Lee Flees, Dye Fries — Malcolm Lee inexplicably says “Bye” to UCLA just as his injured knee is healed, by irreversibly putting his name on the NBA Draft List, while Tony Dye frustratingly says “Hi” to an MRI after injuring his knee, just as his name is justifiably put on a National Award’s Watch List

Westwood Boulevard is the new Road to Attrition.

Once again, Ben Howland’s team has been rocked by an unexpected defection, while once again Rick Neuheisel’s team has been shocked by a demoralizing injury.  On Tuesday, FOUR WEEKS BEFORE the deadline to declare for the NBA Draft, Bruin Junior Guard Malcolm Lee announced that he was signing an Agent, thus terminating his eligibility to play for UCLA, while Bruin Star Safety Tony Dye missed his second straight practice after undergoing an MRI on his hyperextended knee.

The Basketball team was going to be ranked in next year’s Top 20 with Lee returning, but now, without their best Defensive player (by far), they could easily find themselves unranked once again.  In addition to Lee’s well-known Defensive prowess, he was also the top scoring threat from the Bruins’ backcourt.  Although Lee’s outside shooting was “streaky” at best, his ability to penetrate the key with and without the ball, and his high Free Throw percentage, made him an integral part of the Offensive attack.

With Lee gone, Howland will have several choices to fill the void, but none of them are certain to work.  Tyler Lamb could be the answer at Shooting Guard, but Lamb is also being touted as Tyler Honeycutt’s replacement at Small Forward.  Jerime Anderson is also a possibility, since his outside shooting improved last year.  However, JA might be more valuable as the back-up Point Guard.  There are also two incoming players who could earn the job — Highly-touted Freshman Norman Powell, and versatile JC Transfer De’End Parker.

Parker is also being mentioned as the possible Small Forward, but so is one of the Wear Twins.  Ben could also go with a three-Guard line-up.  The team’s only “sure” Starters are Reeves Nelson at Power Forward, Joshua Smith at Center, and Lazeric Jones at Point Guard.  That leaves two slots, which could go to a Wear, Lamb, JA, Powell, or Parker. That would leave a bench consisting of a Wear or two, Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane and two other contributors.  The Bruins should still be competitive with this roster, but not a Final Four team like they would have been with Lee still around.  For the Bruins to improve on this past season, at least two newcomers will have to have a significant impact, OR, Lamb, Lane, and Stover will have to show massive improvement.

So, am I “mad” at Lee?  Do I think he’s making a stupid mistake?  No.  I am disappointed, and think he would have been more valuable to the NBA after winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year next season, and after proving that he can up his FG%, but, I understand the allure of the NBA CASH RIGHT NOW, and I DO think that he’ll get selected.  I also understand that the Draft is decidedly weaker this year than it will be next year, and most importantly, I agree that Lee could easily suffer another injury — due to his ball’s-out style — which could completely END his NBA Dreams.  Therefore, I will still root for him to thrive and survive in The League.  I hope that he makes UCLA look good on and off the court, and helps recruiting, with his success in the Pro’s.  Of course, his success could also encourage other Bruins to follow his lead and bail early, but it’s more important to keep them flowing in, than keep them from flowing out.

The news from the Bruin gridiron isn’t as bad, or as permanent as the Hoops news.  Although Tony Dye hurt his knee, the injury is not considered to be too serious, and should not be an issue once the season starts.  That’s a good thing, because Dye is the Team’s Leading Tackler, and possibly the Best Defensive player on the whole team.  Last year, when an oppsosing runner broke through the line, it seemed like Dye was the one who kept him from gaining huge yardage.

In honor of Dye’s accomplishments, he has just been named to the Watch List for the National Award that goes to the Country’s Best Defensive Player.  I won’t give the NAME of the Award here, because it is named for an arrogant ex-trojan who was known for cheap shots and generally dirty play.  But that shouldn’t diminish the honor deserved by Dye for making the list.  A healthy Dye will be instrumental to any success that UCLA will achieve this year — No one else comes close to having his combination of talent, brains, toughness, and experience.  He’s like the Malcolm Lee of the Football Team.