Summer League notes: Archie Goodwin continues to impress for Suns

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LAS VEGAS — After Saturday’s action at Las Vegas Summer League, we’re down to four teams and three games left in tournament play before the event wraps up on Monday.

The Suns are still around, and were expected to be considering the amount of players with real NBA rotation experience that they brought to town. Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and P.J. Tucker all played plenty last year for Phoenix during the regular season, but it’s a rookie who was a late first round draft pick that is the one creating a buzz.

Archie Goodwin is just 18 years old, but has acclimated to playing at the professional level very quickly. And his skill set, while still raw, seems perfect for the uptempo offense that new Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has promised to install for the upcoming season.

Goodwin had another strong summer performance Saturday, finishing with 20 points in 28 minutes, while making all five of his field goal attempts — including two from three-point distance — while getting to the line for 10 free throw attempts.

“I just try to find contact wherever I’m going, and just try to finish through it,” Goodwin said afterward. “I know it’s really not a problem for me to get by that first guy because I have a quick first step, I’m long, and I use my athleticism. It’s just a matter of me absorbing the contact and finishing, and trying to get fouled and get to the line.”

It takes a level of acumen to know what to do with that athleticism once you get into the lane, without ending the play out of control, or by committing a turnover or an offensive foul.

“I know when to attack and when to kick it (out),” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot better at that as well. In high school it was just so easy for me to go score. But once you get against bigger guys, bigger stronger guys, you have to figure out the whole game.”

Hornacek likes what he’s seeing out of Goodwin so far, but is cautious with his optimism at this early stage.

“Our style that we want to try to do is run and push the ball, and that’s good for him the way he plays,” Hornacek said of Goodwin’s game. “He can get out in the open court and make plays. In the half court he’s got to work on defensive stuff, but that’ll come as he learns players, and what other players like to do.”

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Additional notes from Saturday’s action:

– The Raptors team that the Suns knocked off had some stellar performances as well. Quincy Acy was a monster inside on both ends of the floor, and finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. And diminutive guard Dwight Buycks consistently got to the rim for buckets inside, and finished with 28 points of his own.

– The D-League Select team had been playing well this Summer League, but their Cinderella story came to an end on Saturday as they were eliminated by the Bobcats in the quarter-finals, even though Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sat this one out for Charlotte.

– The Warriors came back to beat the Lakers in the nightcap, thanks to a big game from Kent Bazemore, who finished with a game-high 26 points.

– In the final four on Sunday, Miami will face Phoenix at 3 p.m. local time, followed by the Warriors taking on the Bobcats at approximately 5 p.m. The winners will face off in the championship game Monday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.