Hasheem Thabeet makes an impact in NBA Summer League debut
The Memphis Grizzlies' rookie center gets noticed for his play -- and his haircut.
By Lisa Dillman|July 14, 2009
Reporting from Las Vegas — Rookie hazing season arrived prematurely and found an unsuspecting target.
"M" apparently stands for Memphis ... and mohawk.
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"I just asked for a trim. ... I think somebody set me up," said the Grizzlies' rookie center, Hasheem Thabeet.
Thabeet was smiling, widely, as he walked away from a couple of reporters at Cox Pavilion on Sunday. And the questionable haircut and his first NBA Summer League game landed in the rear-view mirror.
For the record, contact in the paint against the Oklahoma City Thunder went better than contact with the scissors. The sort of impact Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 center from UConn, made isn't merely found in the stark numbers of a box score -- one blocked shot, two rebounds and nine points in 20 minutes of action Sunday night in his NBA debut -- but in what he didn't allow the Thunder to do in the Grizzlies' 86-57 victory.
Namely, take good shots.
Thabeet is a barrier in the paint and will put a question mark or two in the shooters' psyche, as Oklahoma City shot 37% overall in his first pro game.
Still, this was a somewhat sobering eye-opener for the No. 2 overall pick in June's NBA draft. Thabeet mentioned getting used to the 24-second shot clock, for one thing.
"It's really hard for me to adjust from college level," said Thabeet. "I thought I was ready. But I just figure I have a lot of stuff to work on."
The Grizzlies are attempting to help minimize outsized expectations, and the message Thabeet is hearing seems to be a consistent one from their staff: "Get more aggressive," he said. "Get a little more aggressive on the offense, more aggressive on defense. It's pretty hard. A lot of people are expecting a lot from me."
One veteran NBA player was impressed by his presence: the Clippers' Marcus Camby, who was on hand in the stands.
"He's definitely going to be a dominant defensive force," Camby said.
Thabeet's comfort level was enhanced by a decided UConn vibe on the Grizzlies summer roster: Marcus Williams and rookie summer league invitee Jeff Adrien, who contributed with 10 points off the bench in 17-plus minutes.
Plus, there was one UConn habit making its way to Las Vegas.
"At [UConn] shootarounds, I yell out, 'Game Day,' and [Thabeet] yells out 'Game Day' with me," Adrien said. "And we shoot half-court shots. We were doing that together today. It was fun."
Adrien thought their familiarity on the court had its benefits on Sunday.
"He does what he does. He controls that middle," Adrien said. "We out-rebounded that team, and he was a big part of that. You know, Hasheem is great, and he can become so much better. He has a lot of upside."
The view has to be a long-term one, considering the relatively short, condensed basketball resume of the 22-year-old from Tanzania.
"For me to get to this position, it took me a lot," he said. "Seven years ago, I don't play basketball at all. ... For me, it's not the end. It's the beginning of a new career."
And a new haircut.