Archive for August, 2013

By: Jonathan Tjarks

But to spend time inside the Spurs organization today is to uncover another interpretation of their dynasty: that as America’s youth basketball pipeline has produced a type of player that Pop has no interest in coaching, he has found an advantage not only in targeting international players but in avoiding domestic ones.

— Seth Wickersham, ESPN The Magazine

The San Antonio Spurs set an NBA record for the number of foreign players on their roster last season, with nine coming from outside the United States. According to a revealing article from Seth Wickersham, published during this year’s playoffs, that is no accident. The Spurs have grown weary of the youth basketball scene in this country, preferring players who grew up overseas, untouched by a seedy AAU basketball infrastructure that has “ruined” many American kids.

For Wickersham, NBA franchises are victims, passive observers of “something that has happened, well-document but irrevocable” to the game of basketball. The biggest divide, he tells us, “isn’t structural, but cultural.” In reality, he has it backwards. Because there is no professional structure to youth basketball in the US, a poorly organized and often self-defeating culture has developed in its place. If AAU basketball is bad for business, the NBA has the power to fix it.

Throughout, Wickersham contrasts the way things are done in San Antonio with a summer AAU game between the New Jersey Playaz and the New York City Jayhawks, whom he dubs “the anti-Spurs”. Instead of a team-oriented game built around passing and cutting, the ball sticks in the hands of players who try to score 1-on-5. It’s almost a different sport, as Gregg Popovich tells him. If one of these teenagers ends up in the NBA, Wickersham assures us, he won’t be playing for the Spurs.

The comparison, upon closer inspection, is somewhat bizarre. Are we surprised that an NBA franchise runs a more professional operation than two volunteer organizations competing before non-existent crowds in an AAU tournament? The Spurs are the beneficiaries of massive nine-figure revenue streams in the form of publicly-financed stadiums and national TV deals. AAU teams, if they are lucky, receive free gear and a small stipend from Nike or Adidas.

There’s no question that a lot of the coaching at the AAU level is deficient, if not outright harmful. However, if you look at the way the system is set up, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Shoe companies, not professional basketball organizations, are the ones paying for it. There’s a market for the talents of 15-year-old basketball players, just as there is one for 15-year-old tennis players, singers and actors. Refusing to acknowledge it only pushed things underground, creating a black market.

In contrast, as the article points out, European players like Tiago Splitter turn pro at 15. Splitter thought about coming to the States as a teenager, before realizing our system made little sense: “American coaches recruited him to attend high school in the States. He was intrigued, until the coaches told him that his parents would have to pay for everything. [Emphasis added] So he stayed in Europe, and at 15 signed a 10-year contract to play with Baskonia.”

From Splitter’s perspective, it’s easy to see how the culture of youth basketball in America went off track. Baskonia didn’t need to “pamper” him or “build up his ego” to play on their team. They gave him a substantial sum of cash and signed him to a contract. Since their investment made them committed to his development, they did everything in their power to make him a fundamentally sound player. As a bonus, they tried to keep him away from negative influences.

Curtis Malone is the co-founder of DC Assault, one of the most influential AAU teams in the country. Earlier this summer, a police search of his home found a kilo of cocaine and 100 grams of heroin. This isn’t his first run-in with the law either; he was convicted of distributing crack in 1991. In an alternate universe where the Washington Wizards paid for the development of the best under-18 players in the D.C. area, it’s hard to imagine them employing Malone.

Since D.C. is one of the most talent-rich areas of the country, it wouldn’t be fair for the Wizards to be the only team with access to it. Instead of AAU teams competing to give the best young players from the area thousands of dollars in cash, NBA teams could give those same kids millions of dollars in actual contracts. That, of course, is why a free market system for youth basketball doesn’t exist. The powers that be make too much money from washing their hands of the whole thing.

People point to the failures of 19-year-olds that NBA teams have drafted, ignoring the fact that highly-touted 19-year-olds bust out of college all the time. Jereme Richmond could have been the next Evan Turner; Renardo Sidney’s career started going the wrong way in high school. The upside of letting NBA organizations develop the best 16-year-old players is obvious. Instead of characters like Malone, they would be around guys like Popovich and R.C. Buford.

FC Barcelona has an under-12 team and the world seems to have survived. Over the last generation, we have had a natural experiment as to whether the amateur or free market system produces the best professional basketball players. The Spurs seem to think the Europeans have the right answer. Whether or not they are right, though, is almost besides the point. If NBA teams think the current system isn’t working, they can easily fix it. They are hardly lacking for money.

In 2016, the league is set to get a jaw-dropping TV contract in the billions of dollars. That kind of cash can have a huge effect on youth basketball, which we can see in USA Basketball’s investment in the U-16, U-17 and U19 national teams. At the very least, the NBA can afford to expand those programs substantially. Instead of investing in the youth of our country, we attack their character and import foreign labor. It’s an all too common reality these days.


