Tag Archives: Ben Simmons

Simmons’ Showtime Doc Shows Some Folks Don’t Do College

Ben Simmons is still pretty steamed at the NCAA, even though he’s had about four months to get over it.

The former LSU player and current rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers saw his documentary “One and Done,” premiere on Showtime. And, apparently, he decided to chuck his spring semester classes because he already had a goal in mind of getting to the NBA. All the while, Simmons threw shade at the NBA’s rule that dictated players entering the draft be a year removed from high school in order to be eligible.

While the one-and-done rule was designed to provide potential NBA players with at least a year of college prior to jumping into the draft, it was rather clear that Simmons wanted nothing to do with this arrangement.

You could make the argument that considering his talent (he was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft), he serves as the exception to the rule; a LeBron James, if you will, as opposed to a Kwame Brown.

At the same time, there have been at least a couple of ways in which Simmons could have side-stepped this rule and, in at least one scenario, he could have made a nice chunk of change.

On one hand, Simmons could have opted to spend a year at a prep school, as fellow 2016 lottery pick Thon Maker had. Or he could have followed in the footsteps of Brandon Jennings, who decided to play professionally in Europe before heading home to declare for the draft.

No matter how you shake it, though, it was pretty clear for everyone involved that Simmons wasn’t long for LSU by any stretch of the imagination. And the initial shock of head coach Johnny Jones announcing that the Tigers would play in no post-season tournaments after a 19-14 season wore off pretty quickly.

There’s no expectation that any other player will follow the same path that Simmons did on the way to the NBA. In fact, if any of them did, basketball programs would be losing their collective minds thinking about the potential APR ramifications. Can you imagine if Kentucky, who had its entire squad take part in pre-draft workouts (a completely legal thing now) had lost all of them.

Regardless of those theoretical situations, nobody is really sure what Simmons was hoping to accomplish with his documentary. If he was trying to point out the evils of the one-and-done system, he did a pretty poor job of it by phoning in an entire semester, while, at the same time, still able to play basketball and live on campus. And all of that, of course, was well within the rules.

And it didn’t really help matters that once the Tigers opted out of the post-season after they lost in the SEC Tournament, Simmons was running around the country getting workouts in prior to the draft. Keep in mind that all the while, he was still technically on scholarship until the end of the semester that he clearly didn’t show up for.

You can’t really blame him for any of this, though. In the end, everybody got what they wanted. LSU got itself the biggest hoops draw since Shaquille O’Neal. And Simmons got access to craft his game in preparation to make the big bucks in the pros.

Did it leave him with a little less money in his pocket? Sure. But if he had been able to jump from high school to the NBA, would he have been the top pick? Probably not, and there’s a decent bet he wouldn’t have been a top-three pick either. So, in the long run money-wise, it’s a zero-sum game.

If anything, though, the Simmons saga, culminating in this Showtime documentary, did prove that there are some people for whom college just isn’t a fit. For some, it’s because they have talent in which formal training isn’t needed. For others, they don’t possess the wherewithal to handle the rigors of advanced study. And in all cases, it usually takes about a semester or two for them to figure out on their own that they need to go in another direction.

For Simmons, it would appear that the former is true.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Mark Cuban Has No Use For The NCAA

Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban was recently featured in an article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the article he elaborated on his previously self-publicized opinions about the current state of higher education and how he sees the future of the industry unfolding.

The article is behind a pay wall, however, SportsDayDFW’s reported on the article in its entirety and shared Cuban’s opinion about sports and where they should fit in on a college campus. In Cuban’s opinion, colleges should not include athletics.

SportsDayDFW assumes that Cuban has this seemingly radical belief because, in Cuban’s world, there is nothing more important than profitability. While it is true that profitability is often the deciding factor between making a deal and walking away from a deal when you’re a professional like Cuban, the almighty dollar may not in fact be the post that Cuban’s anti college sports opinion is tied to.

If profitability is not the reason for Cuban wanting the association between sports and college removed, why does he want the two business models to be separated?

