Prep Star Planning On Becoming Israeli Pro Baller

Last year, the sports world was agape and aghast upon hearing the news that prep basketball player Brandon Jennings was skipping college to ply his trade for bucks (Euros, whatever) in Europe for a year while awaiting draft eligibility. People said it was the end of pure innocent amateurism; that poor Jennings would miss out on The College Experience or any number of other illogical arguments.

Jeremy Tyler

(Jeremy Tyler, left, soon to be a globetrotter of a different sort.)

Unsurprisingly, however, Jennings’ situation was just the beginning. Now a high school player is taking things to the logical next step. That’s right. San Diego teenager Jeremy Tyler  is thinking of going pro even before his high school days are over. Whatever happened to the innocent days of childhood?

Read more…

Walking NCAA Violation Scares Off UCLA, USC

USC and UCLA, two college basketball powerhouses and two bitter rivals were chomping at the bit to sign Renardo Sidney, one of the top prep talents in the nation. Then, all of a sudden — nothing. Both schools withdrew their interest. What could be so damning about a prospect that schools would back away so quickly, and in the case of USC, after he had already committed?

Renardo Sidney

As always seems the case in the NCAA, the problem was money. More specifically, lots of it and no clear source for it. Both schools aborted their recruiting of Sidney, the number two power foward in the country, due to questions over his family’s finances and an insinuation that they expected to be paid for signing with a school.

If you’ve ever wondered how many potential NCAA violations are too many, even for USC, now you’ve got your answer.

Read more…

Speed Read: Dwyane Wade Pecks at Your Entrails

The Atlanta Hawks’ animal mascot (as opposed to its mall & car dealership mascot) couldn’t get settled for Wednesday night’s Game 2 against the Miami Heat. Before each home game, Spirit the Hawk usually swoops across the arena and land with its handler.

Instead, the (Del?) Harris hawk became confused last night and wandered Philips Arena, landing in the stands, above center court, and on a stanchion.

Spirit the Hawk of the Atlanta Hawks

For reasons unclear, they started the game while Spirit stayed loose. However, the game came to a screeching halt a few minutes in when Spirit landed on the backboard camera and Josh Smith excused himself due to winged predators in the field of play. Eventually, Spirit returned to his handler and play continued.

The rest of the Hawks followed suit in avoiding airborne objects for the remainder of the game, allowing Dwyane Wade to divebomb them with 33 points (including six three-pointers) in a 108-93 win to pull even with the Hawks at a game apiece in the seven-game series.

After the game, Hawks management offered Spirit the scorekeeper job; at least he knows where to look for the ball.

In other NBA games last night, Philadelphia lost to Orlando 96-87, New Orleans lost to Denver 108-93, and the Detroit Pistons lost their ability to care.

A flyby of the NBA may be all that underclassmen college basketball players will get next season when they wish to dip their toe in the NBA Draft. The NCAA has taken steps to limit the time non-seniors can even bat an eyelash in the NBA’s direction by declaring for the draft to the length of an eye blink.

A pensive Stephen Curry

Instead of getting approximately six weeks to consult with NBA teams, speak to trusted advisors, and draw out the decision into key segments of the news cycle, players would get around a week’s time, usually during finals. The NCAA wants to protect their franchisees by encouraging the players to stick around longer to increase their marketing value.

Therefore, no one should show surprise when a young man chooses to skip the NCAA for Europe as Brandon Jennings did. Perhaps we should also not feign indignance when the best high school junior in the country, Jeremy Tyler, packs his extra-long jammies (for his 6′11″ frame) and heads to Europe before his senior year of high school.

Jeremy Tyler

Long-time watchers of tall young men will recognize the puppeteer behind this latest stress test on the basketball pipeline. Sonny Vaccaro has his hand in this year’s Atlantic leap, just as he did for Jennings last year. Tyler turns 18 in June and will be eligible for the 2011 NBA draft.

We have a suggestion for Tyler to consider when he selects an NBA agent:

David Falk

The Bird of Prey himself, of course.

And now the hail of bullet points that you successfully survive thanks to your bra

Who’s now the most likely to be upset in round one?

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Ballers Now To Skip Senior Year Of High School?

Stefan Fatsis of THE ATLANTIC has a recent piece on New York high school basketball prospect Lance Stephenson. In the treatment, Fatsis explores the possibility of Stephenson going to play in Europe instead of heading to college - like Brandon Jennings.

