Notes from a Summer League Wednesday: Boston’s Jaylen Brown has turned it around

Associated Press
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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 final day watching games at UNLV.

Jaylen Brown — the guy the Celtics drafted at No. 3 in June rather than move that pick — looked overwhelmed in his first few Summer League games. Between contests in Utah and Las Vegas he started 5-of-26 shooting in three games, he couldn’t find lanes to make plays, and generally looked like a massive project (in part due to battling a hyperextended knee).

Wednesday he had 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, he got to the line 11 times, he attacked the rim, and he pulled down 11 boards. That was his second straight impressive game. What changed?

“Just embracing the process,” said Celtics’ Summer League coach Jamie Young said. “We watch film with him, work with him in practice on where he needs to improve.”

Young added the team also is getting Brown the ball in spots he’s more comfortable — in transition, or spots where he can quickly attack off the bounce in more of a straight line rather than weave through a forest of defenders. Spots that let him use his freakish athleticism.

Brown put on his strong performance Wednesday with Boston GM Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens in the building. Good timing.

The question is how much run he will be able to get come the fall — Boston is a deep roster of good young talent. Minutes will have to be earned, but Brown can find some on the wing behind Jae Crowder. (Although, what Boston’s roster looks like come the start of training camp could be very different from how it does now.)

• One thing you can count on at Summer League: Second-year players who got quality run in their rookie years tend to dominate when they return. D’Angelo Russell, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Emanuel Mudiay all fit that mold this year.

As does the Spurs’ Johnathon Simmons. He had 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the Spurs loss Wednesday. Before this game he averaged 15 points a contest on 54.2 percent shooting. The Spurs have thrust him into more of a leadership role here, with the goal of sharpening his playmaking skills.

“We wanted to give him the ball, put it in his hands a lot and let him work on his decision making,” said Spurs Summer League coach Becky Hammon. “Kind of let him run things out there, organize people, like I said he’s a gifted passer so putting him in positions where he has to make decisions and read the defense. You can’t simulate that in a pickup game, so it’s putting him out her with the ball in his hands and a game plan and let him go out there and know what the options are and get the other guys the ball.”

• Atlanta seems to have found a good fit in Taurean Prince, the No. 12 pick out of Baylor (who was traded from the Jazz in the three-team Jeff Teague deal). He went right at Kings big man Georgias Papagiannis, was physical inside, knocked down a couple of threes, and finished Wednesday’s game with 21 points on 11 shots. More than just raw skills, his game seems to fit the selfless, versatile style the Hawks like to play. Atlanta fans are going to grow to like him quickly.

• Dunk of the Day went to Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry, who got up and threw it down over Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

• Cayley-Stein has not stood out in Vegas, not made the kind of leap other second year players have made and fans should hope to see.

“I think Willie is one those players, he’s really good when he’s familiar with his teammates and they know what he does,” Kings’ Summer League coach Bryan Gates said. “So I’m okay with Willie.”

Maybe. But watch Skal Labissiere and you start to think he’s a more natural fit next to DeMarcus Cousins, he can space the floor, and still defend the rim (Labissiere has a ways to go to develop those skills and find his way in an NBA game). Don’t be shocked if by the end of the season Labissiere is getting some of Cauley-Stein’s minutes.

• The Kings got Isaiah Cousins — the other guard in the backcourt of Oklahoma last season, next to Buddy Hield — on the court for the first time this season following a groin injury.

“I liked it,” Gates said. “He got a feel, he defended, he got hit on pick-and-rolls, and that’s what he needs to continue, he just needs to get his NBA feel. Isaiah was fine.”