Friday, February 1, 2008

Caronimo, AJ Crash the All-Star Party in N'awlins

How appropriate that the two men primarily responsible for holding the Washington Wizards together following Gilbert Arenas' second surgery were recognized for their tremendous efforts with spots on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, the team's co-captains, did not campaign for votes from fans and coaches.

Their coach, Eddie Jordan, refused to even state his opinion on whether or not his two top players deserved to be in New Orleans on February 17th.

"I haven't campaigned for them, and I won't campaign for them," Jordan said after Washington's 108-104 overtime win against the Raptors on Tuesday. "Their numbers speak for themselves."

There's no denying the impact these two have had on a team struggling to find consistency over the past two seasons. Jamison is the even-keel veteran who goes to work every day and leads by example in the locker room and on the practice court. Butler, who is playing just about as well as anyone not named LeBron James this season, has established himself as the emotional leader - a perfect compliment to his counterpart. This duo has led the Wizards to a 24-20 record and more impressively, a 21-15 mark without Agent Zero.

Neither guy is going to win an NBA popularity contest, as evidenced by their final standings in the fan voting that set the All-Star starters. Butler was sixth behind Kevin Garnett, James, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce (all selected to the team by either fans or coaches) and Yi Jianlian. Jamison wasn't even in the top 10. But the coaches clearly saw what the fans overlooked.

Butler and Jamison have not only held together a team that most expected to fall apart without it's star, they've made it better. Butler is having his best season ever with career highs in scoring (21.9), assists (4.3) and steals (2.4). He's also shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 91.5 percent from the line. (And we don't want to jinx him, but how about his franchise-record 70 straight makes from the stripe!).

Jamison is no slouch either. With 21.5 points per game and a career-best 10.5 boards, he's averaging a double-double. His 26 double-dips rank second in the NBA behind Dwight Howard (an All-Star starter).
So good for both of these guys and good for the Washington Wizards as a whole. There is no better recognition of their accomplishments thus far this season than having both of their captains representing them in New Orleans.

Stud Stats
Here's a look at how Washington's All-Star duo stacks up against the rest of the league statistically.


Both players also rank in the top 25 in the league in efficiency rating. The formula to determine efficiency is ((PTS + REB + AST + STL + BLK) - ((FGA - FGM) + (FTA - FTM) + TO)) / G. Butler ranks 15th at 24.1 and Jamison is 25th at 21.8. Not too shabby.

"The fact that we will be there is a reflection of the whole entire team. We've hit our share of bumps along the way but we've also played some good basketball despite the injuries and everything else and this is a reward for that. It's going to feel good to have two of us down there representing the Wizards." - Butler on his second career All-Star selection.

"I've always felt that the coach's voting is more meaningful. Not to take anything away from the fans, but sometimes that's a popularity contest...To get respect from your peers, from guys who know everything about the X's and O's of the game, guys who are trying to find ways to beat you, that really says something."
- Jamison on his third trip to the All-Star game.

Tonight's game tips off shortly so let's just get right to the good stuff. If Caron -who will be a game-time decision - plays, I like to Wiz to squeek by Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and AK-47. If he's on the bench, I think the Jazz just have too much of an advantage on the interior for Haywood, Blatche and Jamison to overcome. With Tough Juice, the Wiz win it, 103-98. Sans Caron, the Jazz hit their chord, 105-90.

All photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

1 comment:

Yard Yoder said...

good prediction, and once again great wizards coverage...

quoteable from the game:

"Caron: we're winning the championship espn
Antawn:Not until you and Gil get your asses back"