Lance Stephenson

(Already well-prepared for fundamentally-sound, team-oriented Euroleague!)

Buried in the piece though is a much more intriguing prospect I haven’t yet heard discussed. Read more…

We’ve Got Today’s Lebron-To-Leave-Cleve Update

Impossible-to-pronounce Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS covers the possible cleave between Lebron James and the Cavaliers, despite team owner (and busy tax guy) Dan Gilbert and the city doing all they can to maintain their mulling monarch.

Lebron James Jay-Z

Wojnarowski is the latest points to James’ close relationship to Jay-Z, who also happens to be part owner of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. Read more…

Patriots Spying Scandal May Be Cause of Red Sox Meltdown

• BUGS AND CRANKS fears the Curse of the Bambino has been replaced by the Curse of the Belichicko:

Babe Ruth Bill Belichick

• I’M WRITING SPORTS think it’s been a fun ride in St. Louis, but it’s time for LaRussa to leave.

• GO VOLS XTRA runs up the score, revealing that Fulmer’s boys can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

• NATION OF ISLAM SPORTSBLOG points out that Donovan McNabb’s recent “Real Sports” rantings were made before the season started:

Donovan McNabb run

• Since he’s all the rage right now, STEROID NATION wonders if the Juice may have been juiced.

• MONEY PLAYERS strolls through campus, as shoe VIP Sonny Vaccaro takes his act from the fieldhouse to the lecture hall.

Dan Patrick Final Radio Show Preempted By Chris Bootcheck

PATRICK LAST DAY IN L.A. TRUMPED BY CHRIS BOOTCHECK: How big was Dan Patrick’s radio show in Los Angeles? The LOS ANGELES TIMES reports his final show today is being pre-empted by an inconsequential Angels baseball broadcast on ESPN’s KSPN-AM in Los Angeles.

Dan Patrick

SbB predicts Patrick will soon land on Sporting News Radio in a midday slot. In other words, if you don’t live in North Platte and work the grocery store stocker third shift, you won’t hear him without securing a Pakistan cave-based satellite communications uplink.

Chris Berman Booger

To his credit, before he left the WWL, DP delivered (via NEWSDAY) one last open-handed slap to our favorite Bristol-based lardass: “Maybe I’ll get a rocking chair and an autographed Chris Berman picture and then just ride off into the sunset.

• 49-year-old Julio Franco was designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves last week, and last night reported to (and played for) the Rome (GA) Braves of the low-Class A South Atlantic League.

Julio Franco

The second oldest player on the club? 23-year-old Jorge Acosta.

• The BOSTON GLOBE reports Patriots receiver Donte’ Stallworth has a 97 speed rating out of 100 in Madden 08. Pats running back Laurence Maroney to Stallworth: “Madden must not have watched you for a while. Not since you’ve been with us. Unless you did some things with the Eagles I didn’t see, I haven’t seen 95 or 97 out here today.

• University of South Florida football player Woody George, who is currently competing for a starting position at defensive end, was arrested at the campus police station Thursday night and charged with a felony count of grand theft relating to a missing parking boot.

Matt Munyon

A Florida college football player arrested for a missing boot? Shouldn’t that’ve been a Florida State kicker?

• The reason sportswriters shouldn’t try screenplays: “A farm somewhere in the Midwest. Trees and beanstalks abound. The sun hangs low in the late-afternoon sky, like a testicle.

• Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. this week to the BOSTON GLOBE on playing at Fenway Park: “They’re one of the few places you’ll hear racial comments.

• SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL reports NHL Florida Panthers Centerman Olli Jokinen and his wife, Katerina, “will host about 60 executives from the team’s top corporate partners this Saturday at their home in Parkland, Florida.

Olli Jokinen

SBJ notes “the Panthers’ party will cost the team $70,000-90,000. 60 invitations were sent out and more than 95% of people have committed to attend.

Let’s just hope this trend doesn’t lead to a Falcons backyard BBQ at Michael Vick’s house.

• The PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL has the spooky news that the late Rod Beck will soon be featured in an independent film. In the movie “Work Week”, Beck plays a “lower-echelon hit man named Reggie, bent on killing anyone who crosses his path.

Rod Beck

• The DETROIT FREE PRESS reports organizers of Detroit’s entry into the professional All American Football League (AAFL) will sign an initial five-game agreement Thursday with Ford Field to play games there beginning next spring.

The ten-game AAFL regular season will supposedly be played from April 12-July 3, with player salaries ranging from $60,000-150,000. The league’s website lists six confirmed clubs: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.

