Summer League Somebodies
Weekend notes from Las Vegas Summer League.
by Dennis Tarwood
Hey, do you want to be in the NBA? Crawl under these bleachers and change your clothes.
Agent Warren LeGarie’s baby, NBA Summer League (Las Vegas edition), continued to grow in importance this year as John Wall made his professional debut. Still, the collection of youth in NBA exile or preparation feels like a bunch of dudes puttin’ on a play in their backyard at times, including the bleacher/locker room setup at Cox Pavilion.
Of course, Adam Silver and Jimmy Goldstein didn’t pull up courtside at your impromptu production of “Ghostbusters: The Play” in your backyard, either. And that’s why you needed an agent at age 11.
SLAMonline dropped in for two days last weekend to gather impressions about draftees and other aspiring NBAers as well as those young men who are looking to explode on to the dramatically altered landscape this fall. Keeping in mind that the scores just don’t matter to the scouts and front office folk that line the stands, here’s the scores for the games SLAMonline caught:
Saturday, July 10
Toronto Raptors 103, Phoenix Suns 69
In a weekend of blowouts, this was the blowoutiest. In a class men-against-boys size match-up, Sonny Weems, Ed Davis (2010′s No. 13 pick), and DeMar DeRozan combined for 50 points on 35 shots. The Raptors appeared far more prepared despite only spending a week together, cutting hard to the basket and flowing on the break like Phish. (Though, you know, focused.)
Joey Dorsey spent 20 minutes being Joey Dorsey, all shoulders and no offense. Bobby Brown and Dee Brown combined for one hell of a UPS commercial, delivering 10 assists on four turnovers in a door-to-door laugher.
Dee Brown felt comfortable with his wingmen after only a week and seven practices with the boys, perhaps due to his time with four NBA squads and “probably about my eighth” professional team overall. “When Ed Davis runs, he opens up Mike (Roll) for a jumper… those guys (the Suns) should have outran us, but we outran them. We defended; you can’t ask for much more.”
Gani Lawal (2010′s No. 46 pick) provided the only positives for an undersized and underwhelming Suns squad. While clearly searching for his NBA gear, Lawal managed 7-11 from the floor and six rebounds despite the intimidated backcourt play of Matt Janning and Zabian Dowdell.
“(I am pressing) a little bit,” admitted Lawal. “I’m not in as good shape as I thought when I came out here… the only way to learn is to be aggressive. I can’t worry about mistakes; I just have to go out there and figure it out.”
Eventually, Raptors started lining up to shove around the whisper-thin Janning, who began flinching on all his drives and tossing up the ball around halfcourt.
Earl Clark, who has been so impressive thus far in his fledgling NBA career that the Suns have also hired Gani Lawal, Hakim Warrick, (reportedly) Josh Childress, and (reportedly) Hedo Turkoglu since he arrived, received a few reprimands from noted disciplinarian Dan Majerle after the 5-14 FG performance, as captured by Bright Side of the Sun:
“He’s struggling a little bit. That happens in Summer League. I think he wants to come out here and he may be pressing a little bit. I don’t know if he’s in the greatest shape possible.”
Clark sat with his girlfriend and baby for the next game or so with Suns owner Robert Sarver hovering directly behind them.
Denver Nuggets 92, Los Angeles Lakers 74
This game was notable more for who survived than who played well. Brian Butch, a D-League standout, ended up on crutches Sunday after a horrific fall in this game that silenced Cox Pavilion until Butch’s screams filled the arena. A displaced left patella tendon was diagnosed; he is not expected to return during NBA Summer League.
Rob Kurz, another impressive D-League player, smacked his head on the stanchion almost exactly where Butch fell and split his forehead open, requiring stitches. He’s expected back for Monday action.
For those who made it back to the bleacher locker rooms in one piece, the consensus of the room was that the Lakers made out like bandits to get Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter in the second round (Nos. 43 and 58, respectively). Caracter posted a 17/12/4 with plenty of turnovers but also strength and aggressiveness.
