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FROM MY SEAT: Three Times a Column



I'll blame it on the curse of indecision, my inner Hamlet. Just couldn't decide among three topics this week, so I'll share some thoughts on each. One at a time.

  • Jeremy 2.0. Last Thursday night, Jeremy Hunt became the 42nd player in Memphis Tiger history (and the eighth under John Calipari) to score his 1,000th career point. Based on where Hunt was a year ago -- "permanently" suspended from the program for his involvement in a pair of altercations, though still enrolled in school -- he's probably the least likely member of this elite club to have reached the milestone. And one of the first to do so as a sixth man, making waves off the Tiger bench unlike many seen in recent U of M history.

    After the Tigers' blowout victory over Rice, I asked Hunt if he had actually benefited from the year off, that being so close to the program, yet so far away during his suspension, made him a better player and person today. "Last year was a test," he said. "It was to see if I could grow up or not. I took on a lot of things, and it definitely panned out. If this team hadn't let me back, I wouldn't be here. So I thank everybody involved with that. It feels like a big accomplishment."

    "I didn't know [Hunt was that close]," said Calipari, "and I really didn't want to leave him in the game. But they told me he just needed four points. I'm happy for him." Needless to say, the coach and his players have their sights on larger things than individual achievement this season. But for Jeremy Hunt -- 1,000-point scorer, college graduate -- redemption is mighty sweet.

  • Trade, shmade. Perhaps second only to the NBA All-Star Game on sports' hype-o-meter are NBA trade rumors. One February after another, superstars are rumored to be on the move. Jason Kidd to the Lakers! Vince Carter to Orlando! Pau Gasol . . . a Bull! And one February after another, the deals seem to crawl back into a hole like so many shadow-seeking groundhogs.

    I'm convinced Grizzlies president Jerry West will have Memphis in his rearview well before the 2007-08 season opens, but Mr. Logo did exactly the right thing in retaining Gasol, the Memphis bargaining chip in so many of the overleaked trade discussions. (Dallas? Where would Gasol fit on the floor with Dirk Nowitzki?) The Gasol-Memphis marriage is one worth saving, at least as long as it takes to find out where the Grizzlies' ping-pong ball lands in this spring's draft lottery. The image of Gasol alongside one Greg Oden just might be enough to get that "For Sale" sign off West's front yard. Until the lottery, read all you'd like about the blockbuster that sent Juan
    Dixon from Portland to Toronto!

  • Remembering DJ. I'm saddened by the sudden death of Dennis Johnson. My high school years in New England (1983-87) directly coincided with DJ's finest seasons as a Boston Celtic. Larry Bird may have won three consecutive MVP awards during that stretch, but Johnson was the glue of four consecutive Eastern Conference champions, and two NBA champs. With three Hall of Famers -- Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish -- occupying the frontcourt for Boston, it was up to Johnson as point guard to keep his star teammates happy and productive. The consummate teammate. (It shouldn't be forgotten that Johnson had already won a title -- with Seattle -- before any of those Hall of Famers made it to Boston.)

    My dad loved those Celtic teams. It was a time when basketball fans fell into one of two camps: Magic's Lakers or Bird's Celtics. And New England's camp was fortified. Boston's coach, K.C. Jones, hosted a summer clinic at Norwich University where my dad taught. At the time (and somewhat to this day), those Celtics felt like family. To lose Dennis Johnson at the age of
    52 . . . it just plain hurts.

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