Author: Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs

Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick looks good in Summer League. No, not that one. Anthony Bennett.


LAS VEGAS — The first thing you notice is Anthony Bennett is in shape now.

Not the spare tire shape he was in last season, when shoulder surgery slowed his summer workouts and had him packing on the pounds. Which led to whispers around the league about his work ethic. No, Bennett is in legitimately good shape — he’s dropped 19 pounds according to the Cavaliers official Web site, although that may sell it short based on the eyeball test.

“It wasn’t really that tough,” said Bennett, who added he has a personal chef now. “My body is kind of weird. I can gain weight fast, I can lose weight fast. So it was just me maintaining it. Watching what I eat at night.”

The next thing you notice is that improved shape has him playing with real energy and purpose, and he is able to maintain it for an extended period of time. That really showed Sunday at Summer League on the glass when he pulled down 14 rebounds.

“You grab 14 rebounds you got a place to play,” new Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt said.

Anthony Bennett has looked like a solid, quality NBA player in Las Vegas.

Still not No. 1 overall pick material, he doesn’t flash the potential of Andrew Wiggins (who has packed the gym in Vegas with fans). However, after a rookie season that made him an NBA punchline, Bennett has come out in Vegas and looked like a quality NBA player. Like a guy who could get minutes on an obviously much improved Cavaliers team.

“AB has been good since Day 1, since I came,” Blatt said. “He’s really working hard to get himself in shape. He’s really, really trying hard to do a lot of things on the court to help the team win and not be under pressure to do one thing just to stay on the floor. It’s a work in progress.”

“It was kind of a setback for me with the shoulder stuff but I’m just trying to put that in the past, come out here and have fun,” Bennett said.

He wasn’t having fun last season, when he was having statistically the worst season a No. 1 pick who was healthy ever had.

“Most definitely,” Bennett said when asked if last season was hard on him. “Just putting a lot of pressure on myself, things were’t going right for me. Everything just collapsed and was building up. I got down on myself, but my teammates help me out a lot, just told me to keep going.”

The Bennett in Vegas looks and plays like a different guy.

Sunday night he showed off a pick-and-pop midrange game. Overall he was 5-of-8 shooting but more importantly he was 3-of-5 from the top of the key area when he popped instead of rolled, showing a nice facet to his game.

“Anthony has shown the ability to do a lot of things. He can play with his face to the basket, he can play with his back to the basket,” Blatt said. “I think it’s important that he feels comfortable and he tries not to hurry. As long as he lets the game come to him, as long as he makes good decisions, he’s in a good place like he was today.”
Back home in Las Vegas where he was raised, Bennett is finding a comfort level in the NBA.

“I see my high school principal here, a few teachers, my AAU coach, a few friends. I just feel more relaxed,” Bennett said.

Expectations are through the roof in Cleveland, bringing in LeBron James will do that. Bennett is going to have to fight for minutes.

Plenty of guys have looked good in Summer League and been unable to translate that to the regular season. Bennett still has a lot of work to do.

But from where he’s come, he looks good. Continue on this trajectory and the Cavaliers may be adding another good young player to the mix next season. One they already had in house.

Notes from a Summer League Sunday: Doug McDermott is the early Vegas fan favorite

Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets

LAS VEGAS — Summer League is a three ring circus. There are simultaneous games in adjoining gyms not to mention the sideshows of agents, coaches and players walking around. It’s sensory overload.

We can’t get to it all, but here are some highlights from our notebook from Sunday.

• Doug McDermott can flat out ball — Sunday night he dropped 31 points on 7-of-12 shooting overall and 5-of-9 from three, plus he got to the line a dozen times.

If you’re looking for the early crowd favorite in Las Vegas, you found him. Every time he went up the crowd at the Cox Pavilion started to come to life in anticipation, and when the shot fell it got loud.

He put on a shooting clinic with coach Tom Thibodeau sitting courtside (no doubt day dreaming about all the shooting he will have next season with Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and now McDermott). This was a big improvement for McDermott over his first Summer League game.

“That first one I was a little uptight, you know, just so excited for my first game. Today it slowed down,” McDermott. “It felt more like basketball.”

I’m no scout but here are my observations on McDermott: He works very hard off the ball and has a great concept of spacing and finding gaps in the defense. He has shooting range from Las Vegas out to about Primm. If you think all he can do is spot up and shoot you haven’t watched him, he can put the ball on the floor and knows how to draw contact. He’s not big, he looks more like a swingman size than a stretch four (DraftExpress said pre-draft he could play either forward, not sold on that now that I’ve seen him). With him and Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol that’s a lot of added shooting from big men, something that will open things up if Derrick Rose is healthy.

• Tony Snell had 23 for the Bulls and while I can’t get used to the new hair style his game has filled out along with his body (although he’s still thin). He’s another Bull who will be better next season.

“We ran that down screen action and it was giving them a some trouble,” McDermott said of playing off Snell. “Whenever you’ve got two shooters like that it’s tough to guard.”

• Anthony Bennett looks good. Very good. Maybe not No. 1 pick material, but a lot better than last season. First, he looks in shape and is moving like it, with real energy and purpose. He’s showed a nice jump shot and was strong on the boards. He finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Check back Monday for more from Bennett and his coach David Blatt on last year’s No.1 pick.

