Some thoughts from the final day of Summer League

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jlin.jpgJust got home after 10 days in Las Vegas — a crazy experience, to say the least. Here are some quick thoughts from the final day of action:

-I was definitely too hard on Jeremy Lin in my original evaluation of him. I absolutely loved and continue to love his approach to the game, but alongside of guards like Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and John Wall, Lin didn’t look as explosive as he does against less freakish athletes, and I definitely missed a lot of the nuance in his game. These are the things that can happen when you watch 40 games in 10 days.
I took a really hard look at Lin in his Summer League finale game against the Kings, and the news is all good. Lin isn’t a traditional drive-and-kick guard, but he sees plays before they happen and knows where the right pass is. Even if he doesn’t make the pass that leads directly to a basket, he gets the ball to a teammate in a position where he can do something with it. His three assist box score is a joke — there were at least four or five passes Lin made that didn’t go down as assists because his teammate blew an open shot or got fouled. He also moves as well without the ball as any guard in Summer League, which is something that becomes obvious as soon as he hits the floor. 
The biggest thing Lin needs to improve is his jumper, which is passable but not great. He’s not a guy that looks to settle for the jumper, which is a great quality, but he will need to keep the defense honest from the perimeter. Right now, Lin’s elbow flies out when he shoots, and you can tell he doesn’t have total faith in his jumper yet.
His shot isn’t a glaring weakness or anything — he made a three per game at Harvard, and hit two of the three three-pointers he took in Vegas. It’s just that he’ll be a nearly ideal backup guard or starter in a triangle-type offense in the NBA if he can make that jumper into a strength — I can definitely see Lin being a Derek Fisher-type guard thanks to his blend of toughness and basketball IQ, with Lin being a better driver than Fisher but a less confident outside shooter. 
-DeMarcus Cousins showed that he has plenty of talent, and he shouldn’t be judged two harshly for lackluster performances in games that mean absolutely nothing to him. The red flag for me was his body language — he looks like he doesn’t want to be on the floor when a call goes against him, and he was clearly not in the mood to listen to a coach trying to give him some defensive pointers at halftime.
-Great bounce-back game for Luke Babbitt, who managed to score 22 points on only 8 shots. He’s such a good shooter, but he had trouble getting all the way to the rim in the game before this one. Against the Bulls on Sunday, Babbitt made the necessary adjustment, and looked to make the pass when the defense collapsed on him rather than trying to go all the way to the rim. That’s what Summer League is supposed to be for.
-Faroq-Aminu managed to make three three-pointers against the D-League All-Stars, but there is no way 8 of his 13 field goal attempts should be coming from beyond the arc. If he wants to be an effective player in this league, he has to find a way to get his game as close to the rim as possible. 
-Larry Sanders can flat-out play. He has so much skill for a guy with his size, length, and athleticism, and he’s one of the best defenders in Summer League. I’m genuinely excited to see a defensive frontline of Mbah a Moute/Sanders/Bogut in some situations next season.
-Great ending to Summer League play; with the D-Leaguers down by two to the Clippers and time running down, Mark Tyndale picked up a loose ball after Yaroslav Korolev had it poked away by Faroq-Aminu, threw up the buzzer-beating attempt, and swished it through to give the D-Leaguers a 79-78 lead and end Summer-League. Great ending to an incredible stretch of basketball. 

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.