David Stern doesn't care about college basketball.
It helps if you read that sentence in your best Kanye West telethon voice (and if you can picture Mike Myers' shocked face in your mind's eye, all the better), but in any case, it's true. The NBA commissioner is concerned with building his league and keeping his owners happy. He really doesn't care about what the NBA's age rule has done to college basketball, and why should he? He has a professional league to run.
So when Stern reiterates his belief the NBA should have a two-year age minimum, as he did Friday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, he is not throwing NCAA president Mark Emmert a much-needed bone. In fact, Stern has consistently said he believes the one-and-done rule isn't enough, that NBA owners and general managers would prefer another year to evaluate players before they can enter the draft not because those guys miss the good old days when college basketball was a national attraction, but because NBA GMs simply can't help themselves. They fall in love with potential, they make draft mistakes, they cripple their franchises, and they turn around and tank seasons in hopes of landing the next big thing in the next NBA draft. Here's looking at you, Charlotte.
None of this is revelatory information. What was interesting about Stern's radio appearance Friday (hat tip: Matt Norlander) was his belief that pretty much everyone agrees with him, including individual NBA players. To wit:
"I think it would be a great idea to change it to two-and-done," Stern said. "Everyone I hear from -- NBA players, actually; college coaches; NBA teams -- everyone says it's a pretty good idea, except the [NBPA], whose consent is necessary to change it. So, what I tell people to do is, 'Don't call me, call their union.'"
According to Stern, NBA players agree the rule needs to be changed, but the union that represents them -- the National Basketball Players Association -- does not. That's a fun way to take a shot at union president Billy Hunter, who -- oh by the way -- currently finds himself ensnared in a massive nepotism mess amid claims that the union has paid his family about $4.8 million since 2001. In any case, this is confusing. If so many NBA players wanted to change the rule, why was it such an afterthought during the 2011 collective bargaining sessions? We went into the lockout assuming the age limit would be at least some kind of bargaining chip; by the end, it remained unchanged, and with nary a shred of post hoc discussion. Why?
Because during the lockout, Stern and the owners quickly gave up on that discussion. The commissioner admitted as much back in late March:
Stern acted as if Emmert and the NCAA know full well what happened when raising the draft age minimum to 20 or 21 came up during last year's NBA lockout, as the league and its players association negotiated their new collective bargaining agreement. So cut the posturing.
"We proposed to the players two more [years], and it was sufficiently contentious around that," Stern said, adding that the issue was slid over to a subcommittee.
To be fair, there were far more important things -- like, hey, where is all that money going? -- to negotiate. But it seems unlikely a majority of players would favor a rule change and not use that willingness as some sort of bargaining chip during the lockout. Either Hunter is a man on a one-and-done mission, ignoring the requests of his players in pursuit of ... something, or most NBA players actually feel for the high schooler who can't begin earning money as soon as he is physically ready to do so.
Which leaves us where we are now: Stern and Emmert and even Mark Cuban agree amateur basketball players would do well to stay in school for one or two years. Most college fans and pundits believe a two-and-through rule, or something like Major League Baseball's system (in which players can be drafted out of high school but must stay in college for three years if they elect to go) would be better for everyone involved.
The NBA commissioner has no interest in helping college basketball. The best hope is what's best for the NBA turns out to be best for college hoops, too. But if NBA players don't agree -- and other than Stern's word, we have little evidence that's the case -- this is all just talk. Sigh.