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T-Mobile Player of the Week: Chase Budinger

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This post is sponsored by T-Mobile.

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Take a look at that box score for the week. How do you like them apples?

A couple of weeks ago, Chase Budinger had us worried. At one point, he had only scored 12 points over the course of five games. Fast-forward to this past week, when he scored 12 points against the Spurs, which turned out to be his lowest output of the week.

Sure, Chase's numbers may have fluctuated due to an increase in playing time, but let's be honest: as good as Chase has been for a second-round pick (or just as a rookie altogether), nobody saw 77 points in a single week coming this soon. Perhaps next year. But not this year. What does this mean? He's improving his game at a scary-good rate.

Budinger was billed as a knockdown shooter (thank you, Mark Jackson) coming into the season after impressive summer league and pre-season numbers. And for a little while, he lived up to his billing and found a spot in the rotation. But as the year wore on, the shots started to clank quite a bit, and I know I wasn't the only one who was thinking, "Maybe he's not as good of a shooter as I thought." Apparently, I need a lesson in patience, because Bud has been partying from the three-point line at a rate that would have surely impressed one Jeff Spicoli.

By far, the most impressive aspect of Bud's recent success has been the type of shots he has been taking and making. Many of the threes that he hit weren't on calculated plays - they were impromptu shots on impulse. Remember that corner three that he heaved up against Boston late in the game? The one that kept us alive and allowed Aaron Brooks' shot to even matter? A few weeks prior, Budinger would have never taken that shot.

If anything positive can be taken from our recent injuries, it is that they allowed young guys like Budinger to start games and gain experience as an important player on offense. Perhaps the reason Budinger took that shot against the Celtics was because, as a starter, he felt it was his responsibility to the team to take it if he was open. That's a huge step in the development of a rookie: gaining the trust of teammates, and trusting yourself. And then, if you can gain the trust of a blogger, you're sitting pretty.

Obviously, Budinger still has work to on defense, but to be fair, he was guarding folks like Paul Pierce. He still gets beat on easy plays, but a lot of that is mental. And it's not even the "dedication" version of mental - instead, it relates to experience, little tricks that one picks up the more he plays.

Anyway, congratulations to Chase for winning the T-Mobile Player of the Week award.