NBA Summer League’s second day features plethora of solid performances

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LAS VEGAS — The second day of NBA Summer League featured pretty the same things as the first — random cameos in the crowd by established NBA like Baron Davis, J.R. Smith and David Lee; a lot of less than stellar basketball interspersed with jaw-dropping highlights and 32 quarters of players most of the crowd in attendance has never heard of fighting to better their basketball careers.

Not everybody in attendance was able to dominate like they probably planned, but plenty of players put together solid enough performances to be included in our Day 2 bullets featuring the best — and some of the worst — players  for packed house in Las Vegas.

  • The entire Memphis Grizzlies team played well to begin things on Friday afternoon against the New York Knicks. The team’s last two first-round picks and seemingly career combo guards — Josh Selby and Tony Wroten — played stifling defense while combining for 39 points. They weren’t the only standouts, though, as current free agent Matt Janning also played very well with 13 points, four rebounds and even a block as he looks to once again parlay a successful Summer League performance into an NBA contract as he did his rookie season with the Phoenix Suns.
  • Josh Akognon has been tearing up China since leaving Cal State Fullerton, but there are very people in NBA circles familiar with his game. He showed quite a bit on Saturday, though, as he scored 25 points and nailed four 3-pointers … though the 5-foot-9 guard failed to record an assist.
  • Bradley Beal is the player most people figured would be a standout for the Washington Wizards’ Summer League entry, but it ended up being second round pick Tomas Satoransky stealing the show on Saturday night. Satoransky’s Wizards would go on to win a blowout over the Houston Rockets, but the young point guard played very solid on his way to 10 points — including a pair of dunks that would dispell some of the criticisms that he’s not athletic enough to play in America’s top league. Beal still finished better than him in the box score, however, scoring 14 points to go with five rebounds and four assists.
  • The Rockets-Wizards game was a blowout, but the two team’s young power forwards didn’t make that evident over the course of the game. Marcus Morris and Chris Singleton had to be separated at one point after a war of words and then later rookie Royce White and Singleton also exchanged some words. None of the three turned in particularly incredible performances, but it was fun to see some passion in Vegas.
  • Jeremy Lamb wasn’t overtly-amazing considering he made just two of his seven 3-pointers — and one of those misses was an airball — but he finished with 23 points in the points column. Fellow rookie Terrence Jones was quite a bit more efficient with 13 points on eight shots in 18 minutes.
  • Donatas Motiejunas didn’t look nearly as good on Saturday as he did on Friday. The Rockets big man of the future finished his second game in America with just one point after missing all five of his field goal attempts — and getting abused by Garret Siler a few times on the defensive end.
  • The majority of the Knicks looked like they had less than NBA talent, but former Memphis wing Wesley Witherspoon was able to put together a solid game with 15 points and five rebounds off the bench. It was more than most expected following a disappointing college career, but he did have one major blemish in the game — an air-balled 3-pointer that drew just the faintest chants of “Airball!” from a still-building crowd.
  • Klay Thompson got off to an impeccably-hot start on Saturday as he seemed to be on his way to cementing a Summer League MVP performance with 12 early points as he nailed the first four 3-pointers he attempted. The second-year pro for the Golden State Warriors wasn’t able to sustain that success, however, and finished with just 17 points to go with six turnovers and five fouls — though his 4-of-6 performance from beyond the arc didn’t hurt. Charles Jenkins was probably the best player on his team as he scored 24 points whereas Harrison Barnes took a stepback in scoring just 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
  • The Denver Nuggets look like they brought a Summer League All-Star team to Vegas, but they weren’t able to play like that for the majority of Saturday’s game. Jordan Hamilton had an amazing second quarter on his way to 18 points and a huge dunk (that led to him saluting opponent Draymond Green), but the remainder of his performance wasn’t quite as impressive. His veteran teammates weren’t all that impressive, either.
  • Kenneth Faried scored 10 points and had a series of three huge blocks, his 4-of-15 performance from the field can’t be sugarcoated while former first round picks Solomon Alabi and Gani Lawal combined for just six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.

Games will continue to get more interesting on Sunday as games start to be played at both the Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center leading to even more possible standouts at NBA Summer League — and we’ll have a recap of all of them available for you right here at Pro Basketball Talk.

Kevin Durant reverses course on championship: ‘Every day I woke up, I just felt so good about myself, so good about life’

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Following his first NBA title, Kevin Durant said, “After winning that championship (last season), I learned that much hadn’t changed. I thought it would fill a certain [void]. It didn’t.”

How does Durant now reflect on that time with the Warriors?

Durant, via J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s very rare in our lives when we envision and picture something and it comes together the perfect way you envision it. [Winning a title] was the only time in my life that happened, and that summer was the most exhilarating time. Every day I woke up I just felt so good about myself, so good about life.… That was a defining moment in my life—not just my basketball life.”

It’s difficult to reconcile those two quotes. I’d love to hear Durant eventually explain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t relish the championship aftermath as much he initially expected but, looking back, now realizes how much he actually enjoyed it. The end of his time with Golden State wasn’t totally pleasant. That might have provided perspective on the better times. Or maybe the difference is simply his mood on the day of each interview.

Durant is continuing to try to find himself while in the public eye. That isn’t easy, and it’ll lead to contradictions like this along the way. I appreciate his openness, even when he’s still difficult to understand.

Jerry Colangelo: Team USA would’ve won FIBA World Cup if not for injuries

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Team USA finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

Why did the U.S. fare so poorly?

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had sharp words for the many stars who withdrew. But that’s not his only explanation.

Kyle Kuzma suffered an ankle injury that kept him off the roster. Jayson Tatum missed the final six games with his own ankle injury. Marcus Smart was banged up and missed time throughout the event.

Colangelo, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Maybe.

Those players – especially Tatum and Smart, who occupied a roster spots – would’ve helped. But even with those two, the Americans were vulnerable. Australia beat them in an exhibition, and Turkey nearly upset them in the first round. France and Serbia clearly outplayed them in the knockout phase. Team USA just lacked its usual talent.

Perhaps more top Americans will play in the 2020 Olympics. That will make the biggest difference.

If USA Basketball had attracted more stars for the World Cup, it likely could’ve withstood a few injuries. This roster allowed little margin for error.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Iman Shumpert rejects offer from Rockets, who’ll have several familiar names in minicamp

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Iman Shumpert is the best free agent available.

Why hasn’t he signed yet? Apparently because he spent the offseason negotiating with the Rockets, but those talks haven’t produced a deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:

I wonder whether Houston tried to sign Shumpert to a contract similar to Nene’s, creating another trade chip. The Rockets are close to the luxury tax and probably wouldn’t guarantee Shumpert much. It doesn’t take months to negotiate a simple minimum contract.

Shumpert (29) is a credible wing in a league starving for them. He played well for the Kings last season before getting traded to Houston, where he struggled. Other teams should be interested.

The Rockets have just nine players with guaranteed salaries. There’s plenty of room for some of these past-their-prime veterans to make the regular-season roster. It might mostly depend on which of Terrence Jones (27), Nick Young (34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), Raymond Felton (35) and Thabo Sefolosha (35) are in the best shape at this stage.