The reason is because Cuban has no use for the NCAA as a governing body.

Cuban is a member of a small but growing group of outspoken personalities who believes that the NCAA does more harm than good when it comes to college sports. Just read his comments from a 2014 article by ESPN Staff Writer Tim MacMahon.

Since Cuban is the owner of an NBA franchise, it is understandable that basketball would be the sport that he frames his argument in. It is Cuban’s belief that NCAA basketball does nothing to help a basketball player and, if anything, actually hinders the athletic and personal development of the player.

As Cuban said to MacMahon:

The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.

Cuban is correct. Forcing a kid to go to school for one year is not beneficial to the player. Sure, the appearance of the “student athlete” is nice, but it is just that, an appearance. Take the most recent one-and-done basketball player for LSU, Ben Simmons, as an example.

Simmons averaged 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He averaged a double-double for the season and he was only a freshman. He was clearly one of the best players in the game. At least he was statistically.

When the Wooden Award finalists were announced, Simmons’ name was not on the list of honorees. His omission was because his grade point average was not the minimum 2.0 that is needed to be considered for the award. His grade point average was also enough of an issue that he was suspended for the February 20 game against Tennessee.

Simmons is a perfect example of what Cuban is talking about when he says that the D-League would be better for these kids than one meaningless, but NCAA mandated year in college.

Everyone knew that Simmons was a one-and-done player before he ever decided which school to play for. If you knew that a multi-million dollar contract was waiting for you in a year and all you had to do was make it to next year, would you take school seriously? If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is “no.”

This is why Cuban believes that the association between sports and colleges should be dissolved.

Years ago I had this conversation with a friend. I argued in favor of disbanding the NCAA. My argument also included creating a vocational type of environment for the sports teams. Essentially what I was arguing in favor of was an AAU style of setup for all college sports. And at that point, we would not even call them college programs. They would be semi-professional teams.

And as luck would have it, Cuban was the center piece of my plan to re-organize college sports.

In essence, Cuban would be the commissioner of this semi-professional league and he would have a board of directors in place. This board of directors would be independent from the teams. They would not have the power that the NCAA holds, but they would have the ability to assert their influence when needed. More on that in a moment.

These semi-pro teams would have boosters in much the same way college programs do. Now here is where my concept becomes radical for some of you reading this. The boosters would now have the ability to pay players for their services on these semi-pro teams.

Now remember, in this fantasy of mine, the teams have nothing directly to do with a school. However, if anyone on the team wanted to go to school, they could certainly do so. But financially they would not have the full ride scholarship that some do now.
Going back to my commissioner and board of director positions, let me now clarify what I meant when I said that they would have the ability to assert their influence when needed.

Being semi-professional teams, they would be run like any other business and that means contract law would have to be handled. The commissioner and board of directors would be the arbitrators in legal disputes, but that is it. And if it makes you happy, sure, the players can unionize, but that would be up to the players.

I acknowledge that this is a radical idea, but I also like knowing that a billionaire like Cuban has given it some thought as well. Cuban has influence while I am just a weekend warrior blogger.

This idea would not only make education more legitimate, it would also make the on field competition better.

Applying free market principles to college sports would add increased competition to the market. Coaches would have the undivided attention of the players because their eligibility would not be tied to a grade point average. All that would matter was how good the player was on the field.
As for boosters being able to pay players, well, I obviously see nothing wrong with this. Paying players works at the professional level and it can work at the semi-professional level. The only reason payment is not acceptable now is because the NCAA insists on perpetuating this student-athlete charade.

Who knows, maybe I should go on Shark Tank and pitch this idea to Cuban myself.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of Flickr/JD Lasica

How to Fix Basketball’s One-and-Done Problem

The one-and-done rule is an absolute travesty.  If we can agree on that then we can proceed.  If not, we’ll have to address that at a later date.

