Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks

Notes from a Summer League Wednesday: Hawks like how Dennis Schroder is growing up


It was the quietest day at the Las Vegas Summer League so far, and I left a little early but we still have enough for our daily notebook.

• The Atlanta Hawks didn’t make big off-season moves (unless you consider Thabo Sefolosha big, and if you do you should see a doctor about that hit you took to the head), they are counting in part on the guys they have getting better. And Al Horford staying healthy, but mostly the guys they have getting better.

Guys like Dennis Schroder.

He’s going to get a lot of run next season behind Jeff Teague and the Hawks were hoping to see growth out in Las Vegas. They did in the Hawks win Tuesday, when he had 17 points and played some good defense.

“I challenged him to be more efficient, to take care of the ball, mix up his pick-up points (on defense), sometimes it’s full court sometimes it’s half court, but first and foremost it’s to keep his team organized on both sides of the ball,” Hawks Summer League coach Darvin Ham said.

What the Hawks want from him in the regular season is simple.

“We’re looking for him to defend, rebound and keep us organized on offense,” Ham said. “And first and foremost before those three we need him to compete and compete with a level head. He did that today.”

Basically don’t play like a 20-year-old.

• Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk time. Turn the Greek Freak loose.

• Delonte West was moving pretty slowly on a taped up ankle that he sprained Tuesday. He didn’t dress for the Clippers on Wednesday and looked done for Summer League.

• I’ll be honest, and I didn’t see his first game, but Jabari Parker has looked pretty good but not great when I’ve seen him. A little underwhelming. (It’s Summer League, it doesn’t mean anything about what he can be, but when I’ve been watching he hasn’t blown me away.)

• Zach LaVine likes to see Zach LaVine shoot.

• On the other end of the court, Timberwolves coaches are constantly calling out on defense, talking to LeVine, trying to get him to understand his positioning.

• But the Timberwolves were the Kyrylo Fesenko Show on Wednesday as the Ukrainian big man was just too much for the Suns to handle (including Miles Plumlee). He finished with 17 points on 9 shots.

• Walter Tavares, the 7’3” center out of Cape Verde, would be a good D-League project for a team this year. There’s some potential there, and he is so big and long, but he is so, so raw.

• James Michael McAdoo, trying to latch on somewhere, had a chance to potentially win the game for the Warriors when he was fouled with 12 seconds left and his team was down one. He missed them both. Hawks hit their free throws and won by three.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.