On the court, the game is still the same. As Coach Norman Dale taught us, the basket is 10 feet high and the free throw line is 15 feet away from it, whether you play in Madison Square Garden or North Dakota.
On the court, Hasheem Thabeet showed some of the flashes of promise that made him the number two pick overall last summer during his D-League debut for the Dakota Wizards. After a slow start he finished with 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting, 13 rebounds and had a couple of big blocks. He showed a couple little offensive moves he never got to put to use in Memphis.
Off the court, the D-League and NBA are not the same at all.
Hasheem Thabeet grabbed his sneakers and began wandering around the visitors locker room last Friday at Tulio Arena in Erie, Pa. He had just made his debut with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League, but he was still finding his way. Where was the equipment bag for his sneakers?
“Hasheem, this is the D-League,” Wizards coach Rory White told him. “And in the D-League, you carry your own sneakers.”
If Thabeet suddenly felt thousands of miles removed from the trappings of the NBA lifestyle, then there would be more. Oh, so much more. How about folding up his 7-foot-3 frame on Monday afternoon and flying coach from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Detroit … and then from Detroit to Minneapolis … and then from Minneapolis to Bismarck, N.D.? Farewell, charter flights.
This was exactly what Thabeet needed — some burn. He is only going to get his confidence up, to start to play better, if he gets in games. And that is hard in Memphis, where Mark Gasol has been good and the team needs to win to make the playoffs. There is no time for projects.
The D-League is all about projects. About making guys like Thabeet better. It’s also about commercial flights and carrying your own sneakers and long bus rides.