PNC ARENA—In 1944, the poet William Carlos Williams published a crucial book called “The Wedge.” Wartime conservation had shut down his regular publisher, New Directions, so the tiny Cummington Press brought it out in an edition of 380, which was all the paper they could get their mitts on during the war. Williams’ famed preface opens with a blunt acknowledgement of the international—and individual—situation: “The War is the first and only thing in the world today.”
Paint it over the locker room doorways. Tape it on the weight room ceiling over the bench press.
Fans certainly know that sentence. They chanted it during the third period of the Canes’ 4-1 home-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Except, translated into the language of competitive frustration and economic hardship, it sounded like boos.
Sports is not an escape from daily life anymore. There will be no patience while the multi-millionaires figure their game out. They work for us, after all.
Back in the early weeks of the lockout in September, fans sided with the players. Hockey fans are overwhelmingly workers, not captains of industry. So: screw the owners, the players actually sweat and hit and play the games; pay them. Even well-heeled fans like to adopt hockey’s blue-collar identity. Though very few of us pull on work gloves and shape raw materials into goods anymore, we still ascribe labor’s nobility to our hockey players.
But as ignominious months ticked off, and especially as the scheduled start of the regular season passed, that nobility drained away. November’s near-resolution was torturous. It broke that nobility. These guys weren’t workers like us anymore.
McKIMMON CENTER/RALEIGH Texas Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison was the first active player in seven years not named Josh Hamilton to win the Will Wynne Award as the North Carolinian contributing most to baseball.
Those were just two of the big award winners at the 63rd annual baseball banquet of the Raleigh Hot Stove League on Tuesday night.
“Look, we have a new team…There is no definitive time for Ryan when we say he is going to be back at this time, so we have to move on.” - Coach K, 1/17/13
At the beginning of each season, the college coach spends those first weeks of practice throwing open his larder and inventorying his prized ingredients - some new, some old, some changed. Coach K started the season deliciously, with the great centerpiece roast of Mason Plumlee, an aged bittersweet Seth Curry, fresh buttery Quinn Cook, and the new sharp and slashing tang of Rasheed Sulaimon, with a dash of starch from the bench to fill you up. And then there was senior Ryan Kelly, that strange and wonderful 6’11” gravy that held everything together.
From his freshman days as a long and spectral, seldom-playing, quick-fouling machine, by the fall of 2012 Kelly had become the indispensible Renaissance Man of the Duke team. A shooter. A passer. Decent rebounder, turnover- free. A measured spokesman, on the court, in the locker room, and in public. He executed plays perfectly and could be relied on to inbound the ball, break presses, make free throws, create space, and save at-risk possessions with the calm high-low post pass or the timely pick-and-pop. Now in his senior year, as the season began it was clear he’d overcome his weakest link by adding vexing defense. He’d stopped fouling. He not only blocked shots but often blocked them to a teammate. He rotated onto the penetrating guards that so plagued the Blue Devils last year, changed shots, gave his teammates time to recover. He stymied dangerous 6’ 8” forwards, disrupted passing lanes, redirected cutters, and generally got in the way.
Now Kelly is hurt, with no word on when or if he’s coming back, and Coach K is back in the kitchen.
However, the Wolfpack was held to only 33 percent shooting in the second half, and the score was tied with 3:30 left in the game and again with 2 minutes remaining. A 3-point play by Richard Howell and five late free throws by Scott Wood enabled N.C. State (15-3, 4-1 ACC) to hold on for a 66-62 win over the Tigers (10-7, 2-3 ACC).
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State is badly in need of a win, and doesn’t have a line of lesser opponents teed up anytime soon.
The Seminoles have won two straight, including an 86-65 rout of archrival Miami a week ago.
Meanwhile the Wolfpack (8-10, 0-6), which came up dry despite playing very well in its last two home contests against Duke and UNC, has lost five straight games.
Today the tough times continue for the Wolfpack, as the Seminoles come back to prevail 82-74.
The Heels aren’t simply getting better; they’re getting different.
Roy Williams historically dislikes making substantial alterations to his system, even when his personnel lack ideal quality and style for his preferred freelance, uptempo offense. But without announcing major tweaks publicly, Williams clearly has shifted the club’s top offensive priority away from interior scoring and toward perimeter output.
His decision has manifested like this: The Heels are setting more screens away from the basket, freeing James Michael McAdoo — whose 19 points and 11 rebounds constituted 31 and 28 percent of the team’s respective totals — to receive more touches with a running start. McAdoo never will be a great power scorer (and has struggled as a center when Williams has employed a small lineup) but possesses better quickness than nearly any other big man in the conference.
Meanwhile, those same screens are enabling shooters Reggie Bullock (a career-high 24 points versus the Terps) and P.J. Hairston to free themselves for open three-point attempts. The club’s flaccid second half offense actually owes less to a lack of quality shots and more to random frigidity suffered by Hairston and Marcus Paige.
But even when the shots don’t fall, the offense appears more fluid and the players executing it more confident. Both Hairston and Paige made key plays late in the game, clearly more comfortable now than when attempting to run inside-out offense early this season.
FSN CAROLINAS (TV)—We waited through a four-month lockout for this?
The Carolina Hurricanes opened the shortened 2013 season with a whimper, surrendering four first-period goals in a 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. Mercifully, this was Florida’s home opener, so Canes fans didn’t have to pay for tickets to see their team’s meager display.
