[Kevin Seraphin looks to establish position against Brendan Haywood.]
Back in mid-November, I asked the ‘seen a lot’ veteran Kirk Hinrich who on his then-Wizards team set the toughest screens. He didn’t hesitate for a millisecond to nominate rookie Kevin Seraphin. With a smile on his face and pronouncing his name ‘Ke-Veene’, Hinrich quickly exhaled air from his lungs afterward, reflecting upon a hard hit or two he’d received from Seraphin in practice.
Upon officially setting foot on the court for the Wizards this season, setting hard screens seemed to be Seraphin’s one and only goal … and he did so a little too much. Over his first two NBA appearances, against the Toronto Raptors at home on November 16 and against the Celtics in Boston on November 17, Seraphin totaled 10:48 on the court, two points, five rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls. Two of those fouls, and thus two of his turnovers, came as a result of getting called for setting illegal moving screens, and as you’ll soon see, one specific case where he punished the opponent a little too hard.
But lately, Seraphin has shown some very evident signs of understanding and improvement. Against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, he had a career-high eight points and pulled down six rebounds (his fourth highest total on the season) in 14 minutes off the bench. While some, such as JaVale McGee, chose to challenge former Wizards center, and defensive specialist, Brendan Haywood with a mentally lazy and predictably easy-to-defend mid-range jumper, Seraphin went at Haywood with toughness and legitimate post moves using his thick-framed body. In 13 January games, Seraphin averaged 7.5 minutes, 1.8 points on 66.7-percent shooting and 1.3 rebounds. In nine February games he’s seen 10.6 minutes per contest with averages of 3.6 points on 80-percent shooting and 3.1 rebounds.
After the Dallas game, while explaining what the newly acquired rookie Jordan Crawford needs to do to improve, Wizards coach Flip Saunders suddenly diverged into the topic of Seraphin:
“Just learning the game, like all rookies. You can look at it this way — I mean, look at Kevin Seraphin — here’s a prime example. Here’s a guy, two and a half, three months ago and he wasn’t in the game, you’re wondering when’s the next offensive foul he was going to have. Tonight the guy has two jump hooks, comes back with a left-hand jump hook … over Haywood. So there’s a guy that’s made a lot of progress. And why has that happened? It’s because we’ve gone through him where he’s played in games. He’s gotten playing time in the heat of the battle, and he’s gained a little bit of confidence more and more. So we’re hoping that Jordan [Crawford] will get that same way. The more he plays, the more confident he gets, the more success he has.”
Playing time is undoubtedly a key component in player development, but success can only be achieved on a two-way street. It’s one thing to throw a player on the court and hope he develops, it’s another thing when that player applies what he learns in practice or by watching the game. Sure, players like McGee have made vast strides with real action — and McGee has gotten more run than most in a similar situation over his first three seasons in the NBA. But while he, even with so many minutes, continues to make the same mistakes, Seraphin, on the other hand, has provided more direct proof that listening, along with the rawness of his game which seems to be conducive to having more of an open mind toward instruction, has gone a long way.
Let’s go to the video…
[Seraphin fights for leverage with Tyson Chandler.]
[Seraphin focuses on the 'help' in help defense.]