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.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.