Category Archives: Olympic Basketball
Welp, you knew it had to end eventually. The Olympic basketball semifinals/finals are not for everyone. In this case, they are definitely not for any former or current Washington Wizard/Maryland Terrapin players, as none remain in the tournament. Wednesday was just a day for closing out.
First, Russia edged former Terrapin Sarunas Jasikevicius and Lithuania in a hard fought battle 83-74. Jasikevicius, in what will likely be the swan song performance for his Olympic career, looked every bit his age by going 1-of-4 from the field over 19 minutes for three points. Not to mention his turnover problem reemerging, as he finished the game with six total against only three assists. He was clearly having problems getting around future Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved, who even on a poor shooting night still outplayed him. Furthermore, it really just seemed like Jasikevicius was getting minutes because it could have potentially been his final game. Younger guard Mantas Kalnietis probably should have received more playing time, and in fact would have put them in a better position to win (as much as it pains me to say that about Sarunas).
Next, Kevin Seraphin and France were dogged by Spain in the fourth quarter of their 66-59 loss that could have been closer were it not for so many French mental errors. Seraphin had, without a doubt, his worst game of the tournament, playing only 7 minutes while registering more fouls and turnovers (three each; six total) than points and rebounds (three). As is his propensity for picking up quick fouls, yesterday was no different as he quickly rendered himself worthless via sloppy play. They certainly could have used him against Marc and Pau Gasol, as former Wizard Ronny Turiaf looked like absolute garbage, culminating with his embarrassing hard foul which essentially cost France the game (though that torch will be passed to Nicolas Batum).
Finally, Argentina fought off a furious late-game run by Nene and Brazil to hold on and win the “Battle of South America” 82-77. Nene, presumably playing injured, was the lone bright spot for local fans as he gritted out a poor shooting performance with all around good play. He logged the most minutes during any tournament game up to that point yesterday with 27, and the result was a nice 12 rebound, 7 point performance. His facilitating play late in the game opened up the floor for Brazil and spurred their 23 point fourth quarter in which they cut a 12 point deficit down to three.
Unfortunately, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Juan Pedro Gutierez gave Nene, Cavs center Anderson Varejao and Spurs forward Tiago Splitter work on the defensive end all game, combining to score 40 of the 82 Argentinian points. Nene also had two careless goaltending calls late in the game, which didn’t necessarily help his team (though you can’t blame him for trying). Overall, Nene didn’t play terribly by any means, but his offensive production wasn’t there when Brazil needed it most during their 2nd and 3rd quarter droughts.
(Strike three, you’re out)
Kevin Seraphin: B-
Seraphin should have been much more effective throughout this tournament, but his positive play was marred by the fact that he constantly got into foul trouble. He finished the tournament averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 6 games, with his best performance being a 10 point, 7 rebound, and 3 block line against Argentina. At times, Seraphin seemed like one of the best players on the court, while in other instances he just looked lost against more dominating forwards. He averaged just over a block a game during the tournament, but also racked up 19 fouls in a six game stretch (something he definitely needs to work on for the NBA). Three fouls a contest in international play is a death sentence, given the five foul rule.
In the end, Seraphin could have done better, but he is still only 22 years of age which indicates room for improvement. I’m sure in 2016 Seraphin is going to play a much larger factor on France as the old guard (i.e. Ronny Turiaf) gets less and less minutes. In the meantime, he needs to work on playing more under control and can hopefully carry over this international experience into productive NBA play.
Nene proved to be a bit of a disappointment as well if we’re being honest with ourselves. I expected him to be a much more dominating scoring option for Brazil, which is something they could have used. Instead, Anderson Varejao had more points than Nene throughout the tournament (albeit in one more game, but it’s still Varejao). He just never demanded the ball on offense, and was way too passive of a forward given how talented we all know he is. Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with his lingering plantar fasciitis which caused him to sit out the game against Spain. That he’s out of the tournament is of great relief for the Wizards, as it means he is going to be able to rest up for the NBA season a bit longer.
What did he do that impressed me? Rebound. Nene was the fifth-best rebounder in the entire tournament, averaging 8 per game. I loved that he got after it on the defensive end, fighting down low for boards with opponents. He played the ball off the rim nicely, and it’s a credit to his defensive positioning ability. Speaking of defensive, Nene wasn’t too shabby on the defensive end, holding his own against a lot of talented forwards (with the exception of his game against Argentina). His defense is always going to be a plus, and he showed it this tournament.
