Monday Summer League Notes: Another rough night for Ben McLemore

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LAS VEGAS — There is a whole lot going on in Las Vegas… and we’re not just talking about the TAO nightclub. It’s Summer League and here is stuff from my notebook today (well, if I had a notebook, more stuff from my MacBook Air really)….

• The scouting report is out — Golden State overplayed Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore’s right hand, shifted their defense on him and dared him to try and go left. He didn’t, even when he went left he tried to pull it back and move right to get his shot. The result was a 4-of-12 shooting night for the No. 7 pick.

“I don’t feel like they were,” McLemore said of the effort to push him left. “They was just trying to stop me from shooting. That’s what most teams going to do, so when I see that I’m going to drive to the hole, get into the lane, get to the line.”

When McLemore tried to drive the need to improve his handles showed — he lost the ball a couple times, once getting away with a carry before he was stripped in the pant. But Warriors coach Mike Malone wants him to keep driving.

“That was one of the things they said about him coming out of Kansas, that right now he’s a straight-line driver but he doesn’t have the great ability to break his man down off the dribble so along with his shot selection we’re going to work on his handle,” Malone said….

“He has to realize… that if your jump shot’s not going sometimes drive the ball, get to the foul line, get an easy one, see that ball go through the net and that will help you out for your next one.”

• Shabazz Muhammad is not shy on the court — he wants the rock every time down, his hands are up constantly asking for the ball. He’s got a scorer’s mentality and he works really hard off the ball to get open — these are good things. Clearly someone on the Minnesota staff talked to him about passing more so he was trying hard to show he can dish, which led to a few forced attempts, but he was trying.

• Andrew Goudelock had another big scoring night for the Bulls — 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 5-of-6 from three. He was made for Summer League.

• Otto Porter was held out of the Wizards practice and scrimmage against the Raptors with a tight hamstring. Nothing serious, but the Wizards are not taking any precautions.

Cassell said he is going to continue to experiment with Porter in the rotation in Summer League, because they are trying to see what kind of player they really have.

“(Tuesday) I might play him at the point some,” Cassell said, and nobody is sure if he is joking or not. “I’m telling you we just want to see, we want to see what he can do, see what he brings to our ball club. I tried him at the four a little bit the other day, I might play him at the four (Tuesday). We got to see what he can do and what he can’t do.”

• It was nice to see Robbie Hummel’s play well — 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. The Timberwolves have his rights and he’s playing for them in Vegas (he was in Europe last season). He has bounced back from three major knee surgeries and looks like he could be a rotation player. He plays hard, knocks down looks and stays within himself.

• One guy turning a few heads is Wizards point guard Marquez Haynes, who played in Germany last year. He’s played well and a few teams are interested in at least inviting him to training camp.

• The Lakers look like a D’Antoni team even in Summer League — Robert Sacre in the paint and four shooters to space the floor around him. By the way, Sacre is the only guy on this Lakers SL team that will be on the team this fall (they picked up his option for next season).

• Gorgui Deng could lead the league in per minute foul rate next season. He’s a foul sponge.

• Here is Wizards Summer League coach Sam Cassell talking about Jan Vesely through a couple games (and some practices):

“Vesely can play the four or the five. I think he’s been solid but I’m expecting more…. His offense is getting a little bit better, but unfortunately you’ve got to play both ends of the court. He’s got to make the adjustments. He ain’t playing bad, but being his third year he’s got to play better. I’m expecting a little bit more.”

• Kendall Marshall struggled in the first half but during the Suns’ second half comeback he played solid ball. That’s an improvement from last season. Which should help his trade value.

• Also for the Suns, both Morris twins got a technical in the same game Monday. Their mother must be proud.

• Timberwolves Summer Leaguer Luke Sikma is a dead ringer for his father.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.