By Brian Chapman
It’s the middle of summer, the Tigers are making moves, Lions training camp begins in a few days and college football season is just over a month away. The average sports fan is thinking about baseball and football right now and ignoring basketball and I can’t blame them. Ninety-five percent of NBA free agency is complete, the NBA season doesn’t begin for over three months and there’s hardly ever any important college basketball news in July. That said, two basketball stories caught my attention this week that you should probably know about. One could cripple the upcoming NBA season while the second could change the NBA and college basketball for years to come.
Story No. 1
If Donald Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers by the start of the season, Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and the rest of the team may stage a boycott.
Earlier this week interim Clippers CEO Richard Parsons testified in the trial to determine whether Donald’s wife Shelly could sell the team that team head coach Doc Rivers will step down if Donald Sterling still owns the Clippers at the start of the season. Then Friday, Chris Paul told ESPN.com that it would be “unacceptable” if Donald Sterling still owned the team at the start of the year. When asked about the possibility of a boycott he said, “That’s something me and Doc are both talking about. Something has to happen, and something needs to happen soon — sooner rather than later.”
Three months ago the NBA came dangerously close to a boycott of an NBA playoff game just days after Sterling’s comments were released by TMZ and DeadSpin. Had NBA commissioner Adam Silver not reacted so quickly and forcefully, I think the Clippers and Golden State Warriors would have staged a boycott of Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series. Since then, the only thing that’s changed is that Steve Ballmer outbid everyone else for the chance to by the Clippers. However, Ballmer does not own the team, Sterling does and that’s not good enough for Rivers, Paul and the rest of the team.
It’s also important to understand that this would not just be a Clippers boycott. In May, LeBron James told Roger Mason Jr. who then told CBS Sports Radio/Showtime host Jim Rome that LeBron will not play this fall if Sterling still owns the Clippers.
LeBron does not play for the Clippers and I can’t imagine he’s the only non-Clipper ready to boycott the NBA if Sterling still owns the team. In fact, the longer Sterling fights, the more fans need to prepare themselves for the possibility of a league-wide boycott of Sterling and no NBA basketball until Sterling no longer owns the Clippers. If Sterling would rather fight, than take his share of Ballmer’s $2 billion pie and walk away, we could be without NBA basketball for a long time.
I hope Sterling officially loses control of the team quickly, but if this drags into October and November, I hope the players aren’t bluffing. They need to take a stand against Donald Sterling, against racism and against closet racism.
Story No. 2
Prep basketball star Emmanual Mudiay is following in the footsteps of Brandon Jennings by playing overseas for millions instead of in college for free.
Six years ago, Brandon Jennings was one of the top high school basketball prospects in the country, but instead of becoming a one-and-done at Arizona (where he may have been ineligible due to his standardized test scores), he chose to play in Italy for one year before entering the NBA Draft. At the time many basketball fans thought that Jennings would be the first of many to turn his back on the college lifestyle of going to class and playing for free and for the millionaire lifestyle of a professional basketball player a year early. After all, Brandon Jennings earned $1.2 million during his lone season overseas.
But leaving to play in a foreign country for millions as an 18-year old before the NBA never caught on in large part because Brandon Jennings warned high school stars against following in his footsteps. At the time Jennings told the New York Times, “I’ve gotten paid on time once this year. They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot. Some nights you’ll play a lot; some nights you won’t play at all. That’s just how it is.” (For the full story, click HERE.)
This year Emmaunel Mudiay will become the second star basketball player to go overseas for a $1.2 million contract instead of playing at an American college for one year and no paycheck. Like Jennings, he was a star in high school (5th best in the country, per ESPN.com.) Like Jennings, Mudiay has eligibility issues (amateurism questions, per ESPN.com.) But unlike Jennings, Mudiay will not be the first to go overseas and Mudiay is going across the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic Ocean. Mudiay’s contract is with Guangdong of the Chinese Basketball Association.
I don’t know how much different pro basketball is in China than it is in Italy, but this is a situation worth keeping your eye on. If Mudiay returns from China next year with the same kind of complaints, playing overseas for a million dollars will likely remain a mere last resort for those with serious NCAA eligibility issues. However, if Mudiay loves his time in China, becomes a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA draft and raves about how great it is to be a young millionaire in a foreign country for a year, maybe high school stars will give foreign basketball a second look. Or perhaps the takeaway from Jennings’s experiment is to stay away from Italian professional basketball, not all foreign professional basketball.
To be honest, I’m surprised more players haven’t tried taking a 7-figure contract to play in a foreign country for one year. I can’t imagine that Jennings’s experience was so bad that it wasn’t worth $1 million. I guess dreams of being the big man on campus, seeing your own highlights on SportsCenter and playing in the NCAA tournament outweigh the perks of becoming an instant millionaire and avoiding schoolwork. For now.
Story No. 3
(It’s a Friday and I’m feeling generous so I’ll give you one bonus story.) We are 68 days into Stan Van Gundy’s first 100 days as President of Basketball Operations of the Detroit Pistons. Only 32 days for him to make that big move. We’re still waiting.