Saturday, June 5, 2010

Early enrollment makes sense for UNC, maybe not McAdoo

The big news in Chapel Hill this week is that James McAdoo, the No. 3 player in the country in ESPNU's class of 2011, is contemplating an early graduation and thus early enrollment at North Carolina. This, of course, is huge. And while the impact would obviously leave the Tar Heels drastically retooled, the biggest impact on this decision is on McAdoo himself.

The obvious comparison, at this point, is the similar circumstance in which Andre Dawkins enrolled early at Duke. But make no mistake – this is different.

Dawkins was a top recruit, sure, but he didn't have anything on the potential that McAdoo brings to the table. What makes McAdoo's decision so highly anticipated is the trend it will set for players like him in the future. With the rocky marriage that is the NCAA-to-NBA eligibility rule, there will be more and more instances of coaches recruiting their programs into a corner via the feast-or-famine approach.

It's easy to think, and rightfully so, that McAdoo has the potential to make an impact right away. Anyone who thinks he can't has never seen this kid play. Sure, he's 17, but his body is older – 6-foot-8, 205. Comparisons to LeBron James' style of play have been tossed out there, and they're accurate. Don't get me wrong, this kid is not LeBron James. But he is strong and aggressive, fearless when attacking the rim. College is a tougher game, to be sure, but trust me, these kids are playing some serious high school basketball in the Tidewater region of Virignia – I grew up there.

So I don't think there's any question that he can make an impact. The real question is whether he'll get the chance to. One would have to think that a player of his talent would have to get significant minutes, rather than be rushed to campus for use in case of emergency. And while I'd be lying if I said I don't hope to see him in a Tar Heel uniform next season, I do hope that if he's here, it's because it's best for him.

One thing I'm not sure about, and perhaps someone could help me out, is whether the NBA eligibility clock starts from the date you graduate, or from the date you were originally supposed to graduate. The way I understand it, it's the former, and if that's the case, this is going to usher in a whole new era of kids trying to make the leap to the professional ranks as quickly as possible.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Knox to be a Tar Heel? It looks like it.

After dinner at Shula's 347 Grill in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina coaching staff and potential Alabama transfer, Justin Knox, all looked very happy. That's great news for battered Tar Heel fans everywhere.

It's been reported that Georgia Tech and UNC are front-runners in the race to land one of the best of the few recruits left to be had, and it's hard to imagine that this revelation doesn't lock things up for the latter. Knox, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound big man has been cleared to play this season, and the departure of David and Travis Wear — better known, on the defensive end of the floor, as Bum and Bummer — has left UNC's front line shallower than a plastic pool. (I was gonna say Lawrence Taylor, but figured it was too soon.)

My personal opinions aside, Knox would be as good a fit as any for North Carolina. Despite their lead-footedness, the Wear twins did give UNC depth that it will certainly lack should Roy Williams prove unable to scramble together the best of what is still available. Signing Knox would be the equivalent of nabbing a veteran free agent in the professional ranks, and veterans are as hard to find as big men in Chapel Hill right now.

I can't say that I know a single thing about Justin Knox other than what I've read and what a good friend (and Alabama transfer as well) has shared of his experiences watching him in Tuscaloosa. But if there is one thing that your run-of-the-mill Tar Heel fan learned from last year's 20-17 campaign, it's that you don't plug in a crop of freshman, regardless of what Ronald McDonald thinks of them, and reliably expect to win a championship.

Five years ago, none of these kids coming in (we all know who they are by now) would be in the starting lineup. That doesn't mean that a young player wouldn't see significant minutes as a Tar Heel, but there's a barometric difference in having your name called in front of 21,750 just before tip off. (I know, I know, no one's ever there before the game, but it's for the effect ... you get me.) It's my opinion that North Carolina is a lot closer to a national championship by virtue of its 2009 title, rather than one that may lie ahead. A blessing might come in the form of an NBA lockout, thus keeping the 2010 class in place for at least one more season, which would help, but unless that happens it's important to understand that Tyler Hansbrough, that is a dominant, three- or four-year player is less likely to walk through the door these days.

