LAS VEGAS — The overall quality of play in Saturday’s Summer League game between the Suns and the Blazers was among the best we’ve seen over the event’s first couple of days, and a quick look of the rosters makes it easy to understand why.
Phoenix started four players that played heavy minutes in the rotation a season ago in Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and P.J. Tucker, and Portland similarly rolled out legitimate NBA players in Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard, and Will Barton.
While the Suns looked much stronger and more dominant, particularly in the second half, the most impressive individual performance of the game went to Blazers’ rookie C.J. McCollum, who finished with a game-high 22 points, to go along with three rebounds and four assists.
McCollum did a nice job of getting into the lane, and scored on shots like the one you see in the video clip above more than once. None of them came after a sequence as crazy as this, however, as McCollum lost control of the ball, before regaining it and then using a dynamic dribbling display to get away from the defenders and into the paint to convert the pretty floater inside.
If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.
He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.
Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:
1) He is still a terrible defender.
2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.
But he deserves consideration.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”
How long is “for now”?
Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.
Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.
Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.
LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.
Not every player wants to do it.
Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.
“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”
“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.
“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”
There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.
Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.
Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie. Billups is honest.
And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.
Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.
Thornton went to the line.
Should he have? Or should Capela have?
Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.
It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.
So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.
I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.
Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.