• After his game, Bennett went up in the stands and watched part of the second game next to some friends. The Vegas native said his high school principal and a number of his teachers had come to the game.

• Andrew Wiggins certainly is athletic and shows flashes with his skill. He was also 3-of-11 outside the paint, the jumper needs work. His form isn’t terrible, but it’s going to take some reps.

• A good observation by our friend D.J. Foster: The Spurs Kyle Anderson is Boris Diaw in training. He’s got that same versatile, deliberate, smart game. In a couple years he could provide a lot of what Diaw does in that offense. (Anderson struggled a little with his shot Sunday, going 1-of-7.)

• Both Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore of the Kings have pretty strokes. But Stauskas was 2-of-6 outside the paint (2-of-4 from three) and McLemore was 0-of-5 outside the paint (but 4-of-5 in the paint, plus he got to the line five times).

• P.J. Hairston loves the long ball — he took 13 threes Sunday, hit six. Of course, through two games now he is 8-of-36 shooting. He’s got some on the court problems to go with his off the court ones.

• A PBT favorite from last year’s Summer League back for another year, the Hawks’ Dennis Schroder scored 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Expect more from him in Atlanta next season.

• Sim Bhullar is a massive human being. I don’t think this can be overstated.

• Noah Vonleh’s shooting was better than his first game (hard not to be better than 0-of-13) and he does some nice things — 18 rebounds, he made some good recognitions and passed out of the double team to the right guy, but he continues to struggle finishing against the athleticism he is seeing inside. That should come with time, but the NBA game can be an adjustment.

• Quincy Miller has scored more than 20 points in both of the Nuggets’ games and looked good inside.

Report: Pau Gasol nearing three-year, $22 million deal with Bulls

Pau Gasol, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Durant

This is a good deal for Chicago. They might easily have been paying much more for the same player.

However, after efforts to figure out a sign-and-trade seems to have fallen apart, the Bulls are going to just sign Pau Gasol as a free agent. Which means amnestying Carlos Boozer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has the details.

Free-agent forward Pau Gasol is finalizing a three-year, $22 million-plus contract with the Chicago Bulls, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Gasol, 34, will hold a player option on the third year of the deal, sources told Yahoo Sports.

The contract details make clear Gasol’s desire to be part of a winning team again, because he turned down a two-year, $22 million contract to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers, sources said.

To make this deal (and to bring over Nikola Mirotic over) the Bulls are going to have to amnesty Carlos Boozer. Which has been expected. The Bulls and Lakers had talked about a sign-and-trade to make this deal work but nothing could be put together that satisfied both sides.

Chicago now has a stacked front line with Gasol and Joakim Noah likely starting and Taj Gibson and Mirotic coming off the bench. Mix in rookie Doug McDermott and you’ve got a lot of big men who can shoot now, which should help open up driving lanes for Derrick Rose.

A lot of Bulls fans had their sights set on Carmelo Anthony, who chose to stay in New York. Gasol is not as dynamic as ‘Melo offensively but this is still an good fit. The Lakers don’t have their last two rings without Gasol. He can serve well as the fulcrum of the offense from the elbow, plus he is still very skilled from the post. He’s a gifted passer and has a midrange jumper. His game slipped some the last year, part of that is him getting older but most of it was how he was misused by Mike D’Antoni in his system. Bottom line is he’s an upgrade in Chicago.

Report: Hornets sign Brian Roberts to be backup point guard

Brian Roberts, Monta Ellis

This is one of those often unnoticed, little-mentioned moves of the off-season that ends up being a nice pick up once the season gets going.

The Charlotte Hornets have picked up Brian Roberts to be their backup point guard behind Kemba Walker, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent guard Brian Roberts has agreed to a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Roberts averaged 9.4 points and 3.3 assists a game last season in just more than 23 minutes a game for the Pelicans. (He played for the New Orleans Hornets his first year in the league, making him the first New Orleans and Charlotte Hornet of this era.) He’s a solid backup guard who can do a little bit of everything well and he gives a Hornets team that needs some outside shooting a guy who can do just that (career 37.2 from beyond the arc).

This is a nice little pickup that will serve the Hornets well this season.

Kirk Hinrich to return to Chicago for another season

Kirk Hinrich

Kirk Hinrich could have made more money elsewhere, but he likes it in Chicago.

So he is staying.

Hinrich reached a new deal with the Bulls Sunday, something first reported by David Aldridge of and since then Hinrich himself confirmed the deal to Aggrey Sam of

…The source said that Hinrich took less money from the Bulls than he was offered by other teams, including Charlotte and Utah, though he will make more than the veteran’s minimum to continue playing for the team that drafted him back in 2003.

With Derrick Rose’s return, Hinrich is likely to reprise his role as the Bulls’ backup point guard, though he will also be able to slide over to shooting guard and play alongside the former league MVP.

Hinrch was signed with the room exception, so he would make $5.6 million over two seasons, with a player option on the second year.

Hinrich averaged 9.1 points a game last season, shot 35 percent from three and plays solid defense in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system. He’s not a thrilling signing, but he’s solid. If he’s starting and getting a lot of minutes for the Bulls, it’s not a good sign, but if it’s just minutes off the bench he’s solid.