UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: Faking, flopping demonstrate lack of sportsmanship

Former Kentucky player Nazr Mohammed of the Chicago Bulls retaliated to LeBron James' hard foul by shoving the Miami Heat star in the NBA playoffs on May 10. James recoiled as if hit by a truck, collapsed onto the court and went into a semi-backward roll. The referees eject Mohammed.
Former Kentucky player Nazr Mohammed of the Chicago Bulls retaliated to LeBron James' hard foul by shoving the Miami Heat star in the NBA playoffs on May 10. James recoiled as if hit by a truck, collapsed onto the court and went into a semi-backward roll. The referees eject Mohammed. Associated Press

Watching the NBA playoffs raises an intriguing question: What are we watching?

Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs fouls to prevent a breakaway score by Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies. Allen falls to the court and grabs his head with both hands. He all but twitches his body. Onlookers surely worry about what these involuntary movements might mean. Then television replays indicate Allen is faking the severity of the contact seemingly in hopes of tricking the referees into punishing Ginobili with an ejection or flagrant foul.

In another game, former Kentucky player Nazr Mohammed of the Chicago Bulls retaliates to LeBron James' hard foul by shoving the Miami Heat star. James recoils as if hit by a truck, collapses onto the court and goes into a semi backward roll. The referees eject Mohammed.

These incidents lead Eric Ward to raise a fundamental question: Is this competition or entertainment? NBA or WWF?

This question is important to Ward, who promoted the quaint notion of sportsmanship when he was athletic director at Georgetown College. He led the school's Champions of Character program, which sought to teach its athletes not only about winning or losing, but how to play the game.

It's a topic we've touched on in the past with Ward. We expect to revisit it with him the next time dishonor shows itself in a high-profile way. And surely it will.

Ward wants to see fair play and honest competition, not an anything-to-get-an-edge approach.

"Some people consider sportsmanship as a positive thing," said Ward, who now heads the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass. "Other people see it as detrimental (to winning)."

But Ward wondered if more and more people are not considering sportsmanship at all.

"I can't help but think we're becoming desensitized," he said. "'Oh well, it's just the NBA or college sports.

"'It's corrupt. It's dirty. Everybody cheats. So what?'"

Broader appeal

Already something of an icon as host of a Birmingham-based sports radio call-in show, Paul Finebaum acknowledges that his upcoming move to ESPN and the SEC Network means he'll have to all but re-invent a winning formula.

"We have to broaden the show," he said. "... It will be gradual. But on Aug. 1, 2014, it's just going to be a program that appeals to an 11-state footprint."

The Alabama-Auburn football format entertained listeners in Birmingham and fascinated outsiders. But programming for a league-wide and coast-to-coast audience requires a greater range of topics.

A phone call last week found Finebaum house hunting in Charlotte, which will be his new home. His new job includes a radio program on the ESPN networks, 100 televised appearances annually on ESPN, and a TV simulcast of his radio show on the ESPN-owned SEC Network when it launches in August 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In something of a transitional step, Finebaum will launch a new Charlotte-based radio show on Aug. 1 of this year, he said.

The new format will include much more attention to SEC basketball, Kentucky in particular.

"To ignore John Calipari and Kentucky basketball would be like ignoring Nick Saban and Alabama football," Finebaum said. "It's not possible to appeal to the SEC (audience) without discussing the premier brand in the conference."

Lance Stephenson?

In assessing Archie Goodwin's NBA Draft stock, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla likened the former UK player to Lance Stephenson.

"This is a kid very much into the developmental stage of his career," Fraschilla said of Goodwin.

Heralded high school player. One-and-doner in college. No surefire first-round pick in the NBA Draft.

The Goodwin-Stephenson comparison has that solid foundation.

See if this also sounds familiar: Stephenson, who scored 2,946 points as a high school player, is a 6-5 guard. He averaged 12.3 points in his one season as a college player (for Cincinnati). He made 21.9 percent of his three-point shots.

Goodwin, whom UK listed at 6-41/2, averaged 14.1 points. He made 26.6 percent of his three-point shots.

Said Fraschilla of Goodwin: "I think he's a kid that has really good value for a team that's looking for a developmental player."

Chicago bull?

Was the NBA Combine earlier this month in Chicago a bunch of bull? Good question given the presumption that NBA people watched the players under game conditions last season. Isn't that more valuable in assessing players than practice drills.

ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford agreed to a degree. "I don't think there is much there," he said of the Combine as a tool for evaluation.

