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Nets Fined $50,000 for Jay-Z Talking to Kentucky Players

A couple weeks ago, Jay-Z was seen celebrating with the Kentucky basketball team in their locker room after they punched their ticket to the Final Four.  At the time, we wondered if the NBA would levy a fine against the Nets, since it’s illegal for NBA team personnel to talk to college players.  Naturally, the rath of Stern has been felt.

The Nets were fined $50,000 by the league on Friday, as Pro Basketball Talk pointed out to us.  Personally, I don’t see it as being a huge deal that Jay-Z was hanging out with the team after their win.  Considering they were still amidst a possible championship quest, I doubt he was roaming around trying to convince players to leave school early and declare for the draft.

That being said, the fine could be seen as nothing more than a slap on the wrist when you consider the NBA fined Danny Ainge $30,000 for sitting with Kevin Durant’s mother at a Texas game.  Ainge was making contact with a college player through a family member, whereas Jay-Z was chatting it up with several players directly.  When you look at it that way, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Nets were given more than double the Ainge fine.  Again, I don’t see either situation as being a big deal.

Timing of Kentucky, UConn Violation Reports Extremely Questionable

In less than six hours, UConn and Kentucky will tip off the second of two Final Four match-ups in Houston.  Jim Calhoun and John Calipari, two coaches who have hated each other for more than 20 years, will lead their squads in an effort to play for the National Championship Monday night.  Unsurprisingly, talk about the actual game has quickly been overrun by news about recruiting violations — excuse me, more recruiting violations.

Calipari and Calhoun run programs that drive college athletics purists insane.  Both coaches are no strangers to being accused of cheating, so they are certainly adept to handling any distractions that the latest news may cause leading up to Saturday night’s game.  In any event, we’re not here to go into the details of the latest accusations.  FOX Sports has an exclusive report about Kentucky that claims a former staffer made illegal contact with several recruits.  The New York Times spoke with former UConn recruit Nate Miles, and Miles is claiming Calhoun lied to NCAA investigators and actually knew illegal benefits were being provided.  The issue to me isn’t about the potential violations, but the timing of the release of the reports.

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Jay-Z Could Be Fined for Talking to Kentucky Players

We just came across a small blurb on CBSSports.com that may or may not interest you, depending on your interest level in tampering violations.  When Kentucky punched its ticket to the Final Four Sunday afternoon, a special visitor dropped into the locker room after the game to celebrate with the Wildcats.  The guest was none other than Jay-Z, who is no stranger to interacting with NBA folks, and as you can imagine the Kentucky players were amped over it.

The problem is Jay-Z is a co-owner of the New Jersey Nets.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Nets, they are a professional basketball team that plays in the NBA.  NBA teams like the Nets build their franchises by drafting collegiate athletes once they lose their amateur status — after they are eligible to leave school and declare for the draft.  That status still applies during the NCAA Tournament.

When Celtics GM Danny Ainge sat with Kevin Durant’s mother during the 2007 NCAA Tournament, he was slapped with a $30,000 fine for excessive contact with an amateur athlete’s family.  With that in mind, it would stand to reason that Jay-Z will likely be fined $30,000 for each player he came in contact with on Sunday.

Kentucky boasts top draft prospects like Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, but somehow I doubt Jay-Z was talking shop with them minutes after they won their biggest game of the season.  Nevertheless, it was obviously poor judgment on his part.  Then again, maybe it was worth the fine.

John Calipari Credits Himself for Brandon Knight’s Winning Shot

It wasn’t quite as bad as Melo tipping his hat to himself in this infamous quote, but Kentucky coach John Calipari was pretty conceited after his team upset Ohio State Friday. With the game tied following a Jon Diebler three pointer, Coach Cal allowed his offense to run a play without calling a timeout to stop the game.

The result was point guard Brandon Knight sinking yet another winning shot late in the game, giving Kentucky a 62-60 win.

When asked about not calling a timeout to set things up, Calipari deflected credit to his player took the credit for the decision. Speaking about his decision, Cal answered “How bout, he don’t make a shot, he makes one three, and I still have all the faith in him that he’s going to make that play. I don’t want to call a timeout and give them a chance to switch. We know what we’re doing — we do it in practice every day. So I like to go home with timeouts.”

I was with him on the part about them practicing that and knowing what they’re doing, but he loses me when he praises himself for having faith in his player. I got it John, that was a smart move that paid off. But you can leave it to us to point out how smart you are instead of telling us so. Let’s try a little modesty next time, OK?

Video: Brandon Knight Shot to beat Princeton with Two Seconds Left

Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight grew up on Thursday, rebounding from an 0-7 start to the Wildcats’ first-round tournament game against Princeton to make the winning shot. He was playing so poorly coach John Calipari had to bench him, but at least he let his stud have the final shot and it paid off.

Between Knights running layup with two seconds left to Morehead State’s Demonte Harper’s three-pointer to upset Louisville and Matt Howard’s game winner for Butler, it has been one exciting first day of the tournament. It doesn’t get much better than that.

NCAA Rules Kentucky Forward Enes Kanter Permanently Ineligible

Unlike the past few years where the NCAA cleared a John Calipari player before the season and then things were questioned after the season finished, they have ruled on freshman forward Enes Kanter early on. A press release says “The NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff has ruled University of Kentucky men’s basketball student-athlete Enes Kanter permanently ineligible for receiving benefits above his actual and necessary expenses while playing for a club basketball team in Turkey.”

New NCAA rules allow potential student-athletes to play with professionals but they’re not allowed to get paid more than is necessary to cover expenses such as food and transportation. The NCAA determined Kanter received over $33,000 more than what was necessary, suggesting he was a professional player thereby wiping out his amateur status.

Kentucky plans to appeal the ruling with a reinstatement committee at the end of the month. The committee has the power to reduce or remove the condition, so Kentucky at least has that going for it. The Wildcats weren’t planning on playing Kanter until he was cleared and it now appears as if they won’t have him around period.

Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky Off the Hook After Grade Change Review

The University of Kentucky dodged a bullet when a review of former guard Eric Bledsoe’s transcripts upheld his grades. Bledsoe was one of the five Kentucky players selected in the first round of the NBA draft in 2010, getting drafted by the Thunder and immediately traded to the Clippers. In question were his high school grades that got changed to make him eligible for the NCAA and Kentucky.

The real matter at hand involved an Algebra III class in which Bledsoe received a “C.” Bledsoe apparently did makeup work and was able to get the grade changed to an “A.” While getting a grade changed based on makeup work is a standard practice, Bledsoe conspicuously had 17 of 24 marks in the books changed to result in the A. I could understand having a test or two or a few assignments changed, but having 17 of 24 marks changed means the teacher was extremely flexible or extremely accommodating (or on the take).

There’s one part of the entire investigation that doesn’t make sense to me. Based on some excellent legwork by Al.com (make sure to check out their story), Bledsoe’s first and second term grades were changed in November and December of 2008. That does not make sense to me because the second term likely hadn’t even begun in December of 2008 (Bledsoe graduated from high school June 2009). How can you possibly have a grade changed for a course that hadn’t even started? Someone has to ‘splain me that one.

I completely understand teachers being flexible and willing to allow students a chance to make up their work. I also understand a student busting his butt to get his grades changed to become eligible. Going to night school to work things out is commendable. But there was a little too much fishiness going on for my taste and it sure seems like a few strings were pulled. Of course, with Bledsoe being associated with John Calipari and Kentucky, there’s no way it would have happened differently.