The Duel: Yi vs. Gay
LAS VEGAS, July 6, 2007 -- The Mavericks’ Jose Juan Barea did a masterful job of running the point, the Sixers’ Louis Amundson flexed his muscles in the paint and the Sonics’ Kevin Durant showed flashes of promise during the opening day of the NBA Summer League presented by adidas.
Still, in a day full of sparkling performances by players trying to show the crowd inside Cox Pavilion what they could do, the Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay and Team China Basketball’s Yi Jianlian were the biggest stars.
Gay, the second-year swingman, brought the crowd to its feet on several occasions demonstrating why he is one of the best high flyers in the league. He set the tone early, dropping seven points on 3-for-5 from the floor, to help the Grizzlies take an early first-quarter lead.
Yi, who the Bucks selected with the sixth pick of last week's NBA Draft, was not to be outdone.
After getting posterized early in the game by the Grizzlies’ Alexander Johnson and picking up four fouls in four minutes (no that is not a typo), he began to fulfill the hype.
He nailed a couple of jumpers. He pulled down an offensive rebound and flushed it home. And then in one of the best sequences of the day, he elevated to block a shot near the rim, ran the floor, received a pass in traffic and dunked it home drawing the foul.
The play, which happened early in the second quarter, will probably end up on YouTube.
A few minutes later Gay did a play that will end up on YouTube.
With the side of the floor cleared out and Yi defending, Gay drove baseline, came up on the other side of the rim and jammed in Yi’s mug. He drew a technical foul for taunting but I’m sure the Grizzlies' coaches didn’t mind.
The duo's numbers at halftime almost had you questioning what they were doing on the court with everyone else. They seemed to be playing at a different speed.
At intermission: Yi had 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the floor, 4-for-7 from the line and three boards. He also had five turnovers and seven fouls (remember in summer league it’s 10 to foul out) but nobody is perfect.
At the same point, Gay led all scorers with 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and also grabbed six rebounds as Memphis built a 47-35 advantage.
In the second half, both players slowed down the pace a bit leaving the crowd wanting more.
At one point a fan could be heard screaming to Gay, "Rudy, please give us one more dunk."
And he almost obliged late in the fourth quarter. Running up the right wing, Gay cocked the ball back in preparation for another monster jam only to watch it slip out of his hands and out of bounds.
Turnover aside, new Grizzlies head coach Marc Iavaroni was impressed with the play of his super sophomore.
"I like Rudy playing inside," Iavaroni said. "He asserted himself today and showed that he can play inside and outside. He knows he needs to improve his defense but I love the fire he played with."
Over the final 20 minutes, Yi only committed two more turnovers and didn't have anymore fouls. He finished the contest with 23 points on 7-for-15 shooting and added four rebounds. The reason his offensive numbers slowed down is because teammate Wang Zhizhi went nuts offensively in the final period.
Zhizhi scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the last quarter to lead a rally but in the end Memphis hung on for an 86-77 victory.
"We had a chance to win the game but we had too many turnovers," Yi said. "I think we played better today than we did in our last game."
Gay, who finished with 21 points, three steals and two assists, was pleased with his performance.
"I want to be more aggressive this season and prove that I can be one of the best," Gay said. "Everyone knows I can score but in the second half tonight I tried to get my teammates involved."
Gay also had nothing but kind words on the play of Yi.
"He is a good talent," said Gay about Yi. "He can shoot it and he can pass. He does a lot of different things."