Samhan adapts, impresses in his second Summer League game

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Everyone knows Omar Samhan was an extremely productive college player. At 6-11′, 265 pounds, Samhan was able to simply overwhelm most of his college opponents by using his size, strength, and    extremely advanced package of skills. 
Samhan’s college numbers are impressive; he averaged 21.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game during his senior season at St. Mary’s, led all college players in PER, and burst into the national consciousness when he scored 61 points in the first two rounds of last year’s NCAA Tournament. 
Despite Samhan’s production at the college level, there have always been doubts about his athleticism, conditioning, and ability to produce in the NBA. Thanks to those concerns and a disappointing performance in St. Mary’s final NCAA tournament game, Samhan went undrafted this year.
The Dallas Mavericks assigned Samhan to their summer league roster this year, and Samhan knows he only has a couple games to prove himself if he wants to be playing in the NBA instead of Europe next season. 
Samhan’s first summer league game didn’t go so well. Samhan admitted after the game that his nerves affected him, and he never was able to get into the flow of the action. Samhan had trouble establishing post position, looked rushed when he got the ball, and had trouble staying in front of his man on defense. As a result, Samhan ended up with more fouls (5) than points (4) during his 19 minutes of play. It wasn’t the type of game that NBA scouts and GMs were looking for, and Samhan knew it.
On Saturday, Samhan bounced back from his shaky debut and showed those in attendance the package of skills that made him one of the most productive big men in college basketball last season. The Mavericks went to Samhan in the post on their first possession of the game, and Samhan responded with a nice turnaround jumper over Jordan Hill. 
In Samhan’s own words, that first basket “broke the ice” for him — After he hit the shot, much of the first half turned into the Samhan show. Samhan faced Hill up and scored on him with a righty dribble. He hit two straight pick-and-pop jumpers from the left side of the court, and looked very confident in his stroke — Samhan said after the game he’s trying to extend his range to the three-point line, and the work he’s putting in shows.
Samhan also showed some nice passing ability from the low block, was active on the boards, and did a good job defending Jordan Hill in the post. Samhan’s best play of the day came on the fast break, where Samhan is generally the least effective. While running the floor, Samhan caught a pass at full speed, started to go into a spin, stopped himself on a dime while keeping one foot down, and calmly reverse pivoted back to his right hand for an easy basket. 
Samhan was less effective after taking a hard fall in the first half; he sprung up and clapped his hands after he went down, but that was because Samhan knows he doesn’t have the luxury of asking out of any games. It was a hard fall, and Samhan admitted after the game that the blow to his head affected his play.
Samhan’s lack of foot speed was also an issue, and he gave up a few easy threes because he was slow to close out. Samhan has the talent and touch to provide some scoring off the bench, but he still has a lot of work to do on his conditioning before he can hope to play significant minutes against the NBA’s athletic big men. The good news for Samhan’s supporters is that he appears ready to put in that work. Samhan may be the slowest player in summer league, but he was moving faster than any other Maverick during pre-game warmups on Friday, and the way he toughed out his head injury on Saturday was impressive. 
Samhan’s body isn’t NBA-ready yet, but there may be a roster spot available for somebody with Samhan’s combination of size, skill, savvy, and willingness to work if Samhan can continue to play the way he did during the first half of Saturday’s game. 

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.