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Doc Rivers, Clippers players oppose raising NBA’s age limit

Mar 16, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Doc Rivers Getty Images

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said over All-Star weekend that raising the league’s age limit to 20 was something on his list of priorities. But there are plenty who will argue against that, including several members of the Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s a tricky topic, because from the league’s perspective, they would like to see players further along in the developmental process — both in terms of basketball as well as from a standpoint of emotional maturity. But on the flip side, limiting a person’s right to earn a living if there is a willing employer is difficult to justify.

That is the argument of Doc Rivers, and DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul added their thoughts in this piece from Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I just have a philosophical view about it, that guys should have a right to earn a living,” the Clippers coach said. “I can go and fight in Iraq at 18, but I can’t play in the NBA? That’s silly to me.” …

“I think that’s the dumbest idea ever,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “For what? Why make those guys, those college phenoms, stay in college for two years? Some of our greatest players, Hall of Famers, Top 50 players are going to be guys who came out of high school. Why should we put an age limit on it?” …

“Every situation is different,” said Paul, who left Wake Forest after two seasons. “… I knew I wasn’t ready after my freshman year. But, that’s not everybody’s situation. I think you should have the option or opportunity to decide if you think you’re ready. … If you feel like you’re ready, it shouldn’t be someone else’s decision.”

Again, tricky. But there are reasons that a higher age limit may make some sense.

There are certainly going to be players every year who will be ready to play at the NBA level right out of high school or after only one year of college. But that’s a small minority. The rest who clearly show a certain level of potential will need to be drafted as soon as they decide they are ready, and that forces teams to give precious roster spots to guys who won’t be ready to contribute for potentially a couple of years.

Now, the developmental opportunity is theoretically better for a player practicing with an NBA team or getting some minutes in the D-League. But there’s hardly any real practice time during the grind of the NBA season, and the D-League level of talent drops off rather quickly once you get past the top couple of players on each team.

But if the basketball argument doesn’t get you, the emotional maturity one should. This is the point Rockets head coach Kevin McHale makes when arguing in favor of raising the age limit, and take a look at these comments from Gerald Green — now in the middle of a breakout season with the Suns, but who flamed out of the league earlier in his career due to an admitted inability to mature quickly enough to become a professional.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

While in Boston, Green was expected to make an immediate splash, but he clashed with coach Doc Rivers, who gave the high school product strong suggestions about how to play the game and carry himself. Those lessons did not always translate well.

“Yeah, he was [tough on me], but if I knew then what I know now, the things that Doc was telling me were all the right things,” Green said. “He wasn’t telling me nothing that was incorrect. All Doc was trying to do was help me and I just didn’t understand the fact . . . I just didn’t know how to be a pro. When you’re coming from a situation where you’re the man and shooting 20 shots a game — in high school, I could sub myself in. I went from that to getting sent down to the D-League. It’s tough for a young kid to go through it.

“I was going from a very poor kid to paying all the bills. So, it was a big difference from all angles. I just didn’t know how to handle it. I wish I could turn back the hands of time but I kind of don’t because it wouldn’t have made me into what I am today.”

If you want a current example of this, look no further than the stories that have emerged this season about Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 19-year old from Greece whose anecdotes seem cute on the surface, but are actually a little sad. This one, about taking a cab to a Western Union office to send money back home and then not realizing he wouldn’t have any left for a return trip isn’t adorable, it’s ridiculous. His is a great case of someone struggling to acclimate to NBA life (and life in another country), and an extra year or two of real world experience could only help that transition.

It’s not an easy topic, and it’s one the players union and the league will have to battle over when the time comes. The NBA has valid reasons for wanting a more mature player and person entering its ranks, but the high school or college player who would be drafted sooner if it was allowed has credible reasons on his side of the dispute, as well.

  1. therealhtj - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Players and coaches may theoretically oppose it. Some team executives may too. Most thinking people believe anyone capable of being hired for a job should be free to seek employment in said job.

    But . . . . the “union” is hardly concerned with possible future members. They’re concerned with themselves. If the difference is a couple of BRI points, they’ll throw the incoming rookies under the bus faster than Russ Westbrook on a breakaway dunk.

    In other words, it’s a foregone conclusion.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 16, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      The union is going backwards. These guys didn’t have the money to weather a long holdout.

      The owners got the BRI down from 57 percent to 50 percent.

      That is HUGE. The players are NOT going to get that back.

      When the next holdout comes in 2017, the players will be taken to the woodshed again.

      • therealhtj - Mar 16, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        What the owners didn’t get that the union fought so hard for was being able to keep dead weight contracts on the books.

