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).

Former Knicks, Warriors F David Lee announces retirement from NBA

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One of the NBA’s more under appreciated forwards has announced his retirement from the NBA.

David Lee, who spent time in his career with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs, told the NBA world about his retirement via his Instagram page on Sunday.

Lee, 34, played last season with the Spurs. He averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for Gregg Popovich’s team.

Via Instagram:

Lee played 14 seasons in the NBA, the majority of which came with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Lee was seen as an unsung hero, nabbing rebounds and doing yeoman’s work from the power forward position.

The Knicks traded Lee to Golden State in the summer of 2010 for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two second round picks. He was part of the Warriors’ 2014-15 NBA Championship before eventually being traded to Boston in 2015.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

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We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

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It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.