Thursday, November 22, 2007

Crossing Paths

This is the story of two of my favorite college players of the past few years. One is from Florida, the other went to Florida. One is currently in the league, the other is overseas. This is the brief story of James "Flight" White and Darius Washington Jr.

My first memory of the very self-assured Washington came from an Adidas DVD profiling 3 basketball players (Washington, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith). If I remember correctly, he was getting on Smith for "whining" about something. It was interesting profile, his father seemed very intent that he would do big things with his basketball career. Maybe even to the point where it seemed like he was trying to live through him.

Flight's first appearance on my television came during the 2001 McDonald's All American Dunk Contest. Heralded as the best dunker in the contest and the favorite, White went on to put on one of the best dunk contest performances I've ever seen. The way his slender frame soared through the air would put Clyde Drexler to shame. It almost appeared as if it was too easy. His final dunk, a 2 handed double clutch from the free throw line, sent me out of my seat. Somehow he lost the contest to future college teammate and current New York Knick, David Lee.

Washington emerged the next year as the starting point guard for John Calipari's Memphis Tigers. While not exactly the pure point guard, Washington got the job done. Assisted by teammates Sean Banks and Rodney Carney, Memphis got into the Conference USA tournament with a chance to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. They faced a very talented Louisville team that was one of the best in the country. Washington had his breakout party, keeping Memphis in the game with his 23 points and 6 assists, but it was the points that he didn't get that left a lasting memory. Down 2 with 6.5 seconds left, Washington drove the length of the court and launched a desperation 3 as time expired. While the shot was off, he baited Francisco Garcia into a foul. A freshman steps to the line for the biggest moment of his career. Three shots win it, two shots tie it. The first drops and Washington turns to his coach in typical Washington fashion, as if to say, "I got this." The second one bounces off the rim, and Washington looks visibly shaken. The final shot to send the game into overtime falls just short, and almost simultaneously Washington falls lifelessly to the ground.

James White's career got off to a solid start at Florida. He averaged 6.2ppg coming off the bench. After the season, White decided to transfer to Cincinnati to play for Bob Huggins. Throughout his career, according to many, White never quite lived up to his potential. DraftExpress called him, "One of the biggest enigmas in college basketball over the past five years." Despite the criticism, White did average 16.3ppg, 5.1rpg, and 2.0apg his senior season, leading Cincinnati to the NIT.

Although Washington claimed the events of the past season didn't hurt his confidence, his sophomore campaign showed little improvement. His scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and FG% all took a hit. Despite his struggles, Memphis amassed a 30-3 record (thanks to the emergence of Rodney Carney and rookie Shawne Williams) on their way to an elite 8 loss to eventual champions UCLA. With Carney and Williams both deciding to bolt for the NBA, Washington followed.

It was the 2006 NBA draft when their paths finally crossed. Washington was coming off a less than impressive season and was projected as a mid-late 2nd rounder. James White was regarded as an older player who still had potential and was projected as a late 1st-early 2nd type of player. The first round came and went, with neither of their names being mentioned. But with the 1st pick of the 2nd round, the Indiana Pacers selected James White. 28 more picks went by, yet no mention of Washington. The Detroit, holding the final pick in the draft, ended up taking another PG (Will Blalock) undoubtedly leaving Washington disappointed once again.

The story could end right here. White had made it, Washington didn't; but nothing in life is that simple. Despite a solid performance during Summer League, the Pacers decided to part ways with White on the eve of the season due to a plethora of guards. Washington's NBA dreams weren't over just yet. Dallas picked him up during training camp, and played a few pre-season games for them. Unfortunately for him, they decided to let him go. Washington ended up being a top pick in the NDBL draft, but decided to go overseas and make more money playing for PAOK Greece. White eventually landed on the Spurs roster, and was sent down to the D-League, to the same team Washington was supposed to play on.

At this point, I had forgotten about Washington. I thought he was done in terms of NBA opportunities. I thought White was a steal for the Spurs, with White being trained to be another defensive stopper. Turns out, I wasn't so accurate. White did eventually get called up and showed promise for the Spurs. They even started him on the last game of the season, a game in which he scored a career high 17 points. The next summer came around, but there were no ravings about White's potential. Instead, there was criticism that White still hadn't improved his game. He ended up a free agent shortly after the NBA draft. Washington on the other hand, used took his experience from overseas and came back to make another run at making an NBA roster. Coincidentally, the one team that took a chance on Washington was White's former employer, the San Antonio Spurs. Washington had a very solid pre-season performance, including an 18 point, 9 rebound, 8 assist explosion against the Golden State Warriors. The final cuts came down, and Washington was not on the list. In fact, Washington made the active roster.

