Kurt Helin

Golden State Warriors vs New York Knicks

News, notes from Summer League Thursday: Kristaps Porzingis learned some lessons in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — The Summer League playoffs continued in Las Vegas Thursday, and while the crowds have dwindled a little — the Lakers weren’t playing, and frankly even Laker fans are not flocking to watch this Summer League team anymore — the action has still been good.

Here are some news and notes from Las Vegas (and with the PBT crew headed home, this will be our last notes column from Sin City, so savor it).

• Kristaps Porzingis isn’t the first guy to learn some lessons — a few of them hard lessons — in Las Vegas.

But his could have some payoff for the Knicks. Porzingis is a project, but just through the course of four games in Las Vegas there has been clear growth. One of the biggest adjustments was just the schedule — four games in six days.

“For me it’s something new, because I had at most two games per week the first part of the season, then the second part of the season only one game, so you have to recover and stuff,” Porzingis said. “That’s not an excuse, that’s how the NBA schedule is so I just got to get used to it… You’ve got to have the same energy and going out there and competing. I can learn.”

There also was the lesson where for a half the Sixer’s Jahlil Okafor bullied him in the paint. To Porzingis’ credit, he adjusted and used his length to deny and frustrate Okafor some, even blocking a couple shots in the second half. But there were hard lessons to learn.

“I just could see just how big he is, how physical he is,” Porzingis said. “Those are the five men I’m going to have to guard sometimes in the league. I’m going to be playing the four mostly, but there are moments I’ll be playing the five, so I’ve got to be ready for that physicality.”

The important thing is that Porzingis did learn and did improve as the games in Vegas went on (the Knicks have one more game but Porzingis could sit out). Coach Derek Fisher would not commit to starting Porzingis come the regular season, but he liked what he saw.

“Just how it complements so many different players and situations,” Fisher said. “I think defensively he complements guys because of his length and his rim protection. He’s pretty active and can guard multiple guys. I think offensively because of his ability to stretch the floor and do some things around the basket as well. I think he’s a player that fits with just about any lineup, no matter how you’re trying to play. So I think that versatility has been obvious during Summer League.”

Knicks fans need to be a little patient, but they have a good player here, maybe more than good.

• After the injuries to Marcus Smart and Allen Crabbe, expect teams to start pulling guys who could be part of their rosters and rotations come the fall. At this point, what they learn in another Summer League game may not be worth the injury risk.

• Can a point guard who had 7 turnovers and 1 assist still look good? Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay did Thursday. It may have been an off night for him, but he was still making smart passes and just controlling the game for stretches despite the Hawks throwing hard doubles at him every chance they got.

The project for Mudiay will be to work on his shooting, he hit just 37.2 percent overall and 14.3 percent from three through his first three games in Las Vegas.

“This weekend I wasn’t too focused on the scoring part because I wanted to facilitate,” Mudiay said, saying he prefers to be a passing point guard not just a scorer. “The reads I was making was was wide open for my teammates…

“I didn’t shoot it like I wanted to, but I’m gonna keep shooting. You’ve got to put pressure on the defense. It’s only four games, you can’t go off four games.”

He said he also wants to work on finishing around the rim, too.

• The Spurs are just winning here in Vegas (shocking, I know), but the only name on this roster who will likely be playing for the team come the fall is Kyle Anderson — and he has looked good. Like a guy who has put in the work good. Like Popovich needs to find him a little run good.

Anderson has averaged 21.3 points a game for the Spurs and helped the Spurs execute at the end on Thursday and beat the Nets.

“I think he’s great,” said Spurs coach Becky Hammon. “The last defensive possession he’s the one who rallied everyone on the court, he’s the one who’s speaking, he’s the one being more demonstrative in a leadership role — and that’s really what we want to see from him in this setting. It was nice to see him take ownership of the situation.”

• By the way, a lot has been written about Hammon and how she’s breaking barriers at Summer League as a woman coach. And that should be lauded. But here’s what you really need to know about her:

She can flat out coach. She’s as good as any other coach in Vegas.

• Phoenix’s T.J. Warren continues to be one of the best players in Las Vegas. Thursday he put up 23 points, four assists and three rebounds to lead the Suns to a blowout win. His averages for Summer League are 20.3 points on 56.9 percent shooting, and on defense he’s averaging 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks a game.

Marcus Smart dislocates two fingers in Summer League game

Portland Trailblazers v Boston Celtics
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LAS VEGAS — When Marcus Smart walked out to start for the Boston Celtics in Thursday night in a Summer League playoff game, a few eyebrows were raised among the NBA folks and media watching. Why run a player that’s a starter or at least part of your regular season rotation out there, didn’t they see what happened to Allen Crabbe just the night before?

Early in the game Smart dislocated the index and middle fingers on his right hand at the middle knuckle and is out for the rest of the game, the Celtics announced before halftime of their contest. He was undergoing X-Rays.

It’s not pretty, here’s a screen grab of the injury.

Smart averaged 27 minutes a game and scored 7.8 points a night in a solid rookie year for the Celtics. He also plays good defense. He may not be a future star, but he’s a future rotation player in the league.

He also was scheduled to be part of the NBA’s first game in Africa, but that may now be up in the air.

Suns’ T.J. Warren keeps putting on a show in Vegas Summer League (VIDEO)

Milwaukee Bucks v Phoenix Suns
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LAS VEGAS — The up-tempo, chaotic, pick-up style of Summer League games suits T.J. Warren perfectly.

The Suns’ wing player has put up some of the best stat lines at Summer League, and he did it again Thursday with 23 points, four assists and three rebounds in the Suns blowout win over the Bucks.

For Summer League he has averaged 20.3 points on 56.9 percent shooting, and on defense he’s averaging 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks a game.

He’s earned the chance to get a longer look and maybe a few more minutes from Jeff Hornacek in the fall. We’ll see what he does with that opportunity.

Report: Rockets look to bring back K.J. McDaniels with mid-level exception

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets
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We knew the Rockets wanted to bring back K.J. McDaniels and see if, over a full season, he can crack the rotation (something he couldn’t do late last year).

The question was at what cost? He’s a restricted free agent, the Rockets have the right to match any offer, it was just a matter of what the number would be. We may have that answer, via Calvin Harris of ESPN.

My first reaction is that seems steep for McDaniels. Especially since the Rockets already have Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, and Sam Dekker at that wing three role. Plus McDaniels is coming off a broken elbow.

McDaniels is an intriguing fit in Houston, he’s an athletic wing who can score and defend. Well, he can score in transition, his jumper still needs refinement. McDaniels put up numbers and looked impressive in Philadephia, but they played fast and had limited offensive options. Houston plays fast but is loaded with quality scorers. McDaniels needs to prove he can break into the rotation for the Rockets.

It’s something to keep an eye on.

Andre Iguodala says if Kerr doesn’t start him then trade him — it was a joke, relax

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For a couple minutes, some corners of the Internet and the Warriors fan base started to freak out.

Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr spoke with the San Jose Mercury News and said he planned to bring Andre Iguodala off the bench again next season. No shock — they won 67 games and a ring with that strategy. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

The fun started when Iguodala tweeted this:

WHAT? All through the Finals Iguodala said he just wanted to win and was good coming off the bench to make that happen, that he was team first, and now this? There were some turned heads around the Web.

Then came the follow-up:

Iguodala wasn’t done joking.

The Junior’s cheesecake is legit. I’d have gotten that in my contract.