Friday, July 18, 2008

Interview with Pradamaster of Bullets Forever

. Friday, July 18, 2008

As most of you that follow the ex Tar Heels would know, Antawn Jamison signed a very nice deal this off season, making him a Wizard for another four years. Since I try to keep tabs on the players that once played in Chapel Hill I figured I'd find a good blogger that follows the Washington team and ask him some questions about the three ex Heels on the squad.

Mike Prada (known as Pradamaster), of the blog Bullets Forever, part of the SB Nation blogging community, was nice enough to take time out from his schedule to talk about Jamison, Haywood and assistant coach O`Keron.

So, without further interruptions, here is the interview:

A.E.M. Being a Washington Wizards blogger, did you believe that the team was going to re-sign Antawn Jamison all along, or did you believe he might leave for another team?

Pradamaster: I was sure that the Wizards /wanted/ to re-sign Antawn Jamison, since general manager Ernie Grunfeld and owner Abe Pollin made several comments to that effect. I was also pretty sure they’d match whatever price necessary because of Gilbert Arenas’ comments that he would only re-sign if Antawn did as well. The only question, really, was how much. At the time, Philadelphia, Memphis and the LA Clippers were the only teams that could potentially have more than 10-million dollars in cap space, so they were really the only ones who could match what Jamison was seeking money-wise. Philadelphia ended up offering Jamison about all their cap space at the time, and the Wizards exceeded it.

A.E.M. Now that he is signed, what do you think of the new contract? Spot on or would you have done it differently?

Pradamaster: A little much, but far better than losing him for nothing to the Sixers over a million dollars. It also would have been nice if it was shorter, but again, that wasn’t going to happen when the Sixers offered him four years as well.

A.E.M. In your opinion, what does Antawn Jamison bring to the Wizards?

Pradamaster: On the court, he’s their best post-up option and their best defensive rebounder. He runs the pick and pop beautifully, which is important when Gilbert Arenas is on the court. He also moves very well without the ball, which is key in a motion offense. His ability to play on the perimeter stretches the defense and makes it easier for someone like Arenas to slash to the basket and draw fouls, yet he also possesses enough of an inside game, even if he lacks the muscle of several power forwards.

Off the court, he’s the team’s steadying force, its veteran leader. He’s a class act and he’s good at mentoring some of the young players.

It’s no accident that the Wizards didn’t improve to a perennial playoff Team until they acquired Jamison on draft day in 2004.

A.E.M. Along with Antawn Jamison the Washington Wizards have another ex Tar Heel on the team, Brendan Haywood. What do you see in the future of this seven footer?

Pradamaster: Haywood’s one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s easily their best defender, both individually and off the ball. He isn’t a traditional shot blocker, but he’s so smart at using his length to bother shots, which is far more important. He gets criticized for his
Rebounding, but his ability to occupy offensive rebounders allows for the quick-leaping Jamison to corral in a ton of rebounds. *

Offensively, his game developed a lot last year, though he’s still a bit awkward. At the same time, he’s outstanding on the offensive glass, which is a big deal in the Wizards’ offense. Washington isn’t one of the best shooting teams in the league, but their offense is annually one of the league’s best because they don’t turn the ball over, they get to the free throw line and they create a lot of second shots.

Haywood’s still around for five million a year until 2010 in a contract that’s a huge bargain. Afterwards, I hope the Wizards sign him to one more fairly lucrative deal so he can end his career in D.C. They’d be making a big mistake to let him go.

A.E.M. But, these two players aren't the only Tar Heels in Washington. Mike O`Keron, the lead assistant coach of the team is also from Chapel Hill. After years at the New Jersey Nets and now four years in Washington, do you think that we can see O`Koren as a head coach one day?

Pradamaster: I don’t know much about O’Koren, to be honest, but while he’s Eddie Jordan’s favorite assistant, he’s not the coach on staff with a track record as a head coach. Randy Ayers is, so I imagine that Ayers will get another head coaching job before O’Koren does.

That said, there’s a lot of respect for Jordan around the league, so if the Wizards see more success, I could definitely see O’Koren becoming a hot commodity.

A.E.M. Do you have a story to share about any (or all) of these ex Tar Heels?

Pradamaster: I know them as basketball players, so the above insights are about as much as I can tell you.

A.E.M. Of course, how can we ask some questions about a team and not ask what you see them doing in the next season? Give us the record and where they will finish in the division and what seed in the playoffs.

Pradamaster: There’s way too much time left in the offseason to make a definitive answer, but I see them winning 45-50 games and getting a 4 or 5 seed in the playoffs. Boston and Detroit are clearly better and Orlando finished ahead of them last year. Toronto and Philadelphia also improved this offseason, but those that maintain the Wizards doomed themselves to mediocrity are forgetting that they had the success they did last season without Gilbert Arenas. Unless one subscribes to the ridiculous view that Arenas’ presence is actually detrimental to the team’s success, that’s as big an addition as anything any other team has done this offseason

A.E.M. Fill in the blank. Tell us something I did not cover about the team (and the ex Heels in particular).

Pradamaster: Haywood’s a lot goofier than it seems, but he’s also a much harder worker than he appears.

Otherwise, I got nothing.

And there you have it, what a great interview, with lots of good tidbits and insight on the ex Heels now playing (or coaching) in Washington D.C. Without a doubt I am hoping to talk to Pradmaster during the season to get his take on how both Jamison and Haywood are doing then.


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