Notes of Note: Warriors’ Malaise, Antonio Brown, Stanford Women, NCAA Anti-trust Ruling
There’s trouble in paradise.
The hometown Warriors, winners of three of the last four NBA championships and with a starting lineup comprised of five all-stars, suddenly look quite vulnerable.
Golden State has lost six of its last 10 games, including yesterday’s embarrassing loss to the league’s second-worst team, the woeful Phoenix Suns.
There have been many reasons advanced for the team’s unexpected decline. I think at least four have merit.
1) Kevin Durant’s well-publicized, impending free agency has been a constant distraction and a source of discord in the Warriors’ locker room.
2) The early season tiff between Durant and the always-explosive Draymond Green left wounds that haven’t fully healed.
3) Newcomer DeMarcus Cousins has been a bad fit with the Warriors, not quick enough for the team’s helping, stretching, defensive style and too rusty to add consistent post offense.
4) The bench isn’t nearly as productive as it used to be, given Shaun Livingston’s injury-plagued season and the absence of a good shooter from the wing.
Adding to yesterday’s woes: Coach Steve Kerr was caught on camera muttering to assistant coach Mike Brown, “I’m so tired of f***ing Draymond,” no doubt echoing the sentiments of many Warriors’ fans. And the usually unflappable Klay Thompson complained in the postgame presser about the lack of energy from the Oracle crowd.
Unless Kerr can figure out how to address the multiple cracks in the dam, the Warriors could go down in the Western finals to the James Harden/Chris Paul-led Houston Rockets, or fall in the championship series to any of the top teams in the East—Milwaukee, Boston or Philadelphia.
Antonio Arrives: New Raiders' GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden apparently have scored a major coup in trading for Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, one of the three best wide receivers in the NFL (along with Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins and the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr.). Getting Brown for third and fifth-round draft picks is a steal and will erase any bad memories of the Amari Cooper trade.
Now if they can just get someone to replace Khalil Mack…
Stanford Women Soar: Congrats to Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer and her team for a gutty win over No. 1 seed Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. Tourney MVP Alanna Smith and guards DiJonai Carrington and Kiana Williams made big play after big play to hold off the Ducks and their sensational multi-dimensional star Sabrina Ionescu. One of the most entertaining games I’ve watched in some time.
Amateurism Ruling: The long-awaited ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken in the anti-trust litigation against the NCAA came down Friday night, and the plaintiff athletes were the clear winners. They didn’t get everything they wanted—basically a free market system where schools and conferences could bid for athletes without restrictions—but Wilken ruled that the NCAA could no longer limit compensation or benefits that were “related to education.”
Unfortunately, like the old Buffalo Springfield song says, when it comes to payments and benefits tethered to education, “what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
Wilken specifically mentioned computers, science equipment, musical instruments, graduate study, tutoring, and other tangible items. So expect quarterbacks at Power Five schools to soon be toting the most expensive computers money can buy, and those attending more academically oriented schools might be guaranteed graduate school scholarships.
But the mind wanders. What about awards for simply attending class, doing homework, getting a grade, declaring a specific major or graduating? Or providing athletes with transportation to get to class, like a new car?
Much needs to be sorted out here, and there will undoubtedly be appeals from the NCAA. Because as it stands now, since Wilken's decision constituted a judgment for the plaintiffs, the NCAA is liable for tens of millions of dollars in legal fees.
Ehlinger Emotes: The night before the ruling came down, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger boiled the situation down in a series of blasts on twitter.
Ehlinger tweeted: “Consider a full-time unpaid internship that requires 1-4 years of participation with a minimum 40-hour work week. This internship generates millions of dollars for your company, and billions of dollars for the broadcasting companies that cover your industry. Within this internship you risk your short-term and long-term health on a daily basis. You enter this internship with less than a 2% chance to advance in your industry and obtain a full-time job. Would you accept this position?
"Now consider the full-time unpaid internship as College Athletics and the full-time paid job as Professional Sports."