Yes, this blog is about to give out a Tarence Kinsey award. For those of you who don’t know who Tarence Kinsey is, he was a little-used swingman who played for the Cavaliers last year. I absolutely loved him. He wasn’t the most talented player in the world. There were a lot of things he wasn’t capable of doing well on the court. What he did do was play the right way. He made hard weak-side cuts instead of standing and waiting for a catch-and-shoot jumper. He was a relentless defender. He always ran the floor and pushed the ball, and loved to play an open-court game. He was a true slasher, and showed that slashers are capable of thriving with LeBron James if they play their game. I might not have been his only fan, but I was one of his biggest ones.
As it turned out, Tarence got a DUI in the off-season and followed that up with one of the worst summer league performances in the history of ever. (Summer league was a horrible situation for Tarence! He was never meant to be a primary playmaker! He needed to play off the ball and make hustle plays and smart off-ball cuts to be effective!) He was subsequently released, and it was probably the right move.
I never forgot Tarence Kinsey. I knew that if he got a chance to play his game with the right people around him, he could’ve made a real impact. In his honor, Cavs: The Blog is about to hold the first annual Tarence Kinsey award. What makes a Kinsey award winner? The Tarence Kinsey award is about hope. It’s about finding the player who nobody thought could succeed in the NBA, and showing that he can be effective if he’s allowed to play the way he wants. The Tarence Kinsey award is about finding that a solid NBA player lies hidden in everyone with the talent to make it into the league in the first place, whether they be a journeyman, bust, or never-was. Without further ado, here are your nominees:
Nicknames: Hot Wad Williams, Ultimate Jawad
Role: “Stretch four,” big swingman off the bench, effective spot-up shooter capable of playing good defense and stretching the floor.
Came From: Was a former Ohio Mr. Basketball, played for a national championship Tarheel team, and went straight into NBA obscurity.
Final Verdict: Makes the dreaded “pretty mistakes.” Williams can score off the dribble and make open threes, but too often he stops the ball and launches bad shots from the perimeter off the dribble. Doesn’t seem to understand that he isn’t Mr. Basketball anymore.
J. J. Hickson:
Role: Athletic but intriguingly flawed power forward who excels at cutting off the ball and dunking easy looks LeBron gets him. Wasn’t expected to be a legit role player this season, but made himself a fixture in the starting lineup despite iffy defense and comically bad hands. Also, never makes jumpers.
Came from: Two years removed from high school, and was thought to be a down-the-line prospect entering this season.
Final Verdict: Too good to be eligible. Still has issues, but is a part of the team’s young core going forward.
Nickname: The Green Revolution
Role: Effective spot-up shooter and defender who knows how to move with the basketball and is always willing to make the extra pass. Actually tries to get too cute with “right way” play at times.
Came from: Second-round draft pick a year removed from a great four-year campaign at North Carolina.
Final Verdict: A legit candidate, but didn’t get enough floor time and seems too universally solid. Definitely a contender, though.
Role: A banger’s banger. Is short and incapable of jumping, but has a knack for grabbing rebounds below the rim and getting fouled whenever he wants to do so. Toughness out the wazoo.
Came From: Was a top prospect before blowing out his knee. Was a highly touted up-and-coming young big before blowing out his knee again. Cavs took a flier on him when the Celtics weren’t willing to. Makes far less money than Rasheed Wallace.
Final Verdict: Post-injury, he fits all the relevant criteria. Pre-injury, he was a well-known name and a key role player on a championship team. Hmmm.
Nicknames: Bassmaster Flash, Bass BLUE RIBBON!
Came From: Made the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school. Experienced immediate and severe backlash. Was a surprise lottery pick for the Blazers. Had a rookie campaign that was impressive enough for the Blazers to feel they didn’t need Chris Paul. Failed to adjust to Nate McMillian’s system. Failed with the Celtics. Failed with the Timberwolves. Failed with the Clippers. General consensus is/was that he peaked in high school.
Role: Instant offense and a change-of-pace off the bench, true push guard, incredibly dangerous and creative in the open court. Becomes Jamal Crawford with a shaky jumper in the half court. Jamal Crawford with a shaky jumper isn’t anything to write home about.
Final Verdict: Feel-good story of the meaningless final stretch for the Cavs, putting together some great scoring performances and whipping some highlight-reel passes. May be one of the best true points on the roster. Still hasn’t shown what he can do pushing the break alongside of LeBron James. Shows why he was on the cover of SI from time to time. A paradigm of hope shrouded by disappointingly bad habits.
Sebastian Telfair. It’s a lifetime achievement award as much as anything. There is room in this league for a flashy, undersized point guard who loves to play in the open floor. The Cavs have shown that they can play any style. Bassy has shown flashes that suggest he’s capable of thriving when he’s allowed to play his. This year’s Tarence Kinsey award goes to the man who lets me keep dreaming of the day when a guard can come off the bench and have the sole responsibility of shifting the tempo of the game and getting LeBron some easy transition looks. Maybe it will never happen. In fact, it will probably never happen. But there’s hope. The Tarence Kinsey award goes to a player who allows us to think that our most outlandish dreams may some day come true. This season, there’s no doubt that Sebastian Telfair was that player.
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