Sean Kilpatrick, Dante Exum

Dante Exum impresses in flashes during Summer League debut with Jazz

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LAS VEGAS — Dante Exum was selected by the Jazz with the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, and as Utah got its first look at the team’s new 19-year old prospect in Summer League action on Saturday, he showed every bit of having that level of promise.

Many weren’t completely familiar with Exum’s game, since he went to school in Australia and didn’t play college ball in the states. While his numbers were modest — 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, to go along with three rebounds and three assists in almost 30 minutes — he showcased a skill set that is undoubtedly NBA-ready, and once it develops more fully, should make him into one of the more interesting players of this draft class for seasons to come.

What immediately stood out was Exum’s quickness. His first step in taking a defender off the dribble is devastating, as he demonstrated on a drive from the three-point arc where he exploded past his man to get to the rim and finish a contested reverse lay-in. On another play, after turning the ball over on an ambitious pass along the baseline, he was lightning-fast in closing in to steal it right back, and getting to the rim for a two-handed slam.

In addition to the overall level of athleticism, Exum showed off an above-average vision of the floor. He was constantly making excellent passes to find his teammates in a position to score, and had several nice looks that may not have resulted in buckets, but ended up getting guys free throw attempts once the defense had no choice but to foul to prevent an easy two points.

“Looking at our team, we have a lot of bigs that can get to the basket, and it just opened up when I was driving with [the defense] helping off so much,” Exum said. “That’s what I do as a point guard, try to find players when I beat someone off the dribble. That’s just what happens.”

Exum cited the physicality of the game more than the speed of it as what surprised him the most in his first official taste of NBA competition.

“I knew it was going to be physical, but you never know until you actually get out there,” he said. “Just driving into the lane and getting those bumps you kind of feel it, and it’s different coming off screens, as well. It’s just the physicality.”

There were flaws to find for those looking hard enough, which included Exum consistently pushing the ball up the court on the wings instead of getting the ball to the middle of the floor to have more options, and simply standing around in the corner on the offensive end when he didn’t have the ball in his hands. His body language wasn’t great either, mostly on possessions where he was open and didn’t get the ball swung his way for a shot from three-point distance.

But all of that is minor, and correctable over time. What was much more noteworthy was the excitement conveyed by Exum’s overall performance.

Dwight Howard pushes Al Horford, gets technical, later ejected for hanging on rim

Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) drives past Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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It ended up working out for Atlanta — the Hawks went on a 22-11 run after Dwight Howard was ejected, then hung on for a comfortable win 114-98.

Still, Howard found a way to get tossed. He did it two separate technical fouls in the third quarter. The first came when he shoved Al Horford after the Celtic big fouled Howard under the basket (always a smart move rather than give up a dunk).

The next came a few minutes later when Howard slammed then pulled himself up like a pull-up on the rim, an automatic tech every time.

That’s technicals 10 and 11 on the season for Howard. He’s got some work to do to catch up with DeMarcus Cousins, but still he’s racked up a few.

It just didn’t matter on Monday, with Dennis Schroder leading the way with 21 points for the Hawks.

 

DeMar DeRozan drains game winner to cap 37-point night, Raptors beat Knicks 92-91

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With Kyle Lowry out until around the start of the playoffs, a lot is going to be asked of DeMar DeRozan. Monday night at Madison Square Garden, he delivered.

The Raptors needed a bucket as time ran down, not only got the ball to DeRozan but got the switch so Derrick Rose was guarding him, and that allowed the Raptors star to get to his spot, rise up and bury the midrange jumper for the win.

It capped off an impressive 37-point night for DeRozan — he’s going to need to do more of this in the coming weeks.

Kevin Hart rings bell before start of Sixers game vs. Warriors

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Golden State is in Philadelphia, and so are the celebrities.

Kevin Heart — a Philly native — was on hand and he got to ring the bell pregame (a Sixers tradition).

Having him on hand seems to help as the Sixers were hanging around through the middle of the third quarter with a team looking for its 50th win.

Bucks’ Michael Beasley has to be helped to locker room after apparently hyperextending knee

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04:  Michael Beasley #9 of the Milwaukee Bucks in action against Mindaugas Kuzminskas #91 of the New York Knicks during their game at Madison Square Garden on January 4, 2017 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Let’s just hope this is nothing too serious.

Michael Beasley was getting back up court to try and defend a LeBron James drive to the basket early in the clock Monday night when he took an awkward step and appears to hyperextend his knee. You can see the video above. He tried to leave the floor under his own power but had to be helped back to the locker room by teammates.

The team is calling it a sprain for now.

Beasley has been solid off the bench for the Bucks this season, averaging 9.7 points a game with a and with a PER of 17.6 (above the league average). They would miss him in the rotation as they try to make a playoff push if he has to miss any time.