Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons

Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight shine in preseason game which actually doesn’t tell us anything


You’re probably reading that headline and wondering what the point of the post is. The point is that after a seven month layoff from organized basketball, Friday was the first time we’ve seen Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight play at the NBA level. As both players will have a huge impact on the directions of their teams, it’s only fair to take a look at what they showed in their first outing, even if it was preseason.

Oddly, their perceived roles were reversed in the opener. It was Irving who looked very much like a scorer and Knight who flashed playmaking and passing skills.

Irving looked as polished as advertised, with strong ability to manage the offense. His jumper looked clean and he had good ability to finish at the rim. He struggled with ball pressure from Knight, who dogged him most of the game, obviously taking it personally, but Irving was still good enough to win the individual matchup and the game.

Knight, on the other hand, looked nothing like the score-only gunner he was as a point guard at Kentucky. Knight’s drive and kick was particularly good, using his quickness to get into the paint and whipping it to perimeter shooters. He definitely has scoring ability, but he also showed touch on some passes including a scoop pass in transition for a dunk assist. Defensively he was engaged and active, notably stealing the ball from Irving on an inbounds pass, then finishing in transition over the No. 1 pick.

Maybe more interesting than either point guard’s night was the work of Tristan Thompson for the Cavaliers. After a shakey first half, Thompson came alive in the second. He showed a good range, his body showed itself to be both more muscled and leaner than when he was drafted, and his length was evident when he took off from a step inside the free throw lane and jammed it on a dump-off. He was active on defense. He also got completely rocked on a block by Samardo Samuels, but he’s a rookie.

Again, this could look baffling in three months, all three players could be terrible, Irving could lead rookies in assists, Knight could be too shot-happy. But in their first showing on an NBA floor, all three players gave us something to be excited about.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.