Notes from a Summer League Tuesday: Otto Porter finding his groove

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LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Summer League is a three ring NBA circus. There are two simultaneous games and the sideshow of agents, coaches and players just hanging out and talking. There’s a lot to take in, a lot of stories to tell.

Here is some stuff from my notebook for a Tuesday of “everything but the finish” Summer League ball…

• Last summer, in limited minutes, Otto Porter looked spun around by the formless, playground style that can come with Summer League basketball, but this season the Wizards’ small forward looks like a much better player and much more comfortable. He’s finding his spots and is trying to be more aggressive, and he ended up with 19 points, hitting a couple threes and getting into the paint. He’s in line for a lot of run this coming season (Paul Pierce will likely play 20-25 minutes a night). Porter looks ready for the spotlight, based on his Summer League play.

“It definitely boosts your confidence,” Porter said of knowing he has minutes lined up once the regular season starts. “My job is to come here, work better and play hard.”

“Otto’s doing well for himself. Otto knows how to play the game of basketball,” Wizards Summer League coach Sam Cassell said. “It’s all about confidence. This league is 80 percent confidence; if you got confidence you’ll be successful.”

• John Wall was on the sidelines of the Wizards game, calling out plays and basically being louder than coach Cassell.

• Wall also was wearing this hat.

“That’s terrible,” Cassell said after the game. “That’s John Wall. Only John Wall can get away with some of the things like that. I can’t get away with that.”

• Glen Rice Jr. dropped 24 points with 7 rebounds (and seven fouls), a guy known more for driving than shooting like his father, he did knock down 2-of-4 from 3 also.

“He’s not hurting himself, I can tell you that much,” Cassell said of Rice’s chances of catching on. “He’s opening eyes around this league that he can play the game.”

• He didn’t play but the Heat’s James Ennis was in the building. The Long Beach State grad just inked a deal with the Heat for the upcoming season after spending last season playing in Perth, Australia, trying to round out his game.

“When I went overseas I focused on my defense, my shooting, because everybody thought I couldn’t shoot the ball from 3-point, but as you can see so far in Summer League I’m shooing the (3) ball over 40 percent,” Ennis told ProBasketballTalk.

As for defense…

“I just had a habit of reaching and not moving my feet, but once I got to Australia they really worked on my moving my feet and just containing my guy,” Ennis said.

• Another day, another shooting clinic from Doug McDermott, who finished with 20 pints on 7-of-13 shooting overall, 4 of 7 from three. But more than that he showed some versatility. On back-to-back occasions he put the ball on the floor and used a little spin to create space, then hit a little step-back jumper from 18 feet. The Bulls have something here.

• Each game Trey Burke and Dante Exum seem to have more chemistry.

• Great note from the fantastic Suns beat guy Paul Coro:

• Shabazz Napier is learning that some of the moves he made in college that would create space don’t work as well at the NBA level with longer, more athletic defenders. At points, he ends up holding the ball too long or taking contested shots. He’s going to be on the Heat roster and there’s talent there, but he’s got some adjusting to do to get ready for the NBA game.

• C.J. McCollum with 28 points on 16 shots in what was a good shooting game for him (and the Blazers in general).

Russell Westbrook calls Oklahoma City “the place where I want to be”

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has yet to sign an extension, but the reigning league MVP says Oklahoma City is where he wants to be and he is “happy” about the offseason additions of superstars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.

Westbrook complimented Thunder management for making the deals.

The unsigned deal has tempered some of the excitement building around the team. He has until Oct. 16 to ink a contract that would be worth more than $200 million. Westbrook says he hasn’t signed because of the birth of his son and a busy travel schedule.

Westbrook’s former teammate Enes Kanter, who was sent to New York as part of the deal that brought Anthony to Oklahoma City, also says he expects Westbrook to sign the deal.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Paul George says OKC feels like “Somewhere I can call home for years”

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All we have heard about all summer is that Paul George is definitely going to the Los Angeles Lakers. Heck, we’ve heard about it earlier than that.

