Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Antawn Jamison

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Los Angeles Lakers have captured the lion’s share of NBA headlines so far this season. They added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. They fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. And their record so far is a pedestrian 8-9, resulting in a steady flow of bickering and general uncertainty surrounding the team and fanbase.

This would be a difficult and daunting environment for most newcomers, but not for Antawn Jamison. The 15-year veteran has been around the league, and he’s seen it all. He knows how to adapt to and grind through less than desirable circumstances while being the consummate professional teammate.

The former Tarheel signed with the talent-heavy Lakers for the veteran’s minimum in the off-season hoping to win his first championship ring after years of toiling for average to below average squads.

The 6’9” combo forward boasted career averages of 19.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg coming into the 2012-2013 season. Having been around the block and then some, Jamison understood that joining LA meant a diminished role off the bench. In the first 12 games of the schedule, he scored just 45 points total. But with a recent ringing endorsement from coach D’Antoni and a thin Laker bench, Jamison has averaged 28.2 mpg, 16.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg over the last five contests.

Jamison has been given the green light to take threes, and he can make them. In a win against Denver on November 30th, Jamison exploded for 33 points and 12 boards, hitting 5 of 10 from behind the arc.

With a center like Howard, Jamison could be the perfect 4-man to spell Pau Gasol and give the team a different look with his ability to sink 3-point shots. While the heavy Hollywood spotlights of adulation and scrutiny fall on Kobe, Dwight, Pau and the injured Nash, look for ‘Tawn to keep filling up the box score.

Ask the Czar

Gary from Fredon, New Jersey has a question about New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni:

What is ‘different’ about Mike D’Antoni’s offense compared to what other teams in the NBA run? The usual explanation is his teams have good floor spacing and run a lot of pick and roll. But I’d imagine that every team in the league does that.

Coach D’Antoni assigns more responsibility to his point guard than do some of the other coaches in the league. D’Antoni puts the ball in the hands of the PG and lets him pound the ball until he can make a play happen, as opposed to other coaches who emphasize passing and ball movement. D’Antoni utilizes multiple pick-and-rolls to enable the point guard to create a shot for himself or his teammate.

D’Antoni also values the 3-pointer as an offensive weapon, so he likes to play a power forward who can shoot threes and to give guys like Amar’e Stoudemire the green light to attack from beyond the arc.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jeremy Lin

Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise to NBA superstardom has captured the imagination of the global hoops nation, and just about everyone who engages social media. In a week’s time, Lin has gone from a little known bench warmer to a top-trending topic on Twitter whose #17 is the best-selling jersey in the league due to his dramatic debut in New York’s starting lineup.

Lin played four years at Harvard and was named to the All-Ivy League First Team as a junior and senior, guiding Harvard to its first postseason tournament since 1946 and becoming the first player in Ivy League history with 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals. Undrafted out of Harvard, Lin signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors for the 2010-11 season, but only made 29 appearances.

Waived by both the Warriors and the Rockets prior to the late start of the 2011-12 season, Lin joined the Knicks on December 27th. He was getting limited minutes, but the Knicks’ injury-depleted roster eventually presented an opportunity for the unlikely hero to explode. In his breakout performance against the Nets, Lin sparked New York to a 99-92 win with 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds off the bench.

It soon became apparent that Lin was not just a one-hit wonder, and now the 23-year-old sophomore has people turning crimson for passing on his court savvy, poise, maturity, drive and leadership. Lin helped his team to four more wins in the first four starts of his NBA career, producing a season-best five-game winning streak for the Knicks. Gotham City’s secret weapon put on a spectacular show for the home crowd when he unloaded 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Friday’s 92-85 win at MSG.

Mike D’Antoni’s offense happens to be a perfect fit for Lin because his system puts the ball in the hands of the point guard so much and gives Lin multiple screens and pick-and-roll situations so he can make something happen. Lin finds his open teammates and gets them involved when he has to, but he also has the ability to score.

We’ll see if America’s CzarLin’ can handle the hype and keep postseason hopes in sight for the blue and orange when New York takes on Toronto Tuesday night.

Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Knicks

New York City is the unofficial capitol of the basketball world and Madison Square Garden in the heart of Midtown Manhattan is the hoops-headquarters. Tonight ‘the most famous arena in the world’ will be on fire for a highly charged matchup featuring two teams that are on the upswing and hoping to return to their glory days.

The Chicago Bulls are hands-down the hottest team in the NBA right now. And they come to New York with a chance to finish the 2010-2011 NBA season with the best record in the entire 30-team league. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau has already led the Bulls to the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 60-20 with two games remaining on the schedule.

After finishing 41-41 last year and losing in the first round to the then LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1, this team has demonstrated dramatic improvement through defense and a general group maturation. Throw in veteran PF / first-year Chicagoan Carlos Boozer, a deep and reliable bench, and a soon-to-be-named youngest-ever league MVP at the 1-guard, and you have the makings of a team capable of winning title number 7 for the Chicago-land faithful. Title 6 came 13 years ago in 1998, completing the Jordan Bulls second three-peat.

The Rose Bulls are currently on a seven game winning streak and have won 19 of their previous 21 contests. They are second in the league in team defense, allowing a lock-down 91.3 points against. And when third-year, do-everything PG Derrick Rose and teammates win, they usually do it rather convincingly as they lead the league in point-differential at +7.3.

The Knickerbockers of New York at 42-38 occupy the East’s sixth seed heading into a first round playoff series with their Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics. On their own 7-game consecutive victorious run, coach Mike D’Antoni has the new-look-Carmelo-finally-in-Gotham Knicks playing winning, up-tempo basketball. They have a dynamic offense led by the eighth-year 6’8” F Anthony’s 25.6 ppg (3rd in the NBA) and ninth-year 6’10” C/F Amaré Stoudemire’s 25.4 ppg (5th in the NBA). The Knicks rank second in the NBA in team offense at 106.8 ppg and appear to be gelling after some transitional difficulties post-Melo acquisition from Denver in mid-February.

After finishing last season at 29-53, the guys in the Blue, Orange and Black have America’s biggest town buzzing for the first time in nearly a decade. In fact, the Knicks will finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. And this postseason will mark their first visit to the playoffs since a 39-43 Knick team got swept in the 2004 first round by their Hudson River rivals, the New Jersey Nets.

Tonight the MSG boys will attempt to complete a season series sweep of the Big Shoulder boys. Marv and I will be in the booth along with David Aldridge on the sidelines to bring you the Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.