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.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

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LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.