Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NBA Exec: "Calipari Signed My Draft Pick"

How good is UK commit John Wall? A NBA exec just texted me, "Calipari signed my draft pick today!"

That's right, the NBA believes Wall is a lottery pick waiting to happen. At least for UK's sake, he will spend that one season leading up to the 2010 NBA Draft by guiding what could be the most talented college basketball team in the country.

The only issue facing John Calipari now is which three players currently on the roster will have to find new schools.

Angels Team Up With Jet Blue To Give Away Free Roundtrip Tickets

-- Airline hosts “FANtastic” Giveaway benefiting the Adopt-A-School Program at12 p.m. PT on Wed., May 20 at Angel Stadium --

-- First 346 customers (the total number of Angels hits to-date) who bring a book donation and dress in Angels gear will receive a free roundtrip certificate (a) --

LOS ANGELES (May 19, 2009) – JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU) is proud to announce a partnership with Angels Baseball, Major League Baseball’s defending American League Western Division Champions, to become the Official and Exclusive Airline of the team. To further celebrate the launch of its partnership, JetBlue is hosting a “FANtastic” giveaway on Wednesday, May 20 at 12 p.m. PT at the main entrance to Angel Stadium, where the first 346 fans (the total number of Angels hits through Sunday, May 17) will receive a free roundtrip travel certificate (a).

Fans are required to come dressed in “FANtastic” Angels gear along with a children or teen’s book donation to be provided to the Angels Baseball Foundation’s Adopt-A-School Program. Every year, the Angels work with the Orange County Department of Education to identify five high schools and five elementary schools to adopt. The schools, selected based on need, include two schools from each level in Anaheim, one from each level in Orange, one from each level in Garden Grove and one from each level in Santa Ana.

“As we continue to expand in Southern California, providing more options and more convenience for our customers with the opening of LAX next month, we look to also support the teams and foundations that impact the community,” said Robin Hayes, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for JetBlue Airways. “We look forward to our partnership with The Angels and the fans and families that follow this great team. We are also proud to support and participate in the Angels Baseball Foundation’s fundraisers and community events throughout the season.”

As the Official and Exclusive Airline of the Angels, JetBlue’s partnership will include joint marketing promotions and advertising through 2009 with the option to extend through the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Elements will include videoboard features, contests, giveaways and special game-specific discounts on JetBlue airfare for members of the Angels Fan Club. The airline will also receive signage elements both inside and outside of the stadium.

“We’re very excited to partner up with JetBlue Airways,” said Dennis Kuhl, Angels President. “JetBlue, like Angels Baseball, has always stood for excellence in all they do. We’re especially excited about JetBlue’s commitment to the community and are looking forward to partnering with them on many more projects in the future.”

Yo, Eaves.. Where Have You Been?

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I guess I could list a few excuses--mostly work-related, of course--but what's the point, really? No matter the reason, the fact remains that I have been slipping on the posting front.

And here's the funny thing, there have been several stories/topics that have popped up lately worthy of my reactions and opinions. I just simply never get around to writing anything down. Maybe I will do that later, who knows?

I'm just chiming in to say that I am fully aware that I have been an absent-minded blogger as of late, but hopefully I will get back in a groove real soon.

By the way, before I leave, how about John Calipari's first recruiting class at Kentucky? Talk about making an entrance. Welcome to the UK Nation, John Wall!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pitino Still Considering The NBA?

The future of Rick Pitino at Louisville as been called into question since the news first came out that the FBI was investigating an extortion case on his behalf. While the nature of the allegations are a private matter in my mind, how this case affects his ability to coach should be open to public discussion.

There seems to be quite a few people in the Louisville area who were of the belief that Pitino would resign as head coach of the Cards. Such a move would not be that big of a surprise considering the public thirst for information on these allegations.

However, there is also another option for Pitino: the NBA. As I have previously reported, there are those within the Atlanta Hawks organization who would welcome Pitino as its new head coach. And according to Yahoo! Sports, there's another NBA team who is "intrigued" by the possibility of hiring Pitino.

Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Pitino could be in the running to be the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. The irony there, of couse, is that Pitino would be replacing one of his former assistants--Reggie Theus, whom Kings owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, hired on the strong recommendation of Pitino.

