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

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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.
http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2013/7/16/4528594/examining-the-financial-grind-of-playing-in-nba-summer-league-trying

• 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.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.