Leon Powe. . . and Baseball Musings
Powe has declared for the NBA draft, but he has not yet signed with an agent, so he could still drop out if he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear from the NBA teams with whom he’ll be working out, namely, that he’ll be a first-round choice.
This is a good year to come out early because, with the minimum age limit the NBA has established, there won’t be any high school players in the draft, so it will be thinner.
There’s still no guarantee that Powe will go in the first round. NBA teams have doubts about his size – he’s listed at 6-8 but is probably 6-7 – and his offensive game, which has mostly been moves to the basket from an inside position. Of course, there were the same doubts about Ike Diogu, who has similar size and a similar game, and Diogu played well for the Warriors this season when he got the opportunity.
Presumably, if he returned for another year of collegiate play, Powe could expand his offensive game. But in Ben Braun’s offensive system – an oxymoron if there ever was one - Powe would just be increasingly frustrated, because Braun has no plan to offset the constant double teaming Powe gets.
Powe does need to work on his jump shot from 10-15 feet, so he isn’t so predictable on offense, but he’s probably better off doing that on his own, or in the context of a pro season.
The only other reason for him to stay would be the hope that Cal could get far enough in the NCAA tournament to provide him with a bigger national stage, but that seems very unlikely. As long as Braun stays at Cal, what we saw this year – an NCAA tournament berth but a first-game exit – is probably as good as it will get.
There are serious economic concerns for Powe, who is already 22, though he was only a sophomore athletically this last season; he sat out a year when he was a kid to take care of his siblings and he missed the 2004-2005 season because of his knee surgery. His background makes it important for him to make big money in the NBA to help his family.
He is an admirable young man with a great work ethic. He has never given anything less than his best effort while playing for the Bears. Unlike Jason Kidd, he’s actually gone to class and is on track to earn his degree. I think I speak for all Old Blues when I say that, if he leaves for the NBA this spring, he will go with our blessing.
--Advance scouts in the National League say that the Giants are the hardest team to evaluate because, though they have star players, many of them are at an age where you wonder if they can stay off the disabled list. Of course, the same can be said of their main competition in the division, because Ned Colletti has put together a Dodgers team that is a virtual mirror image.
--Good news, bad news for the Giants: The good news is their ability to rally for come-from-behind wins, which last year’s team seldom did. The bad news is the bullpen, which has been very shaky. That won’t improve with Armando Benitez back. Frankly, I have much more confidence in Tim Worrell as a closer, but Benitez will probably get his shot just because the Giants paid so much to bring him here. Another example of what a superb negotiator Colletti was for the Giants.
--Barry Bonds is already having real problems with his knees, and we’re just into the third week of the season. I think there’s a serious question about how many games he can play this season, and it certainly seems that this season will be his last. Prediction: When Bonds retires, all the steam will go out of the anti-steroids campaign and we’ll see it for what it really is: an anti-Bonds campaign.
--I’m amused by those who worry about Bonds breaking Henry Aaron’s career home run record because I remember how Aaron was reviled when he broke Babe Ruth’s record. Then commissioner Bowie Kuhn wasn’t even there for the event. Now, Aaron sensibly says, in essence, “Records are made to be broken.” Ruth couldn’t be reached for comment.
--Jason Kendall’s hitting falloff last year appears to be more than a one-season problem. He’s hitting only .225 this year – with no power, of course – and he couldn’t get the ball out of the infield when the A’s had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth yesterday. The A’s have enough good catching prospects that they switched Daric Barton, their best hitting prospect, to first base. Maybe they can bring up one of them and trade Kendall back to the National League, so he can bring his average up.
--When is a staff leader not a staff leader? When he’s Barry Zito. The A’s best starter is Rich Harden, whose potential is unlimited. Zito hasn’t been the same pitcher since umpires stopped calling his 12-to-6 curve a strike a couple of seasons back. Now, there’s a fine line between pitches that get hitters out and pitches that are just a little off and get hammered. When he’s a free agent after the season, Zito will no doubt get some multi-million dollar offers from teams desperate for pitching, but the A’s will let him go with few regrets.
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