Basketball – Pro And College …

The NBA regular season is 48 hours old; it will continue for the next 6 months; only then, will most of the games on the schedule matter as much as a little bit.  However, in the first 48 hours, there have been some significant happenings.  Unfortunately, all of them have to do with injury.

  • One of the big moves of the off-season was Gordon Hayward leaving the Utah Jazz to sign with the Boston Celtics.  Just minutes into the first game of the season, Hayward broke his leg and dislocated his ankle; he has undergone surgery and the prognosis is that he is done for the season.
  • Another big move was Chris Paul leaving the LA Clippers to join the Houston Rockets.  There was plenty of speculation about how Paul and James Harden might operate together and in their first game it left the question begging.  In crunch time, Paul was on the bench with a sore knee.
  • Oh, in that same Rockets’ game their opponent was the reigning champion Golden State Warriors who lost the game and learned that Draymond Green would need an MRI on his knee.

The injury to Hayward is clearly the most significant happening here.  The Celtics added Hayward to a roster that won more games than anyone else in the Eastern Conference last year.  Later, the Celtics traded to acquire Kyrie Irving giving up Isaiah Thomas and other assets.  Irving is an upgrade over Thomas but Thomas was an All-Star last year so the upgrade is not mind-blowing.  It was the pairing of Irving with a solid player such as Hayward on top of the already talented roster that had Celtics’ fans anticipating the season.

Oh, did I mention that Isaiah Thomas is also injured and is not expected to be available for action until mid-season?  So much for the idea that basketball is a non-contact sport…

Earlier this week, I shared my thoughts on the NCAA’s decision not to sanction UNC for the academic fraud that happened there for a period of about 20 years.  I am not going to go into that again today but I mention it only to assure that you recall that decision in light of another decision the NCAA made recently.  I know that 2017 still has a tad over 10 weeks to go until it becomes history, but I will go out on a limb and call these two proximal decision by the NCAA:

  • The Exacta of Uselessness for 2017.

Stand by for the heavy lifting here…  Amid the FBI investigations into “bribery and fraud” associated with the recruiting processes in college basketball and the revelation of blatant violations of NCAA rules and regulations by coaches, players and shoe company representatives, the NCAA has taken action.  By Jove, the organization recognizes the need to do something impactful here so that it can regain control of its rules and regulations.  And so, the NCAA …

  • … announced that it was forming a Commission on College Basketball; and in that announcement, it declared that in light of this criminal investigation, the time had come for “decisive action”.

I have no idea what the NCAA will identify as “decisive action” but I will say this:

  • If you believe that the NCAA will put into effect “effective action” to prevent recruiting improprieties based on recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball, then you probably also believe The Nutcracker is what happens when you go off the high dive.

The Chairperson for the Commission on College Basketball is former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.  Members of the Commission will be drawn from the education community, business leaders, folks involved with collegiate sports and government in addition to former student-athletes.  So, the window dressing is in place; the credentials and the experiences of the Commission members are unassailable; all that remains is for those folks to ask what I call “The Perry Mason Question”.  Let me explain:

  • In every Perry Mason episode, the mystery is unbelievably complex and opaque until about 55 minutes into the hour-long episode.  At that point, Perry Mason asks a single question of one witness and – Poof! – everything becomes clear; the way forward is obvious to all; there is never a problem again.

In real life, “The Perry Mason Question” rarely exists; and when it does, there is no guarantee that anyone will discover its existence and ask it.  But the NCAA is out to take “decisive action” and so it is interesting to see what the charge to the Commission might be.  According to NCAA President, Mark Emmert, there are 3 areas that the Commission will study:

  1. Relationships between and among the NCAA, member schools and coaches with “outside entities” to include apparel companies, AAU basketball programs and agents/advisers associated with student-athletes.
  2. The relationship between the NCAA and the NBA with specific focus on the effect of the “one-and-done” feature of college basketball.
  3. How to promote transparency and accountability at the NCAA and its schools.

The first two areas outlined above have been studied, investigated and reported upon for decades.  The second area specifically already has an obvious answer.  The “one-and-done” situation is caused exclusively by the NBA’s existing CBA; that document created and maintained the environment that spawned “one-and-done”.  Until and unless that feature of the CBA is modified, there will be “one-and-done”.

Rather than focus on the first two areas, let me jump down to the third one on that list and point out – ever so politely – that the NCAA has been around since the time when Theodore Roosevelt was President; in fact, President Roosevelt is credited with founding the NCAA.  Here we are about 110 years after its formation and the NCAA finds it necessary to have a Commission make recommendations on how to promote transparency and accountability for itself and its member schools.  This will not qualify as a “Perry Mason Question” but let me ask it anyway:

  • Why does an organization made up of adults who profess to be honorable individuals need to promote transparency and accountability?

Let me answer that question:

  • There is no transparency and accountability simply because the adults involved here are not honorable folks and find the concepts of transparency and accountability to be antithetical to their personal agendas.

Not to prejudge the work of Secretary Rice and her Commission colleagues, but I doubt that they will arrive at my answer above.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News likened the ambience of college athletics to a different form of fiction/entertainment than I did here:

“A University of Alabama rules administrator has resigned following a federal investigation of college athletics.

“The hook is that he previously was assistant director of enforcement at the NCAA. Hmmm. Good guy goes to the dark side.

“Isn’t this the storyline of every superhero movie ever?”

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