NBA Stuff Today…

A few days ago, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time this year. I happened to catch the last 20 minutes of this game and I want to be sure that everyone here understands two important things:

    The Sixers are a bad team.

    The Timberwolves are even worse. Over the course of 20 minutes I watched, the Wolves are a bad shooting team; a bad defensive team and a team that played with no energy/passion. That, folks, is a disastrous trifecta.

NBA Commish, Adam Silver, told ESPN the Magazine that he has spoken with the “other commissioners” about his stance on legalized sports betting and that the other commissioners were interested in his views. He said that each of the other leagues had folks studying the pros and cons of legalized wagering on sporting events in those sports and that those leagues will arrive at their own conclusions.

I have to assume that he shared with the “other leagues’ how the NBA is now a part owner of one of those online fantasy betting sites and how that might turn into a new and important revenue stream. The one sure way to get the attention of the commissioners in MLB, the NFL and the NHL would be to mention the phrase “new revenue stream”.

My position on legalized sports betting is obvious to anyone who has been reading these rants for more than a few months. I found it interesting that Adam Silver also told ESPN the Magazine that the NBA would be better “protected” against something like the “Tim Donaghy Situation” with legalized gambling because then the leagues would be involved in the protocols regarding how betting takes place. I certainly agree with him on that point. Here is another important point:

    People are going to gamble on sports. The passage of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in the 1990s was ill-advised idealism that has not worked and never will work. The Congress needs to repeal it posthaste.

Kobe Bryant’s shoulder injury – the one requiring surgery that ended the 2015 season for Kobe – may have been a blessing in disguise for Bryant. Look, the Lakers are not any good with him on the floor and will be not any good with him off the floor. At the same time, Bryant has reached that state of his career where he has measurable level of energy left in his body and there is no pragmatic reason for him to expend another joule of that energy trying to make this current Lakers’ team anything other than miserable. I really wish that I could read the “thought-bubbles” running through Kobe Bryant’s mind as he sits back and watches this iteration of the LA Lakers try to play what has come to be known as “Laker basketball”. My guess is that the messages in those “thought-bubbles” would not be printable in a fine family newspaper…

The NCAA and CBS recently announced the broadcasting team for the Final Four this year. Jim Nantz will do the play-by-play and that should surprise exactly no one. However, Nantz will be joined by Bill Raftery and Grant Hill as the color commentators. That will be the first time for both of those guys on the national TV feed. Raftery has been doing college basketball games for CBS for more than 30 years how; Hill is a relative newcomer to the TV analysis business. I think this trio has the potential to be very good; we shall see if I am correct about seven weeks from now…

In other news involving the NCAA, two former athletes at UNC have filed a class-action or failure to provide the athletes with real academics and professional-grade instruction. In essence the suit says that UNC did what was necessary to keep these athletes eligible by NCAA standards without providing the athletes with a meaningful chance to receive a semblance of a college level education. As any long-term readers here know, I happen to believe that the scholarship an athlete receives is a significant opportunity for said athlete to set himself up in life just in case his pro sports dreams do not materialize. I tend to have little patience with athletes who squander that educational opportunity only to complain later. However, the assertions in this class-action suit are a bit different. These plaintiffs claim UNC gave them a scholarship but that their attendance at UNC did not give them an intersection with an opportunity to get a UNC-quality education. That is a markedly different circumstance from the knuckleheaded athlete who knows nothing of the inside of a classroom.

UNC will obviously defend this suit vigorously. I would suggest that the NCAA should do the same because if this suit is successful – and there could be a huge number of members of ”the class” – the verdict would strike at the heart of the NCAA’s contention that there is no reason to pay college athletes because they are students first and athletes only coincidentally. The stakes here are higher for UNC and for the NCAA than they are for the plaintiffs who have only a minimal risk in the matter.

It would seem to me that an important aspect of this case could be what UNC told the parents of the plaintiffs – who were likely minors at the time of their recruitment – regarding the educational aspects of the scholarship being offered to the prospective athletes. Of course, what the university “represented” as their educational value and what the parents might have heard could well have been two different things. Moreover, as time has passed and as the reality of the lack of a real pro sports career has materialized, it is very possible that the parents’ recollections may have had a different light on them.

The academic scandals at UNC are bad news for collegiate athletics everywhere. What I find as disconcerting as anything else about the whole thing is that there has been very little outrage expressed by the faculty at UNC regarding how some other faculty members participated in these academic shams. I would have thought that the stain on the academic reputation of UNC would be a bigger deal to the faculty at large there. I guess I was wrong. Maybe if UNC has to pay out a jillion dollars to these plaintiffs and all the members of their “class” and that outflow of dollars precludes faculty raises for a couple of years, the outrage will become more audible.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………