Sunday, April 26, 2009

One More Post On Jeremy Tyler

I don't want to turn into ESPN First Take here and analyze this Jeremy Tyler thing to death, but I just want to update my previous comments (here). The reason is that I just had to comment on this travesty: Fran Fraschilla and Doug Gottlieb each giving one side of the argument. Fraschilla's argument is okay, and pretty much lines up with what I said, that this can work out for Tyler if he plays his cards right. If he has a strong support structure and can find a good group of teammates, he might actually develop more in Europe than he would have with two more years playing amateur competition in the United States. That isn't why I'm rehashing this Tyler thing. What I want to talk about is Gottlieb's argument. It's possible that some executive told Gottlieb to make an argument that he didn't really believe in, but the effort that he put in was so utterly awful that I needed to go through it paragraph by paragraph:

As a former Division I college athlete who played professionally in three different countries, I am vehemently opposed to Jeremy Tyler dropping out of high school and taking his game overseas to sign a professional contract with a European team. His actions, and the support he gets from his father and from "strategic advisor" Sonny Vaccaro, leave me with more questions than answers.

When did our society become completely and totally focused on the paper chase and not on the substance of the human being chasing the paper?

I have heard the argument, "he can go and get paid," too many times, as if that is the trump in the argument. Whatever happened to working to achieve greatness, not having it handed to you on a silver platter before you are ready? We have seen Michelle Wie take the road of becoming a trailblazer, joining the professional ranks in women's golf shortly before her 16th birthday. Yet the criticism levelled against her is that she has never even won on the women's tour, thus making her foray into playing against professional men's players even more questionable.

The first paragraph actually isn't an awful start. Anybody who takes advice from Sonny Vaccaro needs their head checked. Nobody has made more money off of screwing up the lives of impressionable young basketball players than Vaccaro. But it's all downhill from there. "When did our society become completely and totally focused on the paper chase"?? First of all, I hate that pretentiousness. People who say that money doesn't matter are always people who already have a ton of it. Maybe Tyler's family really needs the money. And is Tyler not supposed to care about the big money that is coming in the NBA? Is he not supposed to want a piece of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that he'll probably make in two years in Europe? Besides, it's hypocritical to bash a kid for taking money at age 17 if you don't bash a kid like Tyreke Evans for taking money after one year of college.

As for his next point about kids needing to work harder before they should be allowed to cash in? Kids shouldn't be allowed to get money handed to them on a silver platter? Sounds like Gottlieb is just bitter that Tyler has the skills to earn big money, while Gottlieb himself did not. If you want to make the argument that it's unfair that basketball players earn $100 Million while elementary school teachers earn $40,000... is really not the website for you.

Jeremy Tyler is good, but by no means the greatest high school player we have ever seen. Instead of learning to win and improving in high school, Tyler is going to chase the almighty dollar before he has even proven he can lead a winning team at the high school level (his team was 15-11 this past season). "Well, he is going to get paid" is not really a sound argument.

If it is acceptable for Tyler to leave high school after his junior year to play professionally, when does it not become OK to leave? Tyler is setting a dangerous precedent by making this move. What about a sophomore or a freshman making a similar decision? Why even have high school at all?

This is an invalid argument as well. Arguing that Tyler shouldn't go because high school kids better than him are not making the same decision doesn't mean anything. Maybe they should be going as well! Some people make the argument that basketball should be like European soccer, with all of the best kids going into professional youth programs at young ages, and Gottlieb's argument isn't refuting that.

The question isn't "can kids go pro before finishing college?" because we've already answered that question in the affirmative. The question is to look at each individual kid, and whether going pro is in their own best interest.

One must also consider that now any high school player who is decent might believe this is his way out. A way out of a practice that's held too early in the morning. A way out of running his high school coach's offense. A way out algebra class. A way out of detention. By enabling Tyler, you sow the seeds of discontent throughout high school basketball.

Is Gottlieb really naive enough to think that this doesn't happen already? If you're a kid and you don't like your high school program, you're going to another program. Does he really think that Oak Hill Academy just gets all those good kids by accident?

The old Soviet Union had "athlete-only" schools. Are we proposing that is the best way to develop our athletes and keep them from leaving the country?

This is a red herring. First of all, the problem with the Soviet Union is that kids were forced to go into these schools. The fact that Tyler is making a decision in his own best interest rather than staying in government schools is the opposite of the Soviet Union. We already have sports-only high schools. We have diploma mills. Again, is Gottlieb really pretending to be that naive? Finally, throwing "Soviet Union" in there is just a version of Godwin's Law. It's tossing out an inflammatory image in order to try to win an argument that you can't win on the base of your own logic and facts.

Where is the value on getting an education? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but Tyler's handlers are not concerned with his brain, only his brawn. Tyler is not even going to finish his junior year academically, let alone begin his senior year. That means he's forfeiting all the experiences that come with high school -- no prom, no cap and gown, no SAT, no college, just hoops from here on out. Have we really gotten to this point?

This paragraph has to be a joke. Again, is there really a difference between what Tyler is doing and kids who leave college after their freshman year? Has Gottlieb seen some of the kids coming out of the diploma mills? Many of them can barely speak english. The fact that they're getting to put on a cap and gown doesn't mean that they're educated.

