The Adhesion of Selflessness

Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.’’Dean Smith.

Ahead of the pack on a two-on-none, Bryant Crawford made a beeline for the basketball for a layup in Wake’s 77-71 loss at Boston College today.

I have no way of knowing if the teammate running alongside Crawford, freshman Chaundee Brown, had any problem whatsoever with Crawford’s play.

I have no way of knowing if Coach Danny Manning had any problem with Crawford’s play.

But I do know there was one person who would have had a serious problem with Crawford’s play, and that was Dean Smith.

My formative years as a sportswriter were spent in Chapel Hill, where I was lucky enough to learn much of what I know about the game of college basketball from Smith. And I can still plainly remember his biting reaction when a Tar Heel would take it to the basket himself instead of passing off to an open teammate.

It didn’t happen often, and when it did, it rarely happened again. Smith recognized that selflessness is the adhesion that holds a team together.

“Basketball, more than any team sport, is a team game,’’ Smith said. “(It’s) about thousands of small, unselfish acts, the sacrifices on part of the players that result in team building.’’

Smith also said that “good people are happy when something good happens to someone else.’’

None of this is to say that Bryant Crawford is a bad person, or even a particularly selfish player. I do know he has a warrior’s heart. I’ve always admired his drive, his competitive spirit.

And I’m certainly not hanging this ACC loss on him or his failure to pass the ball to a teammate for an open basket.

But what it appeared from watching the game on television was that the thought never occurred to him. And, maybe it’s just me and Dean Smith, but, in my mind, it should have.

Crawford ended up getting his today, scoring a season-high 24 points. But it took him 24 field-goal attempts – of which he hit eight – to do so. That was twice as many field-goal attempts than the next guy, who happened to be Brown with 12.

I recognize there was more of a load on Crawford with Keyshawn Woods being out with an injured knee. But I went into this game wondering if the closing of one door would open up another for a player like Brown, a highly-prized freshman who, going into the game, was averaging a paltry 6.8 points a game.

So there was cause for some excitement when Brown nailed four 3-pointers in the first half for 14 first-half points. But Brown had yet to get a shot in the second half when the offending (at least to me) play took place, and Crawford motored to the basket on a two-on-none.

If Crawford had given it up to Brown for a layup there, would it have gotten Brown going again? It’s anybody’s guess.

But everyone can see that the Deacons are going to need more from Brown to have the season they want.

Brown did make a couple of 3-pointers late to finish with 20, so all might be good there. Wake lost this game, despite playing defense well enough to get stops on 40 of 76 Eagle possessions, because the Deacons shot just 29 percent in the second half. Nor did getting outscored by 15 points at the line help the cause.

There may be people reading this who feel I’m making way too much out of one play. They may be right.

But I do feel it’s something that bears watching. I know one coach who is no longer with us who would be watching.

On this point, I feel I’m in good company.

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