A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Two Minute Warning:Dwight Takes Flight!!!
This is your Two-Minute Warningï¿½.
BALTIMORE, MD.—Another NBA season beacons, and another high school superstar is going to be subject to all the nonsense and noise about how high school hoopsters are bad for basketball, bad for America, and bad for the Free World.
The Orlando Magic plucked Dwight Howard as the top choice in the draft last summer, and the predictable crying came from the choir came cascading from the cliffs about how in the world could Orlando pass on the more experienced Emeka Okafor from Connecticut.
Actually the reason the Magic picked Howard is simple. The Magic passed up on Okafor because Howard is a better player.
Okafor is a player who can run the floor, can block some shots, grab some boards and has some offensive limitations. In other words Okafor is Kelvin Cato. Heï¿½ll be a productive NBA player, but not a difference maker.
Dwight Howard can be a difference maker. He has franchise altering capabilities.
Simply staying in college for four years doesnï¿½t necessarily make you an NBA player. Nor does bypassing college or staying in college for only a year a two make you incapable of producing in the NBA.
Many of us have short memories.
Okay class in case youï¿½ve forgotten letï¿½s review.
It was a year ago, about this time when many of the pundits were suggesting that maybe Cleveland Cavaliers Top Draft pick Lebron James was not the real deal. Lebron was a beast in high school, but they argued he was not capable of getting it done in the NBA.
Weï¿½ll it didnï¿½t take long for Lebron to prove that not only did he belong in the league, but in his first season with the big boys he quickly ascended the NBA hierarchy to become one of the more dynamic players in the Association.
There are very few who doubt Lebronï¿½s prowess now.
Itï¿½s 2004/05, and here we go again.
Dwight Howard is another young basketball prodigy who has many doubters suggesting heï¿½s not ready for Prime Time. Dwight is another top draft pick, fresh off the high school hardwood who some folks arenï¿½t convinced can get it done.
If you are one of the multitudes crying about the league going down the toilet because of all the young boys, just chill. Itï¿½s going to be okay.
The influx of High School players in the NBA is not a sign of the Apocalypse.
The NBA is just fine. The young players havenï¿½t ruined the league. I argue theyï¿½ve made it a better league.
Folks who argue the contrary seem to be conveniently forgetting one important fact. Some of these young boys can play.
Lets take an actual look at what the actual high school players have actually done.
Lets name some names; Kevin Garnett went straight to the league out of high school, and KG was the MVP last year. The aforementioned Lebron James made the leap to the Association a year ago, and was voted league Rookie of the Year in 2003/04. Lebron doesnï¿½t need any college seasoning; He is an NBA caliber player right now.
Some folks say Kobe Bryant might be the best player in the game. Thatï¿½s debatable, but what isnï¿½t debatable is that his lack of collegiate experience didnï¿½t stop him from being a major contributor to three Los Angeles Laker championship teams.
Tracy McGrady hasnï¿½t won anything yet, but has clearly blossomed into one of the marquee players in the league.
These boys can play.
Jemaine Oï¿½Neil is a major force for the Indiana Pacers. Amare Stoudomaire poured in 20 points a game for the Phoenix Suns. Darius Miles is probably the most exciting player wearing a Portland Trailblazer uniform.
All went straight to the NBA out of high school, and all belong in NBA uniforms.
Rashard Lewis is contributing a very productive 18 points a game for Seattle.
KG, Lebron, Kobe, ectï¿½ They havenï¿½t hurt the league. Theyï¿½ve made the NBA a better league.
And I donï¿½t want to hear the stuff about the high school folk who donï¿½t make it. People who make this argument donï¿½t bother to take a closer look.
Koleone Young is one name thatï¿½s commonly resurrected as proof that leaping from high school to the NBA is a losing proposition. Young went straight to the NBA draft from high school, and could not cut it in the Big Time. But donï¿½t cry for Korleone. He made $289,750 dollars as a 19 year old in the NBA. Over the past five years Young has continued to play hoops internationally and on the minor league level, and has made between $50,000 and $100,000 per season. Thatï¿½s not bad paper for somebody who never went to College. There are plenty of people who graduate from College and donï¿½t earn that kind of coin.
Players have options beyond the NBA.
20 of 29 high school draftees have gone on to become millionaires and/or have productive NBA careers over the last 6 drafts. Most of the others have pursued foreign or minor-league options.
Iï¿½ll say it again. Some of the high school boys can play.
Orlando Magic Director of Scouting Dave Twardzik learned this lesson the hard way. Twardzik was the Golden State Warriors GM in ï¿½95 & ï¿½96 when Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant came out of high school in successive years. The Warriors did not select Kobe or KG because they bought into the garbage about how these guys were just high school players, and the Warriors needed to get more seasoned and experienced talent.
WRONG!!! What Golden State needed was the best players. Had Golden State elected to take Kobe and KG, the Warriors franchise would have blossomed into the talk of the NBA. Instead, many of us have almost forgotten Golden State is still in the league.
Twardzic and The Warriors took Joe Smith instead of Garnett in ï¿½95 and Todd Fuller instead of Kobe Bryant in ï¿½96.
Twardzik wasnï¿½t going to make the same mistake again. When the opportunity came to secure an abundantly talented player in 2004, the Magic snatched Howard up in a flash. They didnï¿½t care if he was a high school player. They cared if he could play basketball. Twardzik had strike one when he passed on KG in ï¿½95. He had strike two when he passed on Kobe in ï¿½96. Twardzik wasnï¿½t about to look at strike three. He finally got over the ï¿½High School Kids Canï¿½t Playï¿½ syndrome and did the right thing. He picked the best player.
If you donï¿½t think Howard can get it done, I issue you an invitation to the NBA 2004/05 season. Sit back and watch Howard work. The preseason was just a preamble to his impending preeminence. In other words, the boy is good. Howard average 15 points and 8 rebounds against NBA players during the preseason, just 5 months removed from his high school graduation. Now the real games begin, and Howard will show that heï¿½s the real deal.
What Twardzik learned from his KG/Kobe episode is that at the end of the dayï¿½Itï¿½s not how old you areï¿½Itï¿½s can you playï¿½.
Itï¿½s not if you shave yetï¿½ Itï¿½s can you playï¿½
Itï¿½s not if you have your drivers license yetï¿½Itï¿½s CAN YOU PLAYï¿½
Dwight Howard can playï¿½.
Yesï¿½heï¿½ll have some challengesï¿½some ups and downsï¿½Some good days and bad daysï¿½
But if you are looking for the next great big man beyond Shaq, Tim Duncan and Yao, I say look no further than Orlando.
Look no further than Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard is not quite the Household name that Lebron James has become.
However, I think you better begin making room in your household for a new name.
That name is DWIGHT HOWARD.
Iï¿½m Lamont Germany
Thatï¿½s your two-minute warning.