Archive for June, 2012

I knew the Phoenix Suns were in trouble by the fourth pick. Almost every single ‘expert’ mock draft had the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Small Forward Harrison Barnes. So of course, the Cavaliers took Shooting Guard Dion Waiters. By pick #8, I knew the Suns were screwed. With the 8th pick, the Toronto Raptors surprised everyone by taking SG Terrence Ross – a player most ‘experts’ had landing somewhere in the 15-20 range. There seemed to be a common theme emerging… shooting guards were coveted.

Such development should come at no surprise to anyone who watched the recent NBA Finals. The series matched up two of the most-freakishly athletic teams in the league, and the role of the ‘big man’ was almost negligible. Much of the games consisted of each team having 4-wing players and a token ‘big man’ down low. There was no post-presence demanding the ball 20 times a game – a la Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’Neil. It was a series where the court was spread and the athleticism flourished.

You see, the NBA game has transformed. Recent the rule changes have benefited the quicker, more athletic players, so it’s no wonder why a team featuring Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden was in the Finals while a team with featuring Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, and Grant Hill was the 10th best team in their conference. In the modern NBA game, if you don’t have elite athletes on the wing, it’s simply tough to compete.

Back to the draft… When SG Austin Rivers predictably went to the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick, it left only one elite shooting guard remaining, and still two picks until the Suns drafted. After Portland took a token white guy, there was only one pick separating the Suns from a chance to draft the last elite shooting guard they desperately need – Jeremy Lamb. Then it happened. I don’t know why ever I expected it wouldn’t. I should have just looked at the track record of the Suns drafting under owner Robert Sarver – TERRIBLE. Like a scene out of a sad drama, the NBA Commissioner, David ‘Have you stopped beating your wife’ Stern, said, “With the 12th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Jeremy Lamb from the University of Connecticut”. Dammit!

Before the draft, there were five shooting guards I would have been happy for the Suns to end up with. I wasn’t being greedy. I didn’t beg for a particular one. I just wanted any one of five! By our pick, the roof had fallen in. What were the chances that five of the first twelve picks taken would be shooting guards? And what were the chances, the one year the Suns were desperately looking to add one, they happened to have the thirteenth pick. Oh, the humanity!

As I sat there shaking my head, pondering how Suns fans would again be disappointed by yet another draft day letdown, I prayed hard the Suns wouldn’t panic and draft Point Guard Kendall Marshall.  I hoped in the months of preparing for the draft, the Suns had anticipated this worst-case scenario and had some sort of contingency plan. Boy, what was I thinking?

Like clockwork, with the 13th pick of the draft, the Phoenix Suns selected PG Kendall Marshall. I mean, why wouldn’t they? After all, this was the same Kendall Marshall many draft ‘experts’ said would become a solid-back up point guard in pre-draft coverage (just what we needed from this talented draft lottery, another non-difference making reserve). The same point guard everyone said wasn’t very athletic, but compensated for it with his great passing. Do you know what helps makes a player look like a great passer in college? Great talent around him… The University of North Carolina had four draft picks in the top-20 this year. They were the second most talented team in the nation. Of course Marshall’s assist numbers look good! All Marshall had to do was get outlet passes and push the ball up to his uber-talented wing players. Sorry, Kendall, you’re not going to have that luxury in Phoenix. You’re going to counted on to create, penetrate, and make shots – you know, things a lottery picked point guard must be able to do. Great athleticism would help with that. Marshall’s athleticism will not. Don’t believe me? Just ask Suns General Manager Lance Blanks…

Blanks said, “We didn’t get Kendall for his athleticism and Kendall knows that. We got him for his brain and his ability to make people better, who he is off the court for our locker room. He’s in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization. He’s just a wonderful human being.”

Holy shit. Really? That’s what you have to say about the Suns most-recent lottery pick? ‘We didn’t get him for his athleticism. He’s just a wonderful human being’. Hey Mr. Blanks, you have a whole roster of nice guys with limited athleticism and look where that got the Suns lately. The Suns are grasping at the edge of mediocrity, about to fall into the dark-ages of irrelevance.

Did the Suns front office simply stop watching basketball when the regular season ended? Did they not see the levels of athleticism needed to compete for a championship in the NBA?

Obviously not. From what I can tell, the Suns just drafted a poor-man’s version of the aging Steve Nash, but one who can’t shoot the ball. Great. When can I renew my season tickets?

On top of all this, there are now whispers the Suns may be pursuing soon-to-be 37-year old shooting guard Ray Allen, who is fresh off of ankle surgery. Yes, the same Ray Allen who used to be represented by former-agent and current Suns President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby. Just what we need, another one of Lon Babby’s former clients… because that whole 5-year/$33.50 million contract Babby handed to another one of his former clients, Josh Childress, has worked out so great! Is this really happening to Suns fan?!?

To be a Suns fans these days is to live through a dramatic performance of Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” The only thing the Suns added from this draft was an ‘unathletic’ point guard who didn’t score in double-digits during college. I’m pretty sure we could have found one of those on the free-agent market… just another great use of a lottery pick by ‘Your Phoenix Suns’. Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall. Four top-15 picks, ZERO difference makers. But at least with our first pick in 2010, we took a guy out of the basketball powerhouse Georgia Institute of Technology! (Yes, look it up)… Ladies and gentlemen, we are watching the Titanic of NBA franchises. Robert Sarver is our captain asleep at the wheel. It’s going to be a very ugly 3-5 years ahead. Godspeed to all. That’s that.

