Monday, March 29, 2004

He Said, He Said

If anyone didn't catch last night's sportscenter, they had a piece on Bulls 2nd round draft pick Mario Austin. For those who don't know the story:

Austin left Miss St. early with a supposed guarantee by his agent (Bill Duffy) that he'd be picked in the 1st round. The Bulls told him that he probably wasn't going to make the team, and negotiated a contract signing with CSKA Moscow. He suffered a collapsed lung over there shortly after he arrived. After finding out that most of the monitors in the hospital were powered by field mice, and the doctors' diplomas were made of cardboard, he left for the states. He also  terminated his relationship with Duffy and was subsequently sued by the Russian club and Duffy for breach of contract. Austin sued them back for false representation. got all that?

On the sportscenter piece they had interviews with Austin, Duffy, and Bulls GM John Paxson. It degenerated into a case of Pax/Duffy's word against Austin's. Austin claimed that he never knew that he received a tender (non-guaranteed contract) from the Bulls, and he could've went to camp instead of Russia. Paxson and Duffy claimed that not only did they tell him, they had a conference call between them (and also Austin's mother). Austin and his mother deny any such call took place.

While the piece tried to make Duffy look like a snake (he would've received much higher compensation from Austin signing with CSKA than with the Bulls), I am of the opinion that Austin simply screwed up. Its hard to imagine that he had no idea that he could've stayed in the states and tried out if he wanted to. Paxson (and undoubtedly Duffy as well) simply gave him the advice that he had a better shot getting playing time and experience overseas. And it wasn't like Austin had no incentive to go there: he was receiving a 2-year contract for I believe around 1.5 million dollars.

So I'm siding with Paxson here, and this is what I think really happened: While he was probably pressured by the Bulls and Duffy, Austin completely understood what he was doing, but after he got injured and felt alone and vulnerable, he decided he made a mistake. Now here he is on ESPN grandstanding how he was exploited. I do feel bad for him, but only as bad as you can for a man throwing away millions to play Basketball. Some harsher (but funnier) comments can be found on the Bulls4ever discussion board by user Bulls_Fan:

Austin has shown me that he belongs on the bulls. He is a mental midget, who wont take responsiblity for his own actions. He would fit in well w/ the other bulls players.