Here's an excerpt from Wojnarowski's article:
"...sources say the Maloofs are weighing the worth of paying what it would take to secure Pitino. The Kings are considering several candidates, including front-runner Eddie Jordan, and had been waiting until later in May to start interviews. The Maloofs hadn’t planned to pay much more than $2.5 million a season for any coach, sources say, but the owners understand they’ll need to significantly raise that figure to get serious with Pitino."

I spoke to several people with ties to Pitino tonight, including two people who have worked for him and one former player. All three said they would be surprised if Pitino took the job. The source closest to Pitino at this point said that he believes Pitino will stay on at Louisville and not resign--a belief backed up by another source within the Cardinals program.

There are several reasons,however, why Pitino might make this particular jump back to the NBA at this particular time, and they are all quite obvious. So let's look at a few of the reasons why the move may not make sense.

As one of Pitino's former players told me, Pitino would not want to go back to the NBA in a rebuilding situation. The Kings ended up being one of the worst teams in the league this year after trading away the likes of Ron Artest, Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, John Salmons and Dahntay Jones--all of which played or are still playing solid basketball in the playoffs. However, Theus seemed to get most of the blame for the team's poor showing instead of the man who orchestrated all those trades--GM Geoff Petrie.

And speaking of Petrie, he could be another reason why Pitino would not be a good fit for the Kings. As one former NBA coach told me tonight, "Petrie would not want him because Pitino is too strong."

That point is important because when it comes to NBA GM's having strong influence over ownership, Petrie could be the leader in that category.

One college coach, who has faced Pitino several times, told me that he doesn't think Pitino will leave Louisville either. He believes the move is simply a way of trying to get a raise at Louisville. John Calipari's contract at Kentucky trumped Pitino's deal at UofL by several million dollars.

So even before playing a single game, Calipari is already shaking up Pitino's world. How great will that UK/UofL matchup be next season? That is if Pitino is still around, of course.

Dodgers Release Statement On Manny Ramirez Suspension


LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt issued the following statement in reaction to today’s statements from Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Manny Ramirez.

“We share the disappointment felt by our fans, our players, and every member of our organization. We support the policies of Major League Baseball, and we will welcome Manny back upon his return.”

This statement will constitute the comment of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization until Joe Torre meets with the media at approximately 4:30 p.m. today at Dodger Stadium.

Prime Ticket will televise the Dodgers news conference live beginning at 4:30pm.

Manny Ramirez Issues Statement And Apology

The Major League Players Association recently released a statement regarding Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

MLPA says that Ramirez will not appeal his suspenion.

Here's an excerpt from the news release.

"Manny has requested that the Players Association release the following statement on his behalf.”

“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.

“I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation.” – Manny Ramirez

“The Players Association stands behind Manny and will continue to support him in any way we

Be sure to check out Dodgers Live beginning at 6:30pm on Prime Ticket for the very latest on this story, including reaction from Dodgers executives, coaches and players.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Eric Bledsoe Signs With UK; John Wall Decision Not Expected Until May 20th

As UK coaches had hoped and expected, Eric Bledsoe signed his national letter-of-intent Wednesday. He's going to be a Wildcat.

This signing fills a huge void at the point guard position. Considered to be one of the top 3 players at that spot in the 2009 class, Bledsoe can step into a starting role immediately.

The other benefit of this signing is that it makes the possibility of Kentucky not landing John Wall a little easier to swallow. John Calipari definitely wants both, but if he only ends up with Bledsoe, it's definitely not the end of the world.

Now, don't get me wrong. UK is still very hopeful that Wall will sign with the Cats as well, but they fully expect it to be a battle all the way to the end.

Calipari and his staff believe that Wall, his mother, and his AAU coach Brian Clifton all feel comfortable with Kentucky and that the program would be a great place for Wall to expedite his journey to the NBA, but when it comes to recruiting, nothing is a given.

As far as when to expect a decision from Wall goes, the UK coaches are working under the assumption that it won't come until the very end of the signing period: May 20th.

Monday, May 4, 2009

UK Recruiting Update On Bledsoe And Wall

As I have stated several times, I am not a big fan of reporting on college recruiting.  I think it's often way too much about possibly very little.  Only a handful of 5-star recruits go on to be top-level talent in the college ranks, and even fewer carry that pedigree to the NBA.

And since it's almost like a crap shoot trying to figure out which kid will be ultimately live up to and eventually exceed his recruiting hype, I don't go out of my way to follow the decision-making process of the nation's top recruits.  

Plus, they're kids!  They change their minds more often than Lindsay Lohan changes her sexual orientation!!