*Mailbag is being moved to Monday this week because to the length of this post. Don’t forget to continue sending questions, thoughts, concerns, and/or rants to or The Battered Fan’s Facebook Page Thanks!*

Last evening, a presidential oversight committee approved a four-team college football playoff system that will begin in 2014 and run until 2025. Fans everywhere rejoiced over the burial of the uber-flawed Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and seemed genuinely excited for the implementation of this new system. While the creation of such system fixes one notable problem, it only highlights another: college football players not getting their fair share of the financial pie.

In the current BCS system, ESPN reportedly pays about $165 per year for the five BCS games. Experts anticipate the price of the rights for the new four-team playoff system, as well as the four other major bowls connected to the plan, to reach as much as $400 million to $500 million per season. Despite the potential 300% increase of television rights revenue alone, do you know how much of an increase college football players will see in their share? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Many people argue collegiate football players get a full-ride scholarship and that should be enough. Oh really? A recent ESPN the Magazine article noted the average FBS football program netted $164,000 of revenue per football player each year. The average scholarship was $27,000 a year. That’s a yearly gap of $137,000 per player! There are a lot of other students on campus who are also on full-ride scholarships that aren’t contributing to a multi-billion revenue stream… No one is paying the math students of the world $500 million a year to watch them perform their craft, but if they did, the math students would likely get a cut of such revenue. Isn’t that how things generally work in the real world? But when college football is involved, one must throw reality and logic out the window…

The NCAA and the powers that be have manipulated the system so everyone is getting rich but the workers (athletes) themselves. You say, “Well, the workers at the Apple Store don’t make more money simply because the company is!” But that’s simply a poor comparison. There are infinite amounts of people who are capable of working at an Apple Store, there are not infinite amounts of people who can play college football at a high level. There is a reason Tom Brady gets $20 million a year, it’s because his talent demands that on the open-market. No television network is going to pay a half-a-billion dollars to see ‘Joe Schmo’ throw a football around… Hypothetically speaking, because of their unique talents, athletes should have greater negotiating leverage than a worker at an Apple Store – just like other talent-rich, skilled professions do (surgeons, performers, actors).

But the NCAA hides behind this false, bullshit premise of ‘amateurism’. When asked why college football players are considered ‘amateurs’, the NCAA responses “because they don’t get paid”. Then when asked why they don’t get paid, the NCAA responses “because they are amateurs”. See the bullshit… The term ‘student-athlete’ was originally conceived by the NCAA to avoid workers compensation claims, but as the industry grew, the term became much more. You see, workers have rights. Student-athletes do not. If the NCAA could convince enough people that the laborers in this multi-billion dollar industry were nothing more than ‘student-athletes’, then the NCAA could enforce their own, self-promoting rules with little resistance. NCAA – 1. College Athletes – 0.

On top of that scheme, you now have the NCAA saying they are ‘looking into ways to create a $2,000 stipend for the football players’ – acting as if they are bending over backwards to do athletes a huge favor.  While any money would help, $2,000 out of the aforementioned $137,000 represents less than 2% – not exactly a huge piece of the pie. More like a crumb to appease the critics for a while. While conference commissioners, collegiate administrators, and collegiate coaches have all had skyrocketing salaries over the past 15 years, there is one group being cut out of the increases – the athletes.

The fallacy of the athletic scholarship is one of the greatest travesties of all. Essentially, an athletic scholarship is a year-to-year renewable contract between a university and the individual player. Only it doesn’t even cover the entire year… And coaches don’t have to renew it if a player doesn’t play well… And the student-athlete is not allowed to walk away without repercussion while a university can.

You see, most college football players get a monthly scholarship check (for housing, food, and personal expenses) from late August to early December, and then again from the end of January to early May. If you don’t make a bowl game, you go without a scholarship check to cover your expenses from early December until school resumes in late January. If a university chooses not to pay for a ‘student-athletes’ summer school, even though summer workouts/conditioning are ‘voluntarily mandatory’, a player won’t get a scholarship check in May, June, July, or August (until school starts). This full-ride scholarship can essentially be trimmed down to about 7 or 8 ‘living expense’ checks a year, all around $1000 each. Sadly, an average collegiate football player – one who is part of a multi-billion dollar industry – may only get $7,000-8000 a year to cover all his living, food, and personal expenses. That’s not right.

There is plenty of money to go around, it’s just going to the wrong people. Everyone but the talent themselves is lining their pockets off the backs of these young, defenseless individuals. No one gives a shit when a head coach makes $5 million a season… But when an athlete sells his bowl ring so he can eat over the summer, he is portrayed as ‘everything wrong with college athletics’. No. That’s not the case! The broken, exploitative nature of big-time college athletic is what is truly wrong. It is time to fix it. The long-talked about stipend is a step in the right direction, but getting a seat for the ‘student-athlete’ at the big boy’s table is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, until college football players get a chance to represent their great value at the bargaining table, athletes will simply have to settle for being the star-powered labor force that gets everyone else rich. That’s that.

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