Hello and Goodbye
It may surprise some of you to hear me say I am relieved that J.R. Smith has decided that his future is in the NBA rather than in Chapel Hill. I was excited when he originally committed to Carolina, and I had visions of another Vince Carter who brought so much excitement to the game in addition to being a fine ball player by the time he left. But something happened along the way with J.R. and most of you know what it was. J.R. showcased his abilities at a couple of post season all-star games, especially the McDonald's All Star game where he used it as an audition for the NBA, and he passed the audition. I didn't even watch the McDonald's game, and it's hard to believe that my interest in those games has gone from traveling to Norfolk to see the McDonald's game there when Capel and Curry played to not even watching the game when it was on television this year. In my opinion, the NBA has drastically injured the college game, and for the life of me, I can't see why the NBA Player's Association has not been able to see that drafting players straight out of high school operates to their detriment. They must be dumber than I originally thought, but this one is so obvious it's hard to see why they haven't wised up.
David Stern predicts there will be an age limit adopted within 3 years, but the Player's Association is going to want something in return. Lord only knows what it will be.
The most surprising thing to me about the situation is how and why did the NBA take such a different approach to the problem than did baseball and football. Baseball has, in my opinion, the ideal arrangement. Give the high schooler a choice. Either go pro or come to college. If you select college, you must remain for a prescribed amount of time before you can go pro. This works only because professional baseball has bought into this arrangement. There has been no indication that basketball has a similar inclination other than Mr. Stern's statement. Maybe colleges and universities should stop being so cozy with the NBA. A couple of years ago, Rick Pitino was a commentator on the draft show. Doesn't Mr. Pitino make enough money from the University of Louisville to make "moonlighting" unnecessary?
Back to J.R. Had he come to UNC, and yes, I know there is still a remote possibility that he will, there is reason to believe there could have been chemistry problems with the team. Separate and apart from several UNC players aspiring to play in the NBA, there is the problem of "they got there first." There is a good possibility that J.R. would not be satisfied with his playing time or Coach Williams' efforts to make him a well rounded player, all within the 1 year I think he would have stayed. We don't need a disgruntled player on the bench that becomes a cancer on the rest of the team.
I have no hard feelings toward J.R. I really believe he wanted to be a Tar Heel, but the lure and money of the NBA was too much. His performance in the McDonald's game convinced him that he was ready for the pros, and others have convinced him he is going high enough to make him a rich young man. I shutter to think what his grades for the last 4 weeks have been, and his admission to Carolina was contingent on him finishing the year with grades at the same level they were when he committed. His SAT score was O.K. but that's just part of the formula that is now used to determine if he is to be admitted.
Another trend that is developing that was totally predictable, and that is the involvement, if not the over involvement of parents, in the recruiting process. J.R.'s father was very involved, Sean May's father was very involved and over in Durham, Shaun Livingston's father was very involved. Remember Vince Carter's and Joe Forte's mothers? Involvement by the parents is a good thing, but like everything else, its hard to know where the line is between involvement and meddling. The more I hear, the less I envy the salary Coach Williams is making. He has problems that were unknown to coaches of the past, and I'm glad they are his and not mine. I don't need all that much money anyhow. I'm having too much fun in retirement, and having time to do what I want to do is what I treasure most now.