In what I assume is the first time in the eight year history of the Memphis Grizzlies Hasheem Thabeet's basketball career, he finally looked like he belonged: he didn't overmatch his opponents, but he wasn't overmatched, either. It seemed, for once, he was playing with his contemporaries.
This doesn't necessarily sound like a ringing endorsement of Thabeet because, well, it isn't. It's also not meant to tear him apart, because again, that's not what I'm attempting to do. He simply looked like an average D-League player, showing that this assignment probably should have come right away in November as opposed to near the end of February. It's quite pbvious that this assignment was necessary: Instead of playing garbage minutes for much of the last four months in Memphis, he could been in his present situation - playing more than ten minutes a game in an NBA system and working on the things he needs to develop.
Though I'd be the first to argue his D-League statistics should have no bearing on how this assignment is viewed, his final line was as follows: 17:50 of playing time, 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line to finish with eight points to go along with two rebounds, two turnovers, a block and an assist. His playing time was limited due two quick fouls he picked up at the end of the third quarter that give him four on the game
Since Thabeet met his new team, the Dakota, in Erie, PA, Friday afternoon, it shouldn't surprise anyone that he wasn't in the starting lineup. It was a bit surprising, however, that Thabeet had to wait until the 3:34 mark in the first quarter to check in for his first action in the D-League.
Once Thabeet entered the game, however, he was able to get whatever frustration he had due to the D-League demotion out with a hurry. On his first defensive possession, he left his defensive assignment to swat fellow NBAer Danny Green's lay-up into the crowd, leaving me with high hopes for the remainder of the game. (Note: Green is on assignment with the BayHawks from the Cleveland Cavaliers)
Unfortunately, that was the last time he'd definitively look much better than everyone else on the court.
Thabeet's first touch on the offensive end started out great - he was able to get perfect position and the entry pass to him was just as good. Unfortunately, his drop step left him too far under the basket and his follow-up shot attempt was swatted by Green. His next touch wasn't much better, either: He set a pick, rolled as he should, the guard made the pass, but then Thabeet bobbled it and it took a couple of seconds before he regained possession. By that time he was out of position to do anything with it himself and ended up passing it to a teammate who immediately wound up with a shot block violation.
From then on, it was a battle as he struggled with John Bryant to get solid post position. Sometimes he'd be able to - he had a nice little turnaround jumper from the right block at one point - but Bryant also caused him to bobble the pass a couple of times or forced him far enough out of the low block that Thabeet was relegated to passing the ball back to a guard.
He was most effective with the pick-and-roll, but setting a good pick doesn't often make the box score.
As far as his defense is concerned, it's tough to say how effective he really was. John Bryant was much more effective without Thabeet (Bryant had eight points while Thabeet was on the bench in the fourth quarter after scoring just six points through the first three stanzas), but Thabeet was often helped with a double-team when Bryant received the entry-pass. He did alter a quite a few shots/drives from penetrating guards, leading me to opine that his help defense is actually much more formidable than his on-ball defense. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I'm not sure if theare going to be all that happy that Thabeet was absent the entire fourth quarter, save for a second in between a free-throw and timeout with nine seconds left in the game. Still, that can be explained: He picked up two quick fouls at the end of the third quarter to give him four total. One of his fouls was a phantom moving screen called by usually reliable Nick Buchert, but that doesn't help much now. Either way, it's understandable that Wizards coach Rory White didn't trust Thabeet enough to play him in a tight fourth quarter, though with the regular Wizards not being able to play reliable post defense on Big John Bryant, Thabeet probably would've been a nice addition.
What would I like to see next game? Basically, he did well in the pick-and-roll, he worked hard to establish position in the post and he played his typically solid defense. He didn't assert himself on the boards, however, and should probably challenge even more shots than he did.
The other NBA player in the game, Cleveland's Danny Green, finished with a much more optimistic 36 points and nine assists, but it took him 28 shots and it was in a losing effort for his BayHawks.
(For less grainy footage and the one shot that he made that they didn't show in the highlights, go here.)