Give Paulus, Price a break; first Seed Report and more
Posted: Tuesday January 16, 2007 1:17PM; Updated: Tuesday January 16, 2007 3:47PM
Like his counterpart at UConn, Duke point guard Greg Paulus has been the subject of intense criticism over his poor play this season.
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Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
Even by the standards of today's message-board, short-attention-span, instant-gratification, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, 24/7 media culture, the cacophony of criticism directed at sophomores Greg Paulus and A.J. Price is a tad extreme. Yes, the intense scrutiny comes with the territory when you play point guard at Duke and UConn, respectively. Even so, a tiny bit of perspective is in order.
Sure, neither player has been playing exceptionally well lately, particularly since the start of conference play. Paulus lost his starting job (for a game, anyway) after a zero-point, six-turnover performance in Duke's loss to Virginia Tech, which Mike Krzyzewski said was Paulus' worst game "in any sport." (Paulus was also a standout quarterback in high school.) Price, meanwhile, has scored a total of 13 points in UConn's three losses. Though he is the Huskies' third-leading scorer, he is making just 41.5 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from three-point range.
If a point guard's primary responsibility is to win games, Paulus and Price are coming up short by historical standards. Duke and Connecticut began the week a combined 3-4 in league play. That's as many conference losses as they had all of last season.
Yet, no player should be expected to win games by himself. Even point guards need help, especially when they have so little experience running a team themselves. Neither Duke nor UConn has a single scholarship senior. Duke has just one junior (DeMarcus Nelson) while UConn has none. Otherwise, it's all freshmen and sophomores. I don't care who the point guard is, that's a tough formula for success in a major conference.
Paulus came to Durham with a lot of hype, largely because of his football prowess, but he was never thought to be the kind of player who could leave school early for the NBA. In fact, even the recruiting experts who rated him highly doubted he would ever play in the league. He is who he is: a tough, gritty athlete who possesses the kind of leadership skills one would expect from an All-America quarterback. Give him some reps and some older teammates, and Paulus will make everyone better. Ask him to play on a team where just one player, Josh McRoberts, has been a regular starter, and he will struggle to figure things out. But make no mistake: Paulus will figure things out.
The consternation over Price is particularly misguided because the kid did not play competitive basketball for two whole years. Let me repeat that: He did not play for two whole years. First, he suffered a brain hemorrhage that almost killed him. Then he was suspended for a whole year because of Laptopgate. Do you know how many career starts UConn's other four starters had before this year? Six -- five by Marcus Johnson and one by Jeff Adrien. Did my fellow Nutmeg State residents really believe Price was going to come off that layoff and help this team to pick up where last year's group left off?
The bottom line is, it's early in the conference season, and it's early in these two young men's careers. Over and over, we've seen players struggle early on before becoming highly productive. Paulus and Price are headed in the right direction. The least we can do is allow them the chance to find their way.