Friday, February 1, 2008

In Praise of All-Stars

It may/should have been lost in the pandemonium surrounding Alex's justification of a 13 year extension via one game, but yesterday, the reserves for the NBA All-Star game were announced, and, justifiably so, both Caron "Tuff Juice" Butler and Antawn Jamison were added to the Eastern Conference roster, chosen after a league-wide poll of coaches and assistant coaches deemed them worthy. For the fourth straight year, Wizards are represented in the Eastern Conference All-Star game, the third of four with two Wizards in the perrenial attempted-alley-oop throwing, Mutombo-reaction-face-causing gathering of luminous black celebrities.

Two-thirds of the Wiz big three were justifiedly added due to their continuously awesome play despite missing the most electrifying of the triumverate, Gilbert Arenas. We have lavished a fair amount of praise in Juice's direction, but I feel like more of these precious web spaces ought to be devoted to Antawn Jamison. Once written off as a flimsy gunner who would do little to advance the team in a positive direction unless his contract was involved in a swap for a "legit 20 and 10 big man," Antawn has stepped up his game in such a manner that the pay cut people expect him to experience after this season seems as foolish as suggesting him in a trade for Zach Randolph. See, Jamison is that 20 and 10 big man everyone had been clamoring for, and as if his consistent production offensively and on the rebounding side wasn't enough, he has now become devoted to defense in a manner that we haven't seen during his most respectable Wiz tenure. He hounded Dirk Nowitski during the Wizards punishment of the Mavs a few weeks ago, causing the regal German to wilt (as per usual). Then, with Juice nursing sore hips from exerting every last ounce of toughness to cut an 11-point, minute left in the fourth-quarter lead to zero against the Bucks, Jamison nabbed 20 rebounds in the huuge overtime win over those effete floppers from north of the border (sorry Canada, that PREDICTABLY POSSIBLE regulation buzzer beater will not net you a standings point).

(Speaking of that game, is there a more loathesome team in the NBA than the Toronto Raptors? Sure gathering all of those Euros into an embassy-style melting pot of wispy-bearded flavors may appeal to your deepest senses of white guilt, but god, are they not the flopping-est, flailing-est, whining-est group of pansies to ever suit up in purple uniforms with cartoon dinosaurs on them? It's as if often slobbered over general manager Brian Colangelo saw the manner in which Anderson Varejao convulsed when sensing the slightest of contact, and became inspired by his insipid phoniness. He then reached for his batphone and declared, "This team is to be built around the pretending-to-be-hurt!" Then he aquired several sneaker licking divers with accents in their name, implored them to shoot countless threes, and allowed them free reign to ruin comprehensive basketball through their jaunts to the floor in an attempt to draw an offensive foul. Maybe if they were in a city that CARED ABOUT BASKETBALL, the players could play for a team that MATTERS, isn't STRUGGLING IN A MARKET DEVOTED TO ANOTHER SPORT, etc. Hopefully they will be contracted. In the meantime, we are left with viscious-elbow-to-the-grill-deserving point guard Jose Calderon, and the ungodly amount of praise lavished upon him by Phil Chenier [How do you REALLY like that Phil?])

Anyway, about Antawn, simply put, he is the most unique player in the NBA. There is no other powerforward who utilizes his body as if it were a slippery seal (sans flopping), curling his way around taller, more-ballyhooed players to scoop shots into the hoop. When he isn't curling and dragging around guys who don't deserve half of their paycheck, Jamison is doubling his value at the three point line, stroking in big-time bombs that draw defenders away from the basket, where Brendan Haywood can apply his theorhetical "hands" to offensive rebounds. Take 'tawn off of this team, and it is a couple of pretty jumpshooters who occasionally aren't feeling their face. There has never been a time where we felt 'tawn wasn't a huge part of the picture. Take last season (or forget it), when the other two went down, Antawn just went out and nabbed 32 points per game in that unfortunate playoff series. Power forwards who average 20 and 10 and step it up to 32 per in the playoffs do not grow on trees (nor in Abe's in vitro fertilization farms), which is why we hope that the Wizards can somehow retain Antawn at the end of this season, in addition to giving Gilbert his due pay raise.

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