Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Notes from Tuesday at Summer League: Trey Lyles is earning minutes in Utah


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 first day watching games at UNLV.

• Utah is pretty deep at the four now — Derrick Favors will start, Boris Diaw will be behind him.

And then there is Trey Lyles. He played well for Utah when Favors was hurt last season — he became a pretty good stretch four who gave the Jazz needed floor spacing — and now has been playing very well at Summer League. He dropped 30 points on 20 shots against Portland Tuesday, hitting 5-of-7 from three.

He’s earning minutes in the fall. The only question is where they come from.

“You see a kid that at Kentucky played mostly the wing, and he’s playing the four,” Jazz Summer League coach Mike Wells said. “He’s more comfortable for us, and he’s in the position where he has the ball at the top of the key a lot, so he can make the reads and make the play. He’s settling into that role, and his shot has come a long way. During the season he started making the corner threes, now he’s making threes from the top.”

“I’m more confident in my abilities to play freely and have confidence in the shots I’m taking,” Lyles said.

Lyles has been the focal point of the Utah offense in Las Vegas (and in the Rocky Mountain Review hosted by the Jazz before) and they are putting him intentionally in position where he has to make plays — and fail occasionally, just to learn.

“I’ll take Trey Lyles at the top of the key in Summer League,” Wells said. “It’s a chance for him to be in that position where he’s got to make a play…. He’s had a fantastic summer for the most part, with the games that he played, he’s played really well.”

Will that translate to minutes once the NBA season starts is the real question.

• The end of the Utah/Portland game and included an intentionally-missed free throw tipped in by Lyles to send the game to double overtime. And in Summer League double OT is sudden death, and Portland’s Pat Connaughton wasn’t going to miss. You just need to watch it.

• New Orlean’s Cheick Diallo, the second round pick out of Kansas who barely saw the court for the Jayhawks, is showing he is farther along than expected in Vegas. He’s averaged 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game through three games.

“He was a little antsy tonight, he got away from the things he was doing in the first two games…” Pelicans Summer League coach Robert Pack said after Diallo’s 2-of-8 shooting performance late Monday night. “In the first two games he was really doing the things he’s going to be doing well in the regular season.”

• I had high hopes for Noah Vonleh coming out of college, but after watching him I don’t see the development and growth anyone had hoped for.

• As you would expect, Chicago’s Bobby Portis has looked good. He’s going to be a quality NBA player for a long time.

• San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons nutmegged a defender on the way to the rim.

• Ronde Hollis-Jefferson is not the guy the Nets will got to when then need to create late-game opportunities during the season, his handles aren’t there yet. As evidence, watch the finals seconds of the Nets loss to the Wizards Tuesday.

Rudy Gobert was at Summer League and was so enthralled he played some Pokemon Go.

NBA’s weak compromise on “Hack-a-Shaq”: Not allowed in last two minutes of any quarter


LAS VEGAS — The NBA Board of Governors, meeting Tuesday in Las Vegas, did its best imitation of Congress — with deep divides on how to an issue, they reached a compromise that does little.

The issue is the “hack-a-Shaq” — where a poor free throw shooting player (almost always a center) is intentionally fouled off the ball to force free throws. It drags games out, is just dull and painful to watch, the NBA’s television partners hate it, fans hate it, and while legal it is certainly not a play in the spirit of the game. The divide is between people who want to do away with hack-a-player fouls (by offering shots and the ball out of bounds, or some other compromises) led by commissioner Adam Silver, and those who say “those guys just need to learn to knock down free throws.”

Through this past season, the intentional fouls were banned only in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.

The new compromise announced Tuesday is it is the fouls are banned in the final two minutes of every quarter.

“It was not everything some people were looking to do,” Silver said at a press conference later in the day.

He added that last season this would have reduced the number of hacks by 45 percent. Problem is, now coaches who want to do it will just be more aggressive doing it earlier.

My question is simply this: if you’re going to ban it for eight minutes a game, why not 48? What is the logic for rules changing during the game?

This will not end the majority of hacks (and hacks were up considerably last season). It takes six minutes of the game off the board, and it will remove the egregious intentional fouls made to create a two-for-one possession opportunity at the end of quarters (a Popovich favorite). However, under this new rule we’re still going to get a parade of DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, and the rest going to the free throw line excessively.

Either fix it or leave it alone, but this kind of compromise solution seems destined for failure.

There are two other rule changes:

• It will presumptively be considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent’s back to commit a foul.  Previously, it was up to the discretion of the official.

• During an inbounds play, a defensive foul before the ball is inbounded will result in one free throw and the ball out of bounds (before that had been the case in only in the final two minutes).

A thankful Gregg Popovich bids farewell to ‘irreplaceable’ Duncan

Associated Press

Gregg Popovich bade an emotional farewell to Tim Duncan‘s playing career Tuesday, the longtime San Antonio coach saying the now-retired Spurs star was the best teammate anyone could have known.

