Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Notes from a Summer League Wednesday: Boston’s Jaylen Brown has turned it around

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LAS VEGAS — There’s so much constant action going on at NBA Summer League you can’t take it all in (sort of like Vegas itself). Let me dump my notebook from my final day watching games at UNLV.

Jaylen Brown — the guy the Celtics drafted at No. 3 in June rather than move that pick — looked overwhelmed in his first few Summer League games. Between contests in Utah and Las Vegas he started 5-of-26 shooting in three games, he couldn’t find lanes to make plays, and generally looked like a massive project (in part due to battling a hyperextended knee).

Wednesday he had 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, he got to the line 11 times, he attacked the rim, and he pulled down 11 boards. That was his second straight impressive game. What changed?

“Just embracing the process,” said Celtics’ Summer League coach Jamie Young said. “We watch film with him, work with him in practice on where he needs to improve.”

Young added the team also is getting Brown the ball in spots he’s more comfortable — in transition, or spots where he can quickly attack off the bounce in more of a straight line rather than weave through a forest of defenders. Spots that let him use his freakish athleticism.

Brown put on his strong performance Wednesday with Boston GM Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens in the building. Good timing.

The question is how much run he will be able to get come the fall — Boston is a deep roster of good young talent. Minutes will have to be earned, but Brown can find some on the wing behind Jae Crowder. (Although, what Boston’s roster looks like come the start of training camp could be very different from how it does now.)

• One thing you can count on at Summer League: Second-year players who got quality run in their rookie years tend to dominate when they return. D’Angelo Russell, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Emanuel Mudiay all fit that mold this year.

As does the Spurs’ Johnathon Simmons. He had 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the Spurs loss Wednesday. Before this game he averaged 15 points a contest on 54.2 percent shooting. The Spurs have thrust him into more of a leadership role here, with the goal of sharpening his playmaking skills.

“We wanted to give him the ball, put it in his hands a lot and let him work on his decision making,” said Spurs Summer League coach Becky Hammon. “Kind of let him run things out there, organize people, like I said he’s a gifted passer so putting him in positions where he has to make decisions and read the defense. You can’t simulate that in a pickup game, so it’s putting him out her with the ball in his hands and a game plan and let him go out there and know what the options are and get the other guys the ball.”

• Atlanta seems to have found a good fit in Taurean Prince, the No. 12 pick out of Baylor (who was traded from the Jazz in the three-team Jeff Teague deal). He went right at Kings big man Georgias Papagiannis, was physical inside, knocked down a couple of threes, and finished Wednesday’s game with 21 points on 11 shots. More than just raw skills, his game seems to fit the selfless, versatile style the Hawks like to play. Atlanta fans are going to grow to like him quickly.

• Dunk of the Day went to Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry, who got up and threw it down over Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

• Cayley-Stein has not stood out in Vegas, not made the kind of leap other second year players have made and fans should hope to see.

“I think Willie is one those players, he’s really good when he’s familiar with his teammates and they know what he does,” Kings’ Summer League coach Bryan Gates said. “So I’m okay with Willie.”

Maybe. But watch Skal Labissiere and you start to think he’s a more natural fit next to DeMarcus Cousins, he can space the floor, and still defend the rim (Labissiere has a ways to go to develop those skills and find his way in an NBA game). Don’t be shocked if by the end of the season Labissiere is getting some of Cauley-Stein’s minutes.

• The Kings got Isaiah Cousins — the other guard in the backcourt of Oklahoma last season, next to Buddy Hield — on the court for the first time this season following a groin injury.

“I liked it,” Gates said. “He got a feel, he defended, he got hit on pick-and-rolls, and that’s what he needs to continue, he just needs to get his NBA feel. Isaiah was fine.”

Is Skal Labissiere the Kings’ four of the future?

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LAS VEGAS — Summer League is the first real answers to the test GMs around the league took on draft night. They can watch film, have private workouts, interview players and their college coaches (and high school/AAU coaches), but it’s all still a gamble. Drafting is far from an exact science, teams don’t know what they’ve got until a guy gets out on the floor.

After watching Skal Labissiere for a few games, the Kings think they have passed that part of the test.

