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NBA soars while MLB strikes out

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

July 18
While you see Major League Baseball having its share of problems -- and it is a joke what has transpired with teams quitting in the middle of the season, trading away players -- the NBA is enjoying harmony during its offseason.

Stern and the NBA have a system in place that allows the players to do what they do best -- compete. Lace up the sneakers and bounce the ball.

Baseball has the threat of a strike. Baseball has a lack of competitive balance. Remember when there were only a handful of teams and they were stocked with legitimate major leaguers? Now you have guys who don't belong. Players are making millions, and it's not enough. Owners are just as guilty as they cry about how they're losing cash. When franchises go up for sale, they get hundreds of millions of dollars.

As businessmen, the owners do take risks, so they deserve to make the cash. The bottom line is, how many players walk in after having a bad year and say, "Let me give some of the money back because I didn't perform"? That will never happen. They make mega-dollars -- the fans pay the money, they want to see these stars, and they get hurt.

The beauty of the NBA, and David Stern deserves a salute, is that the draft picks are signing early. The future superstars are getting their names on the dotted line because the system is intact. Each draft choice knows it will receive set dollars for the first and second round.

Yes, the NBA does have problems with rosters full of young players who haven't earned the right to make it. But it is great to know that, come summertime, the players are dedicating themselves to getting better. They are joining the various summer leagues, participating and working on their game.

Stern and the NBA have a system in place that allows the players to do what they do best -- compete. Lace up the sneakers and bounce the ball. They leave the behind-the-scene negotiations to their reps. The players go out and play hoops, baby.

Maybe baseball could learn a thing or two from this philosophy.

One more NBA thought: I feel they will be celebrating down in Memphis with the arrival of Drew Gooden. The former Kansas star slipped to No. 4. I believe he will be a big-time star. With his quickness, size and touch, he will be special. I predict a two-man race for Rookie of the Year between two Rolls Royces, Gooden and Jay Williams of Chicago. I believe they will battle it out.

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