You can see where Karl-Anthony Towns has the chance to be special.
At moments he looked like what he is — a rookie in his first Summer League game, adjusting to a new style of play — but in parts of his debut against the Lakers Friday night you could see it. With some of the shots and passing, the way ne moves, there is the potential for him to be a real franchise cornerstone in Minnesota. He shot 4-of-10 for 11 points.
In his Summer League debut, Robert Upshaw went out and battled, he stood toe-to-toe with No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns. While Towns had an impressive first Summer League game, the shot-blocking Upshaw got him once and finished the night with three blocks, two points, and six rebounds, playing 12 minutes.
That and what the Lakers saw in practices for Summer League is enough — they will bring Upshaw into training camp and he will get a shot to make the roster.
Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (and a Fresno guy, where Upshaw is from), broke the news. This will be a two-year deal with a partial guarantee the first year and no guarantee the second year, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN, which means this is a training camp invite where the 7’2″ will get a chance to prove he should make the roster.
The Lakers will start Roy Hibbert at center and bring Robert Sacre in behind him, plus they are pretty stacked at the four spot with Julius Randle, Brandon Bass, Tarik Black and Larry Nance. The Lakers don’t need to sign another big for depth, so Upshaw is going to need to prove to the team he is worth keeping around to develop.
And that he has got his head screwed on correctly.
Potential was never the question for Upshaw — last season while at Washington he led the NCAA in blocked shots — but his off-the-court issues had him kicked off two college teams before he turned pro. Washington cut him loose mid-season last year. Those issues are the reason he went undrafted — no team even took a second-round gamble on him.
Upshaw has the tools to be a defensive and rebounding machine at the NBA level. However, he has a lot of work to do on his conditioning, the offensive side of his game, and he has to prove to Lakers brass he can be trusted.
He’s at least going to get that shot.
Karl-Anthony Towns shines in Summer League debut as Timberwolves beat Lakers
LAS VEGAS — Karl-Anthony Towns knows the responsibility that comes with being the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, and after a decent debut which helped his Timberwolves beat the Lakers on the opening day of Summer League action in Las Vegas, he seemed to be more than ready to take on that challenge.
Towns faced the draft’s second overall pick in D’Angelo Russell, inside a Thomas and Mack Center that featured an electric atmosphere, and was packed with fans rooting mostly for Los Angeles. After overcoming some early jitters, which included air-balling a long three-pointer less than 30 seconds in, Towns settled in nicely, and finished with 12 points, three rebounds, four assists — and nine personal fouls.
“I started out like any other rookie; I ain’t gonna lie,” Towns said. “I had a lot of butterflies. I was very nervous, legs felt heavy — you know, it’s your first game out in front of everyone. You’re just trying to change the tide of an organization, especially being the No. 1 pick. We did a great job tonight as a team, taking that first step of changing the view of this team and making us a winning team.”
Towns was far from integral to his team’s success. Zach LaVine did the heavy lifting on the scoring side, and he and Jordan Clarkson of the Lakers looked like men among boys after playing an entire season’s worth of legitimate minutes. But what Towns did exceptionally well was pass out of double-teams — which he needed to do consistently, since L.A. sent hard doubles his way just about every time he touched the ball.
“I was very comfortable,” he said. “I did it a lot in college. I did it a lot in high school, especially. I was very ready for the double-team when I saw it coming. Just trying to make sure I’m not just making the right pass out of the double team, but the right pass that gives us a scoring opportunity.”
While there are plenty of things Towns can do now that are immediately translatable, he (of course) has a lot to learn about playing at the NBA level — a process which has already begun.
“I think the biggest thing I learned tonight was how to play 32 minutes,” he said. “I’m used to a platoon system — 19 minutes, 20 minutes, playing in five-minute spurts. I was playing 10, 11 minutes straight (tonight). It’s different obviously, I’m not gonna lie. But the platoon definitely saved my legs for the league and I’m more than glad we did that system.
“I also learned today more about using your body,” he said. “I used my body a lot in college, but today you’ve got to use your body a little more. People are more crafty in the NBA, other than just banging and seeing who is stronger. It’s a more crafty game. As I got more and more used to it I was able to go back to the right hand hook and make some things happen.”
The Lakers had physical big men in Julius Randle, Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw for Towns to deal with, and he struggled to finish through contact at times. That will come down the road once he bulks up a bit, but what he possesses now is a high basketball IQ that is impossible not to notice.
It was a solid first step for Towns, certainly. And even at this extremely early stage, he appears to be taking the long view of his career with the Timberwolves, and is looking forward to changing the perceptions surrounding the franchise.
“For a lot of people, they don’t see a lot of Ws from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but today this was a W they could see,” he said. “It’s a start. And it’s a great start.”
DeAndre Jordan fiasco finally gives Mavericks a reason to start over
Just a few days ago, fresh off his biggest free-agent score in years, Mark Cuban told a Dallas-area radio station that this summer was do-or-die for the current era of Mavericks contention. They were either going to land a star free agent — as they had just done, luring DeAndre Jordan away from the Clippers — or blow it up and start over, something Cuban has been vocal about his aversion to in the past.
“If we got shut out, we weren’t going to just try to fill the roster,” Cuban said (via The Sporting News). “We had the discussion that if we couldn’t get a serious free agent, whether it was one of the guys still out there or some of the guys who already went, then it was time to take a step back.”