Lakers Willing To Sign Lamar Odom If He Goes To Rehab

Lamar Odom doesn’t have a lot of options. He hasn’t played well for the last couple of seasons and most teams don’t want to deal with the Kardashians. Now, with these drug accusations floating around, it will make it even hard for him to find a spot in the NBA. The Clippers wanted him back, but moved on because of the drama. The Lakers maybe the only team that will throw him a lifeline. Radar exclusively reported, Odom’s basketball career isn’t over yet, because the 6’10″ forward has been thrown a bone by the Los Angeles Lakers — who have offered to save a spot on the team for Odom if he agrees to rehab treatment. The team’s general manager, Mitch Kupchak, offered a sensational lifeline to 33-year-old Odom’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, “because the organization and the Buss family are extremely concerned about him,” according to a source with knowledge of the situation, who spoke exclusively to Radar. We will see, I still doubt it, but if Lamar plays anywhere next year, it will probably be the Lakers.

Mike Tyson: 'I Don't Know If I Want To Be Around No More'

Chris Chase, USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson talked with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show
“There’s no one who can surpass me in the pain I’ve endured,” Tyson said
“I don’t know if I like this sober guy.”

In his first interview since declaring himself a “vicious alcoholic” on the “verge of dying,” former heavyweight Mike Tyson opened up about his battles staying sober.

“I won’t survive if I don’t get help,” Tyson told Matt Lauer on the TODAY show during a sit-down interview in Las Vegas that Lauer described as “candid, confusing and revealing.”

“When I start drinking and I relapse, I think of dying,” Tyson said. “I’m in a real dark mood, I think of dying. And I don’t know if I want to be around no more.”

Tyson surprised the media last week when he used a press conference touting his return as a boxing promoter to confess his battles with addiction.

“I want to change my life, I want to live a different life now,” he said at the time. “I want to live my sober life. I don’t want to die.”

Six days after, Tyson told Lauer he’s been sober 12 days.

“It’s a real challenge,” Tyson said of his fight to stay clean. “I don’t know if I like this sober guy. It’s hard for me to live normal. Straight is hard.”

Tyson, who has an upcoming memoir, HBO special and Fox Sports 1 documentary series, told Lauer he’s been fighting demons in his head since he was born.

“Yeah, it is kinda strange and scary,” Tyson said. “I was born that way.”

Though Tyson has been making amends in his life, he still won’t apologize for the 1991 incident with Desiree Washington that led to a three-year prison sentence for rape.

“I’ve done nothing,” Tyson said. “I really didn’t do anything to to her. I didn’t rape her, I didn’t beat her, I didn’t do anything to her. I’m not going to make amends.”

Lauer asked Tyson about whether all his failures will help him succeed in his fight to conquer his addictions.

“100 percent,” Tyson said. “No one’s failed more than I did. No one’s seen more than I’ve seen. I’m the king of the barbarians. There’s no one who can surpass me in the pain I’ve endured.”

Ricky Seals-Jones' Dad Claims His Son Was Offered $600,000 for Commitment


Texas A&M freshman wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones was one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the nation before he committed to the Aggies last December.

According to his father, Chester Jones, the 5-star wideout left a $600,000 deal on the table from a collegiate powerhouse before ultimately choosing College Station as his new home.

CBS News reporter Armen Keteyian collaborated with Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Benedict to author a new book entitled, The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, in which the duo tackle various layers and angles of college football that the casual fan would never see.

As reported by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Keteyian is speaking out in advance of the book’s release by sharing some of the more mind-blowing details from his investigation on the subject, and the news on Seals-Jones is quite shocking.

According to Keteyian (via Wetzel), there’s a full chapter in The System devoted to the recruitment of the former Sealy High School star.

Per the report, a “top-20 program” offered Seals-Jones and his family “$300,000 in cash, use of a luxury suite during football season, eight season tickets and $1,000 per month for Ricky and $500 for the family” if he signed their national letter of intent.

The elder Jones took it a step further, claiming that the offer was “a lot higher than that,” and that in addition to the $600,000 offer, one ACC and one SEC school offered to double any monetary figure the Seals-Jones family was weighing from another program.

In the end, Seals-Jones and his family rejected all of them “out of principle and the fear of inevitably getting caught.”

247Sports’ composite rankings listed Seals-Jones as the No. 25 player nationally in the 2013 class. He was also ranked as the No. 2 athlete in the nation and the No. 2 player in Texas.

Seals-Jones is expected to play an important role as a freshman in Kevin Sumlin’s offense this year. The young wideout has been mixing in with the first team on occasion, according to a tweet from Aggie Sports:

Listed at 6’5″, 230 pounds, Seals-Jones was a standout on both sides of the ball in high school. As you can see from this highlight film, he was an impressive physical specimen as both a quarterback and safety.

Since his size and hands make him an ideal receiving target for Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense, Sumlin has been working Seals-Jones in the mix as a receiver—the position many analysts projected him to transition to once in college.



 The Miami Heat may have won championships in each of the last two seasons, but life still isn’t perfect for some of their players.

According to Kathy Lynn Gray of theColumbus Dispatch, Mike Miller and other Heat players were among those victimized in a multi-million-dollar real-estate scam. Regina Garcia Cano of the Associated Press reported that the other players were James Jones and Rashard Lewis.

