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July 12, 2013
The Silver Lining comes to you at week's end during the summer to highlight some of the most important Florida Gators-related sports stories from the past week.
* Two former Gators were on the market as free agents when the week began but both were able to find new NBA teams that will make them feel more secure than they were (both financially and otherwise) at their last respective stops.
For center Marreese Speights, who will be six-year veteran set to join his fourth team during the 2013-14 season, the security of a multi-year deal was more attractive than just the money alone. Speights left a $4.5 million player option on the table to split with Cleveland and agreed to a three-year pact with Golden State on July 8. The third year of that deal is a team option. Speights averaged 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game last year, playing the first 40 games of the season with Memphis (which signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract last offseason) before being traded to the Cavaliers where he played the final 39 games of the campaign. Though the two never played together at Florida, Speights will join former Gators power forward David Lee on the Warriors, making them the third pair of UF players on a team together (Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller in Miami, Erik Murphy and Joakim Noah in Chicago).
Forward Corey Brewer had a bit of a resurgence with Denver during the 2012-13 season, averaging 12.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game. Though he was a fit with the team, Brewer's contract - a three-year, $8 million deal signed with Dallas before the 2010-11 postseason - expired and his improved play benefited him big-time when teams began throwing contract offers at him. Brewer on Wednesday decided to return to Minnesota, the team that selected him No. 7 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, and sign a three-year, $15 million deal. Brewer's signing is not official yet as the Timberwolves must first create the necessary space under the camp to ink him to a contract, but he is already in Minnesota preparing to work with the team.
In related NBA news, Murphy officially signed his rookie contract with Chicago and will begin working with the team during NBA Summer League starting today in Las Vegas, NV. Kenny Boynton, who received a tryout to earn a spot on the Los Angeles Lakers' summer league squad, did not make the cut and has not been picked up by another team at this time.
* There is no question that Gators head coach Billy Donovan is excellent at his job, but he has not necessarily been correct when describing on the process that transfer guard Eli Carter will have to go through in order to play for Florida this season. Carter, who left Rutgers following the coaching scandal and subsequent firing of Mike Rice, will more than likely be able to play for the Gators immediately and skip the NCAA-mandated transfer year due to the circumstances of his departure. However, according to Donovan, that process has not started yet and Carter must work with Rutgers in order to make sure he gets the necessary waiver.
"That's really more right now in Rutgers' hands. He's got to apply for that and he's got to go through writing a letter and then the letter has got to be submitted to Rutgers. Rutgers has also got to submit a letter. Really the people that help in all that is Rutgers, however they want to handle the situation," he said. "I have not been in contact with them at all. I have really stayed out of it. It's something that Eli and his family need to do. … Whether or not that happens, that's really between Rutgers and the NCAA. All Eli can do is make an appeal that he would like to play right away."
Except it's not between Carter and Rutgers or Rutgers and the NCAA, at least not yet. According to John Infante of the Bylaw Blog: "Carter needs to deal with the NCAA, not Rutgers directly, to get his waiver. In cases where one institution is filing a waiver on behalf of a student-athlete and the waiver is based on the misconduct or misinformation of another institution, the second institution gets a chance to respond. The waiver is filed, then the allegations are sent to the other institution and they have a set time to respond. … Even if Rutgers decides not to support the waiver up front, they could choose to simply not oppose it or not respond at all."
I spoke with Infante on Friday morning to further clarify the situation. Though Donovan says he has "stayed out of it" and that it is "something that Eli and his family need to do," that is not exactly the case. It is Florida that must file the waiver on behalf of Carter with the NCAA. "No student-athlete can file a waiver for themselves, the NCAA only deals directly with member schools for waivers," he told me. The only reason Rutgers would be involved now is if Carter reaches out to administration to pre-write a letter of support in hopes of speeding up the process. The school could then get involved later to support or oppose the waiver filed by the Gators, as noted by Infante.
Either way, in the end, Carter's waiver (filed on his behalf by Florida) should be approved no matter what Rutgers has to say about the matter. Infante said most coaches do not know the specifics of these particular situations (they have enough to worry about otherwise) and Donovan was "as correct as I would expect a head coach to be" even though what he has said twice this summer is "not actually correct."
* Raised as a fan of the New York Yankees during a time in which the team was anything but the baseball behemoth my parents grew up rooting for, the last thing I wanted to see was the team my uncle cheered on - the New York Mets - have any success. And the last player I was going to root for in those days was Darryl Strawberry.
Strawberry was extremely talented but incredibly disruptive. From on-field fights to drug use to insult-filled rants against his own teammates, he was a volatile personality and someone that was respected as a player but certainly not as a person. From 1991 to 1995, before he signed with the Yankees, a variety of injuries and drug issues kept him off the field and out of the spotlight he loved. He eventually got things together, played some great baseball for my team and became someone I rooted for after he left the game because he had survived cancer once and was obviously dealing with a major drug problem.
By all accounts, Strawberry was someone believed by those that covered him to be a good guy. He just had some demons that he had to overcome (and later in life plenty of health problems). It has been a long road for Strawberry, but he finally seems at peace. In a feature this week by USA Today, Strawberry acknowledges his mistakes along the way - he is also twice-divorced and has been arrested on other charges not related to drugs - and explains that he wishes he had been a better man in his life.
"I wish I could have been like a Gary Carter or a Tim Tebow when I was playing," said Strawberry, who is newly married and now an ordained minister in Missouri, "and have Christ in my life the way I do today. When [Gary] Carter left [the Mets], he left here as a right man, a righteous man, who lived his life right. He loved his faith.
"I look at Tebow. He gets bashed because of his faith. Let 'em laugh. He's a greater man than anyone who might be greater than him as an athlete. He's a real man. He gets challenged about his faith all the time, but he never wavers because of opinions, or what the media is writing about him. … I admire him more than he could ever imagine."
Now 51, Strawberry appears to have drug use behind him and has not publicly mentioned cancer since the early 2000s. He has battled his demons and now appears to be the good guy that many always believed was inside of him.