John Wall shows his world of potential, shows he is still 19 in first Summer League game

2 Comments

jwall_no1.jpgJohn Wall is lightning quick. You think you know that watching his televised games while at Kentucky, but until you see him in person you don’t realize just how quick. It’s impressive, bordering on insane.

He flashed that speed in his first ever Summer League game. Plus he showed his great length, good defensive instincts, and some real feel for setting up teammates. And all at age 19.

But there is also a work to do. He didn’t blow anybody away with Game 1. It was nice.

Maybe the play that best sums up his first game: In the second quarter he pushed the ball up off a miss, drove into the lane and put on as quick and pretty a spin move as you are ever going to see and threw up a layup. And the Warriors’ Reggie Williams blocked it from behind.

Wall was the attraction and had 24 points on 15 shots, attacked the rim and got to the line. He had 8 assists. He also had 8 turnovers. Oh yea, his team won 84-79, but nobody cares who wins the games at Summer League.

One Summer League game borders on irrelevant. It is like the Rhode Island primary on the presidential election trail. What you want to see is the potential, you want to see him (and any player) improve as the week goes on. But right now, we have just one game to look at (game two is Tuesday against the Clippers).

In his first game of any kind for the Wizards, he pressed. He tried to go to fast and do too much at times. Wizards Summer League coach Sam Cassell kept pulling him aside and telling him to relax.

“His first shot hit the backboard so hard I thought it was going to shatter the glass,” Cassell said. “But he’ll be fine.”

Wall himself said he was playing too fast at first, which showed up in plays like a drive and kick to the corner that was wide of his shooter by 5 feet. Still, Wizards coach Flip Saunders was watching from the wings and was good with Wall’s first game.

“If you say he played kind of an average game, that shows you the kind of potential he has,” Saunders said.

There were highlights. Wall made a great connection with the high-flying JaVale McGee and had some ally-oops that got the large crowd in Vegas (a sold-out 4,000 seats plus standing-room-only media) leaping up and cheering. McGee did a really good job running the floor and picking up the garbage when Wall missed.

Wall also could have shot a lot more — he was easily the fastest guy on the floor — but did a good job finding teammates at points.

All the potential that has Wall being compared to a better Russell Westbrook, to saying he has some Chris Paul in him, was on display. So was the rookie at 19. What matters is how he looks tomorrow, how he looks at the end of the week, how he looks come training camp and that first game in November. Step one was nice. Not thrilling, but nice.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

2 Comments

Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

AP Photo/Darren Abate
5 Comments

The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
1 Comment

MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”