John Wall shows his world of potential, shows he is still 19 in first Summer League game

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jwall_no1.jpgJohn Wall is lightning quick. You think you know that watching his televised games while at Kentucky, but until you see him in person you don’t realize just how quick. It’s impressive, bordering on insane.

He flashed that speed in his first ever Summer League game. Plus he showed his great length, good defensive instincts, and some real feel for setting up teammates. And all at age 19.

But there is also a work to do. He didn’t blow anybody away with Game 1. It was nice.

Maybe the play that best sums up his first game: In the second quarter he pushed the ball up off a miss, drove into the lane and put on as quick and pretty a spin move as you are ever going to see and threw up a layup. And the Warriors’ Reggie Williams blocked it from behind.

Wall was the attraction and had 24 points on 15 shots, attacked the rim and got to the line. He had 8 assists. He also had 8 turnovers. Oh yea, his team won 84-79, but nobody cares who wins the games at Summer League.

One Summer League game borders on irrelevant. It is like the Rhode Island primary on the presidential election trail. What you want to see is the potential, you want to see him (and any player) improve as the week goes on. But right now, we have just one game to look at (game two is Tuesday against the Clippers).

In his first game of any kind for the Wizards, he pressed. He tried to go to fast and do too much at times. Wizards Summer League coach Sam Cassell kept pulling him aside and telling him to relax.

“His first shot hit the backboard so hard I thought it was going to shatter the glass,” Cassell said. “But he’ll be fine.”

Wall himself said he was playing too fast at first, which showed up in plays like a drive and kick to the corner that was wide of his shooter by 5 feet. Still, Wizards coach Flip Saunders was watching from the wings and was good with Wall’s first game.

“If you say he played kind of an average game, that shows you the kind of potential he has,” Saunders said.

There were highlights. Wall made a great connection with the high-flying JaVale McGee and had some ally-oops that got the large crowd in Vegas (a sold-out 4,000 seats plus standing-room-only media) leaping up and cheering. McGee did a really good job running the floor and picking up the garbage when Wall missed.

Wall also could have shot a lot more — he was easily the fastest guy on the floor — but did a good job finding teammates at points.

All the potential that has Wall being compared to a better Russell Westbrook, to saying he has some Chris Paul in him, was on display. So was the rookie at 19. What matters is how he looks tomorrow, how he looks at the end of the week, how he looks come training camp and that first game in November. Step one was nice. Not thrilling, but nice.

Bucks bring in Christian Wood for training camp, give him chance to make roster

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For three seasons now, Christian Wood has bounced between the NBA and G-League (he played for the Sixers, who cut him to bring in Elton Brand, and Charlotte). He has been trying to improve and show he has NBA skills — a 6’11” forward who has a face-up game, an improving outside shot, and his defense seems to be coming together. He’s still just 22 years old.

The best he looked was playing for the Bucks at Summer League in Las Vegas this year, where he averaged 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, shot 55.4 percent, and made the All Summer League First Team.

That got him a training camp invite to Milwaukee this fall.

The Bucks have a final roster spot open, and they have now signed Woods and Shabazz Muhammad for camp, giving them a chance to compete for it and impress new coach Mike Budenholzer. (Tyler Zeller also is on a non-guaranteed and could get that spot.)

Budenholzer likes bigs who can shoot and space the floor, and Woods shot 30.4 percent from three in Las Vegas — not earth shattering, but he’s a more willing shooter from the outside than Muhammad. It’s going to be an interesting battle to watch in Bucks training camp. In Las Vegas, Woods looked like an NBA player, but Vegas can be a desert mirage, he needs to carry that play over to training camp to get a roster spot.

Kyle Kuzma on LeBron James’ Lakers: “a lot of people are underestimating us”

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Just how good are the LeBron James led Los Angles Lakers?

