Summer League Notes from Day 1: Where Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are sweet together

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Eturner_summer.jpgA lot of things happen during Summer League, lots of games in one day. Here are some notes on the things that didn’t make their own post from the first day in Orlando.

* Jrue Holiday may have been the best single player to take the floor the first day of games in Orlando, which should makes Sixers fans happy. He has become a very patient person running the pick-and-roll. What should make the fans happier was how he played with No. 2 pick Evan Turner. There seemed to be some chemistry there — two ball handling guards in the backcourt who can set up plays for each other. And did. Turner had a nice game: He looked a little rusty and got a tough welcome for a first game being matched up on Terrance Williams, a fast-improving rookie last year. But he held his own, and is only going to get better. There’s a lot to be excited about.

* Utah’s Gordon Hayward is a scrapper. Going in we all knew the Butler product could shoot — he had a nice catch-and-shoot for one early bucket that he could do a lot this season — but Adam Morrison can knock it down if you leave him open. However Gordon would mix it up — on one of his first clean looks he could have tried to elevate for the 15-footer, but he leaned in and got the contact, held his own and got the shot off. He got rebounds, made some passes, had a couple steals, got to loose balls. He started the game tentative but seemed to find himself as it went on. No big numbers put up (2-2 shooting from the floor). One Summer League game counts for squat in the real world. But he did the little things you can ask, which is a good sign.

* Alexis Ajinca is a physical specimen at center for Charlotte, but he was always that. He had some strong rebounds in traffic that were impressive. More impressive: He seemed today to make more good plays, more smart plays than bad. Which is a change for the better. He showed out well on some picks, but also made a bad choice on another chasing Rod Benson out too far and giving him a lane to drive. Still, he looks better and if he could start to take some real minutes in the season it would be a boost.

* Gerald Henderson showed off an improved jumper to go with the leaping ability and athleticism we have always known he had. Henderson’s game looked more rounded, which could get him minutes for the Bobcats next season.

* I’ll admit I may have been wrong. I thought Luke Harangody’s game would not translate to the NBA. But the guy shot the rock — 9 of 13 from the floor, 4 of 6 from three. That led to 23 points for the Celtics. He was great at sliding into the open spot on the floor and not shying away from the shot. He also was smart: put a smaller guy on him and he posted the defender up, put a bigger defender on him and he drew him out to the arc. He can face up or go back to the basket. We’ll see if he can defend and how he does long term, but he may be a good fit after all.

* Another guy who had a good game was Oliver Lafayette. Who, you ask? Former University of Houston guy who had a stop in Fort Wayne D-League and was playing for the Celtics. He had a dozen points in the first half and showed himself a real scorer, but the defense got tighter on him in second half and he did not do a good job setting up teammates.

Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.



The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.

Rumor: Magic expected to fire Frank Vogel

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Magic president Jeff Weltman inherited an expensive and bad roster, limiting his options to shape it.

He also inherited coach Frank Vogel, and maybe there’s something Weltman will do about that.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

Orlando’s ongoing malaise, especially after the promise of an unexpected 8-4 start, make it a widely held assumption in coaching circles that Vogel will be dismissed after the franchise’s sixth successive season out of the playoffs.

Perhaps, these people in coaching circles are doing nothing more than connecting dots. Many coaches with poor records – only the Suns and Nets have been worse during Vogel’s two-year tenure – inherited by a new front office get fired.

Or it could be something more concrete, like Orlando putting out feelers for potential replacements. That possibility gives juice to this report.

Vogel has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Will ownership pay to oust Vogel? That seems likely. The alternative is paying Weltman to sit on his hands.

This would be a tough break for Vogel, who coached well with the Pacers. The Magic’s roster is just so lacking. Vogel hasn’t impressed in Orlando, but his opportunity to do so has been narrow.

At least it’d be more understandable if he got fired by a losing team. Last time, he got fired by a winning team.

Rumor: Bucks, Jabari Parker could part after season

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Jabari Parker is a confounding fit on the Bucks now and in the future.

Could he and Milwaukee part ways this summer, when he’ll be a restricted free agent?

Gery Woelfel on 105.7 The Fan:

At this very moment, I’d say the odds are slim to none it’s going to happen … that he’ll be on this team next year.

I just don’t see a good fit there. I didn’t bring this up, and I’ve been meaning to do so, but I haven’t. He came very, very close to being traded at the deadline. And I think that spoke volumes of they think of Jabari Parker and whether he’s a part of their future plans.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry denied it:

So did general manager Jon Horst. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Horst made it clear both on the radio and in a separate interview with the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that the Bucks never had any intention of trading Parker

Teams often discuss trading players then deny it to avoid offending the player. Whether or not they nearly traded Parker, the Bucks would probably respond now similarly.

As far as Parker’s future in Milwaukee, it’s unclear where the well-connected Woelfel’s reporting ends and his analysis begins. There’s a huge difference between trading Parker for value and letting him walk for nothing. Just because the Bucks came close to trading Parker wouldn’t mean they won’t re-sign him.

Shedding Parker would not open cap space without additional moves. It would probably allow Milwaukee to use the full mid-level exception and stay beneath the luxury-tax line. But that’s unlikely to land a player who combines Parker’s age and talent.

Because Parker will be a restricted free agent, the Bucks hold the cards. If he’s upset about trade talks or anything else, he can’t unilaterally leave.

Milwaukee must determine how much to pay Parker and how to utilize him with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those are hard questions. But the Bucks throwing up their hands and letting Parker walk in free agency isn’t the answer.