James White is now playing EuroLeague basketball for a Turkish team. Darius Washington is now the 3rd PG on the Spurs roster. With the injury to Jacque Vaughn early in the season, Washington saw extended minutes as a back-up. David Thorpe of even rated him as the 8th best rookie 2 weeks into the season.

As a fan of both players, I want for them to succeed and play in the NBA. They could both be completely unknown in a year, but they both got the opportunity. It just seems as only one of them capitalized on it, for now...

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's Basketball SEASON!

This is easily the best time of the year. Baseball is over, Football is getting more exciting, and the basketball seasons have begun. Prep, college, or pros, I love it all. The transition from the baseball season (which makes ESPN hard to watch) to basketball has been made much smoother due to the fact that football is again relevant in Detroit. It hasn't been since Barry left town. Seeing this team 6-2 this year is something I would have never predicted, not after what I've seen from them. I find myself watching the games waiting for them to blow it, and they haven't. They either get baptized by a random NFC East team (outscored 100-24 against Philadelphia and Washington) or pull out the victory. It's amazing. The Denver game was one of my happiest moments as a Detroit sports fan. For once I was embarrassed for the other team. It's a great feeling. Boston most be loving it right now.

Back to my point, this is the greatest time of the year. While the NBA has gotten off to a better than normal start to the season, my focus will be on college ball for the next couple of months. There are so many questions that I need answered. Will Kansas finally stop underachieving? Will Michigan finally do better than annual trips to the NIT? (While they probably won't this year, Beilein is a much better coach than Amaker) Can Oakland make it back to the NCAA's? Who is the better freshman: Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Kyle Singler, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, etc.? Is Kyle Singler the next really good Duke player people love to hate? What random team few people have ever heard of will win 20 games? How badly will my NCAA bracket look at the end of the year? There is more where that came from, and I'll be sure to write about it during the upcoming season.

College ball may be more engaging, but the NBA has it's own appeal also. I'll tell you right now, I don't think the Wizards will make the playoffs. Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Orlando, and Miami are all better teams in my opinion. That's my "surprise" pick of the year. Gilbert Arenas is talented, but his shot selection is reminiscent of Antoine Walker. A team I hope makes the playoffs in the West would be the Hornets. If they can stay healthy, they could make a little noise this year. Chris Paul is something special, and the team around him can ball. Tyson Chandler got out of Chicago and finally started playing, or started playing with a distributor instead of a scorer. Whatever the reason, I like his game now. A 6th or 7th seed for this team isn't out of the question at all.

My prediction for the championship this year is........The Detroit Pistons. Yup! (Okay, that's a lie. But as long as I receive a check every week, they won't get bashed excessively.) If I'm not lazy, I'll write my little preview for the season. It'd be nice if I got League Pass so I could give a better opinion, but this'll have to do. Only about 2 people read this blog anyway.

That's all for now. Enjoy the season, this is a beautiful time of year. My journalistic prime. If I can't blog now, I can't blog. Hopefully those 2 people come back and enjoy this thing I'm trying to do right here. Until next time....

Thursday, October 11, 2007


-At the end of my last blog I said I was starting a plyometrics program. I lied. I just ended up doing this basic weight lifting program, but it's worked. I'm starting to discover this thing called athleticism, and they only time that I successfully completed a dunk, 2 of my friends were there. It's documented!

I also said I would start blogging regularly, hah.

-Antoine Walker is out of shape and school is hard again. I swear this is just like my junior year of HS.

-The Lions may not win 10 games, but I have to say that it's a refreshing change to actually turn on a Lions game and think they have a chance of winning. It got to a point in the last few years where I wouldn't even watch the Lions, because I knew they'd lose. It killed my love for football.

-I probably should be getting ready for class now. I have homework to do. Maybe later.

