Notes from Day 2 of Las Vegas Summer League: Jonathan Kuminga is something


LAS VEGAS — There is far too much action at NBA Summer League to catch it all. Here is what I caught on Day 2 from Las Vegas.

Jonathan Kuminga is…

Wildly Athletic. Like a different kind of athletic.

Able to get downhill and can play through contact like the defender isn’t even there.


Not a three-point shooter. Not going to help the Warriors make a deep playoff run as a rookie.

But he is… something,

And in a couple of years the Warriors could have something special.

One Summer League game is about as meaningless as it gets, but it’s worth noting you just couldn’t take your eyes off Kuminga, who finished with 16 points and six boards against the Magic. What you saw was a rare kind of athleticism that he just has not yet figured out how to harness. His feel for the game just isn’t there yet, which is probably why teams got scared off and let him fall in the draft to the Warriors at No. 7. But he also can make plays that impress.

He is a project, but for a guy learning how to play the game being around Stephen Curry and Draymond Green is a crash course. Kuminga could end up being a steal for Golden State, but Warriors fans need to be patient.

As I said yesterday, if a player got regular run as a rookie then returns to Summer League, he should dominate (if not, it’s concerning). Monday, the Grizzlies Desmond Bane and the 76ers Tyrese Maxey fit right into that category — both are just too good to be here.

Maxey scored 21 and looked every bit the player who has graduated from this level. He was too quick, too savvy, just flat out too good for Mavericks defenders. He toyed with them.

Bane is too smooth and a step ahead of these games, seemingly always in the right place and hitting his shots. He finished with 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting overall, 6-of-8 from 3, and he would have had more than four assists if his teammates could finish.

Bane said postgame coaches wanted him to get the ball in his hands and work on his playmaking, and the results were up and down — he made some good decisions, struggled at other times, but that’s what Summer League is for. On the bright side, the Bane/Xavier Tillman pick-and-roll overwhelmed the Nets’ defense.

• Also on the too good to be in Vegas list: The Knicks Immanuel Quickley.

Apparently Quickley is a morning person, the Knicks and Pacers had an 11 a.m. start local time and he tore Indiana up to the tune of 32 points.

• In the first half of the Bulls’ eventual loss to the Pelicans, Patrick Williams looked like a guy in the Maxey/Bane/Quickely category of having moved beyond this league: He was hitting threes, floaters, showing potential as a pick-and-roll ball handler and scored 14 points by the break. He looked like peak Williams from last season.

Then came the 0-of-7 shooting second half with three turnovers. He reminded everyone of how much development he still needs. It’s still a process with Williams, but the potential is there.

LiAngelo Ball is a draw. There was an impressive crowd for a Monday afternoon Hornets vs. Kings game, and every time Ball went up to shoot, or drove, or made any kind of play, the arena started to buzz.

Ball finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 1-of-4 from three. In the first half, he didn’t seem as active as in his opening game, but he found spaces in the second half. Is Ball an NBA player? Um… Ball is a draw. I’m no scout, and he obviously has some skills, but I’m not sold on the entire package. At least not yet.

•  Ziaire Williams lived up to the billing of being a smooth athlete, and had a pretty good first Summer League game scoring seven points. He has a lot of development, starting with getting stronger, but the athleticism is there.

• Speaking of living up to the billing,  Davion Mitchell can help the Kings with on-ball defense now.

His offense was up and down, but he does look for teammates first and has some passing skills, finishing with nine assists to go with his 10 points.

Devin Vassell had 20 points for the Spurs against the Timberwolves. He had a 27-point game in the Salt Lake City Summer League. Just a name for San Antonio fans to watch as he heads into his second season as a Spur. He looks like he learned some lessons as a rookie.

Report: James Harden, Khris Middleton nearing return to court

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Two of the East’s top teams are about to get key stars back.

Milwaukee has been without Khris Middleton all season as he recovers from off-season wrist surgery. Philadelphia has been without James Harden for a dozen games with a right foot tendon sprain. Both are nearing a return, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Milwaukee has a 14-5 record and sits as the two seed in the East, but they have done that on the back of the best defense in the league, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. The Bucks’ offense is 18th in the league overall and bottom 10 in half-court possessions, an area Middleton should help shore up.

