Notes from Day 1 of NBA Summer League: Jalen Green is a bucket


LAS VEGAS — There is far too much action at NBA Summer League to catch it all.

That’s why I will put together a notes column of things I see and hear during my time in Vegas, expect a few of these this week (I am in Vegas until Thursday). I didn’t see every game on the opening Sunday of the league, but here are a few things worth mentioning:

Jalen Green is a bucket.

This shouldn’t be a shock, and not just because he’s the No. 2 pick and landed there because he can score inside and out. It’s also because in Las Vegas, the Rockets’ new wing is actually facing a step down in competition level from the G-League level he saw with the Ignite this last season — those G-League games were filled with legit NBA hopefuls and former NBA vets. Summer League has a lot of rookies and guys who will be playing in Europe next season.

“The ultimate goal for the G League Ignite was to be a pro and learn the game as much as we can before we head up to the NBA,” Green said, via the AP. “I think we accomplished that. We learned how to be a pro on and off the court. I think I showed it tonight.”

Whatever the competition, Green impressed and did it all. He scored 23 points, hit 4-of-9 from three, and had a couple of dimes. He looks like a player who can score Day One in the NBA — which is what the book was on him before the draft, but this felt like a confirmation.

Summer League is made for a scorer like Green (unlike the game of No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham), and that could carry over to their rookie seasons, where Green will continue to put up numbers.

• Speaking of Cunningham, he spoke about coming into a team as the No. 1 pick and trying to fit in.

“I know what the perspective of my teammates would be having the No. 1 pick come in,” Cunningham said. “I not trying to be a guy who comes in and is all about me and take all of that space up. I want to respect their space, they’re trying to build on their games. Saddiq [Bey] is coming off a, what was it, First Team All-Rookie? I want him to build on that, trying to elevate himself. For me, it’s just coming in and trying to be the best teammate I can be.”

• Speaking of Bey… One good rule of thumb with Summer League: If a player got regular run as a rookie, he should be a cut above everyone else at this event. The Piston’s Saddiq Bey was exactly that, just clearly better the competition when he was on the court in his Summer League opener, finishing with 14 points and 12 boards for the Pistons. He showed improved handles and with that created his own shot in a way we didn’t see a lot of during last season.

• Of course, COVID continued to reach into the NBA the way it has the rest of American life. The Wizards vs. Pacers game had to be postponed, and it’s not clear when enough Washington players will be cleared from health and safety protocols for them to resume play. The Rockets also were without a player due to COVID protocols.

• Lakers two-way player Austin Reaves had the putback game-winner of the day.

Evan Mobley showed some flashes of the athleticism and potential that made him the No. 3 pick, but like many bigs entering the league, he has got to get a lot stronger to handle the contact at this level. Plus, his game just needs more polish. (This is not a knock, bigs just take longer to develop. Ask Deandre Ayton.)

LiAngelo Ball scored 16 and looked sharp from three in his Summer League debut for the Hornets.

• Rockets’ first-round pick Alperen Sengun was a little more athletic than advertised and did some things well, with 15 points and 15 boards, plus a couple of highlight moves. He was active but had some rookie struggle moments, like when he got boxed in under the rim a few times, plus there were some other weak stretches. Still, he was making things happen.

Sengun got to the line 14 times in the game and his free throw routine is… unique. Before taking his shot, he appears to talk to the ball (ala Mark “The Bird” Fidrych).

• Nearly as strange, Luka Garza‘s free throw routine does not involve dribbling the ball. Even once. He gets the ball, walks up, toes the line, and shoots.

• The first time Thunder first-round pick Josh Giddey touched the ball he ran Cunningham into a screen (Cunningham got hung up on it), turned the corner, and drove in for a dunk.

He also made a couple of nifty passes but played just five minutes before spraining an ankle, and he was out for the game.

Mo Bamba is not playing for the Magic at Summer League but he is in Las Vegas and practicing with the team. Bamba got more run at the end of last season after Nikola Vucevic was traded to Chicago, and how with a new coach (Jamahl Mosley) in Orlando, Bamba said he wanted to learn the system and get some work in with the new staff.

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

It might have been the loudest the Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.


The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.