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Start with the stars who lead their teams and it's the ring-laden veteran guard Kobe Bryant versus the extremely athletic, yet mostly unaccomplished big man in Amare Stoudemire. Make your way to the sidelines and you have Phil Jackson and his precise triangle against Mike D'Antoni and his free-wheeling, seven-seconds-or-less system (which Jackson described as actually "five or six seconds" on Friday). There is even a noticeable difference in their respective signature fans -- Spike Lee in his Yankees cap and Jack Nicholson in his shades. Despite all that, a glance at each bench on Sunday when Los Angeles hosts New York at Staples Center will show two men with a lot in common. Derrick Caracter of the Lakers and Shawne Williams of the Knicks might not look much alike at first, but an examination of the two reveals a shared history. Caracter is the 22-year-old rookie, a 6-foot-9, 275-pound center who was drafted No. 58 by L.A., the third to last pick, after once being considered the No. 1 high school prospect in the country before ballooning in weight and not cutting it at Louisville playing for coach Rick Pitino. Williams is the 24-year-old fourth-year forward, a 6-9, 225-pound swingman who was drafted No. 17 by Indiana in 2006, just a couple of picks out of the lottery, but was out of the league by 2009 after a string of off-court incidents. The two came together at IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in April, both looking to resuscitate their once-promising careers. It was a two-pronged reclamation project -- first their bodies and then their minds.
|Derrick Caracter joined Knicks' Shawne Williams in an unorthodox path to the NBA.|
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