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Notes from Tuesday at Summer League: Trey Lyles is earning minutes in Utah

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LAS VEGAS — There’s so much constant action going on at NBA Summer League you can’t take it all in (sort of like Vegas itself). Let me dump my notebook from my first day watching games at UNLV.

• Utah is pretty deep at the four now — Derrick Favors will start, Boris Diaw will be behind him.

And then there is Trey Lyles. He played well for Utah when Favors was hurt last season — he became a pretty good stretch four who gave the Jazz needed floor spacing — and now has been playing very well at Summer League. He dropped 30 points on 20 shots against Portland Tuesday, hitting 5-of-7 from three.

He’s earning minutes in the fall. The only question is where they come from.

“You see a kid that at Kentucky played mostly the wing, and he’s playing the four,” Jazz Summer League coach Mike Wells said. “He’s more comfortable for us, and he’s in the position where he has the ball at the top of the key a lot, so he can make the reads and make the play. He’s settling into that role, and his shot has come a long way. During the season he started making the corner threes, now he’s making threes from the top.”

“I’m more confident in my abilities to play freely and have confidence in the shots I’m taking,” Lyles said.

Lyles has been the focal point of the Utah offense in Las Vegas (and in the Rocky Mountain Review hosted by the Jazz before) and they are putting him intentionally in position where he has to make plays — and fail occasionally, just to learn.

“I’ll take Trey Lyles at the top of the key in Summer League,” Wells said. “It’s a chance for him to be in that position where he’s got to make a play…. He’s had a fantastic summer for the most part, with the games that he played, he’s played really well.”

Will that translate to minutes once the NBA season starts is the real question.

• The end of the Utah/Portland game and included an intentionally-missed free throw tipped in by Lyles to send the game to double overtime. And in Summer League double OT is sudden death, and Portland’s Pat Connaughton wasn’t going to miss. You just need to watch it.

• New Orlean’s Cheick Diallo, the second round pick out of Kansas who barely saw the court for the Jayhawks, is showing he is farther along than expected in Vegas. He’s averaged 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game through three games.

“He was a little antsy tonight, he got away from the things he was doing in the first two games…” Pelicans Summer League coach Robert Pack said after Diallo’s 2-of-8 shooting performance late Monday night. “In the first two games he was really doing the things he’s going to be doing well in the regular season.”

• I had high hopes for Noah Vonleh coming out of college, but after watching him I don’t see the development and growth anyone had hoped for.

• As you would expect, Chicago’s Bobby Portis has looked good. He’s going to be a quality NBA player for a long time.

• San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons nutmegged a defender on the way to the rim.

• Ronde Hollis-Jefferson is not the guy the Nets will got to when then need to create late-game opportunities during the season, his handles aren’t there yet. As evidence, watch the finals seconds of the Nets loss to the Wizards Tuesday.

Rudy Gobert was at Summer League and was so enthralled he played some Pokemon Go.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts makes Russell Westbrook ‘next question’ jokes (video)

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Damian Lillard took a well-deserved victory lap after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer sunk Russell Westbrook – who seemingly took a shot at Lillard last year – and the Thunder.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had fun at Westbrook’s expense, too.

Westbrook has repeatedly answered questions from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoma with, “Next question.” Though Westbrook shifted to variants of “not sure” after the last couple games of the series, he still didn’t meaningfully answer Tramel’s questions.

Stotts interjected himself into Westbrook’s feud with Tramel before Game 3.

Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript:

Also, when former Sooner standout Terry Stotts, who is head coach of the Trail Blazers, entered the pregame interview room on Friday, the first thing he said was, “Go ahead, I’ll answer your question, Berry.”

Then, Stotts really laid it on thick after Game 5 last night, as shown in the above video. He specifically called on Tramel to ask a question then joked how badly he wanted to answer with “next question.”

