Sunday Summer League Notes: Talking big men like Zeller, Vesley

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Our notebooks are full from another day watching hoop in Vegas are a few notes from Day 3 of the NBA Summer League:

• In case you missed it, we’ve written about a couple of big men who are looking good in Las Vegas — Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors and Cody Zeller for the Bobcats.

• Speaking of bigs, for the second game in a row Jan Vesely showed an improved offensive game for the Wizards — a tip in-alley-oop, a couple putbacks, a pretty little step-back jumper along the baseline he has hit a couple days in a row now. But for the second straight day his defense and rebounding left a lot to be desired — the Wizards got pushed around in the paint a lot and Vesely lost his man in transition.

“To me, he got a little physicality used on him today…” Wizards Summer League coach Don Newman said after the game. “You got a guy (Knicks’ Jeremy Tyler) that’s rough in the paint, the whole game they beat us right down in the paint. If they missed it they went and got it. And that can’t happen, you got to hold your own down there and that’s what (Vesely) has to do defensively.”

• Otto Porter had his second rough shooting game in a row, 4-of-13. He’s a smart player with a great IQ but who admitted after the game that learning to play the pick-and-roll heavy NBA game is a major adjustment. After the game the Wizards coaching staff said they would like to see him drive more.

• Cleveland’s Dion Waiters put up 23 points on Memphis, but it was on 7-of-17 shooting. He was attacking, getting buckets at the rim and getting to the line for a dozen free throw attempts. That’s the good side. He was 1-4 from three and 4-11 from outside the paint in general.

• John Henson was out for the Bucks with a groin strain. Nothing serious but teams are very cautious at Summer League with injuries. As they should be.

• Tony Wroten had a nice offensive game as he tries to make a case he should get minutes behind Mike Conley in Memphis next season. His game has matured a lot from his first Summer League, but I’m not sure he plays enough defense. Looking good in Vegas and looking good running the Grizzlies offense are two different things.

• According to friend of the site D.J. Foster, Clippers draft pick Reggie Bullock looked like a player, working well off the ball. Not many minutes available on the Clippers next season, that is one deep team, but it’s also a place a young player could learn a lot.

• Dallas’ point guard Gal Mekel — who the team just signed a week ago — is just solid. He plays within himself, he never looks hurried, he makes smart decisions on when and where to move the ball, and if he gets in the lane he’s got a nice little floater. He also has shown a little drive and dish-back that is an almost behind the back pass. He is not athletic enough to be a star in this league but he should be a solid 15-20 minute a night backup. This is a good signing by Dallas.

• Golden State’s first-round pick Nemanja Nedovic sprained his ankle and sat out Saturday’s Summer League game for the team, then Sunday he was bound for Serbia to play with their national team this summer. He did practice with the team before his injury.

• Yesterday we told you Portland’s Victor Claver was injured after taking a knee to his thigh, Sunday he said he is day-to-day. He’s feeling a lot better, hot time for a return to the court set.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.