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.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.