Sefolosha hears call, contains Wade Print
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Sunday, 22 April 2007 10:35
NBA Headline News

 DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) -The tattoo on Thabo Sefolosha's left shoulder shows a basketball with a crown on top, along with the phrase: ``The game chose me.''
The Chicago Bulls rookie answered its call Saturday, containing Dwyane Wade and helping the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat 96-91 in Game 1 of their first-round series.
Kirk Hinrich, who usually defends Wade well, was in foul trouble. So the Bulls turned to the 6-foot-7 Sefolosha.
And on Sunday, he found himself answering a wide variety of questions, ranging from his performance against Wade to his background in Switzerland. And, of course, that tattoo.
``I'm from Switzerland and basketball is so small there,'' said Sefolosha, whose father is South African and mother is French. ``My parents didn't play basketball. Why basketball? I don't know. But the game chose me.''
The phrase ``is a good way to say that I wasn't meant, maybe, to play basketball and it chose me.''
Why the crown?
``Because that's what I love; that's the king,'' Sefolosha said.
Sefolosha did not quite rule the court Saturday, but he certainly made his presence known. And although basketball may be ``small'' back home, he's certainly is attracting attention. Media crews from Switzerland have shown up throughout the season, and his stature will keep growing if he continues to play the way he did in Game 1.
``Like all rookies, Thabo's season ... has been one where he's put together a couple good games,'' coach Scott Skiles said. ``You get really excited, and then all of a sudden, he looks like a typical rookie again.''
After watching Sefolosha stick with a superstar, Bulls veteran P.J. Brown told him, ``You're not a rookie anymore; you're a veteran.''
Although Wade scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, he - and Shaquille O'Neal - spent part of it on the sideline with five fouls. Before the final period, he was 3-for-10 from the field, thanks to Sefolosha.
It was a difficult afternoon for Wade, who missed 23 games late in the season with a dislocated left shoulder and was wearing a sleeve on his arm. And it was a frustrating day for O'Neal, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter.
He accused the Bulls of flopping and said referee Eddie F. Rush ``derailed me,'' but at least one Bull was upset with the officiating, too.
Hinrich fired his mouthpiece into the stands after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and got a technical, but the mood at the Bulls' practice facility was lighter a day later.
As Hinrich stood near a basket on the far side of the gym, away from the media, Skiles grinned and barked out an order.
``Kirk, you gotta face the music, man!'' he yelled. ``They ain't going anywhere!''
A few minutes later, Hinrich said, ``I was as frustrated as I've ever been. It's one of those things.'' But unlike O'Neal, he did not single out one official.
``It was a combination of all them,'' he said, grinning. ``It just happened. Obviously, I'm upset about it, but at the same time, I'm happy that we won.''
Hinrich picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter. His third came less than a minute into the second and No. 4 arrived 59 seconds into the third quarter. Hinrich didn't score until he hit a jumper early in the fourth - his only basket on a day when he was 1-for-7 with two points.
So Sefolosha got the call and responded. It wasn't the first time he had contained a superstar.
He did it in December, when Kobe Bryant went 6-of-19 as the Lakers lost to the Bulls.
``I just stay quiet and focused,'' said Sefolosha, who turns 23 on May 2. ``I really think about the game so when I get there, I've already played the game in my head a couple times.''
He was 11 when a neighbor turned him on to basketball, and his professional career began six years later in Switzerland's top domestic league. He played in the French Pro A All-Star game in 2005 and was in Italy's top league last year, averaging 12.0 points and 6.4 rebounds for Angelico Biella.
Philadelphia then took him with the 13th pick last June, and dealt his rights to the Bulls in a draft-night trade.
``Mentally, Thabo can be very sharp,'' Skiles said. ``He can be the type of player that knows the tendencies and focuses on that, understands it and stays with it. And this is one of the reasons we picked him. We think long term, he's going to be a very good guard defender.''
 

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