        That’s what the shortsighted union membership would under no circumstances give up – their precious guaranteed contracts. What it costs them next time around, who knows? Who’ll get served up on a platter first are the future draftees.

  2. daveoo - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Who cares what the Clippers think. They’ve never made it out of the 2nd round. Never have never will.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 16, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      so you can predict the future huh?

      since you’re able to do that, you must be the richest, most famous person on the planet…

  3. iamhoraceknight - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    How many new rules does the NBA have to make to protect the owners from themselves? Of course most of these kids aren’t ready, Stop drafting them. ….. Here’s a even more novel idea, allow NBA players to play defense, then these players would stay in school, because they wouldn’t even be able to score.

  4. zackd2 - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    If he’s sending everything in his wallet back home, that’s a sad situation for his family – NOT an example of why NBA needs to raise the age limit.

  5. ericreives - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Owners don’t want to invest the time it takes to teach the player the game of basketball at the pro level. You’re still teaching a college player how to be professional. Maybe it takes less time to do the teaching with the college player than a high school player, but you’re teaching, nonetheless. There are going to be draft busts in every draft no matter when those players reach the league. From Kwame Brown to Michael Olowokandi, it doesn’t matter when you get to the league. The player will always have to put in the work to make it in the league and stay there once they’re in the league.

    Is going to college exposing you to the “real world?” I doubt it. Its closer to the “real world” than going to high school, I guess. But that seems arbitrary.

  6. revren10 - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Make the rule like the nfl. Three years removed from high school if they don’t want to go to college they can play overseas or the D league

  7. nickhollingsworth - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Don’t think there’s any doubt players would be more NBA ready physically and mentally if they had to stay 2 years in college. Like the idea

    • mikerome64 - Mar 18, 2014 at 4:02 AM

      How many years did JR Rider spend in college?.

      • nickhollingsworth - Mar 18, 2014 at 6:31 AM

        He went to 2 years of JC before playing 3 years at UNLV.

  8. nickhollingsworth - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Reblogged this on Sportstalk and commented:
    There’s no doubt that players would be more NBA ready physically and mentally if they had to stay in college for 2 years, like the idea by Silver.

  9. davidly - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Gerald Green’s experience does not indicate that a college coach would have gotten through to him; on the contrary: he might have got thrown out of college and never made it to the pros. As it was, at least Rivers got to him eventually, if only retroactively.

    Let’s face it: The primary motivation to raise the age limit comes from a de facto NBA-NCAA partnership which dictates that, in exchange for player development at the collegiate level, the universities and the NCAA are given carte blanch to make money off the backs of the players.

    The most obvious solution to me would be to pay college athletes commensurate to the revenue they generate, as well as give them the option to opt out of the academic side.

  10. mindblather - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Half the fun in following the all-time greats is watching them as they break all-time records (most points scored in a career, etc). How are these records going to be approached or beaten in the future if you remove 1 to 2 years off a player’s career?? Think of all the excitement that is generated not just in NBA fans but the general public when records are being broken (with all the benefits to basketball that entails: higher ratings, higher revenue, etc). If the league sets age restrictions, they will be de-factor setting the all-time records in stone, making them unreachable to any future stars. No more Kobe’s with the chance to break MJ’s all-time scoring record, etc. Is that REALLY what they want to do??

  11. pfic15 - Mar 16, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Can we drop the “I can go to Iraq” line? Not the only war in our nations history. Raising the age limit us a GOOD thing. Most of these kids could use the experience. That being said, I would like to see the NBA institute more developmental programs aimed at keeping these players self sufficient during their post NBA days. As it stand now though, the 2 year gap it takes to develop talent is more time than some coaches are allotted with their respective teams.

  12. timb12 - Mar 16, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Why can’t they do something similar to the MLB? If they draft a guy out of high school, they retain his rights. Or something similar, but he still has to be 20 to play. I don’t know, there are a lot of variables to fix the one and done rule. I hope they focus more on fixing it and helping the game than trying to push their own agenda, but this is the NBA.

    Two thoughts.
    1. I don’t see the WNBA having this kind of problem, and they have to be 22 to play in the league.
    2. Big wuddup to Gerald Green for going triple negative in a sentence. Most people don’t not say it couldn’t be not done incorrectly.

  13. seanb20124 - Mar 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Do it the MLB way

    • mikerome64 - Mar 18, 2014 at 4:06 AM

      How many Baseball players are drafted out of high school, go to the minors and never see a major league field? It’s strange that nobody ever talks about that.

