Be like Mike? Shane Battier has a chance.
So do several other NBA players with area ties.
Battier, an NCAA and NBA champion like Jordan, is part of a Miami Heat team trying to win its third consecutive NBA title, a feat Jordan’s Chicago Bulls accomplished twice.
It won’t be be easy, for a variety of reasons, many of them local. Here are four themes to follow as the NBA opened Tuesday night:
Once enemies, now boys: J.J. Redick and Chris Paul didn’t like each other. Not even a little bit. College rivals, Redick at Duke, Paul at Wake Forest, they once got into a brief skirmish during a Jordan Summer Camp.
“Before I got to know him he was no friend of mine,” Paul told Yahoo! Sports. “It is what it is. But that’s how it was in college.”
“I didn’t like him either,” Redick told Yahoo.
Now? Redick and Paul share a backcourt and a vision to help the Los Angeles Clippers hang their own banners at Staples Center. Redick, who arrived in the offseason, walks into an ideal situation. He gives Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Paul a deep threat on the secondary break as well as a reliable deterrent to double-teaming Blake Griffin.
As for their relationship? Nothing like a few timely 3s to patch up decade-old differences.
“We have actually had a chance to become real close, real quick,” Paul told Yahoo. “Who would have thought after the battles we had in college? But the one thing about him, he’s a pro. Everyone in professional sports knows what that means.”
Should the Clippers win it all, Paul would join Jordan as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion.
Other J.J. on the move, too: Like Redick, N.C. State’s J.J. Hickson will wear a different uniform this season. Like Redick, he’ll be playing with a former rival. Hickson, who averaged a double-double last season with Portland, signed as a free agent with Denver, where he’ll team with former Tar Heels point guard Ty Lawson. The Nuggets envision Hickson as a power forward with range who can step out and be on the receiving end of Lawson’s kick-outs.
Familiar faces in Miami’s path: Miami’s primary challengers in the East – Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York – feature former Triangle standouts.
Garner’s David West, a two-time All-Star, re-signed with the Pacers after they pushed Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. Larry Bird upgraded the bench, which led to ex-Tar Heel Tyler Hansbrough leaving the country. Hansbrough is now with the Toronto Raptors.
Chicago, which starts Duke standouts Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng and added Mike Dunleavy to its rotation this offseason, returns to the title mix primarily because Derrick Rose has returned from a torn ACL. A Bulls title would give Boozer and Dunleavy the NCAA-NBA double, just like Mike.
New York will go as far as Carmelo Anthony takes it. (He too has a chance to join Jordan as an NCAA, Olympic and NBA champion.) But many believe former UNC standout Raymond Felton is the key to the Knicks’ title hopes. Felton played well in the Knicks’ first-round series win last season but struggled when they lost to West and the Pacers in the second round.
Brooklyn, which retooled with the offseason additions of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, drafted Duke’s Mason Plumlee in the first round. How much time Plumlee spends with them remains to be seen. Nets general manager Billy King told GoDuke.com he expects Plumlee to play a lot in the Development League.
Speaking of the D-League: That could be the landing spot for several recent Triangle standouts, but apparently not former Tar Heel Reggie Bullock. The Clippers drafted Bullock late in the first round, but playing opportunities seem limited given their shooting depth. In addition to Redick, they also have Tar Heel Antawn Jamison, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes. Bullock, however, has a fan. An important one.
“If think if there’s a chance he’s going to play in a game, then he’s going to stay with us, for the most part,” Rivers, the coach, told NBA.com. “If not, we’ll send him down. I don’t see Reggie as a guy like that. I think he’ll be around. We don’t want to let shooting out of the door.”
Others already have been shown the door. The list includes N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie, waived last week by Minnesota and New York, respectively; Duke’s Seth Curry, cut by Golden State and North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, who was traded from Phoenix to Washington and then released.