Around the NBA: 12/17/10

December 17, 2010
Nick Matkovich



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  • The NBA Players Association and the owners continue to discuss a new contract. One particular sticking-point in the snapping-fingers stage of battle is the age restriction placed on players entering the league.

    According to a story first reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard, a source within the NBPA said players are philosophically opposed to having an age restriction for players entering the league.

    The report was further verified when ESPN obtained a podcast from NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter who, on behalf of the players, expressed that the age restrictions be terminated.

    Had Hunter rallied the masses several years ago about a man's potential to make millions as soon as he damn well could, I would have virtually picketed with him on blogs or other forums to express one's self-promotional opinion. Down with the execs and up with the players. Picture a scene from "Hoffa" mashed with the thousands pleading to let Buttermaker's Bears play in the Astrodome.

    Those who detest the age restrictions decry the league's ability to allow a 19-year-old, but not an 18-year-old to into a league dominated by young men. For these individuals, the bread line grows painstakingly long during their one year in college. Got money? Not so fast Weezy. First one has to spend a year in the world's best internship.

    Something happened. Don't know how to explain it. Don't care to delve into the possible deep-seated reasons. I kinda, sorta, really like the age restriction.

    This opinion casts me against the everyman image we all work diligently to convey by drinking light beer during NFL games and grilling steaks with buddies while you and your pal Wiesel decide you are both so E and Turtle (look, he even has an animal nickname too!). Image aside, for all the on-the-surface problems with the age restriction, the rule has been good for the fans.

    Players that made the jump straight from high school are heavily weighed on the LeBron and Kobe/Kwame and Eddy scale of efficiency. Some players have been good for the league. Others have made a mockery of professional basketball. Their productivity can be argued and countered for days to come, what is conclusive to me is the relative boredom high school athletics conjures up unless you're playing or coaching.

    I was a high school athlete, but don't make a Gil Thorp out of me. My feet were slow, my power nonexistent, and my inability to block a dying trend in high school athletics. I stunk. The people around me stunk. Some just stunk less and were able to see considerable playing time.

    That being said, high school athletics was never a holy grail of athletic excellence. The players that really stuck out went to play collegiate sports on the Division I level. Why would you want to watch future stars of the NBA excelling in mediocrity next to a kid who is going to study molecular biology at Brandeis University?

    These high school players, with the exception of LeBron's consistent television appearances his senior year of high school, were unknowns. We read their stats, saw them play in a few all-star games (the premiere scene of one upsmanship), but we felt on the outs. We didn't have a sense of how they played against equals. They appeared on our door step when David Stern announced their name on draft night.

    Playing college basketball allowed for a thinning of the herd. Only the better of the better were on display. We learned about the athletes from January through March, the prime months when college basketball assumes the position on center stage. Learned about their strengths, saw their weaknesses showcased. Knew if they had a great baby-hook and how they performed under the duress of standing at the free-throw line at the end of a conference road game.

    The one-year finishing school gives incoming players a coat of polish (along with several strokes of Right Guard) all college freshmen are badly in need of. How many mature, sound-minded 18-year olds do you know? Even if these players are coddled and pampered in their one year of college, they learn to deal with elementary issues that make them more apt to deal with the real world on a consistent basis.

    We staked our claim and bought futures in this guy, didn't care much for that guy. Oden or Durant? The debate would have never existed if both were allowed to go directly into the association. Now I can at least look like a fool for taking Oden because of the contingent Durant's play created from his one year in college.

    The year (let's not kid ourselves, one-and-done players are easier to spot than a Woody Allen fan in Tuscaloosa) allows the hype-machine to crank out stories and tales of athletic excellence. Their brief appearance on a college campus might serve as Dick Vitale's front of the jersey story, but as NBA fans we look to see who will be the next Derrick Rose. Is John Wall going to develop that jumper? Will DeMarcus Cousins alienate a number of teams because of his personality? We feel we've gotten an in about the future of the league by seeing these players in college.

    Don't rob us of the chance to make future bets. It affords fans to flex their insight.

    So we watch said player grow in one year. Watch him lead his team to the Sweet 16 and a selection as a lottery pick. We feel like we already know them. Aren't we all searching for a sense of familiarity?

    Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.