Yeah, so, about that.
In the most bizarre sequence of events the NBA has seen since the vetoed Chris Paul/Lakers trade in 2011, the Clippers emerged victorious from the wreckage of the Great Emoji War. Jordan is staying in Los Angeles, and the Mavs are left hanging like Jordan trying to get a high five from CP3, with a ton of cap space and nobody left to spend it on. In the short term, for a news cycle or two, it’s a disaster. But if this is the catalyst for Cuban and the Mavericks to finally embrace a full-on rebuild, it could be a blessing in disguise.
Let’s be clear about something: even with Jordan in the fold, the Mavericks weren’t going to be contending for a title this year. In fact, it was more likely that they’d miss the playoffs than make it out of the first round. The west is too deep for anyone outside of the Spurs/Warriors/Thunder tier to be a sure thing, and Dallas still had (and has) too many question marks on its roster. Their other marquee free-agent signing of the summer, Wesley Matthews, is coming off a torn Achilles, an injury that has historically been difficult to come back from. Starting small forward and master free-agent recruiter Chandler Parsons may or may not have had microfracture surgery on his right knee. Dirk Nowitzki has finally started to visibly decline. They still don’t have a clear starting point guard — they were linked to Jeremy Lin recently, but he’s off the board now, and they’re left to pencil in Raymond Felton for at least some of those minutes, which…no. Elsewhere, their depth is nonexistent.
With Jordan, the Mavs’ roster is essentially where it was last year, in the mix for an eighth seed and a first-round exit as they’ve been every year since the 2011 title run. Without Jordan, and with their other injury and depth concerns, they can hardly be considered a playoff team. And if they’re not a playoff team, now is the time to finally start what Cuban has put off for too long. It’s time to blow it up.
That won’t take too much work, as there’s not much of a roster to blow up. Parsons can opt out next summer, and if he’s healthy it’s all but a lock that he will. The Mavs will have barely over $20 million on the books besides that: basically Nowitzki and spare parts. They also have an added incentive to be bad if they want to add to that: they owe Boston their pick next year with top-seven protections. Eventually, they’re going to need another young foundational player to transition them to the post-Dirk era. And given their free-agency track record, their best bet to get one is in the draft.
Luckily, if a team is going to be bad in the west, this is the year to do it. Most of the west’s bottom-feeders have gotten significantly better this summer. The Lakers and Kings won’t sniff the playoffs, but they’ve both added legitimate talent to the mix. Utah and Phoenix will be in the playoff hunt. Minnesota is a year or two away from contending for the postseason, but they’ll be better with Karl-Anthony Towns next to Andrew Wiggins. If Denver doesn’t blow up its own roster, there’s enough talent there to be mediocre rather than outright bad. The bottom of the west is Dallas’ for the taking: they’re really only competing with Portland, who are in a similar position after losing four of five starters, including LaMarcus Aldridge.
Without the pressure to contend, the Mavs can bring Matthews along slowly. He’s supposedly ahead of schedule in his rehab from the Achilles injury, but he faces an uphill battle that hasn’t had very many success stories. They can sit him out the entire season if they want to. That probably won’t be necessary, but if they’re not fighting for a playoff spot, there’s no reason to rush him back when they’ve just committed $57 million to him over the next four years.
Elsewhere, they have plenty of flexibility. They can take on other teams’ bad contracts to pick up extra draft picks. The next time an opportunity comes up like the recent Kings-Sixers trade, Cuban is in as good a position as Sam Hinkie to snag a Nik Stauskas-type prospect for nothing.
The Mavs haven’t dealt with anything like this since Cuban bought the team in 2000. It’s to his credit that they’ve always been competitive under his watch, always in the playoff mix and always in the mix to land the top free agents, even if that part of it didn’t usually work out. Now, in the wake of Jordan bailing, in the twilight of Nowitzki’s career, and without much young talent to speak of, it’s time to face the reality that an impressive 15-year run has come to an end. Starting over is going to be rough, but Cuban understands long-term payoff as well as anyone. He’s built a rock-solid organization and infrastructure in Dallas, one that’s better positioned than most to handle a rebuild. But that’s the reality he’s been handed.
Report: Dario Saric wanted to join Sixers this season
Dario Saric was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but the plan was for him to remain in Europe for at least two more seasons.
That’s probably part of the reason the rebuilding Sixers traded for him on draft night, given their propensity for selecting players who aren’t ready to contribute to the team’s win total in the immediate future.
Saric, however, was ready to make the jump now. But he couldn’t get out of his current contract in order to make that happen.
“Saric told people he wanted to join Philadelphia now, but couldn’t because his contract had no out-clause,” a source told Basketball Insiders.
Despite the Sixers’ late push to bring him over as soon as possible, negotiations with Turkish finalist Anadolu Efes failed to materialize. Saric is handcuffed overseas until 2016, but it was clear, sources familiar with his wishes said, that he wanted to join Philadelphia.
I asked Saric for his thoughts about moving to the U.S. and the situation with his Turkish club.
“It’s really hard for me to answer that,” Saric said. “I can’t comment.”
Tanking jokes aside, the Sixers did seem to want to add Saric to the roster this season. It’s time to start developing all that young talent in order to begin to turn things around — even though the 6’10” power forward is a duplication of sorts, alongside Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and the newly-drafted Jahlil Okafor.