Weekly Countdown (cont.)
4 Questions rescued from the spam
4. I've never thought that a well-rested team has an advantage. Look at the Rockies last year vs. the Red Sox in the World Series. I think you lose momentum, and you get out of synch. It's like having a mini-preseason. You practice and practice without playing any real games, then you play a "real" game and you look lost. So, even though the Celtics have played the maximum number of games in the playoffs, I believe that they are still "fresher."
Let's see how the series plays out. The Celtics were sharp in Game 1, but coach Doc Rivers admitted that fatigue overtook them in their Game 2 loss. In the West, the Spurs' momentum didn't carry them past the third quarter before they blew a 20-point lead to the rested Lakers.
3. Do you think LeBron James could be even better and more disciplined if he played in a structured offense? I look at how far he's come on the defensive end since Mike Brown instilled structure there and I think, considering he started with much more of a handicap at that end, he's probably made more progress on defense than on offense. It makes me wonder what he could do with that kind of structure on the other end of the court.
He would be even better if he played with better players. It's clear that he wants to play more often in the open court, and that he looks forward to sharing the ball with teammates who not only spread the floor for him but also enable him to create plays with his exceptional vision for passing. Basically, he wants to win championships, and he can't do it with this team. But the Cavs know this -- that's why they acquired $30 million in expiring contracts to apply to trades over the coming year.
2. Can any of the current Pistons players make the case for the Hall of Fame? Rasheed Wallace seems to have the numbers and mystique, but will his attitude affect the vote? Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton have been consistently solid, but they never reached the "superstar" status.
That's a good question. The way it looks now, the only championship team in the history of the league that may not produce a Hall of Famer is the 1978-79 Sonics. Dennis Johnson and Paul Silas have a chance of being inducted from that Seattle team, though each would be honored more for his work as a Celtic than as a Sonic. As for the Pistons' 2003-04 championship team, I'm assuming that Ben Wallace will reach the Hall of Fame in recognition of his championship ring as well as four selections each as an All-Star and NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
But where does that leave Billups, Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince? Each may need to win another championship in order to be judged Hall-worthy for his team play rather than by the individual stats, which each of them has sacrificed in pursuit of the greater good. (If Rasheed is seen as the difference-maker and most talented player on two or more championship teams, then I think concerns about his attitude will be dismissed. And yes, I'm expecting to receive a lot of angry e-mails for that one.)
1. If you think that the NCAA rules are "criminal," then what is your proposed revenue sharing system? Any money flow to NCAA players that is increased yet limited will need the same thick rule book to stop agents and boosters trying to get an edge. So the same problems would exist, but the number of college programs (and players' scholarships) would be reduced in proportion to these payments. If you allow an open market, then college basketball would become some sort of minor league that may well die. So for the sake of a tiny number of stars, you would destroy the enjoyment and free education that thousands of college players now receive. I think it is unfair to make players wait a year to go to the NBA, but that is as much an issue for the NBA as the NCAA. Even when players could make that choice, we seemed to get the same scandals, maybe partly because people are dismissive of the rules without acknowledging the consequences of removing them.
Is this a bad system? Yes, because it is set up to disperse money to everyone except the players who -- more than anyone -- bring in that money. What would be a better system? I don't know that answer. All I know is that it's not right for a sport that generates billions of dollars to invent a thick tangle of rules to prevent players from receiving any money, especially when so many of those players and their families need it desperately.
The colleges don't necessarily have to pay players. They could simply allow players to receive money from boosters or other sources so that it is no longer delivered under the table. Anecdotally, we know Illegal payments to players are widespread in major college basketball (and football). The only way to stop the rule-breaking is to do away with the stupid rule. Decriminalize it. If coaches can receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for outfitting their players with a certain brand of sneakers, then why shouldn't the players be allowed to receive money too?