DeMarcus Cousins named rookie of the month, despite late drop off

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dcousins_summer.jpgTo say DeMarcus Cousins was a revelation at Summer League is to say how far his stock had fallen.

Anyone who watched him at Kentucky knew he could dominate, but the questions about his focus and mental readiness for the NBA had him slip down the draft board. But only to number five and the Kings. Everyone knew the talent was there, and when it got put along side other NBA prospects in Vegas that talent shone through averaging 16.2 points and 10.8 assists.

Cousins was named the T-Mobile Rookie of the Year for July.

Was he better than John Wall? Not necessarily. Wall was named most outstanding player at Summer League, the week’s MVP. Wall averaged 23.5 points (tied for the Summer League lead) and 7.8 assists a game, he looked like a guy who could dominate. In transition he was nearly unstoppable.

But Wall came in with the burden of expectations — I was standing next to an assistant coach of another team at the end of one of Wall’s games and his thought was, “the guy didn’t wow me.” Wall was lightning quick, could get to the rim at will and set up teammates, but there were expectations of more for some.

Cousins didn’t have those expectations — nobody was totally sure what to expect. So he came out a big body that could set a mean high pick, and you saw Tyreke Evans coming off of it next season and started to drool. Cousins banged inside and got rebounds. He showed good footwork. He showed a midrange game. He was a beast that you could see playing in the NBA and playing well.

Well, he showed that for the first half of Summer League. His last three games saw a drop off — he was 9 for 45 shooting in those games. That may have been in part due to his conditioning, which was questioned. He seemed disinterested at times. He blew off coaching suggestions and seemed almost offended they were offered. If he got a bad call he would mentally check out for a stretch. He talked trash to opposing players and refs constantly.

There were plenty of questions asked about how focused he will be on games 5 to 75 of the NBA season. You can talk too much and coast for stretches at Kentucky and get away with it; you can do that at Summer League and still put up big numbers. Do that in an NBA game — even a dull mid-season game — and somebody will have your lunch.

The list of Summer League MVPs is a long one of names you don’t know, punctuated by a few stars. Cousins can and should be one of those stars. His skills could make a big impact for the Kings right away. But he is going to have to prove it, night in and night out. Maybe Evans (who did bring it all season last year) can drag that out of him.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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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.