Battier defense highlights USA win

Updated: August 22, 2006, 10:48 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN Insider
SAPPORO, Japan -- Shane Battier was a proud man Sunday night after standing in the way of Yao Ming, taking a charge and living to tell about it.

Yao Ming
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillYao Ming wasn't happy when the refs called him for charging against Team USA.
It happened in the third quarter of Team USA's 121-90 rout of China when Yao got hold of a loose ball near midcourt and showed he can handle the rock a bit, dribbling straight for the basket where the only thing between himself and a sure two points was Battier.

The collision was a violent one, and Battier got the call. Yao protested vehemently to the referee, chasing him all the way out to midcourt, while Battier picked himself up, dusted himself off and played on.

"I don't know if there are too many people alive who can say they took a charge from Shaq and Yao and got the calls. I'm not very smart sometimes," joked Battier, who remembered taking a charge against O'Neal during the first home game of his rookie season with the Grizzlies. "It was the same situation like tonight. Once Yao got the ball at halfcourt I knew I was going to have to take a charge. That was the play, and it's a lot tougher when you have a few seconds to think about it."

"I don't know if there are too many people alive who can say they took a charge from Shaq and Yao and got the calls. I'm not very smart sometimes."
Shane Battier
Battier, who drew the charge against O'Neal during a 2-on-1 break, was unaware of the answer to my little taking-a-charge trivia question: Who is the only player believed to have taken a charge against Shaq when the Big Diesel was dribbling in alone on a breakaway? At the 2004 All-Star game, Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said the only player he had ever seen do it was Travis Best.

"Most charges you take, you fall down like that," Battier said, using his hand to make a motion of falling straight down. "With Shaq and with Yao, I went up and then down. I don't know if there's any physics teachers out there, but it's a good lesson."

Yao wasn't in a very chatty mood after the game, but he did pat Battier, his new teammate with the Houston Rockets, on the shoulder at he walked past him in the mixed zone. "You didn't know that about me?" Yao said when I complimented his breakaway ballhandling.

The game itself was hardly competitive, the Americans opening a 15-point lead after one quarter and putting the hammer down in the third quarter with their pressure defense, at one point forcing China to turn the ball over three straight times without even getting it past halfcourt. The third turnover ended with a 3-pointer by Joe Johnson for an 85-56 lead. At least that's what the scoreboard said, although the scorekeeper missed a basket and had the Americans with two fewer points than they should have had throughout the third quarter. Coach Mike Krzyzewski got on the guy in the fourth quarter, too, telling him he still had it wrong.

Perhaps the most competitive aspect of the night was the battle between the two cheering section. A group of about 12 American high school girl basketball players represented their country well when they broke into a "U-S-A" chant early in the second quarter that caught the boisterous Chinese fans by surprise. The girls, who were from Washington and Oregon and are in Sapporo for a sister-city basketball tournament, even coaxed a few Japanese fans into joining them by calling "Go ... " to the fans in the end zone seats, who obliged by answering "U-S-A." I told two of the young ladies, Caitlynn Jackson of Kelso, Washington, and Rebecca Daniel of Oregon City, Oregon, that I'd get their names on ESPN.com.


Seen in the stands: Two Japanese fans with retro 76ers jerseys, one wearing Joe Bryant's number and the other wearing Dr. J's. I also spotted a young Japanese fan in a yellow New Orleans Hornets alternate road jersey with Chris Paul's name and number on it, and I wasn't the only one to see it.

"Yeah, the yellow one. That's was the first time I saw my jersey out here. You always see LeBron's and Carmelo's," Paul said.

And you are how old?: Many of the American players got their first look at 7-foot Chinese prospect Yi Jianlian, projected as a possible lottery pick whenever the Chinese basketball authorities allow him to enter the draft (probably not until 2008, according to Chinese media members I've been speaking to. When Yi (pronounced Ee) was attempting a foul shot late in the first quarter, an American fan yelled down from the stands "How old are you?" It was a valid question, too, because no one is quite sure how old Yi really is. Many Chinese players are purported to be a couple years older than their listed ages, and Yi is listed with a birthday of Oct. 27, 1987, which would make him 18. "He is really 24. A few people in China know this to be the truth," one Chinese journalist told me.

Musically speaking: Stepped outside at halftime to get some fresh air and was surprised to be able to strike up a conversation with a Japanese security guard. "I lived in Austin, Texas, when I was married to an American," the man, Mr. Ichiro, told me. "I'm a musician. I play Stevie Ray Vaughn." So I asked him: "Did you ever play Sixth Street?" And he answered, "Oh, you know it?" Yes, I do. Been there quite a few times, always trying to make the drive from San Antonio to one of America's best music cities when I'm down there covering the Spurs.

Up next: The Americans are off Monday before playing a back-to-back-to-back set against Slovenia, Italy and Senegal, so we'll take a look tomorrow at what's going on in with a few other key teams and players in the World Championship.

Sayonara, for now.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA and international basketball for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

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