Tuesday Summer League Notes: Gorgui Dieng trying to find his groove, McLemore finds his


LAS VEGAS — Summer League is more than just coaches in cargo shorts, although it is a lot of that. There’s a lot more going on, so here are some notes from Tuesday….

• Minnesota didn’t draft Gorgui Dieng because of his offense, still it feels like his footwork and overall game has regressed since he helped lead Louisville to the national title. That said, he looked a little better on Tuesday, shooting 3-of-4 for six points and five rebounds with only three fouls in 13 minutes (that may be below his Summer League pace). His defense has been okay but he showed a midrange and made some plays in college that have not been seen in Vegas.

“I think I’m getting adjusted,” to the NBA style game as opposed to college. “My first two games I was kind of lost, there were too many plays (to remember) and I was just thinking too much. Yesterday the coach sort of looked at me and said, ‘just play.’ I think I’m adjusting, a started running again. But it’s very different than the college game…

“I just need to get used to it, it’s a very different game. That’s why pros are pros.”

• Ben McLemore was getting good looks, his form is beautiful, you knew his shot would come around. In the second half Tuesday it did in a big way — 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 3-of-5 from three and he was perfect on all five attempts from the charity stripe. He struggled finding his range first couple games but coach Chris Jent told us after the first game the Kings coaches were not worried. They didn’t need to be.

• Portland’s Thomas Robinson (yes, that’s where he landed now) went hard to the glass in Tuesday. He’s not a guy who just rebounds his space but has the athleticism to go after balls other guys should get. He had nine rebounds in the first half alone Tuesday.

• Jonas Valanciunas continues to be the veteran who has shown the most improvement this Summer League — and the most physical change, he has gotten much stronger in the upper body. He had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting plus 8 boards against the Kings Tuesday, he is putting that larger frame to use to be physical inside. Of course, that also led to 9 fouls Tuesday (you can’t foul out of Summer League).

• In Summer League you see so many guys with great crossovers or other moves that can get them to the rim — then most of them can’t finish. It’s the most Summer League of things. NBA moves and Summer League finishes. So many guards recklessly barrel into the lane looking for contact with no idea how to close other than to just yell “and one.”

• Along those lines, Shabazz Muhammed struggled to finish around the rim Tuesday, continuing a trend all Summer League. He shot 3-of-9 in a win over the Heat, he clearly made a point of trying to get his looks closer to the rim and when he was contested he struggled to finish. He also got stripped cleanly in transition at least once when he didn’t really protect the ball from a defender.

He is now 9-of-25 overall and 3-of-8 from three in three Summer League games. It’s something to watch because he was drafted to be a scorer and so far he has struggled some in that role.

• John Henson was back on the court for the Bucks, he had taken a game off due to a sore groin, and grabbed nine rebounds in the first quarter. So I guess the groin is fine.

• Here is a link to a great story at Ridiculous Upside about the financial grind of most of the guys playing in the NBA Summer League. Outside a handful of high draft pick exceptions, these guys are not doing this for the money.

• The soundtrack of the Summer League in the Cox Center is like the soundtrack to the summer of 1998. “Bust A Move,” “Get Jiggy With It” and so on. I just gotta throw my hands up in the air sometimes….

• Portland’s Will Barton was held out of Tuesday’s game against the Bulls due to a sore right knee.

• Toronto released Ricky Harris and Mark Lyons from their Summer League squad.

James Harden scores 34, Rockets hold off Timberwolves 129-120

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.

The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20.

The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.

Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.

The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.


Jimmy Butler targeting return to Timberwolves before end of season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he stays on track with his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Butler spoke to reporters Sunday for the first time since the meniscus injury he suffered Feb. 23 at Houston . He confirmed an initial recovery estimate of four to six weeks. Even on the long end of that timetable, he’d likely have two games with the Timberwolves before the postseason.

Butler said he’s confident in both his ability to heal in time and the team’s ability to hang on to a spot in the playoffs. The Wolves entered their game against the Rockets in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, but no room for a slump.

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Gerald Green ejected for pushing Gorgui Dieng into stands (VIDEO)

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I don’t know why everyone in the NBA is so geeked this weekend. Coaches are getting fined, referees are throwing dudes out left and right. Maybe it’s because most of us recently saw the sun for the first time in five months, although I couldn’t tell you for certain.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets went head-to-head on Sunday, something had players on both sides itching. Early in the fourth quarter, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng got into it with Houston’s Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

The incident came as Dieng was being defended by Paul in the low post. Paul was whistled for a foul while trying to get the ball away from Dieng, but even after the whistle blew the Rockets guard did not stop trying to get the ball. Dieng responded by pushing Paul, who fell to the ground as if someone cut the strings on him.

That prompted another whistle from the refs, and a crowd of players ensued. Green rushed to push Dieng, sending the Timberwolves center into the stands.

When the scene settled, Dieng was issued a technical foul and Green was ejected.

After the game, Dieng told reporters he thought Paul’s constant digging for the ball was a cheap shot, so he responded in kind.

Minnesota, energized, tried to make a late push on the top team in the Western Conference but came up just short. Houston beat the Timberwolves, 129-120.

Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy fined $15,000 each for criticizing officials

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All is not right between NBA players, coaches, and the referees. What else is new?

After contentious games on Saturday night, both Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expressed their opinions about what they felt was a poor officiating.

Van Gundy — whose team lost to the Portland Trail Blazers as they continued on to their 12th straight win — complained that his players were being “screwed” as they were knocked down, hammered, and hit. Gentry was especially infuriated after a late foul call went against his team as James Harden was hit on the hand while shooting a 3-pointer.

Now, the NBA has announced that both coaches have been fined $15,000 each for public criticism of officials.

Things were slated to get better between the NBRA and NBPA after the All-Star break. The two sides were supposed to have a meeting which discussed some of the more concerning trends that players and coaches have publicly complained about this year. That meeting got moved up to December, with more talks to come later. It’s not clear if they’ve done any good.

Right after All-Star Weekend guys like LeBron James were still making waves about how they are being officiated. Coaches like Doc Rivers continue to openly complain about the referees and draw fines. Van Gundy and Gentry are just the latest additions to the list, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last before the season ends.

Hell, the end of the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors was just about as bad as we’ve seen all year. In that game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ejected after a comment made by a fan sitting near the floor was incorrectly attributed to him.

The NBA lost a lot of veteran officials due to retirement in the changeover to this season, and the transition has been rough. They’re going to need to figure some things out over the summer. I expect bigger announcements about those efforts to come out after the NBA Finals as a means to restore public faith in the officiating crews.