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Kevin McHale thinks NBA should raise age limit

Mar 1, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Washington Wizards Getty Images

One of new commissioner Adam Silver’s goals is get the NBA’s age limit raised to 20. He works for the owners and that is something they wanted out of the new collective bargaining agreement but put the issue aside in favor of getting a last minute deal done.

Silver has a new ally on this front — Hall of Famer Kevin McHale.

The legendary Celtics player and current coach of the Houston Rockets told Sam Amick of the USA Today he wants to see the minimum age limit in the NBA raised, that he can’t stand the one-and-done rule.

“I’m totally against (one and done),” McHale said. “I understand (the argument) that it’s America and everybody has a right to work. I understand that. But the guys aren’t ready. (When) you’re 16 years old or 15 years old, they don’t put you into doggone smelting or anything. Man, the NBA is a man’s league, and I think a lot of these young guys come in early and their careers would prosper if they stayed (in college).

“I’d like to see us do the three years out of high school or 21 (years old), like football. I just think it would help the colleges. I think it would help the kids. And I know they don’t think so, because they want to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get in the market. I’ve got to make all my money and all that stuff.’ But you don’t make money if you have a three-year career, if you come in at 18, 19, and you’re not ready.”

What McHale wants as a coach, what the owners want, is someone else to develop the best players and not on their dime. You know colleges would love to keep the stars around longer because they are businesses as well and it would help their marketing. For the NBA somebody else pays and does the work of developing the skills, they get a more polished player and one who already likely has built up more name recognition and marketing brand (again done not on the team’s dime).

What’s more, the coaches likely have to do less babysitting. Some players who came straight out of high school to the NBA didn’t have basic life skills — their parents took them to all their games/practices on time, fed them, washed their clothes. Those are the kind of things a lot of college students had to learn to do for themselves for the first time (get to class, budget their time to study, get clean clothes, etc.) and it forced myself and a lot of us to grow up. NBA teams don’t want to baby players through these basic life lessons, in theory players would already come out of college able to get to practices on time and generally be more professional.

That makes sense from the owners’ perspective, but because it’s good for them doesn’t make it good for the worker, the player. What would LeBron James or Kobe Bryant really have gained from college — they got to work on their game more hours (no NCAA limits) and against higher levels of competition going straight to the NBA. Players will develop their skills faster in the NBA (teams just don’t want to deal with it if someone else will do it for free). You know the NBA isn’t changing the rookie pay scale, so if the best guys enter the league at 21 they will be 24-25 before they get the big contracts — why is it fair for the NBA to reduce the number of years those players will be able to make money as a professional? Because that is what an age limit does, it takes a year or two years or however many years of earnings away from the guys who are capable. If you’re Mark Zuckerberg should you have to stay in college and wait to grow Facebook? Why should the best players be punished because other guys aren’t ready for the jump?

It’s not a simple issue. Ultimately Silver will likely get what he wants, he’s just going to have to negotiate with the players’ union and give the players something they want to make it happen. It’s a negotiation (one that can’t start until the players union hires a new executive director).

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