• The PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL notes McFarlane Toys last week debuted the Barry Bonds 756 Home Run Collector’s Edition figurine, which will sell for $15-20.

Barry Bonds

Uh, we’ll pass.

• Former USC tailback Emmanuel Moody, one week after being featured on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as a Trojan player, has decided to transfer. Scott Wolf of the L.A. DAILY NEWS mentions Oklahoma State as a possible destination.

Emmanual Moody SI Cover

While coach Pete Carroll claims to Wolf that Moody’s departure was amicable, Moody’s Uncle Michael Chang suggests otherwise. Chang hints to the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that because Moody didn’t hail from California, he didn’t have as good a chance to gain playing time: “It’s not just competition, man. It’s more than that. He’s competing against California guys, and there is more than his inability to play on that football field. It’s just not the best fit for him right now.

One word for Chang’s (and Moody’s) cowardly cop-out: HOGWASH.

• “(Bleep) ‘Family Fun Night.’ You ain’t getting a Thanksgiving either if I can help it.” – Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, on the distraction caused by the team’s traditional event where fans can come and watch practice.

• “Once James Gandolfini was attached to it, there was nothing more that needed to be done. The rest is history.” – Baron Davis, who will be executive producer for HBO’s “ABCD Camp.” The film features the Sopranos star playing basketball shoe guru Sonny Vaccaro.

• GOLFWEEK’s Forecaddie notes TaylorMade recently trademarked the color “Sunday Red”, a burgundy red, that will be used on a line of drivers and fairway woods.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, who is not an endorser of TaylorMade, traditionally wears red during Sunday rounds.

James Gandolfini To Play Sonny Vaccaro In ABCD Camp

J. GANDOLFINI GOES FROM FAT TONY TO SCRAWNY SONNY: DAILY VARIETY has news of James Gandolofini’s next appearance on HBO. Fat Tony will play Scrawny Sonny from Pittsburgh. That is, basketball shoe maven Sonny Vaccaro.

Tony Soprano

Vaccaro repped Nike to young basketball stars (he signed Michael Jordan for the company) and also was known for running high profile high school basketball camps that served as a recruiting ground for major basketball coaches.

Gandolofini will portray Vaccaro’s character in a film called “ABCD Camp”. Also involved in a producing capacity, Baron Davis. “Friday Night Lights” screenwriter David Aaron Cohen “pitched and will write a drama chronicling the last youth basketball camp established by the corporate sports scout Vaccaro.

Baron Davis Teri Hatcher

With Davis involved, we’re rooting for a Teri Hatcher cameo as Pat Summitt.

If you want to hear the real Vaccaro, tune to KLAC-AM in Los Angeles. He appears on the sports station’s “Loose Cannons” show at least once a week and we’re guessing he’ll be on today to crow about the project.

Porn Star Jenna Jameson To Provide Color Commentary For Lingerie Bowl

SbB Bullet Joint

• UH, MR. (L.A.) MAYOR, WHAT ABOUT THE AMERICANS? Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the Olympic website on the city’s so-called advantage in its nonsensical bid to host the 2016 Games:

Antonio Villaraigosa Photos

Every Olympic delegation will have a fan base here.”

• SONNY VACCARO BEEFS ABOUT KOBE, HOLDS MAYO: Sonny Vaccaro, former shoe company bloodsucker executive, to the LOS ANGELES TIMES this week on O.J. Mayo: “When you see him come out [to L.A.] in June or July you’ll see he’s a strong-willed sucker. O.J. is going to be special. Unlike that other superstar, Kobe, if O.J. says something it will happen.

Kobe Bryant with girl

With that in mind, you best not stand near any rails around O.J. anytime soon.

• SUPER FUN = PORN WHORES WITH CLOTHES ON? THE EAST VALLEY (AZ) TRIBUNE reports the Lingerie Bowl will be back as halftime fodder for next year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix.

Jenna Jameson Sex Doll

And that Jenna Jameson “will be a color commentator for the game.

• ADIOS, LOS JORGE DEPORTES MACHINA! George Michael’s nationally syndicated “Sports Machine” show will air for the final time on March 25.

George Michael Sports Machine

No word if he’s mothballing the show to collect on a large cash offer for the multi-colored-lights-flashing machine from the local Chuck E. Cheese.

Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store has this headline: “Indiana man tries to cash $50,000 check from God.”

Bob Knight Painting

Yeah, the man is now in trouble with the law, I guess he forgot Bob Knight left IU some time ago.