Philadelphia has gone 8-4 in the dozen games Harden has missed so far and has the best defense in the NBA over that stretch. The question becomes can the 76ers continue to defend like that when Harden (and, eventually, Tyrese Maxey) returns? Players such as B-Ball Paul Reed, Shake Milton and Tobias Harris have stepped up in recent games, can they continue that with shifting roles?

While there are questions, the Bucks and 76ers are about to get better, which should worry the rest of the league.

Myles Turner says he’s staying focused, tuning out trade rumors

Minnesota Timberwolves v Indiana Pacers
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Myles Turner heard his name come up all summer in trade rumors, particularly to the Lakers in a massive Russell Westbrook swap. It never happened as the Lakers would not throw in two first-round picks to seal the deal. Since the season started, the trade rumors around Turner have not stopped, with the Clippers mentioned as having interest.

Turner is trying to ignore all of it.

That was especially difficult on a recent swing through Los Angeles, and Turner spoke to Law Murray from The Athletic about it.

“Nothing changes,” Turner told The Athletic.”Just go out there and focus on getting wins for this team. That’s just where my focus lies. You can’t pay attention to outside noise … doesn’t change anything, bro. All I can do is go out there and play my game.”

Every player says some version of that, but Turner has lived up to it. Able to play his natural spot at the five without Domantas Sabonis sharing the paint (Sabonis was sent to the Kings in a trade that brought back Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana), Turner is averaging a career-high 18 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, while shooting 39.7% from 3. Plus, Turner remains an elite rim-protector, averaging 2.6 blocks per game (second in the league).

Turner is playing the best basketball of his career, coincidentally as he heads into summer as a free agent.

Whatever team trades for him will have to pay him next summer impacts Turner’s trade market, as does the fact that the Pacers are a surprising 12-8 start — Indiana is reportedly not as eager to trade Turner. If a team wants to trade for him, they are going to have to overwhelm the Pacers.

Turner has hinted he likes the idea of a brighter spotlight than he has seen in recent years, but in the end money will talk. Turner has kept his head down and his play this season has earned him more of it.

Damian Lillard reportedly targeting Sunday for return from calf strain

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Lauren Leigh Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images

How much the Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard was on clear display Tuesday night in maybe their ugliest loss of the season. The Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, Anfernee Simons was on his way to putting up 37, and they were facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. Yet Portland came from ahead to lose. Their defense was bested by the unstoppable offensive weapon that is Nicholas Batum (32 points). Portland just let go of the rope in this one.

The Trail Blazers are now 1-4 with Lillard out with a strained calf (the second time this year). The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is targeting Sunday against the Pacers for a return, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

Haynes is well connected with the Lillard camp, this is a report that can be trusted.

Portland is trying to keep its head above water and is now 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week, with games at the Lakers and at the Jazz before Lillard’s targeted return.

Lillard is averaging 26.3 points and seven assists a game this season, showing the explosion we were used to seeing before he was slowed by an abdominal injury that required surgery.

Bulls extended coach Billy Donovan before season started

Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Bulls’ fans are not thrilled with a 9-11 team sitting 11th in the East, outside the play-in.

Bulls’ management is not either, but they aren’t laying the blame at the feet of coach Billy Donovan — in fact, they extended him just before the season began, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and since confirmed by Bulls’ media relations staff to K.C. Johnson NBC Sports Chicago.

Why the extension? Because Donovan and head of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas have a tight relationship, Johnson writes.

Karnišovas’ continued belief in Donovan centers on Donovan’s leadership and communication skills. The two men talk virtually daily and there’s never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation — even when the subject matter becomes difficult.

And not everything has been or continues to be smooth sailing for the Bulls, who have played without Lonzo Ball since January and are off to a 9-11 start in a season with modest outside expectations.

No details about the length of the extension were made public.

This is a decision about stability. Donovan is a solid coach and the front office trusts him. That’s enough to get some extra years on your deal in Chicago.

The Bulls’ issues are not because of Donovan, it’s more a roster that has a “playoff team but not much more” ceiling — a ceiling that is lower this season due to injuries forcing constantly shifting rotations. The Bulls are especially hamstrung without the defense and transition play of Lonzo Ball (still out after another knee surgery). Chicago has defended well this season without Ball (10th in the league), but the offense is bottom 10 and misses the easy buckets Ball helps get with his passing and transition (plus he can knock down some 3s). Donovan has done a respectable job with the players he has.

That is good enough in Chicago to get a few more years.