O' Neill |
ACC Today |
Tonight we got our first meaningful peek at the new, post-Amigos Duke team,
and we liked an awful lot of what we saw.
The buzz you'll hear over the next few weeks will largely be about Dunleavy.Â
He played a lot of point tonight, which we didn't expect, and he drove
beautifully, including one dazzling behind the back number which ran through the
whole defense. He played a fair amount against Battier and certainly held his
own. We paid close attention this summer when an old Blazers hand said that
Dunleavy was playing the NBA guys heads up. We can see what he meant.Â The
kid really, really understands the game.
Jason Williams also showed flashes of his significant talent. At one point he
made a spectacular drive and tried to flip the ball over his shoulder. It didn't
work, but that he a) has the talent and b) the imagination to dream that play up
is way cool.Â He also scored off an alley-oop pass from Battier. He has a
good handle and good hops and passes well, and he was plugging threes as well.
He's going to be an excellent point guard.Â He needs to settle down a bit,
but he is a very smart point.
Boozer tried hard, but his hops are on vacation until he is back up to speed.
Still, he showed a few good (but rusty) moves around the basket, and good
instincts. But it'll take him some time to get up to speed. Yet in spite of
that, he grabbed 9 rebounds - and 6 of those offensive - in 17 minutes..
Horvath may take a bit of time to get his game up to snuff. It's not a
question of talent or desire but rather confidence.Â He's making a big
jump, and it may take him a few weeks to get fully up to speed. Nonetheless, we
saw flashes. Nick can shoot, and he doesn't mind mixing it up.Â He's still
somewhat gawky, but you can see a flash of meanness in his eyes that is just
begging for 35 pounds of nasty.
Sanders is also a bit coltish, but in spite of this, he blocked four shots
and played the entire 24 minutes.Â As noted previously, he runs like a
dream.Â Both Sanders and Horvath will be able to contribute effectively and
Horvath might push for more than that as he comes around.
Andre Buckner got 8 minutes and took the opportunity to do a Wojo impression:
he threw himself around, played defense with abandon, and let it be known, at
least in our opinion, that he intends to make the most of this opportunity.
Matt Christensen, who didn't particularly impress us in the pickup games we
saw, was solid, the way we saw him his freshman year.Â He didn't make many
mistakes,Â had no turnovers, shot 6-7, had five rebounds - not bad stats at
Battier was willing tonight to assert himself offensively - may it continue.Â Â
He was willing to take three pointers,Â 9 in fact, and grabbed six boards.
At first, we weren't that impressed with Nate's game, because it seemed to
quiet.Â Â Â But Nate hit for 14, shot 5-9, got 7 boards, and 4
assists. That's a pretty nice line.
C-well had a quiet sort of a night, taking 13 shots and hitting 5.Â He
only had 2 boards. He had 4 assists but negated that with 4 turnovers.
Overall, this team isn't the juggernaut we saw last season, but they are
really likable kids and they enjoy each other and work together.
It's a team which is potentially a better three point shooting team than
anyone imagined, hitting 50% for the game (both teams).Â Â This will
allow them to open the court up for Dunleavy, Carrawell, and most of all
Williams to drive - and to get to the line.Â Our theory is a steal is a
shot/rebound denied, and a free throw rewards you while penalizing your
When you start thinking about a starting team, you look at Battier, Carrawell,
Boozer, and Williams, and either Nate James or Dunleavy.Â Personally we
like Dunleavy as a Mr. Fixit off the bench, but either way, this is not a bad
lineup - particularly when you consider that Boozer is going to be improving by
leaps and bounds as his timing and power return.
If that group turns out to be as solid as we think it can be, then the
question becomes the bench.Â Christensen is solid, though not overly
gifted, and is very smart.Â He'll help.Â Horvath will get more and
more confident and will contribute more as the season goes on.
Sanders, while still untutored as a basketball player, is springy enough to
cause headaches for people inside, and is tremendous on the break.Â This is
not really a fair comparison, but he reminds us a bit of Kevin Garnett, not in
the all around nature of his game, but in the unusual athletic ability wrapped
up in a 6-11 body.Â
Buckner as we said isn't going to settle for the role he was offered. Clearly
he is pushing himself hard, and we hope the fans appreciate his passion. We see
a bit of his brother Greg's toughness in him now.
Dunleavy off the bench is like the Queen in a chess match. He can come in and
play three positions now, and probably four next year. He's tough, he's smart as
hell, and he understands the game on a very high level.
Most likely K will find an eight man rotation as he usually does, and focus
in on that.Â But Dunleavy makes that eight man rotation more like 11. He's
slender, but there is absolutely no doubt anymore that he belongs. The kid, as
they say, has game.