Still so close...

Well, all we're waiting on for the apartment is the employment verification, which shouldn't be a big problem, since I know we filled out everything accurately and we all get paid well enough for a $1460 a month apartment. Of course, I've also reached the point where there isn't really much left for me to pack, other than stuff I'm still using at least somewhat.

OK, time for a sports rant/mini-column. If you're only here for Desktop Girls and the like, skip to here.

For years, the NBA has been wrangling with the debate over an age limit for incoming players, and the debate once again flared up when the Lakers flirted with hiring Coach K. Some experts said Coach K was only thinking about leaving because the college game is falling apart, mostly due to players leaving college early or skipping it altogether.

I think something needs to happen to fix this: there were eight high school players drafted in the first round last month, and most of them probably won't even see the court in the '04-05 season. This comes right after the two high school players other than LeBron taken last year were non-factors.

Still, an age limit is arbitrary. Should it be 21? If so, Magic Johnson wouldn't have joined the NBA alongside Larry Bird and who knows how different the '80s would have been. Maybe the age limit should be 20. If that's the case, then we don't get either LeBron or Carmelo last year, both of whom were teenagers when they entered the league. Besides, it's been proven with guys like LeBron, Carmelo, KG and Kobe that an 18-year-old is capable of being physically ready to play in the league.

So how do you stem the tide of guys who aren't ready? Well, I have a plan. (Of course I do. Why else would I have been writing this long?) And with the CBA up for renegotiation next year, there's a chance this could actually happen.

Step one: rework the rookie contract scale to include a sliding scale of both years and pay based on pre-NBA experience. Right now first-round picks get a three-year deal with a team option for the fourth, and it's all guaranteed. Well, what if we did this:

•College juniors and seniors get the current deal (maximum of four years before free agency).

•College sophomores get a three-year deal, with the first year at 90 percent of the junior/senior rate, and the team has two option years (max five years).

•College freshmen get a three-year deal, with the first year at 80 percent, the second year at 90 percent, and two option years (max five years).

•High school seniors and international players who are 18 years old get a three-year deal, with the first year at 75 percent, the second year at 85 percent, and the third year at 95 percent, with three team option years.

There's one other piece to make this work: better use of the NBDL, aka the D-League. Right now the only thing the D-League is developing is end-of-the-bench fill-ins and semi-competent role players for lottery teams. Under my system, the NBA teams would be able to send players under rookie contracts down to the D-League for limited amounts of time. Something like this might be the system:

•Junior/Senior players couldn't be sent down. People with three to four years of experience don't need more at the D-League level, especially if they're first-round talent.

•College sophomores could only be sent down in their rookie year, and if they weren't recalled by Feb. 1, the team would lose the second option year on the contract, and the first option year (the fourth year overall) would become a player option.

•College freshman could be sent down for any length during their rookie year, but if recalled to the NBA team, they'd have to remain on the roster (in other words, no up-and-down stuff). A player who starts the season with the NBA team could be sent down to the D-League once -- without this violating the up-and-down rule -- but could not be sent down after January 1. During their second year in the league, standard college sophomore rules would apply.

•High school players would be able to be sent down at any time during their rookie year and be recalled at any time. After being recalled, they could only be sent down once more, and at that point, they could not be added to the playoff roster for their NBA team. If a high school player spent more than four months in the D-League, he'd void the final option year of his contract and his second option year (fifth year of the contract) would become a player option. If he spent less than four months in the D-League, he'd move on to college freshman rules, with the exception of having two more guaranteed years left, and three option years. Also, once a high school player moved into the college sophomore category, he couldn't go back to the D-League, as no third-year player could be sent down.

Sure, this would take a lot of compromise on the players' part, but the NBA could get them to go along with it by doing two things: first, raise the max salary for veteran players (seven years and above) and second, grant unrestricted free agency to all players with two years or more of experience. This would mean that any player not drafted in the first round would still have a chance to prove himself and cash in big after just two years. Some high school players may still take this risk, and some might be willing to live with the restrictive contract rules for a first rounder, but most would go to college for at least one, if not two years.

OK, back to more stuff about me. My mom, sister and niece got back from Florida today, and my mom picked me up a Lamar Odom jersey. A picture will be added to the NBA gallery shortly. I also went to Champs today to see if there were any other jerseys I wanted, since I found out today I'm only 12 teams away from the entire NBA. Hopefully I'll have all of them by the end of the '04-05 season.

I also picked up "The Butterfly Effect" on DVD, which is actually a pretty good movie. Ashton Kutcher does a better job than you'd expect. Oh, and I had fun at Best Buy when I went to pick it up, because they had a PS2 set up with "Fight Night 2004" playing. The guy playing before me was losing a fight as Roy Jones, Jr. in the 5th round. I can't remember the name of the guy I was fighting, but I do know I knocked him down nine times in three rounds. Yeah, it was crazy bad