Without Leather, Samsung’s rookie shines

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Without Leather, Samsung’s rookie shines

There was no clear winner in the first game between the two teams involved in the Terrence Leather-Micah Brand swap. What was clear, however, was that in Leather’s absence, Samsung’s rookie forward Lee Seung-joon shined on Wednesday night at the game in Jamsil, southern Seoul.

In a trade on Jan. 7, the Samsung Thunders traded away last season’s leading scorer Terrence Leather to the KCC Egis for Micah Brand. The main reason for the swap appeared to be that Leather and Lee did not complement each other on the court.

The Samsung front office, however, has a different take on the situation. “Both Leather and Lee have a strong tendency to try to take the game into their own hands. I think that’s part of the reason why their style of play seemed to overlap,” said Samsung Thunders Secretary General Lee Sung-hoon. “Brand is the type of player who makes those around him better and that’s why we acquired him. We are now counting on Lee to not only score points but also do a lot of the dirty work by playing strong defense and grabbing rebounds.”

Leather had averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 28 minutes last season for the Thunders and team officials are hoping Lee will fill the offensive gap left following Leather’s departure. Although Brand is five centimeters taller than Lee, who is listed as 204 centimeters (6 feet 7 inches) tall, the American forward lacks power and is more prone to playing the perimeter. As such, Lee is expected to play a bigger role for Samsung in the low post.

In the Wednesday game, the first between the two teams after last week’s trade, Brand nailed mid-range jump shots and attacked the basket on his way to posting 24 points. He also stayed active on the court, opening up lanes and creating open shots for his teammates.

“Since the arrival of Brand, I feel relieved,” stated Samsung’s head coach Ahn Joon-ho.

Despite Brand’s solid performance, Samsung was outhustled on the boards, 33-21, and ended up losing the game 85-78. Lee came out with five rebounds, which was less than his season average of seven per game. In failing to attack the boards, Lee ended up with one rebound in the second half.

Lee’s strength and athleticism make him well-suited for rebounds. Ahn thinks the rookie is capable of averaging 10 rebounds per game and has said since the start of the season that it is crucial for Lee to get as many rebounds as he can. Lee will have to produce in the paint in order for Samsung to succeed this season.

By Kim Woo-chul [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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