However, when I first started this blog, I promised to give my readers as much inside information as I could share.  Thus, here's what I know about a couple of UK recruits.

Let's start with Eric Bledsoe.  As most of you have heard, he is expected to announce his college choice Wednesday.  I read somewhere that it's down to either Memphis or Kentucky.  I can tell you that the UK coaches are feeling rather confident that Bledsoe will choose UK.  Maybe it's because the only reason Bledsoe is even considering Memphis is because John Calipari was recruiting him when he was coaching there, and former Calipari assistant, Josh Pastner, is the new coach of the Tigers.

Adam Zagoria quoted Bledsoe as saying that he will not base his decision on whether John Wall chooses UK or not.

"I’m going to play my position either if he do go or he don’t," said Bledsoe, who is fully aware that Wall is Kentucky's top choice.

Bledsoe thinks he and Wall would be great together on the floor, and believe me, UK would love to find out and happily sign both of them.

The other big UK recruiting news involves Wall being charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering after police found him walking out of a vacant house in his hometown of Raleigh.  I have been assured that the incident sounds a lot worse than it really is.

Wall did something he shouldn't have done, but I am told that his intentions going into the house were not malicious, and perhaps more importantly, it will not stop UK from recruiting him.  However, that may not be the case for Wall's other pursuers.

There are those within the Kentucky program that are actually hoping this incident will cause Duke to back off its recruitment of Wall.  The thought being that Mike Krzyzewski wouldn't want to do anything to call into question his program's squeaky clean image.

As far as North Carolina is concerned, Roy Williams hasn't exactly seemed eager to sign Wall in the first place.  He hasn't even offered him a scholarship.  Williams and Wall's AAU coach Brian Clifton do not get along at all.

However, it is believed that Wall is not willing to distance himself from Clifton in order to get an offer to UNC.  Clifton has filled a void in Wall's life since the passing of his father.  

If it were not for Wall having grown up in Raleigh, some UK insiders believe that he would have already signed with Kentucky, calling it "a no-brainer."

As far as their confidence level of signing Wall is concerned, it's about 50/50.  If Calipari has a feeling either way, he's not tipping his hand, and considering how his Derby picks turned out, that might be a good idea.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Don't Hate UK's Coach, Hate The NCAA's Game

From all the e-mails I have been getting lately, I guess some of the readers here at Eaves On Sports are a little upset that I haven't written anything about Kentucky lately--something I hadn't even realized. Maybe it's because this is not a UK blog, but rather a blog where I share my insight and opinions on any and all topics that interest me.

Naturally having grown up in Kentucky, UK Basketball would be one subject I would often address here--just not all the time. However, right now is one of those times.

Since President Lee Todd and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart finally came to their senses and fired Billy Gillispie and then replaced him with John Calipari, I constantly field questions from both non-UK fans as well as UK-haters. They ask me how long will it be before Kentucky ends up on probation. Some in jest. Others sincere.

I understand why some people might ask such questions considering that the NCAA struck Calipari's run with U Mass to the 1996 Final Four from the official records after it was discovered that Marcus Camby received improper benefits while playing for the Minutemen. However, it's very important to note that the NCAA declared that Calipari was never involved or responsible for the infractions.

That statement of fact, however, does not stop some from labeling Calipari a "dirty coach," a topic foxsports.com columnist Jason Whitlock addressed in a March 31st column. Here's an excerpt.

Coach Cal's rep is that he plays loosey-goosey with the NCAA rulebook. He recruits prep-school kids, late-academic qualifiers and he's not above giving a dad (Milt Wagner) a job or an AAU coach a speaking engagement in order to land a program-maker.

Some sports writers I respect consider Coach Cal a "dirty coach."

I consider him a damn good one. And given the NCAA's insistence on holding onto an outdated rulebook and an immoral/hypocritical concept of amateurism, I believe Calipari's ethics are beyond question.

I agree. I know for a fact that Calipari has the best of intentions when dealing with kids. He obviously has a vested interest in getting the best of the best to play for his teams, but he is also sincerely concerned about their ultimate well-being, whether they play professionally or not.

Does he utilize the boundaries of NCAA rules to his advantage? Of course! And he better, if he wants to keep up with the other top coaches in the country--Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Ben Howland, etc--who use the same practice.

So rest assured UK fans, Calipari is going to work as hard, if not harder, than any coach in America to make sure Kentucky is always challenging for national championships, but he won't do it at the expense of the program and/or his career.