Basketball has afforded me so many wonderful opportunities outside of the gym, I cannot fathom shunning all of them to simply make money as soon as possible. Are we asking that much of a kid to have him trudge through one more year of high school, one year of college at Louisville before heading off to the NBA? The truth is that all of that time allows Tyler more opportunities for failure, so this is the easy way out to avoid that possibility.

Once again, is Gottlieb really pretending that if he could have been a lottery pick out of high school that he wouldn't have gone straight to the NBA?

Maybe the most important thing in Tyler's case is the fact that I am not really sure what his true value is to a professional team at 17 years old. As we have seen with Brandon Jennings, even the very best 18-year-old in high school basketball does not always garner major minutes at a high level in the pro leagues in Europe. Jennings was the very best high school player in the country and a year older than Tyler, yet he has not played at all in a couple of games and is averaging just five points per game in the Italian League.

Gottlieb is just showing his ignorance about European basketball here. Jennings chose to go to a really high level team. Virtus Roma has five Euroleague Championships, only two other teams in all of Europe have had more (Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow). They have been to the Euroleague Round of 16 in each of the past three seasons. Jennings simply chose to play 20 minutes per game at a really high level rather than starring for a lesser team. He wanted to play against high level competition, and it paid off. He's almost a certain Top Ten pick in the Draft in a couple of months. Tyler can find plenty of European teams where he can star. He'll have to find the right balance between being the star and playing against better competition.

While Jennings is contracted to make somewhere near $300,000, like most bad contracts, his will not be duplicated on another player (Tyler) since he has not worked out. A team might sign Tyler only in order to let him develop for three or four years, and you would expect a contract like that to include a Ricky Rubio-type buyout ($6 million). In other words, Tyler might actually take longer to get paid in the NBA by going this route.

First of all, does Gottlieb really think that somebody will get paid less than $300,000 over two years yet have a buyout clause of $6 Million? And does he think that some evil team is going to stick in a buyout clause without telling him? Obviously Tyler will sign a contract that allows him to leave after two years to go to the NBA, the same way that Jennings had a contract that allowed him to leave after one season if he wanted. If a team won't give him that contract he'll go somewhere else. It's not that difficult.

It should also be noted that most published figures of overseas salaries are heavily inflated. As Jennings alluded to, based on his experience in Italy, players often do not get paid on time or receive all of what is owed them in their contract when their stint with a team does not go well. If Tyler flames out in Europe, what does he have to come home to?

Gottlieb is making this up. What is in your contract is what is in your contract. Kids on European teams don't get the resort hotels, the fancy chartered planes and the huge daily stipends, but Tyler will get paid whatever his contract states. If a team wants the right to cut him if he plays badly, then that will be in the contract. This is Europe, it's not Somalia... they have laws.

I am willing to believe that Jeremy Tyler could mature and progress as a player while getting paid. He is an immense talent, but one who is reputed to have some issues with discipline, something that will simply not be tolerated by any coach from any player, let alone a young player.

In other words, this might be in Tyler's best interest after all. Good to see Gottlieb conceding the debate. As for the tail end of the paragraph, good to know that Rick Pitino tolerates discipline issues at Louisville (where Tyler had an oral commitment to play).

Will Tyler benefit from making basketball his life at such a young age? He'll be practicing twice a day, while learning a new language and getting used to a new culture. It could be a tremendous experience for him personally, but far too often players go overseas without taking advantage of the experience of living in a new country. They spend their time hanging out in their apartments, watching movies and living on the Internet instead of submerging in a new culture and putting the experience to good use. Thus, they may live in a country they barely know and spend their time simply chasing the "cheddar."

Yes, because we all know that star high school and collegiate players spend their days at museums and operas. None of the players at Louisville spend their days on the internet rather than learning about a new culture. In all seriousness, if anything this is good for a player who has some behavior problems. Tyler is a lot less likely to get sucked into the college party style in Europe. He'll immediately be a professional who is expected to behave like a professional. He'll have fewer distractions than he would have had at Louisville.

Again, Gottlieb might have been forced to write that article because ESPN needed somebody to take that viewpoint, but his arguments are preposterous. The fact is that you can't argue that kids shouldn't be able to go make money before graduating college, and you can't argue that kids need to focus more on their education, because that's not happening around the country as it is. We already have diploma mills and kids going one-and-done in college.

So the question isn't whether anybody should be able to go pro early. The question is whether Tyler himself is making the right decision. Plenty of kids have made stupid decision to go pro too early and messed up their basketball careers, but that was because they made a dumb evaluation of their own potential future. It worked out plenty well for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett.

And in the end, that's what this is about. I'm tired of reading pretentious arguments about how Tyler is doing something bad for the world, and that he's ruining college basketball forever. This is simply a personal decision about Tyler's future. This is the right decision for some people, and the wrong decision for others. Only somebody who really knows Tyler personally can make any sort of a judgment on this. That's why I'm not passing judgment. I hope Tyler has made the best decision for his future, and I wish him the best of luck.

No comments: