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Thabeet working to become factor

Discussion in 'Sports' started by Alpha, Oct 2, 2010.

  1. A

    Alpha JF-Expert Member

    Oct 2, 2010
    Joined: Aug 30, 2007
    Messages: 614
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    Lets hope he has a better season.

    Tall order, but Thabeet working to become factor

    Leaning against the goal after practice, sweat pouring off his face, Hasheem Thabeet tried to find words to describe his rookie year.

    It remains to be seen if Hasheem Thabeet will be a great player, but he's got a great tutor -- Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier.
    "I was like a deer in a flashlight," he said.

    Or headlight. Whichever. But he certainly was like a deer, wasn't he?

    He was frightened like a deer. The way he caught the ball, he might as well have had hooves.

    "He didn't want the ball," said Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins. "He didn't want to be anywhere near the ball."

    What Hollins doesn't have to say: Thabeet wasn't the only one who felt that way.

    The fans didn't want him anywhere near the ball. The coaching staff wanted him so far from the ball, they shipped him off to play in North Dakota.

    "He didn't have any idea what to do with it," Hollins said. "He didn't have a move."

    So it is with great pleasure that I record this brief exchange from an interview with Hollins after the first day of Grizzlies practice.

    Me: "I gather Hasheem was here more than any other player this summer. True?"

    Hollins: "Yes, that's true. He put in the most time this summer. He put in the most days here."

    As Hollins said this, a tall, older gentleman sat in the corner of the gym, on a folding chair, trying his best to look inconspicuous.

    The man was Bob Lanier, the Hall of Fame center, who has been enlisted to help salvage/tutor/rescue the Grizzlies' 7-6 draft pick.

    "He comes in and out of town to work with me," Thabeet said. "He told me, 'Work hard, it brings the greatness out of you.'"

    The franchise would settle for goodness at this point. Competence, even. But Thabeet has unquestionably put in the work this summer, which has to come as a relief to discerning Grizzlies fans.

    It was hard enough to watch Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry and a bunch of other rookies picked after Thabeet flourish last season. It was truly infuriating to watch Thabeet seem to handle it all so cheerfully.

    He tweeted about this and he tweeted about that. He tweeted from a mall in Dallas during All-Star weekend.

    Memphis fans wanted him to be hiding his head in shame, or fuming that he hadn't played well enough to be included in the Rookie-Sophomore game.

    "He was naive the way a lot of young players are naive," Hollins said. "They think it's just going to be the next step. But this summer, he's completely changed the way he's approached the game."

    Some days, Thabeet worked with Lanier. Other days, he tried out his new moves during pick-up games.

    The Grizzlies even flew a track coach in from Atlanta to work with Thabeet on his quickness.

    "I went on two trips to Africa," Thabeet said. "Otherwise, I was here. I was in this gym the whole summer."

    Nobody is promising this will turn Thabeet into the next Dikembe Mutombo, by the way. But a little less Yinka Dare would be encouraging.

    "I expect him to play and I expect him to contribute every game," said Hollins. "I expect him to be a factor."

    If Thabeet can do that, it'll go a long way toward helping the Grizzlies make good on owner Mike Heisley's playoff pledge. If he can't, it could be devastating.

    For all the talk about improving their bench, the Grizzlies didn't acquire anyone during the summer to play behind Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph. They're as vulnerable at those spots as they were last year.

    If Xavier Henry doesn't come through as a back-up wing player, Tony Allen or Sam Young could pick up the slack. If Thabeet can't effectively spell Gasol and Randolph, the Grizzlies are in deep trouble.

    Thabeet knows all this. He says it's why he worked so hard. Well, that and his desire to be something other than a permanent punch-line.

    "I know what some critics think," he said. "They say it to me on Twitter. They say, 'You're nothing. You can't play basketball.' But the Grizzlies didn't just see me on the street and put me on the team."

    No, they picked him No. 2 in the draft. Does that make it better or worse? Thabeet says he can't let that bother him.

    "It doesn't matter where I was picked," he said. "I can help the team win."

    At the very least, he's working at it.

    Geoff Calkins: Tall order, but Thabeet working to become factor ยป The Commercial Appeal