In this piece we’re operating under the assumption that all of us loathe the National Basketball Association’s rule that stipulates a player must be at least one year removed from high school in order to enter the Draft.  Pretend to be a college student for a semester, play overseas, or workout on your own.  Those are the limited options for high school senior standouts.  Frankly, the NBA doesn’t give a damn what these kids do so long as they’re not clogging up its rosters.

Sure, the rule allows some kids, who inevitably belong at the highest level, to begin their professional careers a year or two early.  How many of them are really ready for that though?

By implementing that one-year barrier the NBA has tricked numerous players into thinking they’re ready for the leap simply because they’ve put in the minimum amount of time required.  Instead of grading players based on how long they’ve been playing, why don’t we evaluate actual talent so these guys can make this monumental decision on solid ground?

The root issue here is the dynamic that exists between the NBA and major college basketball.  Essentially, the Association has all the power and can dictate what happens at the Division I level.  Like it or not, the NCAA has become the NBA’s minor league system.  Denying it doesn’t change the fact that the NCAA, through its players’ goals, is beholden to the NBA.

Think of it this way: If the NCAA really wanted to, it could demand that all these athlete-students spend at least two years in school.  That’s long enough to get at least some kind of degree.  That will never happen though, because it would convince many one-and-done players to go the international route instead of “playing school” for a couple months.

Remember that a lot of these kids we’re talking about have just one goal at this point in their lives.  They want to make it to the NBA.  They haven’t thought beyond that.  Many don’t know what comes next.  Most probably don’t care.

Well, we know what comes next, don’t we?  These guys get drafted or signed before they’re truly ready and then spend their entire career trying, and more times than not, failing to stick somewhere.  We see a D-League highlight featuring a former college star and wonder where he’s been hiding.  Chances are he’s been bouncing around the league, playing just well enough to sign another contract but not well enough to lock up a spot on anyone’s roster.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a career like that.  Hell, the dude’s made it farther than 99 percent of the population.  Clearly he’s got some game, but everyone reaches their ceiling sooner or later.  The problem isn’t that he didn’t stick anywhere.  The problem is that he easily could have had he not been so eager to get paid to play.

You know what would have seriously helped him?  Staying in college another year or two and fine-tuning his craft.  That way, when his name is called on draft night, he’s actually ready to contribute the next day, not the next season.

The NBA is killing the momentum of these guys and failing to capitalize on the fans that they’ve accumulated in college.  That’s why the NBA should implement an entry system that closely mirrors that of Major League Baseball.

For those unfamiliar, three categories of players are eligible for the MLB draft:

  • High school graduates who have not yet attended college or junior college
  • College players who’ve completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old
  • Junior college players, regardless of how many years they’ve played or lived

That’s it.  And isn’t it simple?  If, out of high school, you’re good enough to head straight to the pros then go right ahead.  If not, go to college for three years.  The best part is that high school players who get drafted now have options.  They can try their luck in the pros now, or they can go to school, hone their craft there and re-enter the draft in three or four years.

Of course, the conventional path from the draft to the Majors is much longer than it is in basketball.  Baseball players know they’re likely signing up for years of minor league living in order to chase their dreams.  Generally speaking, basketball players don’t seem to be so eager to put that sort of work in, even though it’s in their best interests.

This rule change would correct, or at least improve, many of the issues that arise in these draft scenarios.

In the rare occurrence that another LeBron James comes along, he doesn’t have to waste a year doing something he doesn’t want, or need, to do.  Under the current rule, a guy like Ben Simmons, who clearly has no interest in pursuing a degree, is forced into school for a year.  As a result, the last kid on LSU’s bench, a kid who studies psychology, is now out a full-ride scholarship so the school can accommodate Simmons, a guy who studies nothing but hoops.  This particular example is hypothetical, but this sort of thing has to be happening in reality and it’s just not right.

Let’s also remember how this affects the makeup of college basketball teams across the country.  Basically, the big programs are now getting a total makeover every two years, as opposed to every four years.  Fans can hardly keep track of who’s on their favorite team.  As if the recruiting process wasn’t rigorous enough, now coaches must continually convince their players to stick around beyond the one-year minimum.