In fact, Caracter (like many others at this event) probably tried too hard to prove he could get to the basket. At one point, he did his Matrix throw-the-world-off-me move in the low post, ejecting four Nuggets in to the air and earning free throws. But Neo didn’t have four open teammates.
Ebanks didn’t rebound, but he did shoot 8-16 from the floor while impressing with his ability to create his own shot.
Ty Lawson continued to impress with 18 points and 7 assists, owning the ball and the flow of the game, but he never took over in an outstanding fashion, mostly due to an intriguing but ultimately not-ready-for-prime-time cast around him. In a league predicated on showcasing athleticism, he never appeared to leap out of the gym, but the ball never stalled when he was in the game.
A player who should receive strong consideration for a guaranteed contract is Coby Karl. I say this out of self-preservation as he constantly looks like he could rip your spine out through your mouth and show it to you as an object lesson for crossing him. (Also, he’s everything Luke Walton is but ratcheted up three notches in strength.)
Detroit Pistons 89, Golden State Warriors 69
Gosh, Austin Daye is good.
(Now that’s analysis.)
The 6-11 guard/forward reached the basket at will, though with only 8-20 to show on this night. He didn’t tumble back against the size of Golden State, mostly because they didn’t really have any. He also tallied four assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes. His three blocked shots demonstrated his assets as a help defender as well.
Greg Monroe, on the other hand, looked disturbingly slow against Summer League competition. He acquitted himself well enough in the box score (11/8/3), but he always seemed a half-step behind on a team that wasn’t exactly making its living on the break.
Brandan Wright only played 15 minutes, but the enduring image of this game will be his posterior planted on the line, where he shot 10 FTs in that limited time. Otherwise, the Warriors seemed to like the idea of having a Summer League team more than filling its roster. This, of course, also was the attitude last season.
Pistons and Warriors fans were in top form, booing the results of a musical chairs race during a timeout and flustering the young MC of the game to the point of having to replay the game at least once.
On a personal note, the smallish gym at Cox Pavilion probably represented a crowd larger than Andre Brown or Mac Koshwal ever saw at Rosemont Horizon, so they’ve got that going for them. We are DePaul!
Houston Rockets 87, Dallas Mavericks 78
Summer League games often stutter and stumble due to the rules. Players can accrue approximately 87 billion fouls in a 40-minute game without fouling out, so reaching to force two shots on defense is preferred to waving at one. Of course, this only works if you can catch the fellow with the ball. With point guards Rodrigue Beaubois and Ishmael Smith, though, you can’t foul what you can’t see. It’s like the apocryphal snipe hunting the older Boy Scouts would talk the younger ones in to; convincing someone to catch one of them is more about the cruel trick than the achievement itself.
Beaubois busted the sound barrier for 28/4/4 on 20 shots with four turnovers in the loss. More of those points came in the second half after a talking-to by professional talker Omar Samhan. “I just told (Beaubois) that he has to take over; I told him Dirk’s not out here. We’re counting on him; he’s our guy. And (shucks), he did.”
Samhan, who claimed to have lost 60 pounds since last March’s roll through the NCAA Tournament, contributed 17/6 on 12 shots as a starter and provided a convincing argument with his actions that he could anchor the end of a bench as well as he used to anchor buffet tables.
Jeremy Lin, a Harvard product with PG aspirations, contributed little in 10 minutes except a memorable exclamation at him from the Mavs’ bench: “JEREMY! GET TO YOUR SPOT!” Samhan also received such an exultation, making you wonder if spot-taking is only taught at state schools.
Patrick Patterson, one of a few Kentucky rookies present in Las Vegas, followed up an 8-9 performance Friday against the diminutive Suns by failing to make an impression with 3-11 shooting and few memorable plays. Ishmael Smith, the speed burner, did little to assuage concerns about his shooting ability with only two assists and seven shots (four made) in 25 minutes.
