Chinese Basketball Association – The Other CBA

With all the hoopla that surrounded the NBA free agent signing frenzy this summer, a couple of happenings slipped through the cracks.  In times past, players who could not make the NBA or who were in the twilight of their basketball careers would find their way to Europe to play in one of the many national leagues there.  Recently, the Chinese option has opened for players.  Stephon Marbury has been playing in China for more than 5 years now as a member of the Beijing Ducks.  [Mmmm…  Tasty!]  Marbury is now 41 years old.

Over the summer, Chinese Basketball Association teams have made offers to other NBA veteran players to entice them to cross the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic Ocean to extend their careers.

  • Dwayne Wade reportedly has a 3-year $25M offer from the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.  There are also reports that Wade has signed a “lifetime contract” with Li-Ning – a Chinese clothing and shoe manufacturer.  As of this morning the offer from the Golden Bulls is still unsigned and on the table.  Wade is 36 years old; last year he only played in 21 games in the NBA.  I would be very surprised to see an NBA team offer him anything close to a 3-year deal worth $25M.
  • Last week, Lamar Odom (age 38) announced that he will resume his basketball career in China next year.  He did not reveal the team and there were no reports of the contract terms involved but Odom did say that Stephon Marbury was his “inspiration” to go to China to play again.  He also announced that he will be moving to Shenzen, China – the area that links mainland China and Hong Kong.  By coincidence, Shenzen also has a team in the China Basketball Association, so maybe we do know the team he will play for.  Odom has been out of the NBA since 2013 and has had serious addiction problems since then.

The reigning champions of the Chinese Basketball Association are the Liaoning Flying Leopards.  Liaoning is the Chinese province that borders North Korea; I have never been there; and if they have flying leopards there, I do not think I would want to visit.

I have been tracking the MLB teams that project to lose 100 games or more for the 2018 season since the end of April.  The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in MLB this morning; they are 1.5 games worse than the KC Royals; their record is 33-76.  The O’s were big-time sellers at the MLB trade deadline getting prospects for just about anyone on the team that any other MLB team sniffed around.  The exception was Adam Jones – and All-Star caliber outfielder – who is still with the O’s.  The reason he is still there is a tad unusual.

According to reports, the O’s had a deal in place to send Jones to the Phillies.  That would have sent Jones from a bottom-feeder to a team at the top of the NL East with playoff aspirations.  The deal fell through when Jones exercised his right under the MLB CBA to veto the trade because he is a “10-5 guy”.  According to the CBA, any player who has been in MLB for 10 years and has been with his current team for the last 5 years has the right to veto any trade at any time.  Jones played the 10-5 card.

Reporters asked him why he turned down the opportunity to play for a contender and Jones’ answer was direct – and a bit testy.  He said he did it because previous MLB players went on strike to win him those 10-5 rights and he decided that he wanted to use them.  Had he stopped there – and had the reporters not continued to question him on the issue – that decision would be lost in memory already.  However, he went on to say that it was no one’s business why he made the decision and that unless others were ready to take up the burden of paying all of his bills, then they needed to “shut the Hell up”.  Let me dance on that tightrope for a moment:

  • Jones is absolutely correct; this is his decision and he has exactly no obligation to explain it or justify it to anyone.
  • At the same time, he is intelligent enough to realize that his decision here is not the one that many other players would have made and that “unusual-ness” is going to be the subject of inquiry by reporters.  Therefore, he might have had a more tolerant or measured response at the ready.  I don’t think he intended to tell the world to go away; I think he reacted to reporters’ questions in a way that is not commonplace for him.
  • Adam Jones is a free agent at the end of the season.  It would be ironic if at that time he chose to sign with the Phillies, no?

One other thing about the Orioles and their record …  Thirty years ago, in 1988, the Orioles started the season by losing their first 21 games in a row.  The previous record for consecutive losses to start the season was shared by the Tigers (1920) and the Senators (1904) with 13 losses.  The Orioles did not “eclipse” that mark; they obliterated it.  The 1988 Orioles went on to post a final record of 54-107 [There must have been a rain-out that they decided not to make up.] and they finished a mere 34.5 games behind the AL East leader when the AL East had 7 teams.  This year’s Baltimore Orioles are on pace to win only 50 games and lose 112.  Ouch!

While on the subject of MLB, Bob Molinaro had this comment in his column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Milestone: From the where-has-the-time-gone file, I was surprised to hear last week that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was turning 30. Seems like just the other day the big righty was a gangly kid appearing on his first disabled list.”

