LAS VEGAS — NBA Summer League finished up with its fifth consecutive day of basketball on Wednesday evening and, as usual, there was a lot of basketball played. Not all of it was good basketball, unfortunately, but it was all basketball and there were some good things happening.
The best thing that happened was the re-emergence of former first round pick Adam Morrison as he attempts to make the Los Angeles Clippers. Morrison put on quite the show en route to 23 points on 13 shots while nailing all three of his 3-point attempts … and he’d have scored even more if it the Summer League awarded style points (and not just for his hair).
Some of the other notable performances included the following players:
- Tobias Harris played very well for the Milwaukee Bucks, but we’ve already talked about him on this very blog. In lieu of singing more Harris’s praises, Bucks rookie John Henson was also pretty impressive with an active 20 points and nine rebounds while making his Summer League debut. The rest of the team was largely inconsequential — and Larry Sanders in particular was actually disappointing — and the team actually ended up in the loss column despite Henson and Harris.
- The Washington Wizards finished their Summer League foray with equal amounts of questions and answers as they were the first team to complete all five of their games. Bradley Beal continued to look very solid with 18 points, six rebounds and a pair of nice blocks — though he was only able to knock down one of his two free-throw attempts late in the game — while Shavlik Randolph had 11 points and 10 rebounds despite making just three of his 11 shot attempts. Chris Singleton also put together a frustratingly-fun performance with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks and seven fouls as he continued to be overly aggressive.
- Undrafted rookie Scott Machado had a very good game for the Houston Rockets with 20 points, six assists and four steals while looking like the assist-man he should be after struggling earlier in the week. The Rockets got solid performances out of their drafted players, too, as Royce White finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Terrence Jones had (an inefficient) 16 points and nine rebounds and Jeremy Lamb scored 16 points to go with eight rebounds … though his complaining about his teammates not passing him the ball often enough was a bit distracting.
- Harrison Barnes struggled quite a bit as he shot just 5-of-17 from the floor, but he was clutch down the stretch as he helped the Golden State Warriors to a 65-62 victory. Charles Jenkins was pretty solid in the first three quarters with 17 points, but ended up rather quiet down the stretch.
- Jimmy Butler put together another good game for the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday afternoon scoring 24 points, but it was the play of Malcolm Thomas that continued to stand out after a stellar season in the NBA Development League. Thomas put together his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds in a loss.
- Cory Joseph, last year’s first round pick for the San Antonio Spurs, scored 22 points and dished six assists to look like the player fans hoped he’d become. D-League veteran Eric Dawson scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as he attempts to prove he’s big enough to play in the NBA’s post.
- The Atlanta Hawks scored a paltry 67 points in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks, but the majority of them came by way of John Jenkins as he scored 21 points as he made 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Fellow rookie Mike Scott was very efficient, too, needing just four shots to score 11 points as he grabbed seven rebounds in the victory.
- The Dallas Mavericks took their first loss of the week, but it wasn’t due to the play of second round pick Jae Crowder. Crowder scored 20 points while staying active to compile eight rebounds and a pair of steals, but his teammates weren’t able to hold up their end of the bargain. Dominique Jones made just five of his 16 attempts to score 11 points (and losing his Summer League scoring leader title in the works) while backup point guard Justin Dentmon shot just 2-of-9 from the field to not quite counteract his five assist, zero turnover performance.
- Austin Rivers didn’t play for the New Orleans Hornets after looking a bit subpar throughout their first couple of games in Vegas, but the team wasn’t lacking when free agent Brian Roberts took over point guard duties on Wednesday night. The veteran guard scored a team-high 16 points while matched up against first round pick Kendall Marshall to lead his team to victory.
- Speaking of Kendall Marshall, he managed to get up more than the one shot he attempted in the Phoenix Suns’ first Summer League game. Unfortunately he got 10 shots up — and missed nine of them — while backup Diante Garrett had a more efficient seven points off the bench. Former Ohio State standout David Lighty started and scored just four points, but showed the defensive potential he’s known to have..
Day seven will hopefully continue with more great basketball — or at least fun if Adam Morrison continues to impress.
Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.
Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.
Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.
With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.
That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.
Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.
“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”
Lue put it this way.
“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”
While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.
Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.
The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.
Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.
As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.
If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.
When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.
He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.
What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.
“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”
“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.
Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.
Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.