Oh AJ, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
This is why we can't have nice things. And a 7-foot center who everyone is ready to be a mutha in '13-'14 and potentially NBA-ready is indeed a nice thing. However, AJ Hammons has found a way to fit his lanky frame into Matt Painter's doghouse yet again.
Hammons has been suspended for Purdue's exhibition games as well as the season opener on November 8 against Northern Kentucky for a violation of team rules. Coach Painter wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the violation, but this quote sure sounds like a displeased parent:
“A.J. has been suspended for the first three games of this season for conduct not representative of this program or university,” Painter said. “We expect the young men in our program to meet certain standards, and they must be held accountable when those standards are not met.”
You'd think by now that these guys wouldn't want to piss off Painter, but maybe there's the problem -- maybe AJ Hammons isn't a guy with great judgement and perhaps the NBA talk has gone to his head a bit. That's not so hard to imagine, now is it?
While Painter didn't specifically disclose what Hammons did to earn the suspension, it doesn't take a genius to figure out it was school-related. Painter is quoted in this Indy Sports Legends article thusly:
“He looks like an NBA player, but it’s a process,” Painter said. “Let’s go to an NCAA Tournament. Let’s compete for a Big Ten title. Let’s keep our focus on the now. And I think if you do those things and you stay consistent, those things will happen for you. People want to conversate about the projection and what could happen, instead of saying, ‘You know what, let’s win today. Let’s go to class today, let’s meet with our tutors, let’s do everything we’re supposed to do, let’s give other people the benefit of the doubt and treat others with respect and keep it that simple.’ And when that happens, that’s when you see really talented people take off.”
Soooooo...AJ has been skipping class, blowing off tutors and just generally being a bit of an entitled jackass. That choice of words by me probably reads as harsher than I mean them -- I don't think AJ is a bad guy for doing any of those things. Hell, I blew off class all the time and while I think it's a bad idea and would advise against it, sometimes it's something college students do. However, AJ has more attention on him just by virtue of his status at Purdue. He also has a golden opportunity and that old cliche barely does justice to the incredible opportunity AJ has just by being who he is where he is. The next six months are worth literally millions of dollars and while people can say that's a lot to put on a young kid (and they're right), it simply is what it is.
As for the effect this has on Purdue, well, in terms of winning games it probably matters little, as we're only talking about one regular season game and that game should be able to feature Boilerdowd at center and still be a win. However, what does it do in terms of Hammons' overall attitude and approach? Will he get his head screwed on straight or will he trend towards sulking? Will Painter forgive the transgressions and move on with a clean slate or will he be wary of trusting AJ? And what impact will all of this have when the games get more serious? It's not just about the immediate impact or the three games. Everything has an effect. It's the butterfly effect, yo.
If only the basketball team could wear black helmets -- that would solve everything.