Finally got around to watching the last of the four exhibitions that Duke played in Asia vs the United Arab Emirates. Much like the games against China, there was a lot of ragged play sprinkled with a little bit of highlight reel stuff. Overall it felt more like a pickup game - with only modest spurts of any attempt at running organized offense. (in the second half I think I could count on one hand the number of times UAE ran something that looked like it may have been part of a play book) Its not worth trying to write any kind of recap of the game - Duke was the much better team, they won by 20 - so instead I’ll go back to our favorite style of bullet point musing.
- The UAE team was vastly undersized but often made up for it with scrappy play. Duke big men had the ball stripped after a rebound at least 5 times by my count. I could just hear the haunting cry of Len Elmore criticizing Duke (shocker) for not keeping the ball up.
- The only Duke player who really looked ready for the season in all the games I watched was Andre Dawkins. He finished with 20 points including a sparkling 6-10 from the extended international range 3’s. The adage is often thrown around, but in his case it can truly be said that I am actually surprised when he misses. Without his performance Duke was a very August-ish 4-16 from distance.
- The true calling card of Duke Basketball under Krzyzewski is defense. The Devils were able to play with focused intensity in only very limited stretches. Not coincidentally usually after time outs. Dre is becoming a much better defender, Curry and Kelly are certainly smart defenders, but I’m not sure we have any real stoppers on this team besides Thornton. With their length there could certainly be more minutes available for Gbinije or Murphy if they could develop into that role.
- It was nice to have a Mason sighting in this game. He had several nice finishes inside - including twice actually displaying some genuine patience… what a concept. He also led the team in rebounds (15), behind the back fast break dribbling (2), and embarrassing rim-clanging dunk attempts (2). For the record the team finished with 5 rim-clangers and Mason did have one jaw-dropping offensive rebound for a jam.
- Duke shot a Memphis-like 8-25 from the line. Yikes. Thank goodness it’s August. Not so bold prediction for the season: if Miles could just shoot 66% from the line he will average a double double this year. Not so bold second prediction: if Alex Murphy and Josh Hairston don’t stop looking as nervous as a meth-head at a traffic stop from the free throw line, they will probably shoot under 40%.
Overall I feel more encouraged about this upcoming season after the last two weeks. The worries about who is going to score are pretty overblown I think. We will have a much more balanced scoring team this year, with five guys very capable of leading the charge on a given night. The real question(s) are at the other end of the floor for me. Who is going to rally the troops there? Where is the leadership going to come from? What will happen when the older Plumlee’s get in foul trouble? Can Seth Curry dunk?
Stay tuned for the answers to these and other exciting questions… in 2-3 months. Well at least we have football to distract us til then.