Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets

Notes from a Summer League Sunday: Doug McDermott is the early Vegas fan favorite

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LAS VEGAS — Summer League is a three ring circus. There are simultaneous games in adjoining gyms not to mention the sideshows of agents, coaches and players walking around. It’s sensory overload.

We can’t get to it all, but here are some highlights from our notebook from Sunday.

• Doug McDermott can flat out ball — Sunday night he dropped 31 points on 7-of-12 shooting overall and 5-of-9 from three, plus he got to the line a dozen times.

If you’re looking for the early crowd favorite in Las Vegas, you found him. Every time he went up the crowd at the Cox Pavilion started to come to life in anticipation, and when the shot fell it got loud.

He put on a shooting clinic with coach Tom Thibodeau sitting courtside (no doubt day dreaming about all the shooting he will have next season with Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and now McDermott). This was a big improvement for McDermott over his first Summer League game.

“That first one I was a little uptight, you know, just so excited for my first game. Today it slowed down,” McDermott. “It felt more like basketball.”

I’m no scout but here are my observations on McDermott: He works very hard off the ball and has a great concept of spacing and finding gaps in the defense. He has shooting range from Las Vegas out to about Primm. If you think all he can do is spot up and shoot you haven’t watched him, he can put the ball on the floor and knows how to draw contact. He’s not big, he looks more like a swingman size than a stretch four (DraftExpress said pre-draft he could play either forward, not sold on that now that I’ve seen him). With him and Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol that’s a lot of added shooting from big men, something that will open things up if Derrick Rose is healthy.

• Tony Snell had 23 for the Bulls and while I can’t get used to the new hair style his game has filled out along with his body (although he’s still thin). He’s another Bull who will be better next season.

“We ran that down screen action and it was giving them a some trouble,” McDermott said of playing off Snell. “Whenever you’ve got two shooters like that it’s tough to guard.”

• Anthony Bennett looks good. Very good. Maybe not No. 1 pick material, but a lot better than last season. First, he looks in shape and is moving like it, with real energy and purpose. He’s showed a nice jump shot and was strong on the boards. He finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Check back Monday for more from Bennett and his coach David Blatt on last year’s No.1 pick.

• After his game, Bennett went up in the stands and watched part of the second game next to some friends. The Vegas native said his high school principal and a number of his teachers had come to the game.

• Andrew Wiggins certainly is athletic and shows flashes with his skill. He was also 3-of-11 outside the paint, the jumper needs work. His form isn’t terrible, but it’s going to take some reps.

• A good observation by our friend D.J. Foster: The Spurs Kyle Anderson is Boris Diaw in training. He’s got that same versatile, deliberate, smart game. In a couple years he could provide a lot of what Diaw does in that offense. (Anderson struggled a little with his shot Sunday, going 1-of-7.)

• Both Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore of the Kings have pretty strokes. But Stauskas was 2-of-6 outside the paint (2-of-4 from three) and McLemore was 0-of-5 outside the paint (but 4-of-5 in the paint, plus he got to the line five times).

• P.J. Hairston loves the long ball — he took 13 threes Sunday, hit six. Of course, through two games now he is 8-of-36 shooting. He’s got some on the court problems to go with his off the court ones.

• A PBT favorite from last year’s Summer League back for another year, the Hawks’ Dennis Schroder scored 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Expect more from him in Atlanta next season.

• Sim Bhullar is a massive human being. I don’t think this can be overstated.

• Noah Vonleh’s shooting was better than his first game (hard not to be better than 0-of-13) and he does some nice things — 18 rebounds, he made some good recognitions and passed out of the double team to the right guy, but he continues to struggle finishing against the athleticism he is seeing inside. That should come with time, but the NBA game can be an adjustment.

• Quincy Miller has scored more than 20 points in both of the Nuggets’ games and looked good inside.

Knicks evaluating players based on triangle fit

Phil Jackson
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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It was never clear whether Knicks president Phil Jackson was forcing/would force coach Jeff Hornacek to run the triangle offense.

It’s still not.

Jackson insisted he was fine with Hornacek deviating from the famed scheme Jackson used as a coach with the Bulls and Lakers. But now it appears the triangle is back, and Hornacek — whose Suns teams used more of an up-tempo, pick-and-roll attack — is expressing a long-term commitment to it.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Jeff Hornacek confirmed Tuesday that management is using the remaining months to evaluate who fits the system, which has been re-emphasized as more of a traditional triangle since the All-Star break. Hornacek even made it sound like they were placing players in two different hats: the triangle yays, and the triangle nays.

“As times goes on, you say can they get it? Are they getting better at it? If they’re not, you go, OK,” Hornacek said. “End of the year comes and we’re having our discussions and you say, ‘Can this guy play this offense? We’ll say either yay or nay or he’s getting it, he’s getting better. So I’m sure that’s part of evaluations this summer.”

Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report:

It’s difficult to believe Jackson’s fingerprints aren’t all over this, especially with Jackson-favorite Kurt Rambis heavily involved.

What does that mean for Hornacek, who’s in his first season with New York? He can try to appease his boss, but this doesn’t bode well for the coach’s job security.

It also doesn’t bode well for the Knicks.

Acquiring more productive players should take priority over scheme. Committing too deeply to the triangle will narrow New York’s pool of available talent.

