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Published: Thursday, 6/29/2000

Pathetic Clippers no team for a kid

I'm not as concerned about Darius Miles playing in the NBA as I am him playing for the pathetic Los Angeles Clippers.

That is reason enough to make a high school kid change his mind and enroll in college.

It's too late, of course.

The 2000 NBA draft is history.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, a.k.a. the Donald, allows his best free agents to leave for other teams every season because he refuses to pay them market value.

Sterling has a huge office building in Los Angeles in which he is the sole occupant.

Among NBA owners, he's also one of a kind.

The worst kind.

TNT commentators Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley both expressed serious concerns upon Miles's selection by the Clippers that he may not receive the proper guidance and support from the most unstable franchise in the league.

Welcome to the NBA, Darius.

Miles, the 6-9, 217-pound phenom from East St. Louis (Ill.) High School, was the third player selected last night. No high school player in the history of the draft has ever been taken that high.

Miles grew up idolizing Kevin Garnett. That's how young he is. He turns 19 in October.

Garnett was the No. 5 pick in the 1997 draft. At the time, his selection directly out of high school was considered shocking, immoral even.

Now it's yesterday's news.

Get used to it, America.

In five of the past six NBA drafts (excluding 1998), at least one high school player has been selected among the top 10 picks.

Kobe Bryant was the No. 13 pick in 1996, Tracy McGrady was the No. 9 pick in 1997, Jonathan Bender was the No. 5 pick in 1999, and now Miles.

Next year, the impossible could finally happen. Tyson Chandler, a 7-1 high school center from California, is being projected as the likely No. 1 pick in the draft.

NBA executives express their concerns every year about high school players making the leap directly to the NBA. They're not ready, they all say.

But there they are, sitting along press row, scouting the high school kids and drafting them with more and more frequency.

Miles and fellow prep star DeShawn Stevenson of Fresno, Calif., were both drafted in the first round this year. Stevenson went to Utah with the No. 23 pick.

I don't have a problem with high school kids going directly to the pros. It's their God-given right to make a living.

If that living is playing professional basketball, and there's a team willing to foot the bill, so be it.

I do think the NBA should be held more accountable for the development of high school players - both on the court and off.

It's not enough to draft a teenager, pay his six or seven-figure salary, and then turn the other way when the games are over.

That's how the Dallas Mavericks treated Leon Smith last year. Unable to handle living on his own, Smith attempted suicide and found himself out of basketball.

Young, impressionable players like Miles are the future of the NBA. It's essential that the league protect its young.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist.

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