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These three guards point the way

But who is best? Debate has raged over the Internet

Jan 31,2007
Point guard Kim Seung-hyun of the Korean Basketball League’s Daegu Orions praised his rival Yang Dong-geun, of the Mobis Phoebus, on Thursday for being “way better than I am both offensively and defensively.”
The quote, delivered in the vernacular Sports Seoul, fueled an online debate among fans of each point guard across the message boards of local Web portal sites.
Since the fall of last year, when both guards were named to the national team for the Doha Asian Games, Kim and Yang have been at the center of such debates. Lost amid the hype is Shin Gi-sung, the most valuable player in 2005, whose KTF Magic Wings are sitting in second place at the halfway point of the season.
Kim thinks the rivalry isn’t such a bad thing. “Whether it’s point guard or another position, any sort of rivalry should help increase our league’s visibility with the public,” Kim told Sports Seoul. “Of course, the more publicity our league gets, the better it will be for the players.”
As the league enters a one-week hiatus following a couple of All-Star exhibition games against Chinese professionals, the JoongAng Daily rates these three point guards, all former MVPs, based on their play this season. To help readers not familiar with Korean hoops, we offer their equivalent, at least in style, to the National Basketball Association.

1. Yang Dong-geun, 26.
Statistics through Sunday: 15.6 points per game, 5.9 assists per game, 2.1 steals per game.
Yang, the reigning MVP, is arguably the most complete point guard in the league. He leads all point guards in scoring, is fifth in assists and third in steals. Numbers aside, his head coach, Yoo Jae-hak, has praised Yang for his improved defense this season. And that can be attributed to his level of fitness.
Kim Seung-hyun, in an interview with Sports Seoul, said he was amazed at Yang’s work ethic and training regimen during the Doha Asian Games, when they roomed together. “I could never do what he does, not in my lifetime,” Kim said.
Yang joined the Phoebus for a game just three hours after he arrived back from Doha, where he logged more minutes than any other national team member.
He is helped by a deep roster that includes reigning foreign MVP Chris Williams, veteran three-point specialist Woo Ji-won and one of the league’s best perimeter on-the-ball defenders, Lee Byung-suk.
The Phoebus are going after a second consecutive regular season title, and barring injuries, Yang should repeat as the MVP.
NBA equivalent: Solid all-around types. Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets) or Deron Williams (Utah Jazz).

2. Shin Gi-sung, 31.
Statistics through Sunday: 13.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.1 spg.
Shin is a man of few words; he usually lets his on-court actions do the talking. He wasn’t named to the national team ― officials said they wanted a youthful team, and only carried one player, center Seo Jang-hoon, who was over 30. The presence of Kim and Yang on the national squad kept Shin out of the discussion over who is Korea’s top point guard.
Shin carried the TG Xers (currently Dongbu Promy) to the league title in his MVP season of 2005, and has proven valuable to his new team, the Magic Wings, which signed him to a five-year, 1.8 billion won ($1.9 million) free agent deal last offseason.
Besides helping his team reach second place at the all-star break, Shin’s most important contribution has been the development of forward Song Young-jin. Song, the first overall pick in 2001 (Kim Seung-hyun was No. 3 that year), struggled in the pro ranks as a “tweener,” since he couldn’t battle bigger foreign players in the post and wasn’t quick enough to create his own perimeter shots. But with Shin as the playmaker, Song is averaging a career-high 13 points a game, and played on the national team in Doha.
NBA equivalent: Not all that flashy, but strong on both ends. Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls) or Andre Miller (Philadelphia 76ers).

3. Kim Seung-hyun, 28.
Statistics through Sunday: 13 ppg, 7 apg, 2.5 spg.
He was the MVP and the rookie of the year in 2002, and in the 2004-05 season, became the first player in the league’s history to average double digits in assists per game, with 10.5.
Entering this season, there was little question Kim was the best point guard in the nation. However, injuries to his back and ankle have affected his mobility ― he says he still fights bouts of back spasms during games ― and for a guard who relies on drive-ins and floaters, rather than jump shots, that’s a huge minus.
Still, no one runs fast breaks better, and no one hands out no-look, behind-the-back or other highlight-reel passes like Kim does.
The guard would first have to get his Orions back to respectability. They are 17-19 and in fifth place at the break. The top six teams advance to the playoffs, and the Orions only have a half-game edge over the KT&G Kites and the Promy.
NBA equivalent: Small, quick, and flashy type. T.J. Ford (Toronto Raptors) or Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs).


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Writer [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]


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