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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.

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
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Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?

LeBron James says Lakers have off-court issues, out vs. Rockets (groin)

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”

Mike Trudell of the Lakers:

Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.

LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.

Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.

It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.

76ers: Ben Simmons suffered subluxation of knee cap, considering treatment options

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Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.

The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?

These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.

Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.

Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.

The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.

Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.

That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.

Kelly Loeffler calls WNBA players supporting her opponent for senate ‘out of control cancel culture’

Sue Bird wears shirt supporting Raphael Warnock in senate race against Kelly Loeffler
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WNBA players and Kelly Loeffler hit a stalemate.

Players want to oust Loeffler as Atlanta Dream co-owner because Loeffler – a Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia – holds political stances they disagree with and is advocating against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler said she won’t sell, and the league won’t force her out.

So, players have turned to Loeffler’s senate race, wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” shirts in support of Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

Loeffler statement:

ATLANTA—Today, political outsider and conservative businesswoman Kelly Loeffler issued the following statement in response to WNBA players wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” t-shirts. The shirts endorse Kelly’s Democrat opponent, Raphael Warnock, following her criticism of the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter political organization.

“This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June:

“We come together around sports, but promoting a political agenda divides us rather than unites us. The lives of every African American matter, and there’s no place for racism in our country. But I oppose the BLM political organization due to its radical ideas and Marxist foundations, which include defunding the police and eroding the nuclear family. On the other hand, our flag represents our values of freedom and equality for all. If we can’t unite behind our flag, much less the national anthem during this struggle, then what keeps us together? It’s sad to see that there’s more interest in tearing our country apart than in solutions that bring us together. I’ll continue to defend American values and our flag, because this is not a game – it’s the future of our country. “

“Cancel culture” is a vague term with shifting definitions. But people supporting voting for one political candidate over another? That comes nowhere near any reasonable definition of cancel culture.

WNBA players are not just basketball players. They’re human beings with varied interests – including politics. That should come perfectly naturally to a self-described “political outsider” who’s a sitting senator and running for re-election. If it’s reasonable for Loeffler to be interested in politics (it is), it reasonable for WNBA players to be interested in politics.

As far as Loeffler restating her previous points, she remains errant.