But Ford said the Combine serves the NBA teams as a means for speaking to players and getting a chance to get a sense of their character.

"I think the actual interviews they do with the players are much bigger," Ford said. "This is the first time that they're allowed to sit down with the players and actually talk with them."

NBA personnel at the Combine can include team psychologists and, of course, team doctors to make a medical evaluation.

"... I think if you talk to most NBA teams, that is the thing that they get the most out of it," Ford said.

As for the drills, the NBA teams can compare and contrast the players in terms of size and athleticism.

ESPN's Fran Fraschilla noted a UK player that made a positive impression in the drills.

"Two years ago when Enes Kanter came here after not playing at Kentucky the one year that he was there," he said, "(NBA) teams seemed to be very impressed with how good of shape he was in, the way he ran the floor, how hard he worked on the drills."


Last week brought the official announcement that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will again coach the USA team in the 2016 Summer Olympics. After the gold medal-winning performance in the 2012 Games, he had said he'd had enough.

But Jerry Colangelo, who heads USA Basketball, said last week that he never began a search for a new coach. "I never lost hope, if you will, and belief" in Krzyzewski's return, he said.

Krzyzewski noted how coaching on the international level had broadened his basketball horizons and rejuvenated his enthusiasm.

In response to a teleconference question, Krzyzewski agreed with the premise that the ACC will be the best basketball conference ever with the addition of Syracuse. He based the best-ever label on "so many brands in this conference, the level of coaching and accomplishment."

Krzyzewski suggested an ultra-competitive league schedule will better prepare ACC teams for the NCAA Tournament.

"Because you play more games at the championship level than the other guy," he said. "As long as you don't get hurt, the experience of doing that has to help you."

Credit assessment

In listing his ballot for ESPN-inspired top 20 NFL coaches of all time, Rick Reilly did not vote for Tony Dungy. His reasoning evoked memories of a UK fan debate about which coach should get credit for the program's 1998 national championship: Tubby Smith, who actually coached the team in the 1997-98 season, or Rick Pitino, who earlier "trained" the players he and his staff recruited.

"People act as if he won two Super Bowls: the one with Indy and the one Tampa Bay won the year after he was fired," Reilly wrote of Dungy. "Kim Kardashian just got pregnant with Kanye West. Does Kris Humphries get credit for that?"

Financial times

From The Wall Street Journal last week came an item of how handsomely college conferences pay their commissioners.

In four years as Pac 12 commissioner, Larry Scott quadrupled the league's annual television rights revenue.

Coincidentally, he's the highest-paid commissioner. The Wall Street Journal reported that Scott's pay surpassed $3 million this school year. That includes a base salary of $1,575,000 and bonuses totaling $1,376,000.

The second-highest paid commissioner is Jim Delany of the Big Ten ($2.8 million in salary, bonuses and benefits), according to The Wall Street Journal.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive received $1.6 million.

Age and wisdom

The May 27 issue of Sports Illustrated included a question-and-answer page with Dan Patrick quizzing Patrick Ewing.

After Patrick wondered why more players don't use the shot made famous by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick asked:

Q: How tough was stopping the skyhook?

Said Ewing: "I remember playing against Kareem in my third year in the league. Rick Pitino was my coach. I was like, 'Rick, we need to double-team Kareem.' Rick was like, 'No, he's getting old.' I was like, 'Rick, he may be old, but that hook is still effective.' And Kareem got hot on us, and there was no way in heck we could stop him."

Golf scramble

There will be a Boys & Girls Club Golf Scramble and Fundraiser at The University Club Golf Course on Friday. Donations support activities such as after school tutoring, computer facilities, recreational activities, arts and crafts and the summer camp.

The entry fee is $125 for individuals and $500 for a four-person team.

Lunch (Olive Garden) and Awards Reception food (Firehouse Subs on Campus) will be provided. There will also be a Silent Auction.

For more information, contact Scott Van Fossen at 859-258-2582 Ext. 150 or at

Man in news

Kentuckian Sam Holbrook was the home-plate umpire Friday when Detroit's Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins. Joe Mauer broke it up with a one-out single, the Twins' only hit.

Holbrook is a native of Morehead and an Eastern Kentucky University graduate.

Happy birthday

To Cedric Jenkins. He turned 47 on Saturday. ... To Ed Davender. He turns 47 today. ... To Adam Delph. He turns 23 on Tuesday.