Sarunas Jasikevicius: A+
I’m giving Sarunas an A+ because I respect the hell out of that guy. Sarunas didn’t have a bad tournament by any means, averaging 6 points and 5 assists throughout; rather than dwell on what he did this tournament, we should acknowledge all he has done throughout his international career. A bronze during the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Lithuania (their third medal in three straight Olympic games), a 2003 FIBA Eurobasket Gold medal, and another bronze medal in 2007 FIBA Eurobasket. He’s played in the NBA, he’s played in Israel, he’s played for FC Barcelona, he’s dominated the Greek Leagues and he’s represented his country incredibly well–all for the love of the game.
Sarunas could have quit on his dreams a long time ago, but he never has and as a sports fan one has to acknowledge a guy who is so internationally renowned. Yes, he’s a Terrapin, and yes I’m biased to them, but Sarunas goes beyond that. At 36, this is likely his last Olympic games, and while I’ll be sad to see him go, he has kept Lithuania in contention since his arrival and will no doubt play a part in their future. And for that, Sarunas get’s an A+.
Tags: argentina, basketball, brazil, france, Kevin Seraphin, lithuania, Luis Scola, Maryland, Maryland Terrapins, nene, nene hilario, olympics, sarunas jasikevicius, seraphin, Washington Wizards, Wizards
I’ve predicted it before, and I won’t hesitate to predict it again: Nene and his injuries are going to become a major issue for the Washington Wizard. Not just this upcoming season, where Nene’s plantar fasciitis has already reared its ugly head during the Olympics, but for the remainder of his contract with the Wizards. Big men at 30 years of age don’t just randomly get incredibly healthy; they break down at a very rapid rate and once the wheels fall off, it is over. I’m not predicting complete apocalypse for the Wizards at all, but I cannot help but be unnerved by the foot injury. It is why I have been watching France so intently, because for the Wizards to overcome a Nene injury, Nene’s backup has to emerge as a stud. Kevin Seraphin, the ball is in your court.
My thoughts on Seraphin’s Olympic play so far basically mirror how I feel about him as a whole: he projects to be a much better starter than a reserve in the NBA, but there’s still work to do. As a starter last season over 21 games and 665 minutes, Seraphin averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As a reserve during 36 outings and 511 minutes? 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. His statistics plummet when he gets fewer minutes because that’s not really his specialty. Some players just function better as starters; just ask Allen Iverson how he dealt with being a sub. Part of it is due to being over-excited, as Seraphin is like a high energy dog who needs to be run constantly in order to calm himself down. Don’t give the dog a run, and it’ll eat your Jordans, your couch, and poop on the floor. That’s Seraphin. Too much energy to be a substitute and the end result is foul trouble and ineffective play.
The other main reason he is a better starter than reserve is that Seraphin is not the type of power forward that teams can really run a certain amount of set plays for; his offensive skill set is just too limited right now. Rather, on the offensive end at least, Seraphin functions much more effectively when he is allowed to play within the flow of the game and not force the issue. That includes put back dunks, catching defenders out of position down low, and using that baby hook he loves so much. Seraphin scores because he is such a good offensive rebounder that he always puts himself into position to get plenty of second-chance points. Seven times over his last fifteen games he grabbed 3 or more offensive rebounds, including four games with five or more OREB. If he isn’t on the court for missed shots to occur, he isn’t going to get offensive boards and his scoring goes down. Simple logic, really.
It’s why his first game as a starter against Nigeria on Monday didn’t shock me in the least. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks (a standard Seraphin line), which is a line Seraphin has had more than once during these Olympic games. The difference is that Seraphin looked far more comfortable and fouled at a lower rate, despite playing more minutes than any game. He was a hyper-efficient 4-of-5 from the field, and that’s a good thing because it actually hides Seraphin’s other problem: he doesn’t get to the line (he went 1-of-2 on FT’s yesterday).
Seraphin almost always has to work harder than most for his points because, for one reason or another, Seraphin just doesn’t draw contact on his shots. Last season, he only took more than four free throws in a game one time (he had six), and he only attempted four free throws five times total in ’11-’12. His free throw rate is among the worst in the NBA, and over his last 15 games (in which he started all of them) he averaged 1.9 FTs per game. Couple that with the fact that Seraphin shoots about 50% from the field and you get a starter who needs 16 shots to score about 16-18 points. It’s why his ability to get to the line is what could make or break the Wizards if Nene goes down.
