More from the Lithuanian game!
Last night, I took the lovely bride and my two kids to the USA Basketball World Championship for Young Men game against Lithuania. The game itself, while not competitive ( 13-66), was entertaining and interesting. As an unauthorized foreign correspondent, allow me several observations:
Dahntay Jones - First of all, he was clearly the most exciting player on the court. While the most spectacular plays were his two dunks ( a SportsCenter quality highlight driving double pump jam and then minutes later a windmill) , his court awareness and passing skills were also very much in evidence. Dahntay had several brilliant skip passes around the perimeter which led to open jumpers. While he didn't shoot much from the outside, he did drain a long three early in the first quarter and finished with 10 points. Importantly, he really skyed for a couple of rebounds and was very effective at sneaking in from the wing to get position. Finally, he played fairly good D, including one nice strip which resulted in a driving lay-up ( albeit with an NBA travel). With his major league ups, he will, undoubtedly, be a Cameron favorite. He may very well have better springs than Brickey, a young Banks or any other Duke player that comes to mind. Unfortunately, we never got to see Dhantay on the court at the same time as Boozer and Duhon, as he played exclusively with the second unit, but you have to figure that the three will develop chemistry by playing together for the next 3 weeks.
Chris Duhon - Duhon was, except for his shooting touch, what we have come to expect. He was brilliant defensively ( 2 steals in the first half and I believe a couple in the second) and distributed the ball nicely. He was the starting point guard and played almost entirely in the same unit as Boozer. Duhon's shot was clearly off ( 3-8 from the field and 0-4 from 3 pt. land) and in the second half he looked tentative, took only one shot in extended minutes and didn't take some wide open looks. Of course, Duhon was also hustling all over the court and was the quickest player, which is saying something with Jameer Nelson around ( who, by the way is a big time player).
Carlos Boozer- Carlos looked like he has put on weight since I last saw him in Minn., but he ran the court well and dominated inside. Carlos missed some relatively easy short shots, but finished the night with 13 points ( 5-11 from the field). Carlos and Chris seemed to work really well together, particularly when Chris drove and dished to Boozer in the lane ( a la vintage Jason to Boozer). The only negative for Boozer was the large number of times when he had his hands on the ball and was unable to control it, resulting in turnovers or missed rebounds. That, however, is nitpicking, as he had a real nice game overall and his intensity and hustle were outstanding.
Non Dookies- Nick Collison ( Ka.), while only scoring 7 points, often looked like the best player on the court. He has spent some time in the weight room and I look for a monster season from him. Caron Butler ( U. Conn.) was a real surprise to me. I did not know much about him and was very impressed. He is surprisingly quick for a big man, and showed great hustle and soft hands. Reggie Evans ( Iowa) appeared to be a Shawn Kemp starter kit. He was a monster inside and showed some serious intensity.
Best part of the night- As mentioned above, my sons ( ages 5 and 7) were in attendance. They are huge Duke Hoops fans ( ah, the wonders of genetics) and really had a blast. We waited around after the game and were able to meet and talk with Carlos and Chris. I was extremely impressed with the way they comported themselves ( the players, not my kids). What a couple of class guys. They came over to the Duke section of the stands and spent about 20 minutes talking with Duke fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures. They were especially great with the kids, asking them questions, low fiving and generally being very nice. They were gracious, respectful and went out of their way to expressly thank the fans for their support. I don't know if this is a result of their upbringing, Coach K's influence or Battier's example, but I can tell you that we were very impressed and it was a great experience for my sons.
Andy Halpern, ' 80