Scott has been covering the Hasheem Thabeet so thoroughly that I wanted to get in on the action, and see if I could bring some different observations to bear. However, Thabeet lived up to pretty much everything I'd heard and read as he finished with eight points and 10 rebounds as his team won 100-91 with Thabeet sitting on the bench. First, the good news. Thabeet is every bit as good a shotblocker as advertised. He had three blocks in just under 30 minutes, and they were solid plays. He also seems to have learned his lesson from the last game and gave up trying to shoot 15-footers.
There's more bad news than good, however. Those eight points came on 1-9 shooting, as he went 6-12 from the free-throw line. He was a better free-throw shooter last night, and centers aren't expected to be world-beaters from the charity stripe anyway, so I won't hold that against him. The poor showing from the field came largely from shots right around the basket. The biggest problem that I saw was that he never really gathered himself before shooting. A lot of those attempts came off of offensive rebounds (he had six), and he would land with the ball and immediately go back up with one hand. Even if he just waited a few ticks and went up with two hands, I think he'd be much more effective. His one made field goal came on a dunk that required little more than to be in the right position to receive a pass across the lane.
There's also the issue of the fast break, or rather lack thereof. I don't know if it's a foot speed issue or one related to knowing that he's not going to contribute anything offensively in that area. It looks like he's played several back-to-backs in Memphis this season, but he's also playing more minutes with Dakota than he did with the Grizzlies, so perhaps fatigue was a factor. Regardless of the reason, running just doesn't seem to be part of his game at this point. The Wizards were behind for most of this game, but came back and eventually took and held the lead once Thabeet went to the bench at the beginning the fourth quarter. His teammates Cory Underwood and Curtis Withers were the ones playing up front, the tempo picked up considerably and Dakota generally looked more aggressive offensively.
Some notes on his defense and rebounding after the jump.
Hasheem Thabeet's defensive rotations were a bit inconsistent. I mentioned the blocks, which usually came when someone drove right at him. Otherwise, Albuquerque was able to score several times by driving into the lane and drawing Thabeet, undoubtedly preparing to block the shot, then passing to someone coming from the other side behind Thabeet for an easy layup. At times when that didn't happen but Thabeet had to leave his man to guard the rim, he was often late in doing so, again leading to a bucket or a foul.
After reading what Scott had written about his effort on rebounds, I tried to pay particular attention to that aspect of his game. I'll disagree slightly with Scott that it's an effort issue; he definitely "gives up" or "defers" (depending on how charitable you feel) on rebounds in traffic, but I think it may be Thabeet trying to avoid fouling. He finished with just one foul in the game, on one of those late rotations I mentioned, and while he didn't avoid contact on the boards, he also seemed careful not to initiate much of it. Not wanting to foul is admirable, I suppose, but it did give the Thunderbirds some fast-break opportunities.
So in summation, Hasheem Thabeet is clearly still raw, skill-wise. The shotblocking is real, and it's spectacular, and things like rotating on defense and getting over the fact that you have to bump around a little bit to get a rebound can be taught and learned. I didn't see that hook shot Scott liked, but that had more to do with his teammates not passing into the post all that often. Thabeet has a few more D-League games before he's expected to re-join the Grizzlies, so now it's up to him to demonstrate that he's learning from this experience.