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UCLA Basketball - You Stay Classy, Coach Ben Howland

On Monday, NBA labor talks continued to go absolutely nowhere, resulting in the official cancellation of the first two weeks of the regular season.  The issues are over a split of Basketball Related Income, with both sides unable to come up with a happy division point, and the gulf is growing wider by the day between the two camps.

"We just have a gulf that separates us," Stern said.

The players have taken to Twitter with #StayUnited and Let Us Play tweets.  However, these are guys with contracts and actually were paid to play basketball last season.  What about the players that were drafted in June?

The most relevant example to this community is Malcolm Lee.  He gave up his senior year at UCLA to declare for the draft, and was picked in the second round by the Chicago Bulls, later to be dealt to the T-Wolves.  However, without a labor agreement, he is unable to sign, and Malcolm finds himself in limbo.

More on Malcolm's predicament, and why Ben Howland is awesome, after the jump.

Malcolm is playing basketball, just not at the professional level.

"It's like I'm still a college student," said Malcolm Lee, the former UCLA guard and now-in-limbo Minnesota Timberwolves rookie. "It's the same life. No income checks are coming in, none of that good stuff that comes with being in the NBA."

We have always been supportive of Malcolm Lee's and Tyler Honeycutt's decision to turn pro, as has Ben Howland.  If a player feels this is the best avenue for them, then it is their choice to forgo their remaining eligibility to turn pro.  However, given the labor situation that didn't look like the NFL, meaning there was a high probability that games would be cancelled, the timing was probably not wise.  If Malcolm wanted to continue living as a college student, he could have done so as a senior on a team with the depth to make a serious run in this year's tournament.

Where is Malcolm playing basketball?

Lee is living in a Los Angeles apartment, working out in Westwood and driving what he called "my little car from college."

Even though Malcolm decided to forgo his remaining eligibility, he is still welcome in Westwood, and in the world of Ben Howland.  That speaks volumes about Ben Howland, who could have easily turned his back on Malcolm after going against his advice to declare for the draft, and instead, welcomes Malcolm back to continue his workouts.

Take note, UCLA recruits:  How many other coaches out there would be this welcoming to you if you said "adios" to the program that nurtured you for three years?  You want to play in the NBA?  You want to play for Ben Howland.  Period.  You will be prepared, and you will be playing at one of the storied basketball programs in the country.  Even after your UCLA playing days are over, he is there for you, even if your dreams are on hold.

I remember Malcolm as a freshman, agonizing that this skinny guard was missing free throws, and watched him under Ben Howland's guidance, mature into an excellent defender and the guy I wanted at the FT line in crunch time.  I really wanted Malcolm to return, but understood his decision, and support it.

Malcolm is still lauding Ben Howland, showing no ill will:


From Malcolm's twitter, in response to a tweet after he said he was hacked about being "chained."  We've heard the "complaints" that the Ben Howland system doesn't showcase the player, but as we've argued before, the UCLA Factor will hopefully be proven true again, and Malcolm (and Tyler) will be productive players at the next level.

As for players at the next level, quite a few former Bruins are player reps or alternates for their teams.  Arron Afflalo is the player rep for the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Farmar is the player rep for the New Jersey nets, and Jason Kapono is the rep for the Philadelphia 76ers.  Ryan Hollins, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kevin Love, and Russell Westbrook are the alternates for their teams. Good basketball players, and the ability to represent your team to the union.  UCLA Basketball, giving you the skills for the NBA and beyond.