I remember Strasburg’s first game.  He struck out 14 batters and the Washington baseball poets went gaga.  They were ready to commission the plaque for Cooperstown that day.  I suggested then that it might be a good idea to pump the brakes just a tad.  After all, those 14 strikeouts in his first game still left him exactly 5,700 strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment about another MLB pitcher in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-MLB pitcher Kevin Brown caught two men stealing from his mailbox in Macon Ga., and kept them at gunpoint until police arrived.

“Elias Sports Bureau statisticians alertly credited him with a hold.”

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



Urban Meyer In The Crosshairs

Ohio State has put Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave while it investigates a report that Meyer was aware of a domestic violence incident in 2015 perpetrated by one of his assistant coaches.  I am not going to rehash the events and the allegations here; you would be hard-pressed to go to any national sports website this morning and avoid reading those details.  Here is a link to one of many such summaries of the background here.

What we have here is another situation where several conflicting narratives apply at the same time:

  • Urban Meyer is innocent of any criminal action until he is found guilty of that action in a courtroom.
  • In the court of public opinion, however, things are not looking good for Urban Meyer as of this morning.
  • Nowhere in any of the reporting have I found a hint that Urban Meyer committed any acts of domestic violence.  Nonetheless, it is clear that such acts did occur and that leads to an inquiry that harkens back to the Senate Watergate hearings in the early 70s.
  • What did Urban Meyer know and when did he know it?  PLUS, if and when he knew what he knew, what did he do about it?

Ohio State University is in a delicate situation today.  These allegations come on the heels of allegations of sexual abuse within the wrestling program in the past and some of that muck and mire has spilled over to current Congressman James Jordan (R-Ohio) who was an assistant coach at Ohio State while some of that stuff was ongoing.  Let me be blunt here:

  • That was wrestling; this is football.

Wrestling may be important at Ohio State, but the reality is that wrestling is not football.  And Urban Meyer has 3 national championships to his credit; and national championships are a big deal to Ohio State alums, boosters and students.  No matter what Ohio State does to and with Urban Meyer, the university is going to piss off a large and vocal chorus of people.

Complicating the situation for the Ohio State pooh-bahs is a precedent at Ohio State in their football program.

  • In 2011, a bunch of Ohio State players received “improper benefits” in the form of discounted tattoos from a local tattoo artist.  Ohio State suspended Coach Jim Tressel for 2 games and then upped that ante to 5 games after an investigation and fined Tressel $250K.  Then, Coach Tressel “decided to resign” as the head football coach at Ohio State.

On one hand, it is easy to look at those two situations and say that “domestic violence” is a whole lot more serious than “discounted or free tattoos”.  So, on that axis, the “firing” of Jim Tressel makes the retention of Urban Meyer nigh onto impossible.

On the other hand, the “tattoo incident” could have led the NCAA to impose severe sanctions to the Ohio State football program.  In the current matter, the NCAA will likely stand on the sidelines and cluck about how all of us are socially responsible for out actions and pabulum of that ilk.  [Aside:  I presume that the NCAA learned from the Penn State incident that its purview is athletics and not criminal behavior(s).  If they did not learn from their embarrassment there, the NCAA might punch this tar baby too.  We shall see…]

Because I do not yet know what Urban Meyer knew and when he knew it and what he did about it when/if he knew what he knew, I will postpone saying what I think Ohio State ought to do here.  I suspect, however, that this is the end of the Urban Meyer regime in Columbus.  In the current environment of #meetoo and the light being shone on domestic violence by people in football and the parallelism here to the mess at Baylor under Art Briles, I do not see how Ohio State can keep him on the payroll.

Some commentators have already jumped to the conclusion that Urban Meyer’s career as a coach is over.  I am not ready to do that just yet and I will cite the case of Dave Bliss as a reason not to make such a leap of logic.  Here is what I wrote about Dave Bliss and his outrageous behavior(s) back in 2003; please take a minute to skim through it.

Now that you are back here, Dave Bliss was hired subsequently as a college basketball coach and then again twice as a high school basketball coach at two Christian high schools.  And that is why I am reluctant at this point to say that Urban Meyer will not be a football coach ever again.

Enough about that…  Yesterday I wrote about the naming rights for the Bonita Springs HS football stadium and I mentioned that a reader here lived in Bonita Springs.  Here is what he added to the story regarding why a healthcare provider might be willing to pay to name a football stadium.

“Big-time competition between Lee Health and Naples-based NCH (healthcare system) these days.  The two systems are opening free-standing ER’s less than a mile apart in Bonita Springs and NCH is opposing the state’s recent approval of a new 82-bed acute care hospital that Lee proposes to build in South Lee County.  Lee obviously wants to stay front and center in residents’ minds.