Watch him in Summer League play and you see the potential for a quality modern NBA four — a guy who can space the floor on offense and still protect the rim inside on defense. Someone who would complement DeMarcus Cousins far better than anyone currently on the Sacramento roster.

“I’m really excited about Skal’s future,” said Kings’ Summer League coach Bryan Gates said after the Kings’ loss Wednesday. “Maybe it wasn’t just today, it was watching him. When you go through an NBA season you don’t get to watch a lot of college games. I hadn’t seen Kentucky play…. Just seeing him, it’s been cool. I think he has a good future.”

Labissiere — a former elite high school recruit who fell to No. 28 in the June draft — had 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting Wednesday, plus he had three blocks. In the first half he seemed to find his spaces and was making plays, but he faded from the picture more in the second half.

He is clearly working on his feel for the NBA game, but people within the Kings basketball operations praise his instincts on the court. It’s a matter of learning to trust them. He just needs time on the court, they say.

“I’m learning how to pick my spots, where to be when the ball is there, and just how to play,” Labissiere said.

He’s going to need to get stronger for sure — he said after Summer League he will spend the rest of the off-season in Sacramento working out with team trainers — but he has finished through contact a couple of times in the last few games.

“I’m fine (with the physicality), just got to learn to play low, and that’s what I’m doing out in Summer League,” Labissiere said, adding he’s seen this before. “Guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, they came back and played pickup with us (at Kentucky). I learned from that. And here in Summer League I’m kind of used to it.”

Like rookies in every sport, Labissiere is adjusting to the faster pace and increased athleticism across the board that comes with the professional game. But he doesn’t lack for confidence.

“I’m adjusting to it,” Labissiere said. “It’s fast, but I can run the floor really well, it’s not a problem for me.”

He’s not likely to get a lot of run early in the season for Dave Joerger, but don’t be shocked if you see more and more of him as the season goes on (and maybe after he gets a little early run in the D-League). The Kings have struggled to find a way to play Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein together, if that continues and Labissiere develops, he might insert himself into that mix.

LeBron, Carmelo, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade call for end to violence, athletes to help unite communities


LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade opened the ESPYs with a statement, which you can see above.

It’s a plea for the end to violence. With a push to get other athletes to step forward and help unite communities, to rebuild them were needed.

It’s a good message. How you feel about it speaks more to how you view race relations issues in this nation than it does what they actually said.

How much any athlete — any one person — can do to stem the tide of violence and bridge the growing divide in this country is up for debate, but their valid point is it can’t be just one person. It has to be a national conversation. If celebrities and athletes can help get people thinking and talking — rather than inflaming anger and fear — it’s a good thing. Change is going to have to come from the ground up, because our leaders are too divided and too concerned with gaining power/keeping their power to make real change.

Summer League dunk of the day: DeAndre Bembry throws down on Willie Cauley-Stein

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There was nothing Willie Cauley-Stein could have done here, he made the right play making the player leading the break give up the rock. But that is still a 6’6″ rookie guard viciously dunking on one of the NBA’s biggest centers.

Report: Dario Saric to sign with Sixers on Friday

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The Sixers are going to have a couple of rookie point-forwards on the roster come October.

Ben Simmons, the 2016 No. 1 pick, has been showing off his potential in the Las Vegas Summer League.

He will be joined by 2014 No. 12 pick Dario Saric, who will sign with the Sixers on Friday, reports CSNPhilly.com.

Saric is 6’10” whose playmaking skills got him named the tournament MVP after leading Croatia to an Olympic berth. Saric plays a high IQ game, brings impressive ball handling skills for his size, has great scoring instincts (in the post and transition), plus he is a gifted passer.

The Sixers have a crowded front court with Simmons, Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and now Joel Embiid is expected to play. That’s why Noel and Okafor come up in trade rumors.

Coming over to start his NBA career now, Saric is locked into the 2014 rookie scale, meaning he would have $4.7 million guaranteed and $10.8 million for the four years of the contract. After three seasons, the Sixers can offer a contract extension beyond this deal, but he would be locked in for the rookie scale that fourth year.

Saric was true to his word coming over now, but if he waited one more season he would not have been tied to the rookie scale and could have negotiated any deal he can get from Philadelphia (which certainly would have been larger than the current one).