That’s what forced the Indiana Pacers to make the trade to send George to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he is now teammate of both Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

But NBA Media Day was on Monday, and with it brought not only first interviews of new players but the platitudes that fans want to hear as well.

Speaking to reporters in Oklahoma City, George said that he thought the Thunder had done much that they had needed to do to show him they were a place that he could stay.

Via USA Today:

“Honestly, I’m happy,” he said. “The only thing I wanted out of Indiana was a chance to win my whole career there…That’s really what I want out of this, out of the league. I’m not looking for money. I’m not looking for stats. I want to win, and (to) be able to win at a high level.

“It’s Year One, and (the Thunder have) proven – and I haven’t even gone through a season yet – and they’ve already proven everything on my check list (that) I can check off. That’s what feels good. That’s what makes me feel like, ‘Hey, this can be a landing spot for me, and somewhere I can call home for years.’”

George also told USA Today that winning was above anything else, including joining his hometown team in the Lakers. We’ve heard this from players before, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does appear that the Thunder have a shot of keeping the former Pacers star if George is to be believed.

Of course, Oklahoma City still has some work to do in terms of winning games. There are some serious doubts about the roster they have now with three high usage players that will struggle to find a way to share the ball efficiently.

The Western Conference got a lot tougher this offseason, and both Anthony and George were a part of that. But the other teams have stiffened and appear to have better roster fit at the moment. Thats before we even get to the 2017 NBA Finals champion Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James says that he is going to be finishing his career in Cleveland. George says that the Thunder have a real shot at keeping him. We will have to play out this season to see if either of those things come true.

LeBron James says he still plans on finishing his career with Cleveland

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There has been significant talk around the NBA about the possibility of LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer.

Specifically, there has been in a lot of chatter about James leaving his home state and heading to be in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

But during NBA media day on Monday, LeBron said that he still plans on finishing his career with Cleveland. What wasn’t explicit is whether that means he will take his next contract elsewhere, or if he simply means to return at a later date.

Via Cleveland.com:

“It hasn’t changed,” James said, when asked. He also nodded when asked, directly, if he intended to finish his career in Cleveland.

“And that’s why I sit up here today, still in this uniform, still ready to lead this franchise to a championship, put us in a position where we can be successful.”

“Anytime I’m able to be free agent or my contract ends, I’ll approach that when the summer comes,” he said. “At the end of the day I have a contract and I will fill out that obligation, which I’ve always done.

“And if you guys know me, I don’t know if you know me as much, but I’ve always handled it in the most businesslike way. And I will do that with my team, and we’ll handle that in the summertime, as we always have.”

So you there you have it. He is definitely planning on staying. Although he isn’t going to make that plan until the summer.

Should be an interesting one in Cleveland this year.

LeBron, Gregg Popovich among NBA heavyweights to comment on Trump at Media Day

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Monday was NBA Media Day and it could not get here soon enough. Yes, the offseason has been an incredible one with many players changing places. But the start of football season always means something important for the NBA diehard: basketball is coming.

Media Day comes with new questions for new players, along with hope that franchises will be able to right the wrongs of seasons past. Plus, we get to see new jerseys on stars. Yet as it always seems these days, the story of the afternoon was gathering how players had reacted to Donald Trump’s recent comments.

Specifically, Trump mentioned that he thought that players who knelt for the national anthem in the NFL were “sons of bitches”. Trump also rescinded a potential offer for a visit to the White House for the Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote “no” on going during a team meeting.

NBA reporters could not help but ask about the comments by Trump and the impact it had on the players, coaches, and executives during their first full scale opportunity to see players in a team setting.

Everyone from LeBron James to John Wall and Gregg Popovich had something to say.

We will be entering our first full season of the NBA with Trump and given how the first eight months of his tenure have gone, it will be interesting to see how the most socially conscious league in America responds moving forward.