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. 

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.