The Silly Season

Coach John Calipari. Photo by Victoria Graff.

Every year around this time, between the end of Kentucky’s basketball season and start of football season, comes the Silly Season.

So eager is Big Blue Nation to keep the sports talk alive that it will focus on any kind of inconsequential “non-story.”

This year, the Silly Season was a couple of months shorter, thanks to Nick Mingione and his diamond gems, but it has endured through the summer just as always.

So, we once again get an intense, almost daily, look at high school sophomores that Mark Stoops and his recruiting coaches are pursuing. For the 2019 season. Who can keep track? And why bother, since so many of these kids commit and decommit several times before their high school classes graduate, two or three years from now?

Then there was the “will he?/won’t he?” Lynn Bowden watch (he will). And the rumpus over the low preseason SEC predictions for Kentucky (they’re predictions; they don’t matter).

We obsessed over a bunch of high school basketball players competing on a US team in Egypt, partly because every high school basketball player is always a potential Wildcat, but also because John Calipari was coaching this particular squad.

It turned out to be a week of non-stories, except maybe local phenom Romeo Langford getting hurt and barely playing, instead meeting the media every day and saying that playing for Cal was pretty good, but he’s not ready to declare.

And there was a week of silly talk about the pending Summer Rookie League matchup between De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball, much of it filtered through Ball senior’s mouth. It never happened. First Ball got hurt, then Fox got hurt, and everyone went on to the next sparkling object.

Which was speculation about whether a team of ex-Wildcats in the NBA could beat the Golden State Warriors. True, there are a lot of ex-Cats in the league, and some of them – Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker – are having All-Star careers.

But having played at least a season on Rupp Arena hardwood (and not together, by the way) is not necessarily a formula for a great fit of disparate parts, especially against the reigning champions.

But nonetheless, conjecture was unstoppable: if you start Davis and Cousins, what about Towns? Booker or Bledsoe? The Silly Season rolled on.

Besides, would this be one game? Best of seven? Entire season? (Maybe the NBA could package all of its Wildcats and Cardinals – plus Hilltoppers, Eagles and Racers – into a new Louisville franchise. There have been sillier notions.)

There are so many ex-Cats in the league that almost any player transaction is bound to affect one of them. And so Rajon Rondo, Patrick Patterson, Kyle Wiltjer, DeAndre Liggins, Jodie Meeks and Trey Lyles all changed jerseys during the off-season. Happily, Darius Miller, Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson may have revived their professional careers. Sadly, Brandon Knight may have ended his.

The Cavs are rumored to be trading Kyrie Irving – for either Eric Bledsoe or De’Aaron Fox. Surely, there must be other players of value in the NBA who’ve never worn Kentucky uniforms.

Of course, the next group of Kentucky basketball players is always grist for the Silly Season mill. And, in July, there were news reports and photo ops of this year’s squad working out at Commonw—oops, Kroger Field.

Based on a group picture, Sacha Killeya-Jones looks like he’s bulked up since last we saw him, some time in January. And Tai Wynyard looks svelte, coming off his strong performance in Egypt for the New Zealand team. It was hard to see Wenyan Gabriel in the picture. Brad Calipari looks the same.

Mostly, though, I had little idea who the new guys were. I recognized Quade Green; he’s shorter than the rest. And we saw a lot of Kevin Knox over the summer. Hamidou Diallo, too, of course.

But it will take some time to become familiar with all those individual faces and uniform numbers as they suit up for the Serious Season in November. It always does. Which one is Jemarl Baker and which one Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?

Of course, as we were getting comfortable with which one was Wall and which one Bledsoe, which one was Lyles and which one Towns, which one was Andrew and which one Aaron, the seasons zoomed by and soon the players were gone.

But there’s always a “next John Wall” arriving on campus – and always a “next Randall Cobb” – to feed the Silly Seasons before the real seasons kick in once again. VT