That makes the ability of a sign-and-play transfer like Knox that much more important. His numbers, 5.7 ppg and 5.1 rpg in 2008-09 and 6.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg last year, aren't gaudy, so don't get too carried away. But his intelligence (he was on the SEC All-Academic team last year) and size would provide the Tar Heels with what I think they need more than anything -- a competent role player. He's an above average free-throw shooter, too.

I see the 2010 lineup looking something like this:

PG - Larry Drew
SG - Will Graves
SF - Harrison Barnes
PF - John Henson
C - Tyler Zeller

Do I think that Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall are also potential starters? Absolutely. But my intuition is that Williams will do the best he can to stick to the script of starting as many upper classmen as possible. If Leslie McDonald could find the shooting touch that the Tar Heels hoped he would last season, and Justin Watts finds his comfort zone, then North Carolina has a very respectable and super-athletic bench.

So, where the Wears' transfer certainly came unexpectedly, it plays right into the hands of the offensive scheme that predicated the Tar Heels' two most recent championship runs. What UNC loses in size it has gained in athleticism, and at the college level athletes win. But as I said before, I'm not ready to climb to the highest point in Chapel Hill and proclaim North Carolina's return to the national scene just yet, but I do think the storm has passed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Arenas a big shot on court, and in it

The only person who needs 30 days in a halfway house is the D.C. Superior Court judge who handed Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas that same amercement.

It's hard to tell which is the bigger crime – the one Arenas committed, or the travesty that is his punishment for it.

I've already seen arguments about how it's unfair because of what happened to New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress on different, yet similar charges. I'm going to leave that out altogether. This sentence has nothing to do with anyone else, and everything to do with injustice.

For the record, I like Gilbert Arenas. He's not my favorite player, but he's other-wordly talented, and his care-free personality can be both entertaining and comforting in a medium where people often take themselves way too seriously. He's candid and interesting, but in this case, stupid.

My view has nothing to do with who committed the crime. It's the crime itself that is deserving of punishment – real punishment, not the adult equivalent of being put in time out.

This guy brought not one, but several guns … to an arena … in Washington, D.C.! D.C. prides itself on strict gun laws, and in the world we live in, it should. Add to that that this crime occurred in a place where tens of thousands of people can gather on any given night, and the issue is compounded tenfold.

Arenas' attorney, Kenneth Wainstein, cited financial consequences as a reason for a lesser sentence, part of a 221-page document.

I'm not a legal analyst, lawyer or even law student. I haven't heard the rationale for the Judge Robert E. Morin's sentence.

It doesn't matter.

Nowhere in the law does it suggest that any amount of income has anything to do with punishment for a crime, or that losses of income has anything to do with sentencing. If it did, it would allow identical crimes to be punished differently, depending on how many zeros are in a person's paycheck.

But that's exactly what the judge decided in this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh's recommendation - three months in jail followed by three years probation and 300 hours community service - fell on deaf ears, and that's too bad because it made a lot more sense:

“... such a sentence essentially would tell the community that you can commit a serious offense, with a criminal history, and joke about it later. With enough money, fame and the right representation, you can avoid paying the price that others in this city would certainly pay in these circumstances. Such a message undermines the bedrock belief that the sentences of criminal defendants are handed out equally, and it is the wrong message to send to the city of Washington, D.C., particularly those members of the community that have idolized Gilbert Arenas in the past, and who may sympathize with him in the present.”

I don't know. Maybe it's just be. I'll leave it up to you.

So, to quote Arenas: “Pick 1.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three-team trade good for James, Jamison

If you follow me on Twitter (@bstuntin), then whether you like it or not, you're well aware that I'm a pretty big LeBron James fan. And as a seventh-year senior at the University of North Carolina, you could imagine my excitement when I heard that Wizards forward, and UNC alum, Antawn Jamison was headed to Cleveland in a three-team trade.

While a large part of my excitement is derived from the fact that I'm looking for the upper hand in the LeBron > Kobe debate, I was even happier for Jamison. He is a two-time all-star (who has deserved the honor many more times) and a consummate professional. But late-season success at both the college and professional levels as eluded him.