The college game, as a whole, is getting killed by the influx of one-and-done players.  Yes, there are a couple can’t miss prodigies every season, but just like that they’re gone.  By the time we’re familiar with these guys and become fans of their game, they’re declaring for the draft.  Having great players only draws audiences if the public knows who those players are.  Nowadays it’s rare to have a dominant player actually come back to school for another year.

This rule change would benefit everyone involved.  Players, though they’d have to wait longer, would be better prepared once they enter the NBA.  The Association would be getting more polished players who are ready to step in and contribute immediately.  Fans can follow their favorite players and teams much easier.  And coaches can get back to actually coaching their players.

Unfortunately, this is not an easily implemented change and convincing all these different groups that it’s for the best would take some doing.  Until then we’ll just let the one-and-done rule and those who exploit it continue to ruin the game of basketball.

Photo: YouTube screen grab

LSU Begins Life Without Ben Simmons Early, For Some Reason

It’s a rare occasion that a team with one of the best players in the game decides it wants nothing to do with any post-season tournament. But after missing out of the NCAA Tournament, that’s exactly what LSU has done. And it all but ends the collegiate career of Ben Simmons, who has been widely regarded as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, leaving everybody to wonder if it’s because of him that the Tigers are done for the year.

Head coach Johnny Jones announced that no tournaments were in LSU’s future, be it the NIT or third-tier tournaments, such as the CBI or the new Vegas 16 (the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament is dedicated to mid-majors). He stated that he took full responsibility for the team’s shortcomings this year, and that he will take this time to focus on next year.

In the meantime, Simmons also appears to be looking towards next year, as it’s been reported that he’s ready to sign with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.

The circumstances surrounding the announcement by LSU that it won’t be playing in the post-season seem pretty strange. While the Tigers didn’t exactly set the world on fire, they were still good enough to tie for third-best in the SEC and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament. While LSU’s 38-point performance in that game against Texas A&M was absolutely horrendous, the 19-14 record and top 100 RPI should have been good enough to garner an NIT bid.

While the prospect of a CBI or Vegas 16 bid could be considered as a no-go with Tigers fans, getting into the NIT would have been respectable, given the lackluster showing this season. And the opportunity to see Simmons in an LSU uniform at least one more time should have been highly appealing to both fans and school officials alike.

And yet, Jones has put a stop to any of that talk. So now, the questions will linger as to why. Was it to help Simmons get a jump-start or preparing for the NBA Draft? Did he feel that his rotation was too depleted, after the announcement that senior Keith Hornsby had season-ending surgery and freshman guard Antonio Blakeny’s illness limited his playing time?

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s highly likely that fans will look at this as yet another misstep by Jones in a long line of miscues. There have already been grumblings about how this team has been so underachieving even with Simmons on the floor. And opting out of the post-season really makes it looks as if Jones is appeasing Simmons’ post-college aspirations, to the detriment of the players that are sticking around.

Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end for Jones at LSU. As the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Scott Rabalais points out, waving the white flag on this season doesn’t exactly bode well for Jones’ prospects to rebuild next year.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Photo from Flickr/Connor Tarter

Six is the Magic Number

As a lifelong College hoops fanatic, I’m typically resistant to any significant changes to the rules. However, when the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel released the rule updates which were being put in place for 2015-16, it was the first time I can recall agreeing with the changes.

I had my concerns about reducing the shot clock, but 30 seconds is a sweet spot I can live with; and for years, I’ve been shouting to the rooftops to change the 10 second rule. The NCAA did the right thing, and no longer resets the 10 second count if the team in possession calls a time out while still in the back court. Those were the two most significant adjustments to the actual game play; and two months into the season, college basketball is largely unchanged, with some nice enhancements via the rule modifications.

