Adam Morrison impresses on sixth day of NBA Summer League

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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.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.

Can Kemba Walker save the sinking Hornets? He doesn’t want to jump the ship he’s (barely) keeping afloat

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DETROIT – Around this time last year, Kemba Walker‘s reputation peaked.

The season prior, he led Charlotte to its first playoff-game wins since the franchise reemerged as the Bobcats. The Hornets were on pace to make the playoff again, which would have been their first back-to-back postseason appearances in the second Charlotte era. And Walker made his first All-Star team.

While basking in his personal and team success, Walker found one downer: The NBA moved the All-Star game from his home arena to New Orleans due to North Carolina’s anti-gay law.

“It would have been really special if this had been in Charlotte,” Walker said.

The Hornets have gone south since.

They stumbled in the second half and missed the playoffs last season. They’re even worse this season, 18-25 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. As a result, Walker’s stock has tanked. He’s treated as a fringe All-Star candidate at best.

Yet – as trade speculation emerges – Walker has come to a conclusion similar to his a year ago: His experience would be more special in Charlotte.

“I would definitely be devastated if I was to get traded,” Walker said. “I do want to be here.”

Walker is one of the most intriguing cases as the trade deadline approaches. The 27-year-old is earning $12 million this season and is due the same salary next season before his contract expires. It’s not clear the Hornets would trade him. It’s not clear they should trade him.

Charlotte is bad around Walker, not because of him. The Hornets have played better with Walker on the floor (+5.2 points per 100 possessions) than the Cavaliers have with LeBron James (+0.3), Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo (+3.7) and Pelicans with Anthony Davis (+5.1).

Put another way, using Pythagorean win percentage, Charlotte has played like 55-win team when Walker plays and a 12-win team when he doesn’t. That 43-win-pace drop is the fourth largest league-wide (minimum: 20 games):

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The Hornets have struggled with Michael Carter-Williams at backup point guard and even more with rookie Malik Monk (a natural shooting guard) in the role while Carter-Williams was hurt. Backup point guard was a glaring weak spot last season, too, and Charlotte signed Carter-Williams to stop the bleeding.

But he was a budget choice. The Hornets’ mid-level exception sits mostly unused as they duck the luxury tax.

Using starting shooting guard Nicolas Batum as the primary playmaker when Walker sits has worked better than most alternatives. Staggering those two more often could right Charlotte.

However, even if Batum is the solution to the micro problem, he’s central to the macro problem.

The Hornets’ payroll has become bloated with prohibitive long-term deals. Several players are owed major money after this season:

With those constraints, it will be difficult to build a winner around Walker without paying the luxury tax, which Charlotte has never paid.

Walker is the Hornets’ most valuable asset, and trading him could make their second-most valuable asset – their upcoming first-round pick – even more valuable. Charlotte also use Walker as enticement to unload a bad contract, a tactic Adrian Wojnarowski reports is being explored. Still, the Hornets are in so deep, it’d be difficult to escape salary-cap purgatory, even while shedding Walker.

Because he signed his rookie-scale extension before the national TV deals carried the salary cap into the stratosphere and before he rose into stardom, Walker has a low salary for his status. That could open the door for trades not possible with other stars, especially if the Hornets want to attach an albatross.

Only Isaiah Thomas has a lower salary among reigning All-Stars:

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Of course, teams looking to upgrade at point guard for the stretch run – Pistons? Pacers? Jazz? Nuggets? Cavaliers? Spurs? – would be interested in Walker. But because he has an another season left on his contract, other teams – Knicks? Magic? Suns? – could trade for him as a head start on next year. The best analogue: The Jazz getting out ahead by trading Deron Williams to the Nets before his contract entered its final year.

A team must also prepare to pay Walker in 2019, when he’ll be 30 years old. Though the $48 million over four years he’s earning now is nothing to sneeze at, free agency will be his first opportunity to really cash in on the new TV money. In the extremely likely event he doesn’t make an All-NBA team next season, the largest extension he could sign (starting July 1) would be four years, $64,512,000. That probably won’t cut it. So, Walker’s team – unless it has cap space to renegotiate-and-extend his deal – will likely have to ride out his unrestricted free agency.

“Of course, it would be nice to get a big contract like a lot of the guys around the league are getting,” Walker said. “But, at the same time, I just try to take it one day at a time.”

All these discussions have thrown Walker for a loss. Charlotte drafted him and built around him. He’s not quite sure how to handle this.

“I’ve never really been in trade rumors like that, like I’ve been hearing lately about myself,” Walker said. “But I mean, I don’t know. I don’t even know. I don’t know.

“This is very new, and I really just don’t know.”

Walker said management hasn’t told him anything, and he won’t ask. It’s easy to read the writing on the wall: Walker is a good player on a losing team, and those players are always ripe to get dealt. On the other hand, a team owned by Michael Jordan is probably less inclined to enter rebuilding voluntarily.

“I’m here,” Walker said, “and I’m just trying to play and trying to win and trying to do what I can for this organization and try to get back in the playoff hunt. That’s the main priority.”

The Hornets have won two in a row, and head coach Steve Clifford is back. A surge into playoff contention isn’t out of the question.

If it happens, it’ll probably be on Walker’s shouldeers.

“We put so much pressure on Kemba to do so much,” said assistant coach Stephen Silas, who served as acting head coach in Clifford’s absence.

Too much pressure?

“At times, it can be,” Silas said. “But that’s what he signed up for, and that’s how we’re built.”

For now, at least.

Joel Embiid whacks Jaylen Brown in face while celebrating basket (video)

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Joel Embiid‘s antics – the Instagram victory laps, trash-talking and taunting – can rub people the wrong way.

With Jaylen Brown last night, literally.