Oct 18, 2008
Basketball media day was Friday afternoon at the Smith Center, and North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson gave a glimpse of how this season will be different as he gazed at the Smith Center floor.
Last year, he said, he was picking up on defense where the state of North Carolina is painted on the court.
This year, he’ll start defending at the “ACC” painted on the opposing foul line.
“On the defensive end, we’re picking up further out,” Lawson said. “We’re going to try to push the tempo, trap more.”
There are many themes surrounding this North Carolina team. Marcus Ginyard is out with an injury, and Danny Green is in the starting lineup – raising the question of whether Green can still open games by dancing to “Jump Around.”
Tyler Hansbrough is back and is still marveling at his trip to the ESPY awards, where he saw Jerry Rice and – gasp! – race car driver Danica Patrick. “I was blown away by Danica Patrick,” Hansbrough said. “She looked really good.”
Roy Williams is grumpy that his down time in May was erased by the weight of NBA decisions. And Bobby Frasor, carrying a deep scar on his left knee, is loving that he can run and dunk with little pain.
There is talent, and there are questions. Can the Tar Heels overcome that lousy performance against Kansas? (Hansbrough says he hasn’t even watched the video). Can they even make a run at going undefeated? (Williams doesn’t want to think about it).
And most significantly, can they raise a level of defense, which let them down in the final game as Kansas shot 53.1 percent from the floor?
“Last year, we had the mentality that we could outscore people,” Hansbrough said. “This year we want to be able to stop people.”
That starts with defense that extends further down the court and wears teams down. Williams loves to play at warp speed and now has a team that is ridiculously deep and talented. Five starters are back, although Ginyard is out until at least December. Sixth man Green, an NBA prospect, returns. Frasor is back from a knee injury as the reserve point guard. The recruiting class includes guard Larry Drew II, forward Ed Davis and forward Tyler Zeller.
So Carolina plans to change the game from five-on-five to nine-on-nine. The concept, Lawson said, is to push the tempo so much that other teams get tired and has to play its bench.
And that’s where the Heels have an advantage.
“Our five that we put out there, there are several teams that could compare to that five,” Williams said. “But we may have an advantage over a lot of teams if we get the game to where the seventh man, eighth man, ninth man is a huge factor. I don’t know of teams as talented and experienced when you get down to 7, 8, 9 and 10.”
“So if we can figure out a way for that depth to be a big factor, that’s a big point for us.”
Williams got a bit, well, defensive when asked if last year’s team had a weakness. He pointed out that Carolina lost only three games, so there were hardly any glaring problems.
But he did say Carolina would like to force more turnovers (Carolina had 560 last year and forced 628) and hold teams to a lower field-goal percentage (42.6 percent last season).
And he made an interesting point about plans for Saturday’s first practice.
The Heels will work on offense for 12 minutes – and on defense for an hour and 48.
“Not that I’m emphasizing anything,” Williams said with a grin.
LET’S NOT GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE: Several Carolina players said they felt a keen sense of motivation to prove themselves after the Final Four debacle against Kansas. In a way, it sounded familiar to a year ago, when the UNC players talked at length about how they wanted to vindicate themselves after the regional final collapse against Georgetown.
But Hansbrough said he had no desire to watch the Kansas game again.
“I haven’t watched it. I know we played bad,” he said. “I don’t need to watch a videotape to know we played bad.”
JUMP AROUND? WE’LL SEE: Forward Danny Green doesn’t know if he’ll continue his popular dance to the song “Jump Around” at home games or not now that he’s likely to move into the starting lineup and will be on the court as the game opens.
“That’s a big question. I can’t say yes or no,” he said. “We’ll have to figure something out.”
Green said he’d rather start, but what he really wants to do is be in the game at the end.
“It doesn’t matter who starts. It’s more about who finishes,” he said. “I want to be on the floor when it’s crunch time.”
GINYARD’S INJURY: Marcus Ginyard said his left foot had bothered him “for a good period of time” but he really started to have trouble after spraining an ankle in the late summer.
By September, the foot was bothering him more. But he said he didn’t decide to have surgery for a stress fracture until a few days before it was performed last Wednesday.