  14. kspl1 - Mar 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Complete BS. If you can play golf, tennis, swimming, hockey out of high school. How is basketball different. Completely stupid and should be unconstitutional

    • mikerome64 - Mar 18, 2014 at 4:08 AM

      I agree.

  15. mackcarrington - Mar 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    You cant be President of The U.S. until you are 35. Where’s the outrage about that?
    if you’re a good governor at 30 why do you have to wait to 35 to be president?

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 16, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      The age of 35 was only picked back then because people did not live so long back then. 35 then was much older than it is now.

      Some have suggested raising the age from 35 to whatever… but it won’t ever gain any real traction.

  16. getsome99 - Mar 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    It amazes me that those who are in favor of allowing 18 year olds to play in the NBA still use the “right to make a living” argument. The NBA raising the age limit has nothing to do with an 18 year old’s right to play basketball professionally. They would just have to do it at the semi-pro level or in Europe. If the NBA doesn’t want to pay 18-19 year olds millions of dollars to sit the bench, then it’s also their right to put rules in place to ensure NBA rosters are filled with the best players.

    • deshan74 - Mar 17, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      So i quess kobe,kg,lbj sat on the bench no its more succesful high school players than not.

      • getsome99 - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        You just listed 3 exceptions in the entire history of the league. You left off Moses Malone though. What about the rest? The high school a Euro fad didn’t work out. Bottom like is high school players can skip college if they want. But the NBA doesn’t have to take them.

  17. bigtrav425 - Mar 16, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    I understand the whole going to war statement BUT the skills or lack there of with 90% of theses players is just getting out of hand and ruining a game that’s bigger then anyone player or their feelings.this game will be here a lot,longer then you unless this changes.for every 1 and done player who makes it big there are atleast 5 that don’t or just becomes the end of the bench guy

  18. mrhonorama - Mar 16, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    What would be instructive would be to look at what has happened to players drafted out of high school or after one year of college and compare how their careers played out to older draftees with more schooling. To use Gerald Green as an example, one could counter with Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone, Kevin Durant and other success stories. Which is to say no one has the actual data on whether letting in younger players has been bad, good or neutral. Putting aside the NFL, in most professional sports, teenagers are allowed to turn pro. The NBA doesn’t want to invest what they would need to into the D-League to make it a truly viable minor league. Why should it, if the NCAA will do the work for them, especially because the NCAA can profit from it in a way a minor league never could. This is very little about worrying about the young men who will be affected by the rule change, and much more about the bottom line.

    • mackcarrington - Mar 17, 2014 at 1:33 AM

      LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone, and Durant are Hall of Fame caliber players.
      How many of these are there compared to the guys who couldn’t make it in the league? What’s the ratio? 1 for every dozen? 2 dozen?
      A comparison would be that there are a million guys who can skateboard. How many of them are going to make Shaun White kind of money?

  19. tfilarski - Mar 17, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    comparing joining the military to going into the nba made me laugh

    • mikerome64 - Mar 18, 2014 at 4:00 AM

      You missed the point he was trying to make but that’s okay i’m sure there is a reason for it.

  20. mogogo1 - Mar 17, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    This is the next step to making the D-League into what the name implies. They’ll still draft the exact same guys, they’ll just develop them for a year or two in the D-League.

  21. 1509lucky - Mar 17, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    There have been more BUSTS then future Hall Of Famers as far as the straight to High School Players. Not to mention that a player making the jump to the pros is actually cutting his career short by doing so. By the time an 18 year old has reached 30 he has already put in over 10 years in the League. Figure in Playoffs and the Olympics for a fortunate few,that’s a lot of mileage. A Year of College plus time in the D League can only Help these guys as opposed to being thrown to the gloves for 82 plus games when they’re not ready.

    • mikerome64 - Mar 18, 2014 at 4:07 AM

      There also has been more BUSTS who have gone to college.

  22. jollyjoker2 - Mar 17, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    I agree they should work. I used to think they should stay in school but these kids are just pawns of the big schools. The best thing is for the NCAA to pay these kids a fair salary and keep the age up at 20.

  23. deshan74 - Mar 17, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    College basketball is horrible they want the best hig school players to stay more than 1 year at a school. I can see why the best prospects dont want to stay because college rules are horrible 35 sec time shot clock, refs dont know differnce from block or charge, the schools dont stick up for their kids like what happen to smart they let him get trashed by media and didnt even try to stick up for him when he did nothing wrong he had every right to do what he did, coaches scemes dont fit best player, best players dont get enough shots,plus i rather have a good rookie when he is 19 and not take away a year from his career 20 is closer to 30 than 19 is.

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