Players jump to NBA may not take fans



Column by Austin Hill

The current Mount Rushmore of the NBA has new faces such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Kevin Durant. Some former Wildcats have a chance to etch their name in stone, but will their college fans care?

I understand Lexingtonians do not have the same passion for professional hoops, despite their love for the game, but I don’t understand how people can truly ignore some of the best basketball ever played.

That could possibly change.

One part of me thinks the way people view the NBA will change as the ravenous collegiate fans of Kentucky basketball follow the recent draft entries.

The other part thinks people will follow what is convenient, or visible, but no one new is going to be blowing my phone up for a spot in my NBA fantasy league.

Most people who watch the NBA, if they do at all, watch during the playoffs. Since most projections have UK players going to teams that finished in the bottom of the league, it would be a surprise to see any of them in a playoff game next year.

Another thing that donned on me recently was how fans already seem divided on having one-and-done players.

Everyone is happy to have wins, but I believe a large number of people are already conflicted about how to support a team that may not come back the next year.

But will they hold a grudge?

I remember when players like Derrick Anderson, Tony Delk and Ron Mercer went to the NBA. Despite the rock stardom here at UK, nobody here started watching the NBA in large because of their presence in the league.

Now it’s the “freshman four,” and with the youth movement currently moving to the NBA, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins could make an immediate impact if they fall to the right teams.

But fans here can still taste the victory that fell just short of their fingertips last season, and if the next class of Cats don’t have the same immediate impact, fans might blame their freshmen sweethearts for leaving them too early.

Patrick Patterson seems to have everyone’s support, which is another reason the youngsters could catch backlash. Fans don’t know what it is like to get so awestruck over someone who is gone so quick. I dare say, Cousins could have gone down in history as one of the most-loved Cats, while Wall could have taken every record if he had stayed a full run.

Fans already seem to disapprove of Daniel Orton leaving, so much so that he is kind of forgotten. He and Eric Bledsoe could be the type of players that if they develop, NBA fans would throw their weight behind them.

The New Jersey Nets have the largest chance of receiving the first pick under the current NBA draft lottery system. This gives the Nets the potential to go from the outhouse to the penthouse overnight.

The team has been anticipating a move to neighboring Brooklyn for the last few years and as the free agent summer of 2010. Over the last few years ownership dismantled the team, but has a large piggy bank to shop with this summer.

If they signed the right couple of big-name free agents and accompanied them with their stud big man Brook Lopez from Stanford, either Wall or Cousins would be another building block into making them an overnight contender for a championship.

Other teams in the running include the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New York Knicks, the Washington Wizards, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. All of these teams have pieces in place, that under the right leadership and teamwork, could make fan favorites visible.

But would UK fans watch?

Patterson could go to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Clippers or even the Detroit Pistons, who have former UK standout Tayshaun Prince. Joe Dumars, Pistons GM, loves former UK players on account of their defense, and Patterson would be a great fit in the Motor City.

With all of the possibilities of places for UK players to land, that still doesn’t amount to Kentucky fans turning over to the pros.

Even the people who don’t hold any grudges toward the players might just not be interested in more round ball. Complaints about their salaries should be squashed as politicians, doctors and CEO’s get inflated salaries and bonuses.

I never met someone who stopped voting because of it, or talked to someone who stopped going to the bank on account of it.

Time will tell if UK fans migrate to the NBA, but if it isn’t now then will they ever?