-I think KG has been my favorite NBA player for the past 6 years. Seriously, no one else can come along and replace him? Melo challenged, but he's just not KG. What am I going to do when KG retires? What am I going to do when Shaq, KG, and Duncan are all gone? That's going to be a very weird time for the league.

-If you lower your head, drive to the hole constantly, and can't score 20ppg, you aren't talented. It's what everyone else does. As Mitch Albom once said, fouls used to be called when the defensive player was using an illegal advantage over the offensive player, now they are just called when the offensive player gets touched.

-Who is more shielded by their leagues? QB's or NBA superstars (guards/forwards)?

-Will the Wizards ever add a PF, or is Andray Blatche suddenly the answer? By the way, what professional athlete solicits a prostitute? YOUR IN THE NBA! It can't be that hard man.

-I'm really behind schedule now.

-I'm starting to get tired of rap. There is only so much I can take. That reminds me, I need to charge my IPod.

I gotta go to class now. Thanks for all the people that read this (no one), but someone might if I actually start using it.

If your 18-24, and you don't vote in the upcoming presidential election, I will personally beat you down. Vote or catch a beat down. Take that, take that Diddy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I've been slacking

School has started, so maybe I'll have a chance to actually keep this updated. One of the main points of doing a blog was training myself to write on a daily basis, whether or not I wanted to. Now I actually have to do that.

And I want to send a special shout-out to Michigan football for using the embarrassment of the season against an lower division school (App St.), and not against Ohio State or the Pac-10 in a bowl game. Maybe they can actually win those games now!

Starting a plyometric program today. I want that vertical leap!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Breakout Players for the 2007-08 Season

Here's just a rundown of some of the players I think will break out next year. Monta and K-Mart (The one that actually plays) did it last year, look for some of these players this year.

Rajon Rondo (Bos) - With Delonte West gone, Rondo will get a chance to show what he can do. Pierce and Allen will make up for the fact that he can't shoot, while his defensive presence, playmaking ability, and exceptional rebounding will make him a valuable member of the Celtics next year. He's strong with long arms, he's going to a really good defender in this league.

Amir Johnson (Det) - If your in Detroit or you follow the D-League, you don't really need an explanation here. Amir Johnson probably won't see that much playing time, but he likely will appear in more than the 8 games he played last year. The last high school player picked in the NBA draft, Amir Johnson is a high-flying athletic beast. Just to give you a taste, during garbage time last year (aka the last few games of the season) he put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 rebounds on Philly. The last game of the year he had a tantalizing 20 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals, albeit against a Boston team that had no interest in winning games. If that is any kind of indicator of the potential of this guy, the league better watch out. He is slowly getting groomed to take over the starting PF spot as Sheed ages, and he may even surpass Jason Maxiell in playing time. Johnson definitely needs to add some bulk and experience, but a lot of Pistons fans are hoping he is our diamond in the rough.

Dorrell Wright (Mia) - Dorrell Wright is just what the doctor ordered for an aging Miami team. Wright is a solid on defense and the boards while possessing the athleticism to get to the rim and finish. With Wade missing some time early in the year, Posey likely out of town, and Antoine Walker falling out of favor, look for Wright to put up some inflated November numbers.

Francisco Garcia (Sac) - Ron Artest has hindered the emergence of Garcia, but with Artest being Artest, Garcia's minutes are bound to increase. He's been a silky smooth shooter since his days at Louisville, and proved he could score in the league with a strong finish to the season. He's lanky, and is pretty solid rebounder because of it. Do not be surprised if Artest is traded and they give the starting role over to Garcia, he could be a solid starter in this league for a while.

Louis Amundson (Phi) - You know those intangible guys that just seem to hang around the league even though they really do one thing right? That's Amundson, and he's a phenomenal rebounder. Philly will play this guy this season, and he'll go get the job done.

Robert Swift (Sea) - This was supposed to happen last year, then he tore his ACL. I honestly haven't seen much of this guy, but I'd expect him to put up around 10/10 on a very young Seattle squad.

Tarence Kinsey (Mem) - Along with Argentinian Walter Herrmann, Kinsey made a lot of people do a double take when they kept seeing them with 20 point performances. If you've never seen him play, one scouting report called him a poor man's Rip with hops. While I don't accurate this really is (He did wear a mask part of last season), there is no doubt the man can shoot the ball. As a starter, he averaged 19 ppg on 49% shooting. While most of that came during the last month of the season, this guy will be a contributor on a young Memphis team.