Coach K On Kobe: A Unique Competitor

I remember the first time I interviewed Kobe on live television following a Lakers game. I had just started at FOX Sports West, and I was reporting from the Lakers locker room following a win.

Kobe was wearing a blue and white Nike sweat suit, which I referenced at the end of the interview. I said something to the effect of "If you had gone to college, those Kentucky colors would have looked great on you." It was, of course, a direct reference to my alma mater.

Without hesitation Kobe responds, "Yeah, these Duke colors are nice."

Even in jest, Kobe hit me with the harshest of stingers on live tv. Welcome to LA, Michael.

I recall that story because I recently read some excerpts from Mike Krzyzewski's new book, "The Gold Standard," which is set to hit stores on May 4th.

If he had not decided to enter the NBA Draft following his senior season at Lower Merion High School, Kobe planned to take his talents to Duke and play for Coach K.

Their paths almost crossed again in 2004, after the Lakers did not renew Phil Jackson's contract. Kobe made it clear to Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak that he favored Krzyzewski to be the Lakers next coach. It turned out, however, that Coach K was not ready to leave Duke.

It wasn't until last year's Olympics that Kobe could finally see what it was like to play for Krzyzewski, but it may have been Coach K who was most looking forward to this union made in basketball.

"In finally getting my opportunity to coach Kobe Bryant, I found that he is who I thought he was," Krzyzewski writes in his new memoir.

"One of the most talented basketball players in the history of the game and the unique kind of competitor that may come around only once in a leader's lifetime."

To read more of Krzyzewski's takes on Kobe before the book comes out, check out Ramona Shelburne's article in the LA Daily News.

Is Jrue Holiday Leaning Towards Leaving UCLA?

By the time he left high school, Jrue Holiday was well-scouted by just about every NBA team. The 2008 prep player of the year was primed to be a one-and-doner at UCLA. The lottery was waiting on him.

However, life has a funny way of writing out its own script for our lives, and Holiday's one season in Westwood gave life an opportunity for a re-write.

There are several people who viewed Holiday's freshman season as a disappointment. His first year play and stats didn't match his pre-enrollment hype. After scorching the high school ranks for more than 30 points a game at the point guard spot, Holiday only averaged 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists this past season while playing shooting guard in Ben Howland's defense-oriented system.

Despite those underwhelming numbers, Holiday still entered his name into this year's NBA Draft. He has not hired an agent, however, thus giving him the option to come back to UCLA for his sophomore season.

He has has spent the better part of two weeks at a Florida training center, prepping for the individual workouts, and he recently decided to extend his stay.

I have always been of the belief that Holiday would jump straight to the league after only one season at UCLA. I came to that conclusion after talking to various NBA personnel, as well as Holiday himself. He never told me directly that he planned to play only one college season, but when I read between the lines, his intentions were always obvious to me.

Such an example comes in the following quote from David Wharton's article in Saturday's LA Times.

"In college, it's all about defense," Holiday said. The NBA "seems like it's more fun. You can be you."

More fun? You can be you? I'm sorry UCLA Fans, but that sounds like a man who hasn't been very happy lately and is looking for a new start.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Baron Davis Writes An Open Letter To Clipper Fans

I can't count how many times people have asked me--either during the season or since it's ended--about the Clippers, and the questions are rarely posed in positive terms.

What's wrong with the Clippers? Are they always going to be this bad? Why didn't they fire Dunleavy?

On and on it goes. Sometimes I have answers. Sometimes I don't. Either way, the fans usually go away still feeling frustrated.

If you really think about how the season played out, you can place a portion of the blame on just about everybody. Players. Coaches. Management. They would all tell you they fell well short of their own expectations this past season. However, they all would also tell you that next season should be different.

The latest to voice that sentiment publicly is Baron Davis. He recently posted "A letter to the Fans" on his blog. Here's an excerpt.

"I want to make sure you know that EVERYONE at the Clippers is committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure that you don’t have to deal with another year like the one that just ended. I’m dedicating myself to that goal, and I know my teammates will do the same."

"There are probably those who will read this and toss it off as just words, but I can only write these words with hope that the feeling and sentiment is conveyed."

Whether you are one of those people who will toss that statement off as just words or you are some of the die-hards who truly believe what Baron wrote, you have to give him credit for recognizing the fans frustration and vowing to do something about it.

Let's just hope he and his teammates actually back up those words next season though, because until they do, it will be just talk.