Stotts landed on the hot seat after Portland got swept in the first round last year. He kept his job and did a fantastic work with the Trail Blazers this year. It’s great to see him enjoying himself.

I also can’t help but wonder how Westbrook feels about Stotts.

Kyle Lowry’s ring finger “popped out” during Game 5, he will be ready for Game 1 vs. 76ers

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In the second quarter of the Raptors’ close-out win against the Magic, Kyle Lowry injured his finger, apparently dislocating the ring finger on his right hand, his shooting hand.

However, it’s the playoffs, he was back in the game quickly and he will certainly be ready to go Saturday when Toronto begins a second-round showdown against Philadelphia. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN has the details.

Lowry jammed the finger while deflecting a ball in the second quarter. During the subsequent timeout, the Raptors’ medical staff attended to Lowry’s hand on the bench. He returned to play but went back to the locker room with 2:41 remaining in the first half.

Lowry, who was wearing a splint on the finger during the postgame news conference, started the second half for the Raptors and finished with 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.

“It popped out, but it’s fine,” Lowry said. “I popped it back in. Got a couple days to get it back and recover, and hopefully it will be better by Game 1. Well, it will be better by Game 1.”

It needs to be because the Raptors can’t have another 0-of-7 shooting start from him, which is what they got in an ugly Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 76ers are not the Magic, Toronto can’t have another dreadful start in Game 1 and dig themselves a hole at home.

Lowry’s shooting and playmaking will be a big part of that next series.

Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. wants to work out with Kevin Garnett this summer

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Last summer, Jaren Jackson Jr. did some workouts with Kevin Garnett before embarking on his rookie campaign. It made sense for a lanky 6’11” rookie who can score in the post or step out and shoot threes to work with Garnett. There’s a similarity to the style of their games.

This summer Jackson wants to go back to that well, he told David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Specifically, Jackson said he wants to improve his “motor” and his ball-handling and his shooting mechanics entering year two.

And he hopes to work on some of those skills with Garnett over the coming months. Jackson and Garnett spent time together last summer and again in February when Garnett visited Memphis to feature Jackson game for his “Area 21” segment on TNT.

The veteran Conley had some ideas for that workout and what Jackson needs to add to his game.

“I think for him, working out of the post, like mid-post, being able to jab and shoot off the glass, basically like Kevin Garnett would do,” Conley said.

Jackson had an impressive rookie season, averaging 13.8 points a game, shooting 35.9 percent from three, playing good rim-protecting defense, and he fit well with veteran point guard Mike Conley (and Marc Gasol, before the Grizzlies traded him). Despite being shut down with a thigh bruise after 58 games, Jackson is almost a lock for All-Rookie First Team.

He showed the potential to be a future All-Star and the cornerstone of the Grizzlies franchise into the future. Most importantly, he seems willing to put in the work to get there.

 

Kings reportedly meet with Jeff Hornacek about lead assistant coaching job

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Among the questions and frustrations with the Lakers this past season — and there were many, most of them much more significant than this — were questions about the construction of the coaching staff under Luke Walton. Brian Shaw was the lead assistant, a former NBA head coach with plenty of experience, but there were questions about the experience on the rest of the staff.

Throw in the uncertainty circling Walton right now after a sexual assault allegation against him, it makes sense to have a veteran coach right next to Walton on the bench in Sacramento. That may be Jeff Hornacek, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports.

According to sources, Walton and Kings general manager Vlade Divac met with former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek in Sacramento about the possibility of him being the team’s lead assistant coach.

Amick’s primary point is that as of right now the Kings and Walton are moving ahead as if their working relationship will continue. They are lining up assistant coaches and taking the other steps expected this time of year for a new coach.

Both the Sacramento Kings and NBA are investigating the allegations of sexual assault against Walton, put forward in a lawsuit by a former female reporter for the Lakers’ regional sports network. Kelli Tennant, the accuser, conducted a press conference to state her case on Tuesday. Walton, through his attorney, has denied the allegations.