Jonathan Huberdeau, playing in his first NHL game, scored in the opening minutes of the game, notching two assists before it was done. Brian Campbell put a puck over each of Cam Ward’s shoulders and Alexei Kovalev—the 39-year-old Russian whom many figured was out of hockey—added a goal and two assists.
Patrick Dwyer had the Canes’ sole tally. Cam Ward lasted a period. Dan Ellis replaced him after the first intermission and surrendered only Kovalev’s trickster goal.
Anyone who took chemistry in high school knows that sometimes, when you pour the chemicals together, nothing happens. That was the case for Canes coach Kirk Muller’s line combinations on Saturday night. Instead of assembling two lines entirely of high-end talent, he mixed one green winger in with two veteran stars on the top two lines. It didn’t really work.
“Yes,” Johnson texted back. “That works well for Bill’s schedule.”
For the past 21 years, Bill’s schedule has taken him to over 50 countries by his estimation, working in industries ranging from professional football to sports management to food and beverage services. After being tapped last November to replace outgoing NASL Commissioner David Downs, Peterson embarked on a listening tour that’s now covered every present and imminent NASL market save Ottawa, where he plans to visit soon. On the day we met, he was finishing a 24-hour swing through Cary, N.C. This week brought a trip to the NASL AGM in Indianapolis, a city unveiled as home to the league’s newest expansion franchise.
The 48-year-old executive has bounced from port to port, coast to coast, and continent to continent. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m not wired to sit in one place for 10 or 20 years and steward something,” Peterson says. “I want to build it and grow it. I want to see movement.”
A pivotal role in the win was played by recruited walk-on sophomore Jackson Simmons. For one game at least, Simmons looked like the second most well-rounded big man on the Carolina roster, behind James Michael McAdoo.
A big guy who can rebound, handle the ball competently on the perimeter, and consistently hit mid-range jump shots. Didn’t Carolina used to have a guy like that…or two?
Yes they did, and their names are Travis and David Wear. The California twins who left Chapel Hill seemingly in the dead of night following the 2009-10 season are now enjoying productive seasons as redshirt juniors for UCLA.
Carolina fans, up until the early days of this season, have snickered at UCLA’s welcome to three Carolina transfers—the Wears plus Larry Drew II, whose last act in Chapel Hill was to pack his bags and split midseason without saying goodbye even to roommate Justin Watts.
But now Tar Heel fans aren’t talking so loud or acting so proud. While Carolina has been struggling, UCLA has rattled off 10 straight wins to claim a spot in the Top 25. Drew II, who tallied over 200 assists in 2009-10 for Carolina, is averaging more than eight assists a game, fourth in the nation, with an assist-turnover ratio of nearly 5:1.
Fair-minded people will feel pleased that Drew II, who clearly was never comfortable in Chapel Hill, has found a good situation in which to finish his college career. But he is irrelevant to the question at hand, as his eligibility would have been used up at the end of last season had he not transferred.
The Wears are a different story. They would be seniors this year and de facto leaders, and at least one would have been a starter. A Carolina team with the Wears would be significantly more skilled on the perimeter and stronger in the mid-range game, and also would probably be better on the boards as well. Brice Johnson would have had older role models to learn from, Joel James and Desmond Hubert would be less critical, and Jackson Simmons would never have entered the conversation.
Of course the die-hard Tar Heel fans will insist they would rather have the home-grown Simmons, an easy player to root for, than any more from the too-cool-for-school California crowd. Depending on how you look at it, they aren’t completely wrong.
But the fact is the Wears are more skilled and polished players than Simmons is likely to ever become. Travis Wear is averaging 12 points and six boards on 51 percent shooting in 30 minutes a night; David Wear is averaging 7.4 points and 4.6 boards on 50 percent shooting in 21 minutes a night. Both are shooting over 75 percent from the line—outstanding relative to Carolina’s numbers at the line this year—as well as (headed into last night's game) a respectable 30 percent-plus from the three-point line. Both players bring solid, all-round efficiency, with ability to score multiple ways. Get the Wears a wide-open shot from 12-15 feet and chances are it’s going in.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—It started snowing in Durham just minutes before No. 3 Duke (16-1, 3-1) and Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4) squared-off against each other; and for the majority of the first half it might as well have been snowing inside—on Duke’s basket: The frozen Blue Devils started out cold, on a 27.3 percent shooting bust.
Following last week’s tough loss to N.C. State, and a five-day rest, the Blue Devils were expected to command every minute on the floor against the Yellow Jackets, who are ranked last in the ACC. But, it wouldn’t happen until the second half, when it got a little calmer outside and started raining—which is when Duke starting raining down shots on the Yellow Jackets and eventually flooded them out of the contest, 73-57.
Most importantly, Rasheed Sulaimon awoke from his five-game slump and started knocking down shots again, scoring 15 points on 5-8 shooting, which is right on par with the kind of basketball he consistently played before the holidays.
Seth Curry’s game-high 24 points came with 6-7 shooting from behind the arc, and even though Mason Plumlee couldn’t knock down as many hook shots as he would have liked to in the first half (2-12 shooting), a “talk” between him and Coach K during halftime helped him switch gears. Later in the game, after a play where Plumlee fought his way through the paint for a tough bucket, an emotional Coach K ran on the court and bear-hugged Plumlee.
Next the Blue Devils face the conference’s top team, Miami, in another tough road test on Jan. 23. For now, click here for the complete Duke/Ga. Tech box score.