Sunday, July 11
Denver Nuggets 100, New York Knicks 90
Saturday’s games sported only one three-point shooter of note (Blake Ahern for the Rockets, who went 1-6 from the arc). On Sunday, the New York Knicks showed no fear in hoisting 31 threes. Having said that, fear is a great tool for self-preservation. The Knicks only made 10 of those shots on the way to the loss.
Toney Douglas especially struggled for these baby Knicks, jacking up 11 3PTA for 27 total points but only garnering one assist and failing to get back on Ty Lawson (28 points on 16 shots with seven assists) on the break multiple times, once especially heinous because he had just shot a three at the top of the key.
Knicks Summer League coach Dan D’Antoni sympathized with Douglas’ struggles. “Coming from a two in college to a point in the pros is difficult. It’s going to be a growing situation.” He added pick-and-roll success will get Douglas in a point guard state of mind and off the three-point arc.
There was a Knicks fan present in Yankees gear picking fights with the crowd and the benches in the otherwise quiet gym; he seemed downright comatose compared to his team. Even he seemed more composed than Bill Walker earned a flagrant foul and a technical foul was issued as well as the Knicks traded defense for reach’n'grab Summer League ball, fouling at a rate of more than once per minute.
“I want emotions,” added D’Antoni. “I’d rather start with emotions and tone it down than try to build it up.”
Portland Trail Blazers 84, Houston Rockets 67
Patrick Patterson went 0-5 for two points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes and Chase Budinger’s loping curves to the basket only earned him 6-16 from the field on the way to the loss. Budinger did achieve 4-7 from the arc, earning him 21 points overall. Five Blazers scored in double figures, including Ekene Ibekwe. His five blocked shots included at least one where he suggested loudly that Chase Budinger should remove the watered-down manure that belongs to him from the area where the shooting occurs.
Patty Mills continued to stake his claim on a second team in Portland that might rival last year’s Suns’ squad in depth and versatility. His 12/9/7 line in three quarters certainly must have impressed any Aussie national team officials peering on their computers, no?
“Every chance you get to get out on the floor and play, that’s an opportunity to show what you can do whether that’s teams here in America or national team. I keep in touch with coach Brett Brown (Spurs assistant and Australia national coach); he gives me some tips and tells me what to focus on.” (That can’t be awkward for a Spurs coach to advise a Trail Blazer player. Not at all.)
Washington Wizards 84, Golden State Warriors 79
To get to what you all want to talk about: JaVale McGee is built for Summer League, from his athleticism for lob dunks to the underdependence on actual plays. His 21 points and 13 rebounds on eight shots le…
Oh, fine. Current Wizard Sun Yue played fan favorite for four minutes with fans chanting for him to take more than the one shot he did in a…
Yes, yes. John Wall.
The talent started trickling in to Cox Pavilion for Wall’s professional debut during the Blazers-Rockets game, garnering attention from fans and league officials alike. Also, NBA players showed up to see Wall play. (Ahem. Cough.)
The packed gym witnessed a powerfully talented young man force the matter for 33 minutes in the Wizards’ win. He shot 7-15 from the floor and earned 11 FTAs, but he offset eight assists with eight turnovers. Wall also ate a faceful of screens set for Warriors’ guards as he continues to learn nuances about the pro game, such as ‘don’t run in to the big guys at full speed’.
Wall won’t beat Beaubois in a foot race, but he puts mass times acceleration better than possibly any PG in the L at the moment. He also has a legitimate opportunity to blossom in to a shutdown defender due to his arms and his lateral quickness.
Sam Cassell, coaching for the Wizards Summer League team, kept telling his young charge to calm down. “He accepts coaching; he accepts criticism. But he loves the game of basketball; you can’t teach anyone that.”
“I just need to figure out my teammates and figure out their spots,” noted Wall. “I’m used to guys running towards the basket and (Cartier Martin) ran to the three-point line because he’s a shooter and I hit a cameraman right in the face.”
Reggie Williams continued to make his mark with a block on Wall that he could file with his 34 points to add to his 22- and 16-point efforts earlier in the weekend to build quite the portfolio.