Haider Zafar allegedly conned Miller, Jones and Lewis—along with numerous other Florida residents—out of $8 million by using “questionable documents” to solicit funds for Pakistani real-estate ventures.

These revelations were made public after international investment attorney Andrew Fine served as a witness in federal court last Thursday.

Patwinder Sidhu, one of the main victims in this case, was allegedly taken for more than $10 million during a two-year period.

There are 135 charges being pursued against Zafar for his actions, as he allegedly attempted to convince investors that his uncle was the defense minister in Pakistan. If investors purchased land, Zafar said they would be able to sell it back to the government at a higher price.

 It’s unknown exactly how much Zafar took the Heat stars for, but none were named in the criminal complaint.

Miller is no longer with Miami after the team exercised its amnesty clause to exclude his wages from the salary cap. He recently signed with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lewis and Jones are entering the final years of their contracts and are each due to make approximately $1.5 million for the upcoming campaign.

Hopefully, this issue will be cleared up in time for the start of the 2013-14 campaign, as the Heat are going for a rare three-peat and do not need off-court distractions getting in the way.

Mike Shanahan: Super Bowl or bust for Washington Redskins

By Steve DelVecchio

Elvis-Grbac-Threw-Ball-at-Al-Davis-Because-of-Mike-ShanahanWashington Redskins fans have high expectations for their team heading into the 2013 season. Robert Griffin III is coming back from the second major knee surgery of his career, but he claims he is healthy and ahead of schedule in his rehab. And Mike Shanahan shares the same opinion as the fans.

“(The players) have set the expectations,” Shanahan said earlier this week, via the team’s official Twitter account. “Coaches coach, players play and together all of us can win championships and that’s what we plan to do. We have a team that you’re going to be proud of.”

The Redskins reached that playoffs last year in RG3′s first season as the team’s quarterback, so there is plenty of reason for optimism. A healthy Griffin brings stability to the most important position on the field. Should he struggle to regain his 2012 form or go down with another injury, Washington could become just another mediocre team.

Some would argue that Griffin should take a more conservative approach this season and become more of a pocket passer, but that is not his game. He has the ability to make throws, but he recently made it clear that he still intends to take off if the defense is giving him space.

The Redskins should probably focus on winning the NFC East and getting back to the playoffs before thinking Super Bowl, but every team has the same goal — to win a championship. There’s nothing wrong with Shanahan preaching that given the improvements his team has made since last year’s 10-6 campaign.

By Vashti

Although some people may replace one of Lebron’s choices, you can’t argue too much with his top three. H/T: For The Win During an interview with Fox Sports’ Bill Reiter, LeBron James was pressed for his top three NBA players of all-time. James wavered a moment before rattling off his list. “Oh my God, three? Larry Bird, Dr. J, Michael Jordan.” Where’s Magic you ask? Lebron made sure to note he’s right there at #4.

Kobe Bryant’s Mansion is for Sale

By Mark Gunnels

Kobe Bryant has been stealing the headlines due to his amazing recovery from his Achilles injury. There’s still uncertainty of when the all-time Lakers leading scorer will return, but he’s well ahead of schedule. Now Kobe is finding another way to make news. The Los Angeles Times is reporting the living legend is selling his Newport Coast home for $8.6 million. There is an 850-square-foot gym, a hair salon, a paneled office/library with a shark tank, a theater, four bedrooms and seven bathrooms in the two-story house. The grounds include a swimming pool and spa, lawn, a fire pit and an outdoor kitchen.

Cassell Jr. to Visit Mizzou, Marquette

Former Maryland commit Sam Cassell Jr. has two visits lined up next month.

“I am taking visits to Marquette and Mizzou in September,” he told by text.

The Mizzou visit is Sept. 7-9, and the Marquette visit is the following weekend.

Cassell Jr. said he’s also considering Pittsburgh, UConn, Florida State, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Xavier and USC.

After committing to Maryland, the 6-foot-3 Cassell Jr. was ruled ineligible last September due to courses he took at Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep. Maryland appealed the ruling but it was denied.

Cassell Jr. is currently at Chipola (FL) College.

“The great thing is he could play on the ball or off the ball,” Chipola coach Pat Blake previously told the Baltimore Sun. “He scores it so well and has a great feel and can get other people shots. He’ll primarily be our point. He’ll also play off the ball some as well. I imagine him handling the ball.

“If you need to find someone that young that kind of has that older man’s game, [Cassell is your guy]. He’s a very heady, high-basketball IQ [player], with that kind of poise and knowledge for the game. I knew he had that. I just didn’t know he had such a high level.

By Glenn Erby

Kyrie Irving is a bad boy. Kyrie Irving again put on a show at another Pro Am, this time taking his talents to Seattle to put up buckets in awesome display. Irving’s highlight reel includes everything you would want to see from a top point guard in the NBA. Irving hit defenders with crossovers, no look passes, fall away three’s, dunks, and ooh’s and ah’s from every direction. Kyrie Irving is must see TV anytime he takes the floor. | Hang Time Blog

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