• SO MUCH FOR THAT DELTA FLIGHT TO DUSSELDORF: USA TODAY reports Bonnie Bernstein has been diagnosed with “potentially life-threatening deep-vein thrombosis [DVT], also known as blood clots.”

Bonnie Bernstein Photos

If this doesn’t spur a major push for reinstating Melissa Stark to the sidelines, nothing will.

• $60M DOESN’T BUY THE MARKETING THAT IT USED TO: The BOSTON GLOBE reports Curt Schilling’s Green Monster Games has a $60M operating budget and 38 employees. Schilling has “recently hired someone from EA Sports to run the day-to-day operations for him.”

Curt Schilling

The BOSTON HERALD, via SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, also reports Schilling “took full advantage of the intense international press coverage that the team is receiving” to hand out T-shirts for his games company to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, as well as “every member of the Japanese media.

The shirts had “World Domination Through Gaming -–” printed in Japanese. Schilling also gave Spanish-language T-shirts to teammates from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

• DUMBBELL TAKES TOLL ON K.C. BASEBALL FANS: Royals manager Buddy Bell to the KANSAS CITY STAR on new polyester fabric hats being used by MLB: “I hate this. One of the key things is we look good. This doesn’t help.”

Buddy Bell

Yeah, that’s been a key thing for Royals fans the past 20 years.

• FENWAY TO FEATURE BAD HABIT ALL SUMMER LONG: THE BOSTON GLOBE reports Red Sox manager Terry Francona, is trying to “quit his smokeless tobacco habit, has agreed to a bet” Bosox President Larry Lucchino about his kicking the habit.

Terry Francona Photo

If Francona quits for the season, Lucchino will donate $20,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. If Francona takes a pinch before the year’s final out, he’ll give $20,000 “to a charity to be named“.

Perhaps Francona will donate the money to Devil Rays fans, since their condition is about as terminal as most cancer patients.

• NFL READY TO KICKOFF FAKE FOOTBALL IN CHINA: The NEW YORK TIMES reports Chinese athletes Gao Wei, Ding Long and Shen Yalei on Monday will try out for NFL Europe teams in Tampa.

NFL Football In China

The three will be given a shot to dress out as kickers during the NFL exhibition game in Bejing between the Seahawks and Patriots on August 9.

NFL executives hilariously insist that “using a Chinese kicker in the exhibition game in Beijing would not be a stunt,” but the Patriots and Seahawks have already “agreed to suit up one (Chinese) player — not necessarily to use him.

I’m sure the NFL just wants to give these three guys a shot to achieve their dreams, and that having them on the teams just to raise interest among in-country, TV-watching, jersey-buying Chinese has nothing to do with it.

Kind of like invading Iraq was all about Saddam Hussein’s unspeakably brutal treatment of his countrymen.

• THIS GLOBAL WARMING STUFF IS STARTING TO GET SERIOUS: The BOSTON HERALD reports the MLB Winter Meetings will be held in Boston in 2010. The event hosts 5,000 minor and major league execs and agents.

Fenway Park Snow

Does baseball know something we don’t know?

• WINNING IS BAD FOR BUSINESS IN THE CFL: The EDMONTON SUN reports that the CFL Edmonton Eskimoes made money this season - only because the franchise lost money.

Warren Moon Edmonton Eskimos

Even though the team was $850,000 (Canadian) over the salary cap last season season, the club posted a $610,168 profit, “partly because the club missed the playoffs.

Eskimos President Rick LeLacheur said the main reason was logistic costs of holding playoff games - and the potential cost of championship rings. that in ‘05, the Eskimos had to spend almost $365,000 “”in Grey Cup costs –- from travel to championship rings.”

So team only had a $163,839 profit that year.

So I guess that confirms what we’ve all known for many, many years. Kansas City Royals Owner David Glass is one helluva businessman.

After Adidas Emasculates Reebok, Sonny Vaccaro Parts Company

VACCARO DUCKS REEBOK REDUX: Sonny Vaccaro has departed Reebok as something called Senior Director of Grassroots Basketball to set up a basketball “academy” for the nation’s most talented young players.

When Vaccaro was at Nike, he created the monster that is shoe contracts for college basketball teams and coaches, and in the process was very influential in what universities high school players would attend.

Adidas recently acquired Reebok and decided that the brand would no longer be a serious player in the professional and college basketball business - which no doubt is the real reason Vaccaro left.