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.