What is this?
This is something I have wanted to bring to OnlyGators.com for a while, a weekly column combining opinion, entertainment and information. Seeing as this is still the offseason – and today also happens to be my birthday – I felt there was no better time than the present to begin The Silver Lining, which will be posted every Wednesday right here on OnlyGators.com. The format may change as the concept develops, and suggestions are both respected and appreciated.
The “football school” tag was removed from the Florida Gators long ago, but it is nevertheless noteworthy how much of an impact head basketball coach Billy Donovan has made not just on the school but the NBA as well.
Consider this: On Tuesday, forward Chandler Parsons officially became the best-paid former Florida basketball player in school history (based on average salary) when he signed a three-year, $46 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He will earn $14.7 million next year, $15.4 million in 2015-16 and $16.1 million in 2016-17; the latter two salaries are the highest ever scheduled to be paid to a player out of UF.
Consider this, also: During the 2014-15 season, the Gators will have four players earning $12 million or more from their respective NBA teams including Parsons, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee ($15.0 million), Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah ($12.2 million) and Atlanta Hawks F/C Al Horford ($12.0 million).
Additionally, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who two years ago was selected No. 3 overall in the draft, will make $5.7 million as he is still on his rookie deal.
At the conclusion of the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, there was a ridiculous groundswell of comments pointing out how great of coach Donovan was because he took a group of seniors, none of which were selected that day, all the way to the Final Four. Donovan was a tremendous coach long before this year’s draft and he is likely to remain one for the rest of his career. The Gators had NBA talent on that team, and you will see at least one (C Patric Young) but likely two (point guard Scottie Wilbekin) play in the league at some point.
Vernon Hargreaves III will be remembered
Florida’s had plenty of tremendous cornerbacks take their careers through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium over the years but none was as prepared for their success as sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III has already proven to be.
From the moment he opened eyes with an interception in each of his first three career college football games, though he did not snatch one out of the air the rest of the year, Hargreaves has been poised and professional with a team-first, me-second mindset.
That serves him well with the coaching staff. Head coach Will Muschamp credits his mom (intelligence) and dad (preparedness) for Hargreaves’s maturity. “He’s a guy that’s got a burning desire to be really, really good,” Muschamp said. “He’s in the film room constantly. He’s correcting himself. He’s coachable. All the intangible things you want a player to have, he possesses.”
It is one of those intangibles – leadership – that made Muschamp comfortable enough to bring the second-year player to the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Monday. That quality also appears to be affecting the team chemistry.
Hargreaves was quick to dismiss talk about his potential greatness on Monday, instead concentrating on his teammates’ ability to break out next season.
Roommates with troubled sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson this spring and summer, Hargreaves sang his praises on Monday. “You heard it here first. He is that good,” Hargreaves said of Robinson to FOX Sports columnist Bruce Feldman.
And how did he respond when asked about starting redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel? “I think he’s the best quarterback in the country,” Hargreaves said.
Even Driskel was taken aback. “That’s a pretty bold statement for the first 10 minutes of media day,” he noted. “I like the confidence that the defense has in me. … Coming from a guy like Vernon, that’s a huge compliment. I can’t wait until this fall to show it.”
This is a second-year player that may be his team’s best talent, leader and character-builder. Sounds like someone else who graduated in 2009, doesn’t it?
Give him a break
Speaking of Driskel, perhaps it is time fans lay off this guy…at least for two more months until he has the opportunity to put some 2014 tape together.
Let’s look at some of the adversity Driskel has faced in his career trajectory since joining Gators, in chronological order:
1. Committed to Florida, only to have one of the primary reasons (Urban Meyer and his spread offense) leave the program.
2. Stayed with the Gators under a brand new, inexperienced head coach (Will Muschamp) with the promise that a top-notch offensive mind (Charlie Weis) will be there to develop him like Tom Brady.
3. Forced to play before he’s ready as a freshman against Alabama, in a game that appeared to be planned out for John Brantley to succeed.
4. Injured his ankle after six attempts against the Crimson Tide, ceding his backup role to Jacoby Brissett, who was equally ill-prepared to play.
5. Began second season with a second offensive coordinator (Brent Pease) in as many years.
6. Went 11-1 during the regular season in 2012, amassing 12 touchdowns to one interception in his first seven games.
7. Struggled mightily against Georgia and Louisville with mental mistakes the primary issue.
8. Opened 2013 with the same coordinator but without a top offensive weapon (Andre Debose) and lineman (Chaz Green).
9. Completed 77.3 percent of his passes in the season opener.
10. Threw for a career-high 291 yards at Miami (mental mistakes cost him again).
11. Broke his ankle early against Tennessee in the third game of the season on a play that just happened to be a pick-six, putting an even more sour taste in fans’ mouths.
