Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tayshaun Watch, Game 3

The only photographic evidence I could find that Tayshaun was involved in the Greece game. I'm pretty sure he's the guy second from the left. (Getty Images)

Tayshaun first entered the game when it was well in hand, with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. He immediately had to hoist up a shot, which he missed, because of an expiring shot clock and spent the rest of the game putting up straight zeros on the scoreboard. He didn’t take another shot, commit a foul, or get a steal, block or rebound. The most invisible game in a string of them for Tay, though through no fault of his own or of Coach K, who did an excellent job managing substitutions.

Tay’s one moment of attention came from the broadcast, when Craig Sager explained that in practice, Coach K asked Tay to explain defending the pick and roll to Dwight Howard, using the anecdote as an example of Tay’s value to the team. As a Piston fan, it’s reassuring that Tayshaun knows how to defend the pick and roll and it’s reassuring that Dwight Howard doesn’t. A nice story, although it was probably the producers throwing Tayshaun’s game a bone, knowing he wouldn’t play much.

As for the team: this is the best Team USA has played this year, and maybe the best it has ever played. LeBron was exceptional, as he has been all tournament, but Dwyane Wade was the best player on the floor, displaying far more inspired defense than he has ever shown in Miami. Chris Bosh was terrific as well, particularly on defending the pick-and-roll. The team defense and rebounding was exceptional and, except for Kobe Bryant, no one was settling for mediocre shots. I’ve been skeptical about the ‘FUCK YEAH, USA, THOSE EUROPEAN PUSSIES CAN’T FUCK WITH US’ attitude most basketball fans have adopted towards these games, but if Team USA plays this way four more times, they will coast to the gold. Next up is Spain, probably the best team in the tournament outside of Team USA, but one that has not been playing particularly well recently. Also, in anticipation of playing the Americans again in the finals of the medal round, I wouldn’t expect to see too many bells and whistles from the Spaniards, as this game technically doesn’t matter for either team. The game will probably be a solid American victory, if a slightly closer one, but don’t be stunned by a very tight game or an American blowout.

Quick note on the Spaniards: my fellow blogger Joe had this to say about Ricky Rubio:

“Remind me what's so special about this kid? He's young and...what else? They compare him to the Pistol (which is ridiculous in the first place), and then say he can't shoot. Makes no sense. I can't wait to see this kid NOT live up to the hype. early prediction: 2 points, 9 turnovers against the U.S. And I'm being pretty generous with the 2 points”

As this blog’s designated Ricky Rubio supporter, I have a few quick rebukes:

1. Predicting that Deron Williams and Chris Paul are going to destroy a 17-year-old point guard is not particularly brave. We'll see how he does three years from now, when he's OJ Mayo's age.

2. What’s so special: He’s taller than Derrick Rose, a better shooter, a better defender and a much better passer, all while being two years younger. So there’s that. Alternatively, Rose is much stronger and a little quicker. There’s no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect (well, except for LeBron), and I’m not promising that Rubio will be better than Rose, or anyone else for that matter (I’ll leave the crystal ball nonsense to the assholes on Around the Horn and Mel Kiper). But the kid is the best 17-year-old basketball player on the planet, by a lot, which Euro busts like Darko, drafted only on promise, were never close to. People aren’t raving about his potential; they’re raving about how good he is now. Although all-world guards Paul and Williams will probably push him around on Saturday, if he gets substantial minutes I will be surprised if he doesn’t show you a couple of flashes of his ability. We’ll see. And lastly, it’s probably worth noting that most critics of Rubio have never once seen him play.

--Sam Weiss

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