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: NBA to announce All-NBA Teams early, because of salary cap reasons

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The NBA’s Most Valuable Player award will not be announced until an awards ceremony June 26 on TNT — after the NBA draft, and after the NBA playoffs that will shape the narrative of the award even though voting will have been completed more than two months earlier. Same for Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and on down the line.

But not the All-NBA Teams, those are coming sooner — because teams want it that way.

The easiest example is the Indiana Pacers: If Paul George makes an All-NBA team they can offer him a designated veteran contract worth roughly $80 million more than any other team. However, if he doesn’t make a team the Pacers need to worry about him leaving as a free agent in 2018, and they may try to trade him. The best time for that trade might be around the draft — Indiana may be able to secure a high pick from a team near the top of the draft in a trade. However, if the Pacers didn’t know if George made an All-NBA team by the draft they wouldn’t make that move.

So the NBA is announcing early, a story broken by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

To allow for its teams to have all the necessary information to make offseason preparations, the NBA will announce its all-NBA teams before its inaugural awards show in late June, according to league sources.

Because of the newly created Designated Player Exception, which relies on players making, among other things, one of the three all-NBA teams to qualify, decisions about whether players — such as Indiana Pacers star Paul George, for example — will be willing to remain with their current team or be open to being traded elsewhere could be based upon whether a player is voted on to one of the teams.

Smart move by the NBA. There are also bonuses and other impacts on salaries based on end of season awards that will alter the salary structure of teams heading into free agency.

Larry Bird delivers Pacers’ 2021 All-Star bid in an Indy car

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NEW YORK (AP) — Indiana wants the NBA All-Star Game and sent Larry Bird to get it – in an Indy car.

Bird drove four blocks down Fifth Avenue in his car Monday to deliver the Pacers’ bid to host the 2021 game to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, fitting his 6-foot-9 frame into a car usually driven by much shorter people.

Bird, an Indiana native and now the Pacers president, had driven an Indy car only once, during his practice for his drive Monday.

Drawing a crowd of a couple hundred spectators, he maneuvered along the left lane, exited his yellow and blue “Larry Bird” car and called it a “little rough ride” because of his big feet and the car’s small pedals.

Silver says the Pacers, who hosted the game in 1985, would be “fantastic hosts.”

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in Los Angeles, and 2019 is expected to be re-awarded to Charlotte. Houston, Orlando, and a number of other cities are expected to make bids for the 2020 and 2021 games, along with Indiana.

Rajon Rondo out for Game 5, Isaiah Canaan to start… but is that Bulls’ best option late?

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Jerian Grant, and then Michael Carter-Williams, have been unmitigated disasters for the Chicago Bulls in the two games they just lost at home to the Boston Celtics, evening up the series 2-2. That’s not the only reasons for the Celtics’ surge — Boston has gang rebounded well, they’ve done a great job slowing down the tempo and taking away easy Chicago buckets, and going small has worked because Al Horford has played fantastic at the five — but if Chicago is going to still win this series, they need better play at the point.

Despite some rumors, that is not going to come from Rajon Rondo in Game 5

That means Isaiah Canaan, who played the best of any of the reserve points in Game 4, will get the start.

Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played fantastic on both ends of the court. At least until Canaan, who had seen limited minutes most of the season, started to show signs of being tired.

That said, Canaan was on the bench for a reason at the beginning of this series — he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. Expect the Celtics to try and exploit him on that end with favorable matchups in Game 5.

Which is why Fred Hoiberg needs to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most. Maybe not to start (you don’t want to overtax Butler and have him tired late), but in the fourth and other key moments the Bulls should break with tradition.

The Bulls were +2 in Game 3 when Rondo and Wade were the de facto point guards, and -29 when Grant or Carter-Williams was in the role. In Game 4, because Canaan played well, there was almost always a point guard on the court.

I would play Wade and Butler with rookie Denzel Valentine also on the wing — he can space the floor (35.1 percent from three this season), and the ball tends to move when he is out there. Hoiberg clearly has little trust in Valentine, and he’s not a great defender, but neither is Canaan.

The Celtics have found a stride this series, and I’m not sure the Bulls can come back and win, but if they are going to Hoiberg has to prove he’ll take risks and make big adjustments when needed in this series. Brad Stevens already made his bold move starting Gerald Green, and it worked. Can the Bulls match it?

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.