Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Diamond Grows Up

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr. (via Duke Radbourn)

Words rifle across the screen.  I’m numb.  Emotion was for year’s past and another, less psychologically weathered version of myself.  Now, the decades of scar tissue have left me still.  Cold.  Resigned.  Washington, D.C.: This town, this cursed town and its professional sports teams have broken me.  The ‘Skins, Bullards, Capitals and Nationals win enough to stir hope and sometimes enough to justify big, spectacular, championship dreams.  But in the end, all are fool’s gold.  Heartbreakers.  Soul shakers.    

In the last 48 hours, the Caps soiled themselves (again), losing the first two games at home, and effectively, another second-round the playoff series to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Spare me the insult of hanging another hollow Presidents’ Trophy banner.  Sandwiched between the Caps’ losses, the Nats’ season took a grotesque turn when Adam Eaton, the gritty catalyst that the team emptied its farm system to acquire in the offseason, blew out his ACL.  Bye-bye 2017!  The Nats’ scorching April was nothing more than a cruel nibble of what could’ve been a divine course.  Yes, the Bullards won a series against Atlanta.  But the inevitable reality is they’ll done in by Boston or LeBron’s Cavaliers.  Choose your death.

I’m consumed by The Darkness.  My passion meter has flat-lined.  So I’m punting this week’s column over to Duke Radbourn, a wise old and some say mythical friend and occasional contributor to this column.  For my sake, for your sake, here’s what Duke has to say about something.      

Good grief, Junior.  I’m supposed to recover from that dreary introduction and whip this crowd into a wide-eyed frenzy?  There’s barely a discernable pulse.  Is this an audience of people or corpses?  Hard to tell.  Zombies perhaps?  Ah well.  I’ll rip into something.  Opinions you need?  Opinions I have.  So here it goes.  Relax and enjoy, but hold on tight…I tend to be reckless. 

Remember Diamond Stone?  An emphatic “no” is understandable.  The kid with the fancy, superhero/WWE-ready name was a 2015 McDonald’s All-American.  He shunned his home-state Wisconsin Badgers and committed to Maryland late in the recruiting process.  It earned our beloved turtles a preseason top-five ranking.  Final Four dreams were dancing in our heads, if ever so briefly.

After one under-whelming season in College Park (for team and player), Stone, then just 19, chose to chase his NBA dream (and NBA riches).  Understandable.  To that point, Stone had been on the basketball fast-track, a path where success, accolades and praise were in healthy supply.  Cool stuff for a teenage mind, eh?  Intoxicating.  Why wouldn’t he jump at any trace of NBA flirtations?  Why indeed?

Stone probably figured he was a mid-first round pick at worst, a status that would have scored a guaranteed three-year, ~$4.5M contract – lucrative work for a teenager!  Reality: Stone was selected 40th overall and ultimately inked a two-year deal in the $1.4M range.

That’s still good moolah, but Stone didn’t exactly live his NBA fairytale.  He played in just seven games and scored 10 measly points with the Clippers this year.  Frankly, Stone’s dubious professional existence is defined by extended stints with two NBA Development League teams you’ve never heard of: Salt Lake City Stars and Santa Clara Warriors.  For this NBA-lite experience, Stone forfeited a chance to star on a young, talented Maryland team, make a run in the NCAA tournament and spend another glorious year as a big man on a big college campus.

But Stone had it all figured out, as many youths do.  Speed, and a hint of entitlement, to one’s destination carries the day.  Process?  Marination?  Grinding, paying dues and developing skills to ensure success at the highest levels?  Nonsense.

Stone can’t be begrudged for getting paid, but the joy in the journey often matches that of the destination.  Stone’s financially richer for his NBA adventure, but poorer in some ways too.  And no matter how much money he makes in the grown-up world of professional basketball, he’ll never reclaim his last best chance to be a kid. 

Is that wisdom or foolish drivel?  The reader can decide.  But know this: The real world encroaches upon us all, eventually.  

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