Sounding as if he were choking up at times and wearing a T-shirt with Duncan’s face printed on the front, Popovich spoke at the Spurs’ practice facility in San Antonio. Duncan announced his retirement after 19 seasons on Monday in a statement released through the Spurs.

“Irreplaceable,” Popovich said of the five-time NBA champion.

Duncan and Popovich won more games together than any player-coach combination in NBA history. Popovich said he hopes Duncan will remain involved with the Spurs in some capacity, even if only part time.

Popovich spoke while standing in a corner of the practice facility, the spot where he holds court with reporters after workouts during the season. There was no news conference, no elaborate setup, not even any live coverage permitted. Even for something that will have so much impact on the team, the league and the sport, the Spurs kept things as simple as possible.

Duncan is leaving. Other than that, nothing’s changing.

“It’s not Tim Duncan to bring any attention to himself,” Popovich said. “We’ve been saying it for 19 years and he really only cared about doing the best job he could basketballwise and being who he was for his teammates and being somebody who loved his family. That’s really who he is. So this is the furthest thing from his mind.”

Popovich spoke at length about how if he could pick one person to share a dinner with, it would be Duncan.

“To spend time with Timmy is really sublime in many ways,” Popovich said. “People don’t know about his cleverness. … But his teammates have and that’s why his teammates love him, because he’s been the best teammate anyone can ever imagine.”

There were moments of humor, too.

“I remember a pretty neat summer league game when he first came in and (Greg) Ostertag blocked his shot,” Popovich said when asked if there was a moment in Duncan’s career that he enjoyed most. “That was pretty cool.”

Associated Press Writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.

Rudy Gobert on playing for France in Rio: “I don’t go there just to go there, I go there to win”


LAS VEGAS — France could be the second best team at the Rio Olympic basketball tournament. The USA are heavy gold medal favorites, but France can hang with an aging Spanish team (minus Marc Gasol), Lithuania, Serbia, and the other medal contenders. It’s a team that will feature Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Nando De Colo…

And now Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who announced on Twitter Monday he will represent France in Rio. The 7’1″ shot blocking center didn’t play in the qualifying tournament but will be added to the team for the Games.

“I wanted to go, I just wanted to make sure it was the right decision,” Gobert said at Summer League, where he was watching the Utah Jazz rookies. “After a few days thinking about it, I always dreamed about it. You’ve got some guys I have a lot of respect for, like Tony and Boris, it’s probably going to be their last opportunity to get a medal in the Olympics. I was like, we can do something great, so let’s do it.”

By great, he means get a medal.

“I don’t go there just to go there, I go there to win,” Gobert said. “To win it all, to get a medal. Just go there to win.”

Could he and his French teammates beat the USA?

“If I go there I think we can beat them,” Gobert said. “It’s not going to be easy, they have a great team, but I go there to win.”

Gobert said the Jazz have been supportive, in part because he has had success playing for his national team before — he kind of broke out during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain (where France won the bronze). The following year got a lot more run with the Jazz and he has quickly developed into one of the best rim-protecting bigs in the Association. He thinks he could see a regular season bounce out of playing in Rio as well.

“I always love to play for the national team. It was great (at the FIBA World Cup) because I wasn’t playing a lot during the season, I got the opportunity to play at the highest level, and we were one of the best teams in Spain. It was a good experience and it always makes me better as a player.”

A number of NBA players (and professionals in other sports) have backed out of these games, in part over health concerns surrounding the Zika virus in Brazil. Gobert is not one of them.

“Zika is not that big of a concern for me,” Gobert said. “Most injuries are on the court, it can happen anywhere, it can happen in the first practice of training camp. I’m not going to stop playing basketball because I think I can be hurt.”

The USA and France are in the same group and will play on Aug. 14. You can be sure Kyrie Irving isn’t thrilled to know that when he drives the lane in that game

Report: Drunk, vomiting Lamar Odom removed from flight at LAX

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This simply makes me sad. Lamar Odom is a genuine, open, caring, and kind person — at least Odom I covered and spoke to during his time with the Lakers. There is a reason he to this day has so many friends and people around the league rooting for his recovery.

But Odom clearly is still battling his addiction problems. From TMZ.

Lamar Odom was taken off a Delta flight Monday night after getting wasted in the airport lounge and vomiting on the plane … TMZ has learned.

Lamar went to the Delta lounge at LAX before boarding a red-eye for NYC, and according to eyewitnesses was pounding down beers and whisky. By the time he got on the flight, we’re told he was wasted.

Two passengers in first class tell TMZ, Lamar went to 4B and sat down, but as the plane was about to pull back he bolted for the front, threw up in the galley and then walked in the bathroom and with the door open threw up again. When he came out of the bathroom, we’re told he had vomit on his clothes.

At that point the report says he was “gently” escorted off the plane.

Odom obviously has a history of addiction, which helped hasten the end of his playing career.

Get well Lamar.