Samardo Samuels’ improved conditioning helped him shine at NBA Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — There are a lot of players in Las Vegas this week that nearly nobody recognizes due to the hodgepodge that is NBA Summer League. There’s a power forward on the Cleveland Cavaliers that is unrecognizable for other reasons, however, as Samardo Samuels has undergone a complete body overhaul compared to how he looked at the end of last season.

It showed on Friday afternoon, too, as Samuels came off the bench to score nine points and grab 13 rebounds — six of which came on the offensive end — in an absolute beatdown of the New York Knicks. It could be argued that Tristan Thompson was more impressive before leaving the game in the middle of the third quarter, but Samuels’ transformation into an athletically-competent basketball player has been pretty impressive all week.

The second-year pro is well-aware of that, too, as he talked a bit about it during the post-game media availability (video available over at Fear The Sword courtesy of Conrad Kaczmarek).

“I had a pretty good Summer League,” Samuels said after the Cavs’ final game of the Summer League season. “It gave me a chance to work on some of the areas that people are questioning. It gave me a chance to show that I can do all that stuff. As each game progressed I got better and that’s what Summer League is for, you know?”

He essentially showed more aggression and quicker hops rather than an overtly-improved game, but the transformation he made with his body was even more impressive.

“I’ve just been working out nonstop … ever since this season gave break,” Samuels said. “I was on it every day doing cardio and when I’m not playing, I’ve been working out. Just staying with it everyday.”

That’s the key to his game, too, as Samuels exploded for a huge putback dunk and created a few other solid opportunities just because he’s able to move quicker than he was in the past.

“I’m way more explosive,” Samuels said. “Sometimes I get back to my old habits, but the more I play the more I feel like I’ll be more comfortable out here because I realize I don’t have to do as much work as I normally have to do.”

Considering your’s truly has lost a decent amount of pounds and plays basketball at the local YMCA on a daily basis, I can attest to what Samuels is saying … hopefully it continues to work as he attempts to make the Cavs’ rotation next season.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.

Carmelo Anthony leaves without speaking to media, will probably get fined

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Lately, Carmelo Anthony has parsed whether the Thunder are frustrated or angry and said he’s going through the roughest stretch of his career.

It didn’t get any better last night.

Anthony scored 11 points on 12 shots with three turnovers, and Oklahoma City got outscored by 21 points with him on the floor in a home loss to the Hornets. The Thunder have now lost two of three, falling to the lowly Nets and Hornets and needing overtime to beat the freefalling Grizzlies.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Anthony today:

I’m sorry. My bad. I had a FaceTime session with my son, so I skipped out on you guys yesterday. I apologize. It’s true, though. That’s true. It’s true. He had a school night.

The NBA’s media-access rules state: “All players must be available to the media for a minimum of five to 10 minutes during the postgame media access period.” It’s been a while since someone got punished for violating the policy, but Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for not speaking to the media after Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

I’m sympathetic to Anthony wanting to speak to his son, who’s still in New York. But the league tends not to take these personal concerns into consideration, which is probably for the best. There’s a rule. Anthony violated it. Assessing which personal calls should supersede the rule is a can of worms not worth opening. Besides, Anthony probably could have returned to the locker room for an interview after concluding the call.

Anthony earns a lot of money. If he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine to speak with his son, I have absolutely no problem with that. But that’s probably the choice he made.

In my experience, Anthony has been forthright with the media. He spent years as the face of the Knicks, dutifully answering for problems created by James Dolan and Phil Jackson. Because he was available nearly daily while his superiors avoided interviews, Anthony was the grilled by the New York media.

I bet he expected a reprieve in Oklahoma City. Instead, the spotlight has shined on him as a problem with the underwhelming Thunder.

It’s understandable he’d rather talk to his son than reporters. But it’s also understandable the NBA wants to promote its business through the media, and the league has power to enforce its rules.

Grizzlies fan absolutely owns kids halftime scrimmage (video)

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The Grizzlies lost for the 15th time in their last 16 games, a 25-point drubbing at home against the Heat, last night.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Memphis.

This young fan – while playing in the halftime scrimmage – stopped his dribble, stepped on the ball, whipped off his youth jersey to reveal a Marc Gasol jersey, flexed, re-started his dribbled then drove for a basket.

Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation:

The Grizzlies don’t deserve this hero.