Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker shine in head-to-head Summer League matchup

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LAS VEGAS — The main event on day one of Summer League in Las Vegas on Friday was the matchup between the Cavaliers and the Bucks, one that featured the top two overall picks in this year’s draft facing each other in NBA-level action for the very first time.

Cleveland’s Andrew Wiggins and Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker both impressed in flashes, and along with last year’s top pick in Anthony Bennett and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was no shortage of exciting and athletically remarkable plays to go around.

There was also the LeBron James announcement, which had Cavaliers players and coaches giddy dreaming about next season’s possibilities.

Playing in a gym that was beyond filled to capacity — so much so that fans who had purchased tickets were given refunds, and even NBA players and personnel were told if they left they wouldn’t be guaranteed admittance to return — only added to the atmosphere, and all of the aforementioned players had multiple moments to shine.

Wiggins’ game is still raw, and his shot admittedly needs some work. But his leaping ability is scary good, in that you’re scared he might hurt himself jumping over someone for a rebound, or by flying extra-hard to the basket. He finished with 18 points on just 7-of-18 shooting, but his talent level is undeniable, as is his drool-worthy potential.

Parker’s game looks a bit more NBA-ready, which was how most scouts pegged him in advance of the draft. He showed a knack for having excellent court vision and a willingness to find the open man, but also showed an ability to score in a variety of ways. He had a smooth, sweeping drive that he finished with the left hand, and came back on the very next possession with a spinning lay-in that he was able to finish through contact for the and-1 opportunity.


Parker ended up with 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action.

While the rookies were the ones in the spotlight, there was room for others to make their impact felt as the game went on. Bennett in particular showed a high level of effort and intensity throughout, and even if his overall skill set still has yet to show that it would be worthy of being taken number one overall, his performance was positive enough to gain the praise of his new head coach.

“I thought Anthony did a pretty good job,” Blatt said. “He knows and I know of course that his shot selection could be better. But I liked the fact that he was on the court for a lot of minutes competing, and he made some big plays, and he worked hard at both ends of the court. You know, Anthony’s biggest trouble last year was he never really had the opportunity to play enough, because he was either hurt or not in good enough physical shape. As you can see, he’s worked very hard at that, and that’s a good first step. And he did some good things basketball-wise. I was happy with AB, and I’ve been happy with him since the camp started. He’s really really made the effort, he’s tried to lead the guys through example. He’s a kid that’s trying to do something about his situation, and that’s the right way to go about it.”

Bennett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Antetokounmpo had one of the more athletic plays of the day, taking just two dribbles to go three-quarters of the length of the court to lead a fast break and finish it off with a thunderous slam. He was more aggressive as the game went on, and finished with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, to go along with six rebounds.


The talent on the floor, the atmosphere in the gym and the LeBron James news hanging over it all made this game a special experience by Summer League standards.

“It was crazy,” Wiggins succinctly said.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.