Golden State Warriors draftee Jeremy Tyler is still something of a mystery to many people, including other NBA players present at the Cow Palace for Sunday night's Drew Gooden Make-A-Wish Charity Game.
"Guys didn't know who he is," said Dorell Wright, the other current Warriors player at the event. "The coach...said, 'Ay man - who's 24 talking about he play for the Warriors?' So most people don't know him."
For Warriors fans, the charity games that Tyler has played locally might be seen as a chance to at least get a glimpse of him even if the guys could hardly be said to be playing hard.
There's not a whole lot you can take from these games, but what does stand out is that he's awfully athletic for his size and could be effective running the floor in transition situations. He drew responses from the crowd at the We Believe game more than once for some fast break dunks where his physical talents were on display. There was still nothing to definitively suggest whether he could play center effectively - as CSN's Matt Steinmetz reported after the We Believe game that he's willing to do - but there is a tenacity to his game that might make people optimistic about his potential to contribute to a NBA roster.
But nothing we witnessed in those charity games was exactly new to Wright.
"I've been knowing him since he decided to go overseas because he's a San Diego kid and I always used to see him around town playing pickup and working out," said Wright. "So I'm happy that he's on my team and I can be able to be a bigger brother to him and a mentor to him because I knew him before everything started clicking for him, before he started maturing. So it's just gonna be fun to have him around - he's a good kid."
Although the lockout has kept Tyler from actually playing NBA basketball, Wright has had the opportunity to step into that mentor role already. The two had already connected for workouts even as they were finding out about the hastily put together charity game.
"Me and Jeremy was just in LA, we worked out three days in a row," said Wright. "We got in some good lifting, some good court work and we also played some pickup at LMU. So we got an opportunity to play against some marquee players and get better."
Yet the question of course is how any of this - charity games or workouts - will benefit a young player like Tyler. Another rookie present seemed indifferent to the event's developmental value.
"Here, maybe, was more for fun - people enjoy that," said Rubio, who when asked to compare Sunday's game to workouts in L.A. "And maybe in L.A. we play a little harder - it's like practice, but nobody wants to lose. So it's a little harder over there."
While there might be some debate about how productive Rubio will be as a NBA player as he makes the transition from Spain, it's hard to imagine anyone gaining much new insight about him in what was technically his first game on U.S. soil.
What we saw from Rubio on Sunday night for the most part was exactly what you might have gleaned from watching YouTube highlights even before he was taken in the lottery of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and certainly not more than what watching him play a Euroleague game would offer you. He obviously sees the court well and isn't afraid to take a risk or two to make plays for others. Maybe the fact that he hit a few jumpers against minimal defense would be encouraging to some, but making shots against an organized defene is a much different thing.
Regardless, the players at the event seemed confident about what Rubio might offer as a rookie in the future.
"He's talented," said Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden. "He can really pass the ball and make some plays. He's gonna be really good."
As Rubio suggested, these games don't have anywhere near the intensity of a NBA game or even a summer league game, but they do give people a chance to see a few rookies every now and then which is especially nice for fans of teams like the Warriors that have to be focused on the future anyway.
And in the absence of summer league to get used to playing with and against other NBA talent, maybe there is additional value for the rookies. Wright commented that these games were like summer league for these rookies or "a mini-preseason", but Rubio was a bit more modest in his claims.
"It's like a little step before going to the NBA," said Rubio. "It's like practice for that."