Art Chansky is a guy who seems prone to a sort of mood swing in his
writing. Either UNC is the greatest place in the world, with even God
wanting in on the deal, or things are falling apart. Duke is evil or Duke
is in control and there's nothing you can do about it. The latest extreme
is the NBA
being out to ruin college basketball.
The premise presupposes that David Stern is either Machiavelli incarnate, or
an idiot, and most people will agree he's no idiot. So is he trying to
ruin college basketball? In our opinion, college basketball is capable of
destroying itself, and Stern doesn't need to help. But more importantly,
with the shorter path to the NBA, what are the results?
Ratings are down, fundamentals stink, and no one can hit a bucket.
Things have gotten so bad in the NBA that they're even going to allow zones,
which is, frankly, bizarre. Zones have been banned for forever. Part of
the reason is that the league likes to develop stars. We really don't
understand the logic of the zone in the NBA, but we can tell you this - it's not
something done out of strength, and we fail to see how this will help the
offenses. A lot of people don't even know anymore that the NBA used to
distinguish itself from college ball by scoring in the 100s on a very regular
basis. Now that's the exception - and they get eight more minutes and the
cream of the crop! And no zones!
Nor, depending on how you look at it, is the Development League, or whatever
they call it, really that dangerous. Relatively few kids are gunning for
the minors. The whole idea is to shake Stern's hand and cash in. That
won't happen in, say, Fayetteville, and among the guys who are going to be going
for however many spots there are are guys like Ed Cota, Chris Carrawell, Damon
Thornton, and so forth. It's not like they're going to turn the whole
thing over to high schoolers, and no mater what they do, there are only so many
jobs in the NBA, and it's finite.
Thirdly , though this is often overlooked, college basketball does, or did, a
lot of free work for the NBA. An awful lot of fine coaches train kids in the
fundamentals of the game. Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, John Thompson,
Denny Crum, Rick Pitino, Lute Olson - the kids they have sent out generally
understand the game. That link in the fence is missing, and the
Development League is going to have a tough time fixing it.
Fourth, the difference between an NBA rookie like Shane Battier or Mateen
Cleaves or Morris Peterson and Eddy Curry is huge. We're not talking about
fundamentals, though that's part of it. More importantly, these guys are a
marketable quality. How do you market Tyson Chandler? "He could be
one of the all-time greats! He's a 7-2 Scottie Pippen!" Well,
try that with a 70% failure rate and see how long people buy it.
Finally, Chansky's suggestion that Battier is losing money is ludicrous. Yes,
he'll sign his phat year contract at a later age, but so what? He
has spent four years developing and marketing an image, and if his career is
reasonably successful, he can make far more money off the court than on. Remember the DBR mantra, kids: there is no salary cap on endorsements.
The fact is that the NBA needs college basketball much more than college
needs the NBA. The NBA is really not that far removed from tape-delay
championships, and the like. It almost fell apart in the '70s. Stern
did a brilliant job to rescue it, and he has made it a global entity. If
you want to see where his sights are set, you're better off looking at vast
territories which offer no competition to speak of, like Barcelona,
Brazil, or China. The 6 billlion NCAA contract is a pot of money, but it's
nothing compared to what could come out of China.
Chansky's right, the NCAA has some serious stuff to deal with, but just because things are changing doesn't mean Stern is out to ruin college ball. As a matter of fact, he has said whenever he calls to try to talk to them, it's useless. No one even bothers to get back to him. So what does that tell you about who the problem is?