It was quite a different scene from the big boys matchup we see in the regular season.
The Spurs and Lakers met for a rumble to kick off Thursday at NBA Summer League Las Vegas. Still there were some things of note.
- Alonzo Gee, a D-League call-up to the Wizards who later signed with the Spurs (he played for the Spurs’ D-League affiliate Toros) continued his overwhelmingly impressive play, even with a diminished line. 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting certainly doesn’t sound like much, but it was how Gee was able to get to the rim whenever he wanted, and his vision in both the full and halfcourt sets. His halfcourt game was remarkably improved today, as he played more as a combo-forward, backing down smaller players and whipping past larger ones. Gee looks primed for a breakout season off the Spurs’ bench.
- Gerald Green stole the show for the Lakers, and finished with 18 points on 8 of 17 shooting, seven rebounds and the play of a game: a block on a corner three attempt that utilized every inch of his canoe-like frame. Green showed off the same athleticism that got him into the league and made him one of the elite dunkers in the league (remember the cupcake dunk?). But he also focused on leadership and elusiveness. Finishing with no turnovers certainly helped, as did responding from a cold streak in the second quarter.
- The surprise was Gary Neal for the Spurs, an overseas player out of Towson. Neal finished with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 9 from the arc. Neal especially showed off elite perimeter speed, and his baseline screen cuts almost always gave him wide open looks with feet to spare. With his lack of size, Neal needs to look more for assists to prove he can play points, but it was an especially strong outing for him.
- Derrick Caracter had a quiet game with 10 points, 6 boards and 7 fouls, but showed a lot of promise, as he’s done throughout Summer League. His frame is well suited to play inside, and the raw materials are definitely there, as all the scouts in town will tell you.
The Washington Wizards are bad, and Tuesday night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers won’t make up for that. John Wall‘s 30-point night won’t make up for that. Any kind of staid quotes from the coaches or players won’t make up for that.
The story is that this team just plain doesn’t like each other, and it’s hard to see how that will change enough to keep this core together. The Wizards front office is already taking calls for potential trades, and teams like the Charlotte Hornets are inquiring about stars like Bradley Beal.
Of course, fans in D.C. are not taking the news of the team’s pending separation lightly. As folks started to pour into the Capital One Arena on Tuesday, at least one fan showed up with the universal symbol of a vote of no confidence.
Washington beat Los Angeles, 125-118, but that won’t make up for the general malaise surrounding the franchise.
Given how long the Jimmy Butler Saga continued with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I don’t have any confidence in NBA teams to get trades done in a timely fashion anymore. But the tipping point seems to have been reached in our nation’s capital, and the Wizards will probably shake things up soon.
The Orlando Magic gave the Toronto Raptors a bit of a scare on Tuesday night. After a close game and a late lead by the best team in the East, it was the Magic who appeared ready to snd things to overtime.
As things came to a head at the end of the fourth quarter, both teams found themselves gunning for the win as time wound down. The Raptors were up by two points when they missed a 3-point attempt by Kyle Lowry with 12 seconds to go.
The Magic grabbed the rebound and quickly called timeout. That allowed Orlando to reset themselves, resulting in an Evan Fournier bucket with just 2.3 seconds to go and the teams tied, 91-91.
Enter Danny Green.
Green hit the clutch shot with less than a full second to go, and the Magic were unable to score on a long-distance heave.
Late shot by Green helped the Raptors win, 93-91. Toronto moved to 14-4 on the year as they sit solidly in first place. Orlando is currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
The Philadelphia 76ers are still dealing with the apparent allergic reaction that rookie Zhaire Smith had to some kind of food material in the team facility. The team already knew that Smith had a peanut allergy, but it was revealed later that he also had a sesame allergy.
We were originally expecting Smith to see the floor again sometime in December. But now it looks like that timeline has been pushed back. According to the Ringer, Smith has lost 20 pounds since his allergic incident, and it’s not clear whether he will return this season.
Via the Ringer:
Several reports stemming from the November 9 background briefing mentioned that Smith had “lost weight” over the past month and a half, but I was told that he lost “upward of 20 pounds.” For someone who’s listed at 199 pounds on the team website, that’s significant. As is the difference between Smith not playing in 2018, as reported, and “being in danger” of not playing at all this season, which is how it was explained to me. I was also told that he had more than one procedure to address the issue, which is evidently what the Sixers meant by the fuzzy “additional medical treatment” line. (The team had no comment, according to a spokesperson.)
The Sixers are a curious source of medical drama. Point guard Markelle Fultz apparently will be seeing a shoulder specialist to further diagnose whatever issue he is having with his shooting stroke.
Even still, Philadelphia sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and they just traded for Jimmy Butler. The NBA is a weird league, so having a Eastern Conference Finals-hopeful squad with these types of issues — I suppose — shouldn’t surprise us by now.
Not that it really matters because this season is a lost cause anyway, but Kevin Love is going to be out longer than expected.
Love had surgery on an injured big toe on his left foot on Nov. 2 and the team said he could be back in six weeks, which would be mid-December. Love went on ESPN’s The Jump Tuesday and said expect it to be longer than that, more like January sometime.
“There’s just no telling at this time with the weight-bearing injury what it is going to be like moving forward, but I expect to be back sometime after the new year,” he said.
Love, who was expected to be the focal point of the Cavaliers’ offense, has played in just four games this season.
There has been a lot of speculation about Love as a trade chip but don’t expect anything serious along those lines until next summer. And maybe a year or two after that. Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension that kicks in next season, and considering Love’s injury history and the apparent slight decline in his play, good luck finding a team that wants to pay him $30 million a season for four seasons. Maybe, if Love comes back and looks like a force again, some team that strikes out next summer in free agency could get desperate and be open to a trade. But don’t bet on it.
Love is going to be in Cleveland for a while. Just not on the court until 2019.