“The new Bonita Springs High School is probably about 4 miles from our house.  Lee’s freestanding ER and proposed new hospital are about 3 miles from our house, so all these developments are very close to home.”

Finally, here is a comment by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding a college football coach preparing for the upcoming season:

“Hawaii football coach Nick Rolovich brought a Britney Spears impersonator to Mountain West media day.

“And if the Rainbow Warriors repeat last year’s 3-9 performance, we assume, they’ll bring her back to sing ‘Oops I Did It Again’.”

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



An Apocalyptic Sign…

There are no circumstances imaginable wherein I would claim to be any sort of Biblical authority.  Having said that, I ran across a report yesterday that led me to check out a story in the Naples Daily News – that is Naples, Florida and not Naples, Italy – because it seemed to me to be a potential sign of the apocalypse.  The report seemed to be too outrageous to be true but the article in the Naples Daily News confirmed it.

There is a town on the west coast of Florida called Bonita Springs.  In fact, one of the readers of these rants lives in Bonita Springs.  They are building a new high school in Bonita Springs and of course the school will have a football team and a stadium in which to play its games.  Nothing seems even a bit off-center so far, right?  Here is the kicker:

  • Bonita Springs High School just sold the naming rights for its high school football stadium for $292K.  The deal runs for 5 years.

That is outrageous all by itself, but there is another layer here.  What sponsor would want to “invest” $292K to put its name on a high school football field for 5 years?  You would think that it would be a sponsor that was involved in the lives of high school students such as:

  • A clothing manufacturer
  • A local merchant
  • A maker of acne medication.

Not even close.  The sponsor here is Lee Health – the largest healthcare system in southwest Florida.  There are other high schools in that area that have sold off stadium naming rights – albeit for far less money – to local sponsors.  One of the other sponsors is a local heating and air conditioning company; another is a local law firm.  To that mix, we now add a healthcare system.

Here is a link to the article in the Naples Daily News in case you find this sufficiently off-center that you want to see the original piece to convince yourself it is not satire.

There is another “partnership” I want to talk about today.  MGM Resorts and the NBA have announced that MGM is the “Exclusive Official Gaming Partner” of the NBA.  Based on the announcement, I think this is what that means:

  • MGM pays the NBA for its official data which will then be used to determine winners and losers of various bets such as player proposition bets.
  • The NBA will get betting data from MGM as a way for the NBA to monitor “unusual” or “disturbing” trends in betting action on its games.

After years of fighting legalization of sports wagering, the NBA moved very quickly to monetize for themselves the fact that sports wagering is going to be legal is a whole lot of places in the future.  Where one stands on any issue depends on where one is sitting at the moment…

Last weekend, I got an e-mail from a former colleague and long-term reader of these rants saying he was surprised I had not commented on ESPN and its TV offering(s) since my return from the Balkans.  He pointed out that Keith Olbermann is back with ESPN and making various on-camera appearances and I have not commented on that state of affairs.  Also, he was surprised that I had not commented on a new ESPN program called High Noon – guess what time it might be on the air – hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre.  So, here is my response:

  • Since I have been back, I have not caught Keith Olbermann on any ESPN programs and I was not aware that he was “back in the fold in Bristol”.  If my count is correct, this is the fifth time Olbermann and ESPN have been “an item”; the last four times they were “an item” the breakup was ”less than amicable”.
  • Everyone here knows that I really like Keith Olbermann’s commentary and style regarding sports.  I really hope he can keep it together with the sits on mahogany row this time around.
  • I had never even heard of the program High Noon until last weekend.  Typically, I am not watching TV at midday unless it is to watch football on Saturdays and Sundays in the Fall.  So, I tuned in to ESPN2 see what this was all about.
  • This program works!  Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre are both intelligent and analytical about the issues they discuss; there is little hysteria; there are no hot-takes.  Most importantly, there appears to be a connection between the two of them that makes their interactions more realistic and more engaging.  If these two guys are not good friends off the air, they are awfully good actors.

Granted, I have only seen two episodes of this program, but I came away with a crazy thought in the back of my mind:

  • Maybe the powers that be at ESPN are prepping these two guys to “take over” the Pardon the Interruption franchise whenever Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon turn off their microphones.  Both pairings involve intelligent and rational people who exude a personal friendship/relationship that goes beyond what is on the screen at the moment.
  • Since I enjoy PTI a lot, that last comment should not be seen as any suggestion that the program be kicked to the curb.  I would hope that PTI would continue for years to come.  But if the suits at ESPN are thinking about “succession planning” for PTI, I think they ought to be watching High Noon closely.

Finally, a word from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Authorities in Manitoba have dropped marijuana charges against Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Duron Carter.

“Apparently the instant-replay booth ruled he didn’t have possession.”

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