Seraphin’s stats look much improved in some instances (PPG shot up), but in order for him to be an effective starter, he’s going to need to cut down on his usage rate, or make more of the touches he gets. As a starter last season, Seraphin was used on 20.6% of the Washington Wizards possessions. While he wasn’t bad at all, he simply didn’t do enough to justify being used that often. As explained earlier, he doesn’t get to the line, but he also doesn’t pass particularly well, either. In fact, he pretty much doesn’t pass at all, as evidenced by his 5% AST rate (the % of baskets assisted by a player while they’re on the floor). Obviously big men aren’t notorious for dishing assists all the time, but you either make plays or create plays. When a player isn’t doing either, it’s a detriment to the team.
Luckily for Wizards fans, Kevin Seraphin’s career trajectory is taking an incredibly similar curve to that of Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Millsap is his most apt comparison for a lot of reasons: they’re both undersized at 6’8, they were both bench players who shined in scant minutes at the same ages, neither got to the line very effectively, and they score in incredibly similar manners. In fact, the whole scenario of Seraphin and Nene reminds me of Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap a ton. A young forward with tons of energy who comes off the bench to spell the oft-injured All-Star with similar skill sets. Eventually, Boozer was shipped out of town and Millsap filled in just as effectively (and at a much lower price tag). If Seraphin wants to become what everyone hopes he can be, he should spend the offseason talking to Millsap about how he became a very effective starter in place of the resident star (Nene).
Millsap and Seraphin, at 22 years of age and in their second season did essentially the exact same thing as one another. 16.1 PER for Millsap, 15.8 PER for Seraphin; 7.9 PPG for Seraphin, 8.1 for Millsap; 5.6 RPG for Millsap, 4.9 for Seraphin. See what I mean? That’s just a small sample size, because they’re almost an exact carbon copy of one another. In Millsap’s third season, when he took over the reigns from Carlos Boozer halfway through the season, he started to show his true colors. His Per 36 Minutes projections were almost exactly how his actual season played out, as he doubled his free throw attempts and started passing the ball a whole lot more.
His passing ability is perhaps one of Millsap’s most underrated qualities as a big man. Millsap’s opportunities opened up even more because he increased his AST% from 7.0 as a sophomore to the 12.4 he averaged last season. It didn’t happen overnight, but Millsap is actually a very skilled passer now, probably thanks in part to working with the great Jerry Sloan so closely. Seraphin is behind Millsap’s development in that regard, but it’s not to say he can’t get better. He is going to need to if he wants to fill the role Nene plays as a ball mover and not a ball stopper.
And the biggest thing is just putting more points on the board in general through free throws. Not only does it get other big men in foul trouble, but he becomes a much more efficient player overall. Seraphin last year drew a foul on 8.4% of his shots attempted. Contrast that with Millsap’s 17.3% as a sophomore and you can see the disparity. Though their statistics are similar, it’s incredibly apparent what could end up limiting Seraphin as a starter. Instead of fouling, Seraphin just needs to get fouled. And he is definitely not soft by any stretch; Seraphin doesn’t shy away from contact in the least. I think he could deliver a bit of punishment given that his frame is so sturdy.
In short, Seraphin has some work to do in order to become an every day starter, and it’s not going to happen right away. He may be able to fill in for Nene in the short term, but Seraphin needs to take over that spot in a similar way to the Millsap/Boozer arrangement. I love where he’s at right now because it is very easy to peg exactly what he needs to work on. Assuming that he does over time, any Nene injury should be a small potato problem, because the Wizards could have an incredibly effective low post scorer on their hands. But right now, he’s a hyper backup that needs work.
Nene is not playing in Brazil’s Olympic preliminary round finale today against Spain. The reasoning given is due to the nagging plantar fasciitis issue that plagued Nene towards the end of the Wizards regular season.
The elephant in the room however is the fact that the loser of today’s match up gets to avoid a date in the semifinals with Team USA. Gamesmanship by the Brazilians or some much needed rest for an ailing Nene? Call it what you want but the Wizards big man will not see the floor against Spain today.