Despite the improvements brought about due to this year’s updates, the one rule change which should have been pushed to the front of the line was to increase personal fouls from five to six. Now, that was proposed, and is in experiment mode to some extent this coming post season; however, it won’t be in play come NCAA Tournament time. Giving players a little bit longer leash would have been a major upgrade to college hoops, and I’ll tell you why.

Across the sports landscape these days, officiating is under heavy fire. Whether it’s college or pro, football, basketball, baseball, you name it; officials in every sport are, let’s just say, not very well liked. Of course it’s not always warranted, but college basketball has its fair share of really poor referees. And more than any other sport, college hoops seems to have more officials, who inject themselves into the game, and think they’re part of the show.

What does any of this have to do with adding a sixth personal foul? It has everything to do with it. Allowing each player an additional personal foul will reduce the impact the officials have on the outcome of the game. I’m not suggesting that by adding that sixth foul, poor officiating shouldn’t be addressed. However, you can’t very well discipline a bad official during the game. So let’s clip their claws a bit.

Scaling back the damage caused by quick whistles will do wonders for the game and the viewers. Even on nights when the refs want to impose their will on both teams, guys who normally would need to sit on the bench for the last 10-15 minutes of the first half, will now have new life. While the constant stoppages will still be annoying, at least the fan favorites will still be on the floor.
That brings me to my next point.

College basketball has a popularity problem, particularly during the regular season. So let’s keep the stars on the floor. There isn’t nearly the amount of true “stars” in college hoops, as there were in decades past. Many teams are carried by one or two strong players, with a bunch of role players around them.

Take the Providence Friars as an example. Last week, Kris Dunn got two first half fouls against Butler. The inability to keep him on the floor, led to a 12 point deficit. While they were able to climb out of it, and ultimately win the game, his absence put them in peril. Dunn needs to be on the floor producing highlight reels, not walking on egg shells trying to avoid picking up number three.

More and more college freshmen are hanging around for one year, until they bolt for the NBA. With such limited opportunity to watch these rising stars play, we need to reduce the possibility of having them saddled with early fouls, planted to the pine.

Ben Simmons is one of the most hyped freshmen in recent history. Given that his LSU Tigers squad has been underwhelming thus far, there’s a distinct possibility America won’t see him in the Big Dance. In the meantime, we run the risk of flipping over to the rare, nationally televised LSU game, and having Simmons nowhere to be found if he gets slapped with a couple early fouls. College ball needs the stars and future stars out there showing off their talents.

A while back, my esteemed colleague Hollis Mclain III wrote a piece explaining how the new rules would narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. You can check that out here after you finish this post. I personally disagree, and feel that by and large we won’t see much difference than we have in recent years. However, I do believe that adding a sixth personal foul will actually widen the gap; and that’s a good thing. Allow me to explain.

As I stated earlier, by adding another personal foul to each player’s arsenal, we’re drawing power away from the referees; and keeping the best players on the floor for longer periods of time. Over time, the cream will rise. More skill and physical talent will eventually wear down lesser opponents. It will also provide the viewing audience with a better basketball experience.
This won’t be as evident during the regular season, though it will certainly have an impact. Come March, when the games are being played on the biggest stage, that’s when it will really show. Rather than having a top seed sweating it out against some double-digit nightmare because their best player picked up two quick ones, coaches will be able to keep their stars in the game, thus avoiding the scare.

Look, I’m all for the VCUs, Wichita States, and Butlers of the world making a deep tournament run. I enjoy watching a 14 or 15 seed pull off a stunner. However, when we get down to the Elite Eight, and the Final Four; it’s time for the little guys to go, and let the big boys play. This rule change would increase the likelihood that as the NCAA Tournament progresses; the top teams have their best players at their disposal, allowing the tournament to take proper shape.

I love college basketball above any other sport, and I certainly don’t want to see it mirror the NBA game. But adopting the six personal foul rule permanently, like the NBA, is the right move. Ultimately I believe it will be put in play. Since it wasn’t done this year, it needs to be done sooner rather than later, for the good of the game.

Photo: ATrumbly/Flickr