Friday, November 03, 2006

The Khoub Report, Vol. 1

If you watched the Nuggets-Clippers on ESPN last night, then you know that Denver is featuring a little-known guy in their rotation by the name of Yakhouba Diawara. What you probably don't know is that Diawara played at Pepperdine (my alma mater) for two years and that I got to know him quite well in the course of working on a book (that never came to fruition) and that this is the first time I've ever referred to him as "Diawara."

No, "Diawara" didn't enter his first regular season game last night, "Khoub" did. The lovable transfer from France that briefly took Malibu by storm (sort of) after coming off a completely bogus NCAA suspension in the winter of 2004 is now in the NBA. Which means this blog will now be devoting considerable space to covering his ascension to first team All-NBA (actually, we are hoping for ascension to "second guaranteed contract").

Anyway, here is the first ever Khoub Report:

Game: 1
Date: November 3, 2006
Location: Staples Center
Outcome: Clippers 96 Nuggets 95
Khoub's line: 21 minutes, 0 points (0-4 shooting), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, 5 fouls.
Best moment: A particularly forceful rebound.
Worst moment: When the officials screwed him over in the waning seconds (more on that to come).
Grade: B-

Details: Khoub looked a little timid in his first tour of duty which makes it tough when you are supposed to be a defensive specialist (he evoked comparisons from George Karl-via-Doug Collins of Bruce Bowen and Trenton Hassell, which is kind of weird for me, since I don't remember Khoub being that great on defense at Pepperdine, but that may simply be because the Mighty Waves played zone almost the whole time). Basketball is such a fast game that if you are being cautious and reacting a step slow, you will probably foul a lot. Which Khoub did. He racked up three fouls in just six minutes of action in the first half. With J.R. Smith bombing threes (he made all four of Denver's treys), it didn't look like Yakhouba would get much of a shot in this one. But then Carmelo got tossed for throwing his headband (kind of a joke, really) and suddenly, Khoub was on the floor for most of the second half. He played much better the second time around, especially while guarding Sam Cassell in the fourth quarter. In addition to making a run at Most Annoying Player in the League status, Sam I Am had 35 bones last night, but he only tallied two points in 14 trips against Khoub.

Of course, those two points came in the final seconds when Cassell drew a phantom foul strictly because Cassell is a big baby and had cried about a previous call and was going against a rookie. I hate NBA refs. What a joke.

So in the end, Khoub committed the foul that lost Denver the game. He also missed all three of his three-point attempts and even though two of them were in-and-out, Doug Collins greeted each with a "Diawara is a bad shooter, he shouldn't be taking those" lecture. Bastard. Go dye your hair again, Marshall Mathers.

But even though the box score, broadcasting crew, and final play were all unkind to Khoub, I think he made a decent first impression. He worked really hard on defense and didn't give any ground, which I think Karl appreciated. He also showed an ability to start out guarding Cassell and then switch to Brand in pick-and-rolls and guard each player just as effectively (all those games playing power forward at Pepperdine are coming in handy), which is extremely valuable. I can see Denver putting him on Nash when playing Phoenix and then allowing him to switch over to Diaw (what Smush Parker couldn't do, to the Lakers detriment last spring) on the roll. There are few guys in the league that have the combination of length, quickness, and strength to start out on a point guard and then switch to a power forward. That should make him a big asset and will probably be the one thing that really expedites his gaining a reputation as a defensive stopper (because in the NBA, once you have the rep, you can get away with murder). Also, Khoub unveiled a pretty sweet mini-fro, which was nice.

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