- Missed classes, a changed grade, and one disillusioned adviser – Accusations of – well just as the article’s title dramatically explains: missed classes, a changed grad, and a disillusioned adviser. In this instance of WTF NCAA, the accusations are pointed at UCLA. In related news, HBO is considering a True Detective season loosely based on this story with Steve Lavin starring as Steve Alford, Jessica Chastain as Layla Kiffin, and Lavar Burton as the disgruntled adviser. There’s also heavey speculation that SDSU’s Steve Fisher will make an appearance as the ghost of John Wooden during the series. If you really want to read about an academic scandal, read about UNC.
- ‘I play with guns:’ Caron Butler’s inside account of the Gilbert Arenas gun incident – Even without Caron Butler’s commentary – which is unsettling in its own right – what a weird effing story. We played a lot of card games on baseball road trips in High School and my buddy Mac always seemed to lose. The pot would get up to an astronomical high school amount of like $75 or something, he’d lose, and the lot of us would lose it, cracking up at Mac’s misfortune. Mac’s fine and well adjusted now. I think he one time tackled our second baseman for it.
- Documents, former players point to Steve Sarkisian’s alcohol use at Washington – Remember when the Red Sox were running Theo and Terry Francona out of Boston? There were rampant reports of ridiculous things and now there’s a book about it. Things many in the know had seen or heard in the past. That sort of “leaking” was coming from the top. There are pictures of receipts in this article. This is the public shaming – under the guise of someone doing reporting – of a man who didn’t harm anyone but himself. The depths of Sarkisian’s issues are surfacing now because USC has allowed it to happen, presumably to fire him with cause. I suppose that’s the ugly head of business, guaranteed contracts and the pressure of the wins column. It’s likely that Pat Haden – the presumed handler of this mess – is gone soon, too.
There’s been significant “year ago” dialogue surrounding Shabazz Muhammad over the past few weeks. After all, it was just a year ago that Ben Howland and the UCLA Bruins were being vaunted for signing the “future #1 draft pick.” He was lauded as a physical specimen. A man amongst boys who could score from beyond and above the rim.
And then the Las Vegas native – with a season in Westwood under his belt – was deemed “overrated.” He fell on draft boards and was considered to be a disappointment at draft combines.
With his stock bottoming out, he was not invited to the coveted green room.
And then he showed up late. An odd incident I missed while two doors down throwing my laundry into the dryer.
So while I suppose I too was late to the Bazz party, none of this will soon matter. Not his age or his Gucci bags or his plane tickets or whether he’s stoked on Larry Drew’s buckets. On Thursday night, Shabazz Muhammad was drafted 14th overall by the Utah Jazz…and promptly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Some loved it:
There it is. GREAT pick here by Minnesota. Wolves needed scoring and they got it with Shabazz.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 28, 2013
While others were simply disappointed in the nomenclature:
Mine (and the state of Utah’s) dream of having a player whose name ends in “zz” was nearly realized. But Jazz are shipping Shabazz to Minn.
— Sam Strong (@SamStrong) June 28, 2013
Of course no matter the narrative surrounding his controversial Bruin career and the subsequent fall from NBA general manager grace, Muhammad was always considered a one-year Pac-participant. What he leaves behind in Westwood is a blossoming situation.
The significant scoring void can be filled by sophomore, Jordan Adams, who proved himself a capable scorer, if not star, in Muhammad’s shadow last season. Also returning is the Wear family – formidable lookalikes who Bruin faithful hope can conjure up seasons that don’t quite look like their previous outputs. Kyle Anderson is perhaps the most intriguing returner in that he can do a little bit of everything, capable of creating gross mismatches all over the floor. But he is slow which can be excused if he shaves.
They also bring in some impactful newcomers in wings Zach LaVine and – COACH’S KID ALERT!!! – Bryce Alford.
Speaking of coach, the one tasked with shaping Muhammad’s UCLA career, Ben Howland, no longer holds that role. That task now belongs to Steve Alford, the twelfth lead man in Bruins history.
While it wasn’t the most glamorous hire, met to the moderate-to-mighty chagrin of UCLA faithful, it is a solid hire. He won significantly at his previous stop (New Mexico) and has experience leading a high major program (Head Coach at Iowa) and understands the pressures of being part of a legendary program (played at Indiana for Bob Knight). He was ultimately change for the sake of it but that’s not going to stop him from trying to win with the lineup he’s inherited and the lottery pick he’s lost.
