Well it was a great week in college football, with the Cats coming out of the gates with authority, putting the smack down on the Miami Sczerbiacks and getting the season started with a bang. After watching a weekend of college football, it is clear that (a) Lou Holtz is nuts, (b) the ACC is abysmal and (c) Andre Johnson is the worst actor in the Continental United States. However football isnt the only thing starting up this time of year. The fall TV lineup begins and a great deal of talk is of the new 10 pm talk show with Jay Leno. Longtime readers know that I hate Jay Leno, not because of his ability (or lack thereof) but because of allegiance to his competitor, David Letterman. Letterman is one of my idols, an individual who almost single-handedly changed the collective sense of humor in this country, making mocking irony (the theme of this blog) prevalent. If not for Letterman, you have no Conan, Jon Stewart, etc. If not for Leno, you have no Ray Romano or George Lopez…you tell me who is more important. Here is a Dave Letterman Profile from New York magazine that highlights the importance of Dave and how he may be the last remaining true adult star on current television.
Because so much of the focus of the last few days has been on football and in honor of Dave, here are The Top Ten Basketball Notes from the past few weeks. None of these tidbits have been worthy enough of their own post and almost none qualify as real “news”, but they are something to read on a day after a holiday:
10. Even Old Timers are Amazed by John Wall
Over the past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to get to meet and know some of the old-school UK players of my youth and before. Universally these guys have been nice and interesting but they also almost all hold one trait…the belief that the guys today arent as good as when they played. I always find this comical and somewhat endearing, and encourage such beliefs. However I have finally found a player that no one downplays…John Wall. Over the last two months, I have talked to three former players from three different and distinct eras and all agree on one thing….John Wall is REALLY good. The viewpoint can be summed up by a statement from a player from the 80s….”no one I know can guard Wall, not then and not now.”
9. Josh Harrellson May Very Well Play:
Lost in the shuffle since John Calipari arrived on campus, Josh Harrellson has slowly persevered. Many thought he would be a casualty of the “player cuts” and few thought he would have a role on next year’s team. But in virtually all public statements about the roster, Calipari points out Harrellson and says how well he is doing. From what I have been told, this isnt just fluff. Josh has impressed the coach with his knowledge of the game and outside shooting…something that may be of huge benefit when the season begins. Cal thinks Josh Harrellson will get minutes this year…you should too.
8. Daniel Orton is Really Skinny
At the Derby Classic this past May, I was speaking to a friend and said that my only worry for Daniel Orton was whether weight would be an issue for him in his career. Orton had that “skinny fat” look that some guys get when they go to college, where they are in good shape, but they are carrying some weight around they dont need. Fast forward three months…the fat is now gone after Orton’s summer in San Francisco and now he is…well just skinny. Now not Perry Stevenson skinny, but you look at him now and say, “that guy needs to put on a bit of weight.” When I spoke with Orton he said he hoped to add more muscle to his frame, but I will be interested to see how that plays out. For a guy who made a living in high school bullying people around, can he do it with 40 less pounds on his frame?
7. Darnell Dodson Can Shoot; Others Cant
Make no mistake, this team is going to be amazing on offense. But they will do it with almost no outside shooting. Darnell Dodson is a machine, and has a gorgeous three point stroke, amazingly with either hand. But the rest of the team is not good. I watched Eric Bledsoe and John Wall shoot and both had Ramon Harris like touch from behind the arc. The same is true for guys like Darius Miller, who are decent shooters, but by no means a consistent deep threat. One coach told me that Daniel Orton might be the third best three point shooter on the team (behind Dodson and Krebs) and I think he might be right. The Dribble Drive is most effective when there is a guy outside who can make collapsing defenses pay….Dodson may be the only guy to do that and thus may see his playing time increase for just that reason.
6. A Dunk Happened that is Legendary
I didnt see it and I am told only a handful outside of the team were there. But a couple of players have told me that John Wall had a dunk in a pickup game a few weeks ago that was “the sickest dunk in history.” Apparently Wall drove past one player and dunked Perry Stevenson in such a manner that the game ended up with a five minute break because of the celebrating. Perry has vowed revenge but I am told that had the dunk been on a video, it would go down in the all-time archives. I expect one like it to occur in an actual game this year.
5. There is a Generation Divide
Ask anyone from the staff what their biggest worry is for the season and you will hear the word “chemistry” brought up. Some of that is because of playing time and talent, but some is simply a personality divide. The older guys on the team (Stevenson, Harris, Patterson, etc) are very different from a personality perspective from the younger stars (Wall, Bledsoe, Cousins). Both sides like each other, but there is a worry about what will happen if either side sees the other getting more playing time. The answer to the dilemma lies with Patrick Patterson. He is beloved by everyone on campus, including the Freshmen and he will be the key to uniting all players. In the end, I dont expect it to be a huge issue, but only because of Patrick.
4. Patterson Will Have an Historic Year
Remember the Patrick Patterson of the last two years? He was really good wasnt he? Well get ready to see an even better version. What was very rarely talked about last season is that Patrick often played with nagging injuries, in part due to overwork. That wont happen this season. Add to it the fact that he has gone through the summer boot camp and is in an environment that is much more positive, and things are about to take off. One staff member told me with a smile, “Just wait…Patrick will be better than you have ever seen him.” That is pretty darn good.
3. Demarcus Cousins is an Intriguing Personality.
I can already tell that Cousins will be the most fascinating figure on the team. Before he came, we heard stories about his attitude and work ethic and those issues have arisen here. However UK is blessed by the fact that Cousins has become attached at the hip with Wall and Bledsoe and the group is pushing each other and dragging Cousins along with them. We all heard the stories and saw the pictures of the non-smiling Cousins, but then after that was on the blog, he now intentionally smiles in almost every picture. At the photo day, he laughed and joked with his teammates and told me that Lexington is “the most fun I have ever had.” I expect Cousins to have his ups and downs, but I also think he may end up being likeable in a way fans havent expected.
2. The Talent is a Part of the Delay in Recruiting
I admit that I fully expected UK to have a couple of 2010 commitments by this point. I think the staff thought the same thing. But it hasnt happened and the buzz on the recruiting circuit is that a couple of the players want to wait and see how Calipari handles the talent. Will all the guys play? Is it possible that some might not go pro as expected? It may be the case that even with these top guys, there will be somewhat of a wait and see attitude until the season begins. I expect they will see a coach who is going to play a lot of guys and hold no one back…that will be good for recruiting.
1. The Atmosphere Couldnt Be More Different
I wrote about this the other day but it bears repeating. Kentucky basketball couldnt FEEL any more different. Walk into the Craft Center and it feels like a different place. You see staff members walking around laughing. Players will come up and chat with the media and there isnt someone there to pull them away and scold the guys. The players are having fun, laughing and enjoying being in the building. Calipari makes comments that are real and never use the words “tough” or “whipped.” Instead he says the strengths, weaknesses, positives and negatives about the team. It is so refreshing that it almost feels like you are looking at a different group. We have gone from a team that wouldnt allow anyone to celebrate Jodie Meeks scoring 54 to a group that will have the occasional open media practice and promotes every player for what is good about them. It couldnt be more different and in my view, it couldnt be much better.
So there you go, something to chew on this Tuesday. Below are a couple more links you might want to check out. We will be around all day….
— In another life, I was involved in a death penalty case that ended in an execution that is still one of the more powerful events of my life. Here is a story about a Texas case via the New Yorker in which people believe the state executed an innocent man.
— If you didnt get to watch the Kentucky-Miami (OH) game, you are in luck. You can watch the whole game here.