Another Saturday, another epic summer league game, this time between Clark Hatch Fitness (feat Keith Shamburger, Pi'i Minns and Michael Thomas) and Solar Universe (feat Negus Webster-Chan, Brandon Spearman, Dyrbe Enos and Nikola Filipovich). When I arrived just before tip off, even in the parking lot there was something different about that night. But what? Parking was scarce. But then that's not totally shocking. More and more people have been coming out (which is great). Then I noticed the KHON 2 News car. And I heard the crowds of people talking excitedly. A buzz? Entering the gym it was pretty easy to figure out why. Derrick Low was back! Which was a good thing for Solar Universe because of Brandon Spearman's bogus suspension for this game, stemming from his "fight" with Julian Sensley. (for a fantastic recap, as always, check out Dayton Morinaga's article on Warrior Insider.)
I must admit that I cared less about the score of the game (which ended 127-123 in double OT) and more about the subtleties that it provided. Particularly interesting was the Shamburger – Low matchup which was competitive for the entire game. And when I say competitive I mean "full court press every time down the court" competitive. Keith told me after the game that he grew up watching Derrick, who played at Washington State while Keith was in high school and watching the then PAC-10 religiously and he was not shy about his admiration for Derrick's skills.
Their styles couldn't have been more different and that is, in part, what made it so fun for me to watch. One thing that was particularly shocking? Derrick doesn't jump. Pretty much ever. And he doesn't need to. Sham described him afterwards as "crafty" and that was a particularly apt description of his game. Low has in his arsenal, a wide variety of post moves in the low block and if you watch the highlights on Warrior Insider, you'll notice that not one of his forays to the basket required him to leave his feet. Ultimate efficiency.
Shamburger, on the other hand, is probably best described as frenetic, especially when compared to Low's low-key (pun intended) style. And while he ultimately favored setting up his teammates over creating off the dribble for himself, it was his off the ball movements were particularly impressive to me. Again, carefully watching the highlights on WI will yield the observation that, on every non-Shamburger shot, he'll appear in the picture right at the very end, crashing the glass to the tune of 11 rebounds and countless more disruptions that led directly to either turnovers or offensive rebounds for his two gargantuan teammates, Scott Kato and Kaunaoa McGee (the latter of whom really REALLY looks like a significantly bigger Chad Owens.) And so I've bestowed upon him, the nickname ShamWow. Like the popular infomercial product, an effective, selfless point guard soaks up the mistakes of his teammates. And that is something he appears to be particularly effective at doing. Resetting a broken play. Diving after a loose ball. Rebounding a missed shot. All of them intangible habits that will translate extremely well to in-season play (sidenote, if anyone else has already bestowed that name upon him, then I shall defer to them. Until then? I'm taking credit! Even if it is super lame.)
The best highlight of the night though, was probably Negus' alley-oop early on in the second half. I think it's been years since we've had anyone capable of pulling off that move so I pretty much passed out from excitement when he threw it down. Hopefully the highlight gets put up soon (if anyone has a link to it, I'd love to see it again!)
Totally unrelated but still funny? At least for this game, the indomitable Nikola Filipovich played the role of Mario Chalmers. His first entry into the game came at the end of the first overtime, and it was immediately supplanted by a time out. Apparently Filipovich had missed his assignment and a Clark Hatch player was wide open for a few seconds (the fact of which his teammates and Artie did not appear to be shy about letting him know in the subsequent huddle.) Suffice it to say, he time on the court after that was brief.
I think that Bill Amis said it best on twitter after the game. This year's summer league is one of the best in a long, long time.