I don't know if it's pity or what, but I also think that Darko is going to have his best year and Adam Morrison isn't going to suck. I'd feel a lot more comfortable banking on Darko though.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

KG's Goodbye, Minnesota's Good buy

Kevin Garnett has been my favorite NBA player for some time, but it's been hard lately. The Timberwolves have been a joke ever since Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell left, and KG became the superstar too loyal to an organization going nowhere. Then he started popping in and out of trade rumors around draft time. I've heard every rumor you can think of, so I didn't really give the story any credence. The draft passes, nothing happens. Then one day, I wake up and KG is a Celtic. Kevin Garnett in the East, surrounded by 2 All Stars, with a chance to contend for a title? It's a beautiful thing, but don't think for a minute Boston is going to walk through the East. Not yet.

A trio of Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen is just flat out scary, especially in the oft-criticized Eastern Conference. Kevin Garnett is one of the most talented power forwards to ever play this game (Look at the nine 20+/10+/4+ seasons), but the biggest criticism around him has been his lack of ability to carry a team to post-season success. KG apologists would argue that he never really had a team around him, and both sides are right. Now Garnett has no excuse being surrounded with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. His unselfishness will be rewarded when he's kicking the ball out to Ray Allen, and not Wally Szczerbiak (I didn't even have to Google him to spell it right), while looking for Paul Pierce slashing to the rim, and not worrying what Ricky Davis is doing. Ray Allen, no longer the face of a franchise, gets to go back into a 3 star system that he thrived in with Milwaukee years ago. Paul Pierce finally gets a chance to play with some players over 30 who will log more than 10 minutes per game. It doesn't take a genius to realize how much better it is seeing KG and Ray Allen out there, than Antoine Walker. Usually putting 3 players of this magnitude on a team would create ego problems, but none of these players have really experienced success in their careers and they are not young. This is the last chance for them to actually contribute to a championship team, not a ring-chasing has been.

Now Boston has to prepare for their 2nd off-season, that is, actually putting a team of players around their trio that compliment them. Rajon Rondo is a very nice young player, someone fans will get to know a lot more next year. He's one of those slashing PGs with absolutely no jump shot that seem to be taking the NBA by storm (Tony Parker winning Finals MVP, Mike Conley going 4th in the draft). KG is going to take pressure off of Rondo because of his playmaking, so Rondo's real job will be to control turnovers and play good defense. Defense shouldn't be an issue for him. But you can't just throw him into the fire right now, they need someone who can come in and give him a rest. I've heard it mentioned everywhere, but Brevin Knight is someone who can give you 20 minutes per game with that veteran leadership. That's what the Celtics need, veterans who know their roles and do it well. A player like Ruben Patterson off the bench to take some pressure off of Pierce would work. Solid role players are all they need. Their success this season depends on their ability to add a functional bench to this team.

This trade didn't only benefit the Celtics, but the Timberwolves made out pretty well given the circumstances. As a friend said, "The worst deals involve the best players." Getting equal talent back for a marquee player isn't possible. Getting talented young players definitely is, and that's why Minnesota made out well in this trade. Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, and Ryan Gomes combine with Corey Brewer, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and Randy Foye to give Minnesota something they haven't had in a long time. A future. Ever since the Joe Smith debacle cost the Timberwolves numerous 1st round, they only had mediocre talent to shop in the trade market and some money to try to attract players to a very unattractive destination. Who was the last young player you remember making a significant impact on the Timberwolves? Now they have bunch of young players, cap room, and a high draft pick. The ideal situation for a team rebuilding from scratch. They now have the assets to make a trade or they could stand pat and watch their youth develop. Al Jefferson won't ever replace Garnett, but he definitely has the ability to put up 20/10. He's going to have to adjust to the forward loaded West. Gerald Green will never be another T-Mac, but he can score. Corey Brewer is an effective defender, and Randy Foye continued to improve as the season progressed. They may not be much now, but the Timberwolves will be a team to watch.

The East is starting to get interesting now. None of the top teams in the East improved much this season, including the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers. While a week ago they may have been satisfied, I guarantee that Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago are looking over their backs, preparing for the rebirth of the Boston Celtics.