Dante Exum impresses in flashes during Summer League debut with Jazz

17 Comments

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.

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

Associated Press
Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

Leave a comment

In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.