As the previous year would seem to have been a trying one for both the newly drafted Muhammad and the UCLA basketball program each now find themselves in a budding situation, an opportunity to set sail on the seas of change and adventure to discover their new identities in new lands.
(Come on, it’s a UCLA piece, had to go Walton).
Video has been released from inside the officials’ meeting prior to the UCLA-Arizona Pac-12 tournament semifinal game. Footage includes intimidation tactics and the controversial comments made by Ed Rush that were later determined to have been made in jest. This footage is exclusive to PacHoops.
I don’t fault Josh Smith for not wanting to be an elite basketball player.
That just very well may not be his bag. Sure he has a skill set to be great but does that mean he has to polish them? Does the fact that we see the potential of a dominant center mean Josh Smith needs to become such? No.
What’s had us up in arms about Smith’s tenure at UCLA is the fact that he tried it all on for size. He committed to the effort – in theory by joining the team – and never got around to the work. Because good things don’t happen simply because you start them. They happen because you finish them.
What Josh Smith wants is not what I want.
When I was nineteen I was going to be a Major League pitcher. Not nine, nineteen. Let’s just say that for me to have AJ Burnett’s stuff, I might not ever have a first born (I still don’t have a first born but that’s becomes a conversation about maturity and responsibility best had with my grandmother who may or may not disapprove of my lifestyle). Alas, I peaked at 88mph and that – like most good American boys – was in high school. I recounted some of those glory days this past weekend at home for Thanksgiving and then got back to my day job. Nine-to-five like so many others. I’m not ashamed of that; but I still wish I’d gotten that golden touch – like innately wearing PF Flyers – to get me past that glory days hump.
I never got it. Josh Smith did.
But here’s the thing, success is an internally driven outcome. I’m not going to be great – truly great – because you told me to. If I’m going to dominate computer programming, change the world of code, it’s going to be because I love that stuff. I have some natural talents and I expand on those (full disclosure I know nothing about programming or code or java or anything). The work is fun – or at least rewarding – because I know where it’s taking me. And if I’m not doing it for me? I’m taking short cuts and I’m happy with pretty-goods and that-ain’t-bads.
In Smith’s case, we call it a tragedy and that’s fair. By the standards of men who can’t fathom doing half the things he’s capable of, the tale of Josh Smith is tragic because we are the same men who can’t fathom forgoing such intrinsic skill. And that’s a selfish tragedy.
That’s not to excuse declining production and an inability or lack of desire to get in shape. When you sign up to play basketball at UCLA – or anywhere for that matter – you’re committing to something bigger than yourself; being game ready is imperative, expected, and required. When you’re not, people notice. When you’re annually not prepped, people get upset. Or worse yet, disappointed, and therein lies my point. We’re jealous of what Smith could have been and disappointed he didn’t want what we wanted. He is our selfish tragedy. The guy we’d never let ourselves be.
Additionally, it becomes a failure of the collective. From Coach Ben Howland to whoever has surrounded Smith, the young man has not been set up for success. At least by the possibly and likely unfair expectations of bystanders such as myself. Such as scouts, coaches, players, you.
Smith’s transfer is a terrific study in motivation. No one was going to push him to succeed unless he wanted to be successful. I won’t venture to know who or what surrounds him, but I can’t imagine there were many people sincerely in his court; perhaps overwhelmed by enablers or clingers-on reminding him he was above the requisite work. He’s not and none of us are. To lose the pounds, you have to put in the time whether you’re a D-1 athlete or trying to look good for bikini season, you’ve gotta do you.
And Josh Smith didn’t. His production suffered and reputation disintegrated. My hope is that he does figure what he wants out. Is that an NBA career? Maybe and that’s on the radar. If I’m him, I get my ass to Houston and hire John Lucas (The Sports Whisperer) and get me into shape, physically and mentally. But again, that’s me still trying to pitch game 7 of the World Series. Not Josh Smith. I suggest this because, optimistically speaking, he now finds himself with a world of possibility. He can literally go anywhere and do anything.
I hope he does what he wants.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend the UCLA Bruins.
