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Ben Gordon's status could be the key to the Bull's drafting Jodie Meeks


While there was no official UK news today, the idle time does lead to lots of speculation and such so I have three things I am looking to address in tonight’s post:  The latest on Jodie Meeks, Some thoughts about Will Barton, and a Lexington lawyer spouts out on behalf of Calipari.

1)  Nothing officially has changed on the Jodie Meeks front.  Articles on hoopsworld.com and draftexpress.com both suggest that Meeks has not received the first round guarantee he has sought and that he would be returning to school.  A recent mock draft on draft express bumped Meeks to 48th pick. So you would think that if Meeks had received this type of guarantee from one or two GM types, he would have ended angsty nights in Kentucky and officially hired an agent.  Now, the worm turns.  The fact that Meeks has not announced  for the pros can mean that he is still seeking that elusive guarantee and is close to returning to school.

Meeks is scheduled to work out for the Bulls on Thursday and they present an interesting scenario.  The Bulls have two picks in the draft (16 and 26) and an ugly contract situation with SG Ben Gordon.  Gordon is an unrestricted free agent and some rumors have him even going to Greece to play ball.  So the question is if the Bulls see enough in Meeks to consider drafting him as a possible replacement for Gordon?  A couple of factors belie that thought:  one being that Meeks is working out in a group of mostly unknown players on Thursday, none of which are first round status and secondly, new Bulls GM Gar Foreman seems intent on keeping Gordon a Bull.  

I am starting to get hopeful about Meeks returning for the first time in a while.

2)  Over the weekend, new Memphis coach Josh Pastner stole 5 star recruit Will Barton in a recruiting coup.  And even as the Commercial Appeal said (don’t start up again, Memphis nerds), it was a package deal with his 3 star PG recruit.  Now we know what Calipari does with 3 star PG’s (Michael Porter, GJ Vilarino).  They end up finding something else to do or not being invited to the party.  In that sense, I stand by my opinion that Will Barton was not worth two scholarships and while the package deal was great for Memphis, for UK, it would not be.  

For the life of me, I can not find the video of the Will Barton interview shortly after he announced with Memphis.  In it, they asked him about the Memphis NCAA violations and he replied along the terms of the coaching staff going over it with him and it was “not an issue with Memphis but Calipari” – quote paraphrased.  As we can recall, we heard a similar story from Eric Bledsoe about what the Memphis coaches told him.  Is Pastner having success right now not recruiting for the University of Memphis, but against Calipari?  It will be interesting to see Calipari’s thoughts on losing Barton once he gets back from China.  

3)  And speaking of Calipari, Lexington lawyer Bruce Simpson published an open letter to the Herald Leader’s Mark Story’s article “Todd is carrying Calipari’s baggage”.  In it, he argues that you should have more than speculation if you are going to sully someone’s reputation.  I agree who heartedly and it is refreshing to see the Big Blue Nation bonding together and voicing their opposition to this irresponsible “journalism”.  

After reading Mark Story’s open letter to University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. about John Calipari and the NCAA’s investigation of the Memphis basketball program, I felt compelled to pen my own open letter to Story. My principle posit is: If you are going to write a column that is going to sully a person’s reputation, shouldn’t you have something more than speculation to support your attack?

An individual’s reputation is important. It is important to one’s family, friends and colleagues. It is especially important if you are a head coach at the nation’s winningest college basketball program. One’s reputation is also no doubt important to writers like Story. If Story were the subject of a pejorative front page article in his hometown newspaper, he would surely expect the article to be based upon credible well-supported facts and not upon someone’s subjective speculation.

This seems only fair, right? Fairness should be a fundamental precept in the writing of any personally derogatory article especially when the author is privileged to have his opinions widely disseminated via newspapers, the Internet and television. However, in the Calipari/Memphis controversy, most of the sports pundits, including Story, have all too quickly tried and convicted Calipari based upon nothing more than mere speculation and innuendo.

The undisputed facts are these:

Calipari has never been charged or found to be in violation of NCAA rules during his career.

Calipari has never been charged or found guilty of a criminal offense.

Calipari has never been charged or convicted of violating any ethical standard promulgated by the NCAA or by any of his employing universities.

Calipari advised the University of Kentucky before he was hired of the NCAA probe into the Memphis program.

■ Notwithstanding the pending NCAA investigation, the University of Memphis matched and perhaps exceeded the financial offer of UK in an attempt to retain Calipari as its coach.

■ The NCAA has issued a written letter advising Calipari that he is not at risk regarding its investigation of Memphis.

Story implies that Calipari has maintained “plausible deniability” about the Derrick Rose academic fraud charge. Story further alleges that, “Everyone who follows college basketball closely has long known who John Calipari is. He’s spent his career with his programs driving 95 mph through the gray areas.” Additionally, Story “hopes” that Calipari’s recruitment of the recent No. 1 college basketball class was “on the up and up” and on and on, and yet not one of Story’s character attacks is underpinned by any evidentiary support.

Now, these are the undisputed facts. Until these facts can be controverted or new and contrary evidence is submitted for public scrutiny, I see no basis for Story or any other sportswriter to continue their unsupported epistles which sully the reputation of John Calipari.

Bruce Simpson is a Lexington lawyer.

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