | 2 Comments

Scottie Pippen, NBA Free Agent?

1482007021615460115pippen.jpgScottie Pippen, long time Chicago Bulls player and one of the 50 greatest in NBA history, wants to come out of retirement and play for a contender.  He recently stated that he is in great shape (5% body fat, which, if true, is pretty amazing) and has been training for months.  At age 41, Pippen is looking to play between 10 and 20 minutes a game for the final two months of the season and into the playoffs.

It is hardly uncommon for retired athletes to come out of retirement.  Michael Jordan, Mario Lemieux, and Sugar Ray Leonard are some greats that went back for a second helping in their respective sports.  Each of these players remained productive in their returns as well.  Pippen has undoubtedly seen that players can come out of retirement and compete.

However, Pippen is 41.  Those guys came back when they still had some good years left in them.  It is safe to say that Scottie is long past his prime. 

I’m not sure if a team will give him a chance.  Two of the teams which many analysts say Scottie would fit in at are the Bulls and the Lakers.  Both could use some veteran leadership for their playoffs runs and have ties to Pippen’s past.  Pippen played for 12 years with the Bulls, many of those years under Phil Jackson, the current coach of the Lakers. 

While I would love to see Pippen come back to the league and contribute, I have a hard time seeing it actually happen.  The best parts of his game were his defense and versatility.  He cannot be the same defender he once was, especially considering he was an average defender at best when he left the league the first time.  His versatility might still be there to some extent.  He would be able to bring the ball up and play the point forward roll, but past that he would not be much help.  He is not a great shooter and doesn’t have the explosiveness to blow past people anymore.

If Scottie wants to help a team, it should be as a coach and not a player.  He has leadership skills, but I can’t imagine he has the basketball skills to match.  In the words of Charles Barkley, “You retire because you can’t play anymore.  You don’t get better sitting at home.  You might feel better, but you don’t get better.”

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, Scottie Pippen, Sports | 1 Comment

I Want Real All Star Games

Does anyone else feel like All Star games have lost their luster?  Watching the NFL All Pro game last Saturday, I couldn’t help but feel that they have.  The concept of an All Star game is a sports fan’s dream, to watch the best players go head to head.  However, it seems to me that both fans and players alike are becoming less enthusiastic about these contests.

One obvious reason is that the players do not take All Star games very seriously.  The NBA All Star game is well known for this.  The first three quarters of the game is basically a plug for the And1 Mix Tape Tour, minus the guy screaming “Oh baby!” in the background. 

The NFL All Pro game flows a little more genuinely, if you can get the real stars to play that is.  Many players choose to sit out of this game because they have “injuries.”  Those that do play, especially on defense, tend to take a little more caution leading to poor tackling and choppy gameplay.  I get a sense that all of the players feel they are winners, regardless of the game’s outcome, if they did not get hurt in the game.

Anyone happen to see the number of open seats at the Pro Bowl?  The seats were only half full!  I’m awed by the extreme lack of support from fans.  They play the game in Hawaii, which could account for some of the lack of attendance, but it was still surprising to me.

The MLB All Star game might be the only one that has it right.  They have the game mean something and do an excellent job of promoting it.  Fans love the mid-season classic and rightfully so.  The players support one another and play the game as hard, if not harder, as they would a regular season game. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I wish that all of the All Star games meant something, to fans and players.  It’s a sad day when we have to listen to Tyrus Thomas say that, “I’m just going to go out there and do whatever…I’m out there to collect my paycheck.”

February 14, 2007 Posted by | All Star Game, Baseball, Basketball, Football, MLB, NBA, NFL, Sports | 1 Comment

John Amaechi Announces His Homosexuality

It has been reported that John Amaechi, former NBA journeyman, is going to admit to being gay in an upcoming book.  Amaechi, the first former NBA player to publicly admit to being gay, retired in 2003 after just five NBA seasons.

nba_maninmiddle_195.jpgThe reaction from some current NBA players is what bothers me, mainly Shavlik Randolph of the Philadelphia 76ers.  When asked about how he would feel if he had an openly gay teammate, Randolph said, “As long as you don’t bring your gayness on me I’m fine.” 

This sounds like something I would hear coming from someone in junior high.  Maybe I have overestimated the maturity level of some NBA players. 

Personally, I have no problem with Amaechi coming out if that is what he feels he needs to do.  I do not think it was necessary for him to make public his sexual preference though.  That is personal information that no one needs to know and the media blows out of perportion.  I understand if he is trying to lead the way for other homosexual NBA players to come out, but once again, I do not understand why they would feel obligated to.  Maybe he is just trying to make some money selling a book, who knows.  However, I admitting this takes a lot of courage, so for that I applaud you Mr. Amaechi.

February 8, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, News, Sports | Leave a comment

Best NBA Slam Dunker of All-Time

ESPN.com had a poll the other day that asked who people thought was the best slam dunker of all-time, if they were all in the prime of their careers.  Some of the options were Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and Michael Jordan.  I made my selection and was very surprised to see that who I had chosen was not who the majority of the people picked.  Here is why I think Vince Carter is the best slam dunker of all-time.

First of all, I narrowed my choice down by process of elimination.  Wilkins was a power dunker and was able to finish strong in traffic.  He did not have the flair to his dunks that the others do, which is why he is not the best.  That was the easy one to get out of the way.

Kobe and Dr. J both had their fair share of great dunks.  Dr. J could flat out soar while Kobe’s creativity in dunking is up there with the best of them.  However, Erving and Kobe simply are not on the same level as Jordan and Carter in terms of dunking.

This is where the discrepancy takes place.  Fourty-four percent of the people selected Michael Jordan as the best of all-time, while 26% chose Vince Carter.  I am as big of a Micahel Jordan fan as anyone out there, (and yes, he is the greatest player of ever) but there is no way he was a better dunker than Vince Carter.  Jordan was a fantastic all-around player and it is hard not to give him the title of “best ever” for each facet of his game.  In Vince Carter’s athletic prime, he was basically just a dunker, that is what he did.  Carter has more highlight reel dunks than anyone who has played in the NBA.  Whether he was in a Slam Dunk Competition, an NBA game, or jumping over people who stand 7’2″, Carter always found a way to make you say “wow.” 

February 7, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, Slam Dunk, Sports | 16 Comments