Last week, the Bruins lost at “home” to Loyola Marymount. Their first loss to the cross-town non-rival since 1944. The same team that turned around and lost to Middle Tennessee State a day later. They’re malcontents, overrated, and undisciplined.
I can no longer defend Ben Howland and his UCLA program.
I started that post early Monday afternoon. That was a time when I thought, “Hey, these Bruins simply have some personnel issues. They just need to reestablish roles, let the learning curve play out, get Zeek to shoot less and distribute more, and they’ll be fine.” I was going to ask everyone to be patient with this team and let them improve with more and more games.
I repeat: the UCLA Bruins are indefensible.
At first it was the early departures. We could excuse those as talent being talent. UCLA was talent rich, making annual appearances in the final four. But when the departures just never stopped, when they went from lottery picks (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook) to second round picks (Malcom Lee, Tyler Honeycutt) the red flags began to fly. Go ahead and toss Dominic Artis’ decommitment into this category, too.
And at first we could also excuse Drew Gordon’s 2009 departure to a basic conflict of personalities. It happens. Not every relationship is a great one. Gordon’s departure, while somewhat heated, happens.
But a closer look shows us that of the last three recruiting classes (’08, ’09, ’10), UCLA brought in fourteen players, seven of which are no longer with the program; four by transfer, three by NBA draft.
And now there’s Nelson. Another discontented star willing to drastically change his basketball trajectory at the cost of his UCLA jersey. While Nelson isn’t about to win anyone’s award for teammate of the year (Josh Smith, either) this obviously isn’t the first case of someone trying to leave Westwood early.
Simply put, people not wanting to stay in your program doesn’t bode well for your program.
The one constant through all this (am I quoting Field of Dreams?) has been Ben Howland. The aforementioned issues and excuses have been piling up. Either he’s insufferable or he can’t recognize who’s going to be successful with his tough love style. Whatever you want to call it, there would certainly seem to be a lot of smoke leading to the inevitable fire, as they say.
UCLA had best rein this in (calling Dan Guerrero!) before it gets much further out of hand. The saving grace right now is Howland’s 2012 recruiting class but indefinitely suspending your best player is not step one.
Like I said, I want to defend this program, it’s storied and important; but if no one wants to wear the blue and gold, what’s the point?
The college basketball interwebs have been blowing up with stat geek info and opinion polls lately. Amongst it all, and as tons of prognosticators have divulged their thoughts on teams and conferences and players, Ken Pomeroy’s ever-fascinating 2011-12 ratings were released.
Kentucky debuted at number one, closely followed by Ohio State and North Carolina. His mathematically based ratings didn’t deviate greatly from the eye-ball – and oft criticized – rankings of the ESPN/USA Today or the AP. The Pac-12 doesn’t rate so high with KP. Cal and Arizona are the highest rated teams at 36 and 37, respectively. Comparatively, the major polls have Arizona (over) ranked at 16 and Cal (appropriately) at 24. UCLA, who is in both polls as a top-20 team, rates as Pomeroy’s 46th best team which is where I would begin to disagree. But that’s the beauty of it.
In his blog post where Pomeroy explains his math, he writes, “I’d encourage you to Google college basketball ratings or even try the opinion polls for something that is more your style.” He shoes you away if you don’t care which is refreshing in a day and age where sabermetrics attempt to mute any and all arguments (as Jason Whitlock ranted).
Now allow me to be clear, especially after linking a Whitlock tirade: I don’t think Ken Pomeroy is ruining college basketball. I love what his numbers bring. They’re thought provoking, insightful, and add depth to the national conversation. His stance isn’t elitist. He’s a fan.
So on the verge of the season’s first tip-off, with Pomeroy and others projecting the season’s outcome – anointing Kentucky or UNC the national champion without making a single shot – I’m reminded why the games are played.
They’re played for big moments, bitter defeats, and Gus (see what I did there?). For this, this, and this. Not to mention this. They play because the ball may bounce any which way and for that we watch. We need to watch.
Pomeroy and all other season projections are fun and all but god damn the games are great. I could YouTube you to death with moments past – here’s just another – but now we’re on the verge of making a whole new highlight reel of moments.
So we can go ahead and rank the teams however we think, factor, or feel; no matter how you slice it, it’s Game Time.