Ben McLemore 4-of-23 in Summer League debut… but it wasn’t that bad

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LAS VEGAS — It was everything Kings fans had hoped when the touted best shooter in the draft fell to them at No. 7. Early in the first quarter Ben McLemore swung into the left corner, caught the pass and with a quick, effortless motion was up and shooting a two (his foot was on the line). It was a beautiful shot that splashed right through the net.

It also was a mirage — McLemore would take 22 more shots on the night and hit 3 of them. He was 1-of-11 from three.

Almost all of them were just as pretty — as advertised his form is sweet — but the Kings rookie star had a rough debut in the Las Vegas Summer League in a loss to Dallas, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-23 shooting.

Take a deep breath and relax Kings fans, it’s not as bad as the numbers look — McLemore was finding space and getting good looks. In the regular season you might hold a shooter back on a cold night, but this is Summer League where rookies are here to learn.

“I wasn’t trying to jack a lot of shots up or nothin’ like that, they was all good shots,” McLemore said. “I feel like they was all good shots I was just missing. My shots just were not falling. Great shooters have some bad shooting nights. “

They weren’t all good shots, he certainly forced a few two-pointers late in the game. But shot selection was not an issue with Kings Summer League coach Chris Jent.

“He’s got to take good shots, when he’s open he’s got to knock shots down,” Jent said. “He had a tough day today but he’s got to pick his head up and get after it tomorrow. Fortunately we get back in the gym and get some shots up and learn from it. That’s why we’re here, to learn and get better.”

McLemore did float around a lot on the perimeter and stop in transition at the arc a lot. He wanted the threes and he was fearless about taking them.

He did attack once, having a putback dunk that showed off his athleticism.

But mostly he looked like a guy adjusting — to the longer three point line (he looked down at it a couple times), the different basketball, the overall speed of the game at this level (which is still a step below NBA level).

McLemore’s shots didn’t fall, but Jent isn’t concerned about that after one Summer League game.

“Long term, not worried about him,” Jent said. “As long as a player is willing to put the work in and get better and be more consistent — which he is going to do — you’re not worried.”

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.