TrueHoop has a good article on Thomas Beller’s new book, a collection of essays. They provide an excerpt from the book where he details his tryout for the USBL’s team in Westchester a few years ago. It’s a nice look at the tryout process in minor league basketball, and it put some stuff about the whole Hardy Riley situation in perspective.
One quote stood out:
In an empty hallway near the lockers I bumped into Lenny Cook, 6 foot 5 but just eighteen, having an emotional conversation with a small man in a grey suit carrying a briefcase.
“I’ll give you $200 hundred dollars out of every week’s paycheck!” said Cook.
“Listen I can’t help you,” said the man.
“I’ll give you two hundred dollars out of my paycheck every week, I swear!”
Oh God, I thought, what? Loan Shark? I got a glimpse of the small man’s brittle died black hair: he had loan shark hair.
“I’ll give you three hundred dollars every week! Please!” His voice rang with emotion, the emotion of a kid.
“Hey, listen,” said the man, who was very small. “I’m already in Two Thousand dollars so far for your travel, your hotel, I can’t do anymore!”
The man could have been an agent or an owner, it was unclear.
I walked away. It was a random snippet that made the distance between the promise of the NBA and the reality of getting there seem very large.
When thinking about the ABA and the Rainmen, I think it’s worth keeping this all in mind. Lenny Cook was a high school star who declared for the 2002 NBA draft (his academics were too shakey to get into a NCAA school) but no one took him. He bounced around the minor leagues for awhile, and I don’t have any idea where he currently is. The point is that he was a star that ESPN wrote about and that everyone thought would be a college star if he could just get his grades up – he almost made the NBA. But he’s still begging his agent to keep representing him. He’s still not worth someone investing a few thousand more dollars in. And that’s the situation that all the Rainmen guys are in, with one difference: they’re not Lenny Cook. They don’t have the hype, or the talent.
What happend to Hardy Riley sucked. And I think it was wrong to reduce our roster size, to cut him instead of our two far less gifted guards who are glued to the bench. I also don’t think that it was handled all that well by the team. But playing minor league sports sucks in that way. The reality is that you sacrifice something to play minor league sports and the sacrifice is that you leave yourself open to getting cut because two guys in suits think you’re under performing. You sacrifice job security in exchange for getting to play basketball for a living, and that goes for any level of the game.
My problem with the whole situation is that it appears like the lack of leadership in the team has created a situation where Riley being cut is a problem. The coach has no respect, and the captain can’t seem to keep people in check. That’s the issue to me.
I feel bad for the guy, but sports is sports and the risk of getting cut is what he signed up for. I hope the rest of the team can come to terms with that, I hope that fans don’t take it out on Lantrice Green, and I really hope that Benoit and Lewis have the leadership to keep the team in check.