And it’s not as if Hornacek has done a bad job with his offense. Despite Jackson building a team with just three quality offensive players* — Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee — the Knicks still have a middling offense.

Their defense, guided by Rambis, is lousy. That should be the bigger emphasis.

But Jackson keeps doing his own thing, no matter how little anyone else understands it.

*Derrick Rose, who scores well as a driver, doesn’t qualify due to his shaky perimeter shooting and lackluster ball distribution.

GM: Re-signing Paul Millsap is Hawks’ priority

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 27: Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks drives against Amir Johnson #90 of the Boston Celtics during the third quarter at TD Garden on February 27, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Hawks have gone multiple directions in the last year.

Thinking long-term, they traded Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver for first-round picks and refused to offer Al Horford a full max contract.

Thinking short-term, they signed Dwight Howard and kept Paul Millsap through the trade deadline – and even added Ersan Ilyasova on an expiring contract.

What direction is Atlanta going, and where does Millsap — who was shopped earlier in the season — fit?

Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Paul Millsap is absolutely our priority this offseason, in re-signing him with the Atlanta Hawks. We’ve communicated that to Paul, his team, and we feel great about our position there. We also don’t want to hide from the fact that, yeah, we took a long, hard look at it earlier in the season, during a period of time where our team was struggling, and ultimately decided that Paul is far too valuable to us. And through that period of time and that exercise, we made that decision to absolutely keep Paul. And he is certainly our priority.

It seemed Horford was the Hawks’ priority once they kept him past last year’s trade deadline. Then, they facilitated his exit to the Celtics by not offering him his full max.

Will Atlanta pay whatever it takes to keep Millsap?

A full max contract projects to pay Millsap about $207 million over five years (about $41 million annually). He’s extremely helpful right now, and losing him would sink the Hawks in the standings. But do they really want to pay him more than $47 million in a season where he turns 37?

Perhaps it won’t take quite that much. Other teams project to be able to offer Millsap only up to about $154 million over four years (about $38 million annually). Maybe Atlanta can get him for something in between — or maybe even less than the max if other teams are leery of his age. But the Hawks are basically pot-committed.

The time for the Hawks to choose a direction was before the trade deadline, and they chose to build with Millsap. We’ll see whether they stay on that track when it comes time to pay.

Report: Jimmer Fredette, playing in China, engaging NBA teams on March return

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the New York Knicks in action against the Toronto Raptors during their game at Madison Square Garden on February 22, 2016 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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It has been six years since Jimmer Fredette entered the NBA with a cult following out of BYU. After five lackluster NBA seasons, will he get a sixth?

His play in China has generated buzz among those already inclined to support him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Errick McCollum is averaging more points per game in the Chinese Basketball Association and taking fewer shots than Fredette. Also averaging 30 points per game in China: MarShon Brooks, Jared Cunningham, Jabari Brown, Jamaal Franklin, Lester Hudson, Darius Adams and Dominique Jones.

In other words, a bunch of borderline NBA players who most likely belong outside the top league.

That includes Fredette, whose selfish style doesn’t lend itself to the smaller role he’d likely have to fill in the NBA.

It takes only one team to take a chance on Fredette, but I wouldn’t bank on immediate help or upside from the 28-year-old.

Report: Jim Buss initially promised to fix Lakers in only one year before being talked into three-year pledge

Los Angeles Lakers part-owner Jim Buss attends a news conference held to introduce the team's new draft picks, Monday, June 29, 2015, in El Segundo, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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The Lakers mercifully ended Jim Buss’ lousy tenure as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, promoting Magic Johnson to run the front office.

Maybe it could have happened sooner if his siblings just listened to him in the first place.

After the 2013-14 season, Jim pledged to re-sign if the Lakers weren’t “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship … in three to four years.”

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Jim’s much-publicized promise to step down within three years—meaning this year—if the Lakers weren’t “in contention” was not what he originally said, according to sources close to the family.

When Jeanie asked Jim what they could do to hold him accountable, what Jim actually said first was:

“I only need one year.”

The others, knowing their brother so well, chuckled a bit and gave him a chance to amend his statement. He then made it “three years.”

The Lakers went 21-61 in 2014-15 and 17-65 in 2015-16. Jim was wholly incapable of engineering a quick turnaround.

But I understand Jeanie’s hesitancy to oust Jim. Their late father, Jerry, wanted Jim to run the front office. I’m sure Jeanie wanted Jim to have a fair shot at that opportunity.

However, she also should have realized that giving Jim three years meant setting back the franchise for far longer. The Lakers owe Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov $102 million over the next three years — a substantial burden.

Paul George joining a blossoming Lakers team in 2018 is all the buzz, but Los Angeles doesn’t project to have enough cap space to sign him outright. It’d require dropping at least one positive asset, either directly or attached to Deng and/or Mozgov in a salary-dump trade.

That’s a reasonable tradeoff to land a star like George, but if Jim weren’t chasing wins late in his tenure, the maybe the Lakers could have had George and their full complement of recent draft picks.

Again, there was no simple answer here. The Busses wanted to let Jim try, and maybe family should have come first.

But Jim was too big of a dreamer, and even with his pledge extended to three years, he was still angling to keep his job after clearly failing in his stated mission. One way or another, this was bound to become a problem.

The Lakers just took a route where they’ll still feel the problem for years, even if Jim is now ousted from the front office.