Stoudemire said skipping college was hardest choice of his life

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For some NBA players, college was that inconvenient road bump between AAU ball and the NBA. They may like the college life and getting to play in front of large arenas of ravenous fans, but the classes and studying were an inconvenience.

But there are guys in the NBA who would savor the chance to learn and be in an intellectual college environment. You know, what you tell everyone now you miss about college. Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire is one of those guys, one of the more thoughtful guys in the league.

And he told the New York Times that skipping college to go straight to the NBA was no easy call for him.

Deciding to go to the N.B.A. and pass on being a part of what University of Memphis had to offer was the hardest choice I have made in my life. I am not sure if I’ll get my degree or not. I have taken college classes during my summers off, but it’s tough to fit traditional learning into my work schedule so I take classes on the Internet when I can. And I am very focused on continuing to learn new things. My foundation and most of my charitable work focus on creatively inspiring youth to get an education. I think education is the key for people to avoid poverty.

With my children, we talk a lot about what it means to have an education and what they want to be when they grow up. I also try to set a good example and make sure reading is a priority in their lives. Knowledge is power. What you don’t know can kill you.

For some guys like Stoudemire, skipping college seems the right move (he was playing 31 minutes a game as a rookie, starting 71 games that season for the Suns). The problem with the old system was the hangers on who convinced good young ballers they were going to make the high school to NBA jump only to find out that they were not drafted or not mentally ready for the leap. (Well, what the owners hated was the money spent scouting these kids and the risk involved in picking them, but that’s another story.)

I still favor a baseball style system: You can draft a kid out of high school, because there are guys like Stoudemire and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett who are ready for that leap. But if you are not drafted, you have to spend three years in college. That doesn’t mean that all those kids are going to study hard for three years in school, but some might learn about the world beyond the gym.

In the end, what matters to these youth is what matters in the education of all youth — it starts with parents who value it and encourage it. And it sounds like Stoudemire’s children are getting that. Which matters a lot more than hoops.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.