Las Vegas’ Westgate Sports Book put their under/over win total at 48.5. I’ve seen predictions that range from the three seed to talk of them missing the playoffs. Nobody really knows because, while LeBron’s greatness isn’t in question, there are plenty of questions about the fit around him: Lance Stephenson? Can Lonzo Ball play well off the ball more considering his shot? Where does Rajon Rondo fit in the PG rotation? What kind of step forward will Brandon Ingram take? Michael Beasley? Is JaVale McGee ready for a larger role? Will the Lakers go small at times with LeBron at the five? (I think that could be their best lineup, if used right.)

Kyle Kuzma thinks you’re selling the Lakers’ short.

Back in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, this week for a YMCA promotion, Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN he has worked out with LeBron and they like this roster.

“We are both definitely excited about the roster and the pieces that we have,” Kuzma told ESPN on Tuesday, after visiting with 20 kids from the Safe Places program at his hometown Flint YMCA as part of the “My Y Story” content series. “And we think that a lot of people are underestimating us. It is definitely going to be fun playing with all these new guys.”

“A lot of people say we got a lot of different people, a lot of new people,” added Kuzma, who also is holding a three-day camp for children in his hometown. “But change can be a good thing. It is not necessarily always a bad thing. There’s a lot of teams in the NBA that need to work on their chemistry; we are just one of them…

“I don’t know why people kind of just rule us out because we are young,” said Kuzma, who was a first-team All-Rookie performer after averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. “We are hungry. We are competitive. Anybody that watched us play last year, we were in a lot of games.”

The big change the Lakers made this season is good — LeBron makes the Lakers a threat. Kuzma is right on that front.

However, the question has never been “will the Lakers be good?” They have LeBron and some quality talent around him, of course they will be. The questions are more along the lines of “how fast can they come together?” and “where do they slot in the West, where there are a lot of good teams?” Assuming Golden State and Houston finish as the top two seeds in some order, where do the Lakers rank against Oklahoma City, Utah, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, Denver, and San Antonio? And that’s without getting into teams such as Memphis or the Los Angeles Clippers who have potential if they can stay healthy. That’s 12 teams I just mentioned battling for eight playoffs slots, 12 teams capable of winning at least 45 games if not more. The margin for error in the West is minuscule.

But are we underestimating the Lakers? Depends on what the standard is. These Lakers are not contenders yet. But do you really think a LeBron James team is going to miss the playoffs?

Change of plans, NBA clears Jordan Clarkson to play in Asian Games

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The Philippines national basketball team just got a lot better.

Jordan Clarkson wanted to play for the Philippines in the upcoming Asian Games (his mother is a native of that country, so he is allowed), but the NBA did not clear him to do so saying this tournament was not part of the agreement between FIBA and the NBA that allows the league’s players to take part in major international events (the Olympics, the basketball World Cup, etc.).

However, there has been a change of heart and Clarkson has been granted a special waiver.

The Cavaliers’ guard will miss his country’s first game against Kazakhstan today but will play in the rest of the tournament. As noted in the release, two Chinese players with NBA ties — Houston’s Zhou Qi and Dallas’ Ding Yanhuyang — also were cleared for this tournament.

There is a “club vs. country” tug of war in soccer and other international sports, including basketball. While players want to represent their countries — for both patriotic reasons and the fact the major international events such as the Olympics can help boost a players’ brand — teams see injury risk, coaches not necessarily looking out for the long-term health of the player, and something that can pull them out of off-season training and work on parts of their game. This time, the countries won, but don’t bet on the NBA expanding its list of FIBA events it will clear its players for.

Geeking out on NBA prospects: R.J. Barrett almost dunks from free throw line, Zion Williamson does

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Duke is stacked this coming season. STACKED. They should have three lottery picks in next year’s draft. (Does that mean they are the team to beat in the NCAA? That’s not the way basketball works. But that’s another discussion.)

Duke is in Toronto for a series of preseason exhibition games, and at the end of the workout likely No. 1 pick next June, R.J. Barrett tried to show off by almost dunking from the free throw line.

Then freak of nature Zion Williamson showed him how it’s done.

That’s worth more looks.

Damn Zion is a freak of nature. Can we just put him in the next dunk contest now?