Monday Summer League Notes: Another rough night for Ben McLemore

6 Comments

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.

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Kerr to see Stanford specialists about back issues, is optimistic about return to bench

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If he were not coaching a perennial contender and a team where he genuinely has a deep bond with the players, the GM, and his fellow coaches, Steve Kerr might have walked away from basketball for a while. The pain from spinal fluid leakage from a couple of back surgeries he had two summers ago (the ones that led to Luke Walton coaching the first half of the season in Golden State) would have been too much.

But he tolerated and managed the pain as best he could, until a few days ago when it became too much. Kerr did not coach the final two games of the Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers and said he would not return to the bench until healthy enough to do so.

Kerr’s next step is to talk to specialists at Stanford University’s medical program, and Kerr is optimistic about the long-term prognosis, he told Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.

“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”

He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.

Kerr said his spirits have been lifted by other people who went through this, people who told him doctors found the leak and it changed their lives, that they bounced back to 100 percent. He said that the first back surgeries did their job in relieving his lower back pain, but it has led to spinal fluid leakage that is worse than the symptoms the first surgery solved.

Whether a fix can happen to get him back on the bench these playoffs is immaterial, we all hope it happens just so Kerr the person can go back to enjoying his life without chronic pain. He’ll be around the team as much as he can through the playoffs, but there are far more important things going on with him than basketball right now.

 

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

Getty Images
1 Comment

The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

Getty Images
2 Comments

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.