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[Basketball Diary]Are the Orions resting on just one player?

Nov 11,2008
Daegu Orions’ guard Kim Seung-hyun, dribbling, has helped his team to a solid start in the 2008-09 KBL season. [YONHAP]
Welcome to Season 2 of the Basketball Diary, where we provide news, analysis and not-so-humble opinions on what’s happening in the Korean Basketball League.

Two weekends into the 54-game season, the Daegu Orions have emerged as an early surprise. Underline early.

Still, this team only managed 12 victories last season and fired its first-year head coach Lee Choong-hee in December. And they’re already one-quarter of the way there just five games into this season.

Much of last season’s struggle was due to the absence of point guard Kim Seung-hyun. He played the first game of the season and did not play until the next calendar year as he battled a herniated disk. Kim missed 33 games, three more than all the games he had missed in his previous six seasons.

In an interview with the Diary last week after his team’s 97-85 victory over the SK Knights, Kim said his personal goal is simple: “I want to play all 54 games this season.”

While he’s already failed in that regard - more on that a bit later - Kim may be able to achieve his other, more team-oriented goal: to make the playoffs.

Last year, the Diary never stopped stressing the importance of point guards in the KBL. And Kim, the 2002 MVP who helped Daegu win titles in 2002 and 2003, has made the club look like a contender again this season.

The Orions won the first three games before losing to the LG Sakers on Saturday and then to the Promy on Sunday. And it’s no coincidence that the Orions were without Kim, who sat out with a thigh injury. He should be ready to play by tomorrow, the team said.

In those three victories, Kim recorded 33 assists and the Orions averaged 97.6 points per game. Without Kim manning the point, the Orions managed 80 points against the Sakers and then 75 against the Promy.

When healthy, Kim is easily the most dynamic player to watch in the KBL. So-called basketball purists or traditionalists may cringe at Kim’s highlight-reel behind-the-back passes and other trickeries, but they’re missing the big picture.

Kim rarely wastes moves and his fancy passes almost always find the right target. With Kim starting fast breaks and athletic forwards Chris Daniels and Garnett Thompson finishing them, the Orions are a dangerous offensive team.

Orions’ head coach Kim Sang-sik said last week he would try to give Seung-hyun as much rest as he can. After an overtime win over the Mobis Phoebus on Nov. 2, the guard received two full days off before the Knights’ game.

“For this season, I will limit Seung-hyun to 30 to 32 minutes per game,” the coach said.

The backup is rookie Jeong Jae-hong, who, despite some speed, still lacks poise and discipline in fast breaks and in traffic to play substantial minutes. If Kim is akin to a fine-tuned F1 racing car, then Jeong is more of a stock car spinning out of control.

Kim, whose on-court explosiveness belies his quiet off-court personality, said he is still being careful with his body.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of hurting my back again,” he said. “But as long as I take care of my body, I will be fine.”


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



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