Yesterday, news broke that DeAndre Ayton (now starting Center for the Phoenix Suns, commanding a salary over $8 million a year) was receiving $10,000 a month while enrolled at the University of Arizona from Head Coach Sean Miller. At first, people thought there might be an uproar. But in fact, being desensitized to this type of news over the years has conditioned some people to expect some sort of backend arrangement with all the top players. The problem here is that everything was caught on a phone recording intercepted by a Federal wiretap.
In an ongoing investigation about college recruiting practices, possible payoffs, and overall corruption, Wednesday seemed to be the precipice. In court, Federal prosecutors played the tapes for the jury. On the recording, the jury could hear a conversation between former University of Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson and agent Christian Dawkins. USA Today reported the following brief summary, highlighting aspects of the call:
While talking about Ayton, Richardson to Dawkins: “Sean’s got to get the (expletive) out of the way and let us work.”
Dawkins:“We’ll see how Sean plays it out.”
Richardson: “You know what he bought per month?”
Dawkins: “What he do?”
Richardson:“I told you — 10 (thousand).”
Dawkins: “He’s putting up some real money for them (expletives). He told me he’s getting killed.”
Richardson: “But that’s his fault.”
In addition, ESPN reported highlights from another note on the call, explaining that in order to help usher in talent into the sports management company owned by Dawkins, Dawkins was poised to offer a monthly payment to Richardson, which was discussed on the phone.
“You already know Sean is taking care of Rawle [Alkins] and them,” Dawkins said.
Arizona released a statement saying the school “takes the information presented in court today very seriously.”
“[Arizona] remains committed to the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct which includes competing within the rules of the NCAA and PAC-12 Conference. We will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA and with other ongoing investigations into this matter in the best interest of the University and the men’s basketball program,” the school said.
Also Wednesday, Dawkins was called to testify and said he didn’t see anything wrong with paying college athletes.
“They are the only kids in college who can’t get paid legally,” Dawkins said. “There is a need for them to get paid. … I don’t think anything that’s been discussed in either case is a crime.”
Dawkins testified that he believed his company was already getting Alkins as a client and that Ayton was already being paid through other parties.
“Deandre Ayton is going to get way more than 5,000,” Dawkins said. “That’s not even in the ballpark of what he’s going to get.”
When reacting to the news of the $10,000 a month payment to Ayton, Jalen Rose reacted in the video below, saying,
“Is that all?!”
Watch the rest of his comments unfold as he discusses current public opinion in this day and age.
ESPN goes on to describe the trial in more detail. You can read their in depth account here.
Russell Westbrook Traded to the Houston Rockets For Chris Paul and Draft Picks
All of the chatter surrounding Russell Westbrook had been that the former MVP was on his way to being traded to the Miami Heat.
The Heat were considered so much a favorite to land Westbrook, that there was even reports that indicated Russ on the Heat as an inevitability.
Well it turns out that deal was not an inevitable one, as Westbrook is on his way to Houston instead, where he will team up with an old friend.
The Rockets ended up using Chris Paul’s contract as a way to match up with the Thunder in a Westbrook trade and the massive draft capital they included put the deal over the top for Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Presti is now stockpiling assets, as his treasure trove of draft picks is getting rather deep.
Now the Thunder have 15 first round picks from 2020-2026, giving them an ample amount of chance to find their next star player in the draft. Those picks also have them the capital make any trade the want over the next five year.
The next trade may be for one of the pieces they just acquired, as Chris Paul could absolutely be on the move. If Paul is moved, the Thunder may not be done negotiating with the Heat after all.
Injury concerns aside, Paul may be a better fit for the Heat to play alongside Jimmy Butler anyway. Paul is a far superior three-point shooter, as a Westbrook-Butler backcourt would have been one of the worst three-point shooting units in the league.
There is also less pressure for Presti to receive assets in return for Paul, so the cap relief that Miami is offering may be enough to get a deal done.
Still, the headline here is the fact that Westbrook is once again teammates with James Harden, after Harden was traded from the Thunder to the Rockets back in 2012.
That duo does not necessarily make the most sense on paper, but the CP3-Harden backcourt was not aging very well anyway.
Now that they have two of the most ball-dominant guards in the league,
the Rockets may just play 48 minutes of iso, with Harden and Westbrook taking turns on offense.
Still, the fact that Harden and Westbrook wanted this, means that they may figure out a way to make it work.
The Big 3 – Week 3
This past weekend SLiC traveled with The Big 3 to Birmingham Alabama to kick off week 3. Alabama is mostly known for their college football dominance, but also has some current and former NBA players from there.
We caught up with former UAB standout Robert Vaden, member of BIG3’s Aliens as well as Jamario Moon who played locally at Central-Coosa and on both D-League teams in Alabama.
Charles Barkley grew up a little outside of Birmingham in Leeds, Alabama. College teammates and current NBA players Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins and Eric Bledsoe both grew up in Alabama as well.
Kawhi Leonard Signs Short Contract, Sparks Conversation
Details of Kawhi Leonard Contract Spark Conversation
This morning, the details surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s contract with the Los Angeles Clippers were announced: 3 years, $103M, with a player option in the third year. What was astonishing to some it just how short this contract may end up being… And that we may be in another Kawhi Sweepstakes in 2021. Further, Kawhi’s player option year is in the same season as Paul George’s, meaning both of the newest Clippers may be hitting Free Agency at the same time.
This “2+1” contract is reminiscent of contracts like LeBron James or Kevin Durant. The top tier of players can guarantee that they are always max dollar players, and the security they’ve earned in that often trumps the security in a longer contract. For example, Durant suffered a devastating injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and was still comfortable opting out of his contract in Golden State because he knew he could find more money elsewhere.
In one likely scenario, Leonard and George will find success in LA and simply re-up for more money in 2021. They will be eligible for a higher ceiling max contract, both based on their accomplishments and the steady rise of the salary cap.
In another scenario, however, something could go wrong with the pairing in the Clipper locker room and one or both could leave. Further, suitors for the Free Agent class of 2021 suddenly could see Leonard and George joining the likes of fellow NBA All Stars LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul, two time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and several up and coming young stars like Julius Randle or Justise Winslow.
While this feels new and shaky for the fans, it may be the new reality for the stars. Taking shorter contracts, assuming you can still be rewarded after them, makes logical sense.
But, back to the Clippers, does this make the trade for Paul George feel different? Even if t’s hard to isolate George as the only asset the Clippers received (reports are that he demanded a trade after talking with Kawhi, making it a package deal), but they did give up an unprecedented amount of future draft picks, a solid starting perimeter player in Danilo Gallinari, and a promising young Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
But what the trade for George and signing of Kawhi Leonard did do, as well as the pair of All-NBA signings in Brooklyn, is prove one thing: the best thing a team can do to gain stars is be a strong franchise. The Clippers became the first team in the modern NBA to make the playoffs and win playoff games without any All-Stars. The Nets were a strong six seed led by 23-year-old All-Star in D’Angelo Russell and a cast of other role players.
Now, both teams have two of the best players in the world.
Clearly deals as short as Leonard and George’s may worry fans. The thought that a mortgaged future may be for two years of bliss seems overtly short sighted. But, if lessons from this wild Free Agency teaches us what to think about the impending ones, the answer is not to worry about those things, but to be a strong franchise in a good location.
Or, for Clipper fans, “pLAy your way,” as they claimed to do in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
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