As a Tar Heel in 1998, Jamison averaged 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, earning him the Naismith and Wooden Awards as the nation's most outstanding player. Those accolades qualified him to become just the seventh player in North Carolina history to have his number retired. During the Final Four that year, Jamison's Tar Heels (which included Vince Carter, and some argue was the best UNC team ever), were stunned by Utah in the semifinals.

The following June, Jamison became the first pick of the Toronto Raptors (No. 4 overall), and was swapped for Carter, landing him with Golden State Warriors. And in a situation that is eerily similar to that of Al Thornton, who comes to Washington from the Los Angeles Clippers in the deal, Jamison escaped one lowly franchise only to join another.

So finally, after 11 NBA seasons, Jamison will again get his shot.

His addition to the Cavs is a complete game changer. His ability to defend, and to score, in the post will help neutralize players like Pau Gasol of the Lakers and Dwight Howard of the Magic, while giving Cleveland the clear advantage against just about everyone else in the league.

It's now or never for the team who's future is completely up to chance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heads or tails? You call it.

When North Carolina hosted Duke last Wednesday, things just weren't the same.

Sure, the Tar Heels have had a forgettable year, but the beauty of a rivalarly like the one shared between these two universities is that no season is ever a lost cause if the other remains to be played.

And while UNC played inspired basketball and kept the game competitive for about 36 minutes, there was a subtle sign that seemed, to me, to personfiy North Carolina's misfortune this season.

I think it happened around the 8-minute mark. I can't seem to tell from the play-by-play. But Deon Thompson made a basket to tie the game, really swaying the momentum in UNC's favor. Then, the ball bounced away, prompting a whistle from the referee. It just so happened that that whistle was timed such that a media timeout ensued, thus thwarting a rally before it even had the chance to begin.

Now, I'm not saying that the blame for the Tar Heels' collapse down the stretch is or should be atttributed to that. But it is interesting to note that, when things aren't going your way – no matter what team you are, turning the tide isn't always a matter of X's and O's.

It was the first time this season that North Carolina coach Roy Williams rode his horses for the duration. Freshman John Henson showed promise, Sophomore Larry Drew II showed poise at times, and the Tar Heels, as a whole, largely avoided issues that have plagued them all season – despite a strong defensive effort from the Blue Devils.

Duke scored just five points off turnovers. Five.

The Tar Heels gave the ball away just 12 times, and scored more points on the break, more points in the paint, and got more points off the bench.

Yet after that ill-timed media whistle, UNC scored just nine points, two of which came on a meaningless jumper by Drew II in the game's final seconds.

Make no mistake about it. The teams that are good win. But they don't always win on talent and execution. Sometimes the ball has to bounce your way. Hell, N.C. State and Duke each won a national championship thanks to plays that leave people scratching their heads to this day.

I'm really not trying to degrade either accomplishment. Who's to say that North Carolina would have a banner in 1982 were it not for an ill-advised pass to James Worthy?

My point is this: When you're hot, you're hot.

But that's a two-sided coin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Who does Roger Goodell think he is? Just read an article on that informed me of league-imposed blackouts of home games in Detroit and Oakland this weekend.


Get this: Because both teams "failed to sell all their tickets for Sunday's games by an NFL-imposed deadline."

I'll bet they're not blacked out on the NFL Network.

The NFL cannot be serious.

I couldn't care less about the Oakland Raiders or the Detroit Lions. But I do care about the fact that, in general, these people can't afford tickets.

Of the 20 U.S. cities with the highest unemployment rate, eight are located in Michigan and six are in California. According to the latest report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan's unemployment rate, at 15.2 percent, is by far the highest in America. California isn't too far behind. Its rate, 12.2 percent, is fifth highest.

All this does is prove that the self-imposed pay cut that the commissioner game himself this off season was a bunch of malarkey. These teams don't even deserve the support they do get. They're terrible. But as a lifelong fan of the New York Mets and Washington Redskins, I am well-aware of the toll it takes on a person to continually give their heart and soul to a disappointing franchise.

And while I have no idea what each the Lions' and Raiders' ticket and concession prices look like, I am willing to bet that they're not worth it.

This policy is a slap in the face, not just to fans in these two cities, but to every fan of the NFL.

So Rog, I have an idea: Why don't you put down all that money these fans are handing you for just a second, and use that shield (and some damn common sense) to protect them?