12. Enters 2014 with his third offensive coordinator (Kurt Roper) in four seasons. Will finally play in a spread offense that utilizes his mobility, one of the primary reasons he committed to Florida in the first place (see 1).
Taking all of that into consideration, does he perhaps deserve the opportunity to get to Sept. 20 (at Alabama) to work things out and take his best shot at one of the premier programs in the nation?
Not Only Gators I: Derek Jeter and Tony Gwynn
I am an unabashed Derek Jeter fan and was moved more than once during the 2014 MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night. That’s what happens when you grow up rooting for the New York Yankees, watching some of the greatest to ever play the game. It is tough to believe the Core Four will all be retired at the end of the season with Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera and now Jeter hanging up their cleats…and Tuesday night was just a reminder of how special that group was for the Yankees.
But as much as I enjoyed the honoring of Jeter, was perturbed by Adam Wainwright’s inappropriately-timed comment and laughed at a single fan chanting “overrated” only to have Jeter power a double to right field and shut him up just like he has so many other doubters in his career, MLB dropped the ball in a major way.
As important as Jeter is to the game – and guys from New York understandably get more attention, deserved or not, than others in the league – MLB lost another good guy just one month ago in Tony Gwynn…and did not mention him once during the broadcast.
Certainly omitting Gwynn was not purposeful on MLB’s part; the league had no reason whatsoever to leave his memory out of the festivities. But it is nevertheless a major slight and very difficult to fathom how MLB could forget to honor another one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Not Only Gators II: Carmelo Anthony
While we’re on the subject of New York sports, the notion that Carmelo Anthony only went back to the Knicks because the franchise could offer him the most money – a maximum of $129 million over five years – is lazy and ill-conceived. While New York’s monetary advantage was certainly a major consideration in Anthony’s decision, the Knicks also happened to be the second-best winning option for one of the most continuously underrated players in the NBA.
Chicago had the best roster with Noah and Derrick Rose leading the pack but would have been forced to gut the rest of its team just to offer him a deal that fell well short or the maximum. Anthony would have been taking a more significant pay cut than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did to play in Miami a few years ago – and those three mitigated that reduction in salary with Florida’s lack of state income tax. And while the Bulls would have given Anthony his best surrounding cast and chance to win an NBA title in his career, there are absolutely no guarantees in sports or this world in general, especially when it comes to Rose’s knees.
Neither Houston nor Dallas were serious contenders for his services. The Los Angeles Lakers were, mostly because Anthony wanted to use them as leverage to force New York into a sign-and-trade with Chicago if he decided to make that his destination. “You better trade me to the Bulls so I can get the max, otherwise I’ll leave for the Lakers and you will not get anything.” Los Angeles offered Anthony the max over four years ($97 million), but the organization does not have a head coach, features an older superstar in Kobe Bryant making $25 million over each of the next two seasons on its roster, and is in no better position to win today than the Knicks.
So in the end, Anthony decided to stay in New York. Insinuating that he did not “put winning first” when making that choice is asinine when one considers what he is returning to with the Knicks.
For all its struggles over the last 15 years, mostly due to ownership, New York finally has direction. Phil Jackson is at the helm and has already supplied Anthony the best point guard (Jose Calderon) he has teamed with in his NBA career. Jackson plans to use a ton of open cap space in 2015-16, plus Calderon’s influence, to land arguably the best center Anthony would have ever played with (Marc Gasol) next offseason. And because Anthony gave the Knicks a $5 million discount over the life of his contract, Jackson will have even more flexibility to sign players.
Did Anthony put money or winning first? It doesn’t matter. He made the best decision.
Not Only Gators III: The successful return of 24
Four years after season eight concluded, 24 bounced back this season with Live Another Day, a 12-episode version of the iconic series that picked right up where the old one left off in terms of intensity, plot twists and Jack Bauer awesomeness.
Many forget that 24 truly kicked off the popularization of serialized dramas on television back in 2001. It was a completely original concept that had viewers on the edge of their seats for 60-straight minutes. There were cliffhangers going into commercial breaks, major characters killed off every season and twists that made the show as fun to talk about as it was to watch each week.
That is why, after missing the first two seasons and watching season three week-by-week with friends, I was able to catch up on the first two in just a 72-hour span during the summer of 2003. When you consider that is approximately 1,920 minutes (32 hours) of television watched in three days, you can tell I was addicted.
The 12-episode reincarnation of 24 this year did not get the ratings or national respect of its 24-episode predecessors, but it was nevertheless entertaining and a seamless return to form for the series. Here’s hoping FOX brings it back in 2015.
This Week’s Trailer I
SEC Storied: The Believer (Steve Spurrier):
This Week’s Trailer II
The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Trite formats not considered for the name of this column:
1. Mr. __________
2. Dr. __________
3. [Day of the Week] __________
4. Another Florida Gators-related phrase
A play on my last name
Thanks for reading.