Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jason Whitlock on Brandon Jennings Round 2

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports weighs in on the Brandon Jennings decision again, this time after sitting down for an interview with both Jennings and former sneaker rep Sonny Vaccaro (see below for video of the interviews).

I have believed that Jennings made the correct decision from the beginning, and in general, I completely agree with Whitlock. He changed his stance a little bit in this article - he toned down the black-kids-exploited-by-white-officials argument - but he still is making the same point. Why is it fair to force kids to go to school for one year, when (and I know I have beaten this point to death on this blog) the sole purpose of the one year is so that the NCAA and NBA can profit? Vaccaro hits it right on the head with this quote:

(Miles) Brand said they've made millions of dollars before with kids playing in college, and they'll make millions after. They're not going to rescind the CBS contract. They're not going to rescind the new contract with the leagues. He doesn't give a damn about the kids. He doesn't care about caring for the kids. It's a business proposition.
He's right. It's not fair to force the kids to go to school if the reason is so the suits and the leagues can profit. I do, however, think it is fair to force kids to go to school because they are not ready for the league yet. I don't think one year in college is enough, but if the players had to go to college for two years and had to be 20 years old to enter the draft, I would have no problem.

I understand Whitlock's argument about baseball players, but I don't necessarily agree with it. He says:
Why demonize a kid for pursuing his dream? We don't do it to baseball players who join the minor leagues for relative peanuts straight out of high school. Why basketball players?
But baseball has an elaborate minor league system. You never see players come out of high school and go straight to the bigs. For the most part, the top prospects spend years in the minors trying to learn to hit a curveball or to make their change-up look like a fastball. Many top draft picks never reach the majors.

Basketball doesn't have that; they have the D-League. When there was no one year rule, 18 year old draft picks were expected to come into the NBA and perform against the best players in the world. Some were successful (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, KG, arguably the three best players in the league) while many were not (remember these names - Ousmane Cisse, Ndudi Ebi, Lenny Cooke).

I find it interesting that Whitlock conveniently forgets to mention that the NFL has a much stricter rule than the NBA - three years out of high school. This is one is tough to argue simply because of the physical maturity and sheer strength necessary to handle the daily beatings. In the NBA, you need mental maturity and, for lack of a better word, "game" maturity. In high school, most of these guys succeed simply because they are just better athletes - they're taller, quicker, jump higher - but their skill level is not even close to the level it needs to be to succeed in the NBA. Whitlock barely even mentions this point, if he does at all. He's right - the NCAA is a rigged system, but sending kids into the NBA unprepared is not good for them, its not good for the NCAA, and its not good for the NBA.

I've mentioned it before, but what is the problem with forcing these kids to go to school, and then giving them a little money for it. If you paid them $150 a week like I suggested here, then they would be making as much as their minor league baseball counterparts. Because that what the NCAA essentially is - NBA minor leagues?

He made one other point that was interesting, and which I never even thought about. In college, there are limits as to how much time per week a coach is allowed to work with a player. In Europe, there are none. So even if Jennings gets stuck at the end of the bench on a team, he will still have much more time on the practice court - either going against professional point guards, or working out on his own. And, as Whitlock puts it:
Strictly from a basketball standpoint, a year in Europe will do Jennings good. No one who knows anything about basketball believes Lute Olson would teach Jennings a thing about the fundamentals of the game. I'm not taking a cheap shot at Lute to defend Jennings' decision. It's a well-known fact within basketball circles that Lute Olson is famous for rolling the ball on the court, kicking back and enjoying the work of his recruiters. Lute Olson is not Bobby Knight.

And as far as culture shock goes, Jennings went from Dominguez High School in Compton to Oak Hill Academy in country Virginia. Pretty differing cultures, no?

Here are the videos of the Vaccaro and Jennings interviews.

Whitlock with Jennings
Whitlock with Jennings

Whitlock visits Vaccaro
Whitlock visits Vaccaro

1 comment:

nitrkulja said...

One more point that no one seems to have mentioned is that at Roma, Jennings would also benefit from the teachings of the GM Dejan Bodiroga, considered the absolute best guard to play the game in Europe having one every possible accolade in his career. It would be the equivalent of having someone like Reggie Miller train/observe and guide you on a daily basis for a year, and considering that there is money involved it would be even more likely that this team of experts would want to do their utmost to get Jennings ready for the Italian Seria A and to get him to improve, simply so they can turn a profit off him.

Its a great choice for him. The only problem is that if he doesnt get the exposure necessary or the playing time he might not get drafted as high. Think about it unproven players like Dajuan Wagner or Darko got drafted so high and immediately got huge paychecks of which they profited instantly. If Jennings doesnt succeed against euros in what they class a midlevel team (which it really is not..) then Jennings will be in a whole load of trouble come draft time next year....