TrueHoop: 2012 Summer League

Monday Bullets

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
1:11
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Nobody disputes they are the best in the world at what they do, as they can prove in any individual contest. But sometimes all those individual geniuses have trouble with the teamwork. That's how more than a few NBA teams have fallen apart, but it's also a tale of Team USA in its bad years and, interestingly, the U.S. sprint relay teams. As described in a fascinating New York Times report, U.S. sprinters simply don't train together very much, for understandable reasons -- many are serious individual medal contenders, competing with each other.
  • Malcolm Gladwell on slacking off.
  • Hoopism showcases the stellar work of Milton Un and Arthur Tanimoto, with a must-see pretty graphic interface of the season in review.
  • Remember back when Mike D'Antoni was the beleaguered coach of the New York Knicks, locked in some kind of power struggle with Carmelo Anthony or James Dolan or forces unseen? As it played out in real time, there were a lot of smart people saying it was no big deal. But then it turned out to be a huge deal, because D'Antoni quit or was fired or both. And I can't help but think that whatever happened between D'Antoni and the Knicks was similar to what happened to Jeremy Lin and the Knicks. To many eyes, these Knicks were never better than when Lin ran D'Antoni's offense and the ball pinged around. To some other, more influential eyes (James Dolan, Carmelo Anthony etc.) that period was a deviation from the real plan.
  • We are so used to the idea how basketball is played in the NBA is a disadvantage in the international game. But maybe there's one advantage: Our players are used to a longer 3-point line. Maybe that's like training at altitude, or swinging a heavy bat. It has been seen as a disadvantage. But maybe U.S. players are more confident than most shooting those shorter, international 3s. The same is true on defense, where NBA players are used to closing out shooters who are further away. That job just got a little easier, too.
  • The Nets don't have a backup center, and Nets are Scorching's Devin Kharpertian is OK with that: "The Nets don’t 'need' a seven-footer any more than Monta Ellis 'needs' shots: they look good, you can sell it to the fans, and it only makes sense if you don’t pay attention to how it affects the team. The idea that the Nets need someone tall just because he’s tall is a fool’s game. In a league of 450ish players, just 11 listed at seven feet or taller qualified for last season’s minutes leaderboard. The list is littered with duds and good-not-greats -- it includes Byron Mullens, Robin Lopez, and yes, Johan Petro. The Nets may very well sign someone to fit their 'tall' budget to fill out the back of their roster, and at the veteran’s minimum, it’s not an enormous commitment. But I worry that a backwards vision of traditional models may lead the Nets to play a worse player more. Size matters in basketball -- as it always has -- but size doesn’t make you good. Being good at basketball makes you good. With no one left that’s good at basketball, why force your own hand to appease poorly constructed tradition?"
  • There is no quit in Russell Westbrook.
  • One more thought about Team USA, who survived a close call: Chuck Daly essentially rigged an early loss, in practice against college players, for the Dream Team. That got the players really focused on the idea they need to do things the right way. A close call to Argentina may help Mike Krzyzewski keep things razor sharp this time around. Or indeed it could be warning sign, because there are stronger opponents to come.
  • You know how the Thunder have all those young players who'll have to be paid eventually, and there is much worry about salary cap doom? The same basic concerns exist in Denver, too.
  • The story of Jimmer Fredette's NBA career is in a delicate place. He was abysmal as a rookie, as inefficient as imaginable. So, you can't hit shots against that NBA defense ... is the answer to shoot more? Honestly, it could be -- if he can't figure out how to score, it's hard to imagine how he can stick in the NBA. But that could also be the fastest road to total disaster. He did shoot more in summer league, but even there his percentages were miserable.
  • Christmas in July.
  • Portland's once-in-a-while GM, and now director of college scouting, Chad Buchanan, says Damian Lillard's defense could use some work. But on offense, Buchanan tells BlazersEdge, Lillard has a special ability to go slow when it counts: "He does a very good job of getting to the rim and slowing down, getting ready to brace for a hit, reading the angles. How quickly do I have to get it out of my hands? Is there a drop pass, a lob pass? He goes fast to get to a spot and then slows down to make the decision from there, which is a great trait to have."
  • Thomas Robinson didn't play much in the paint in summer league.
  • "How reassuring and fun is it to play with a guy as cool as me?" Related: A big list of the Rockets' current assets.
  • Brandon Roy suits up for a pro-am team called the Bulls, and on video appears to be fit and moving well enough, but suffering from offseason stuff like an errant mid-range game, a loose handle and, mostly, terrible camera angles.
  • For some reason I find it amusing that the crucial meeting of the international Jeremy Lin saga, when Lin met with the Rockets and signed his offer sheet, took place at the Golden Nugget casino. This is the main attraction at that casino right now.
  • Laser tag with Roy Hibbert.

First Cup: Monday

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
4:59
AM ET
  • Staff of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies now have two Las Vegas summer league most valuable players on their roster. Second-year guard Josh Selby dominated the past week with his scoring and shared MVP honors with Portland rookie Damian Lillard. Selby, 21, averaged 27.5 points on 59-percent shooting entering the Grizzlies' final game Sunday — a 97-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis finished the summer league with a 2-3 record. Selby had 11 points in the finale but he lit up the scoreboard in the Grizzlies' first four games. The 6-2 guard was as efficient and electrifying scoring the basketball over the past week as Memphis' recent free-agent acquisition Jerryd Bayless, who won the 2008 summer league MVP.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: In a field that featured 23 NBA teams and 13 of the top 14 selections from last month's NBA Draft, Lillard was clearly the best rookie in Las Vegas. He ranked second in points (first among rookies), sixth in assists (third among rookies) and shot 43.8 percent from the field, all while leading the Blazers to a 4-1 record. Lillard was consistent and solid throughout summer league, hitting outside jumpers and finishing drives to the basket with equal success while excelling in the pick and roll on offense. He scored at least 23 points in each game. But his marquee performance came on Thursday, when he finished with 31 points, seven assists and three rebounds in an 84-78 win over the Atlanta Hawks. In that game, Lillard had a memorable, one-handed dunk over the Hawks'™ Keith Benson that was one of the most talked about plays in summer league.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets again appear ready to get their man, with the final stages of their pursuit of center Omer Asik duplicating their successful chase of Jeremy Lin. This time, a week after the Rockets were frustrated by struggles to deliver an offer sheet and pessimistic it would bring them who they wanted, they had reason to feel much better and more confident things will work out. As with Lin’s offer sheet last week, the Rockets had difficulty delivering Asik’s quickly. Just as a 10:59 p.m. Tuesday deadline was set for the Knicks to match the three-year, $25.1 million offer to Lin, a 10:59 p.m. Tuesday deadline has been assigned for the Bulls to match the three-year, $25.1 million offer to Asik. And just as the Knicks spent that Saturday locking up a replacement, the Bulls agreed Saturday with a player who could fill in for Asik. The Knicks signaled their intention to let Lin go when they reached a sign-and-trade agreement with Raymond Felton. The Bulls appear ready to sign center Nazr Mohammed to replace Asik, with Mohammed indicating via Twitter that he is leaving the Thunder.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: OKC could throw its name into the Howard hopper and offer Kendrick Perkins, James Harden and Eric Maynor in a Howard sign-and-trade with Orlando, but doing so would abandon the Presti Plan and give the perception he had gone about things all wrong. Then again, it potentially could result in an NBA title or two with a starting lineup of Howard, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka, not to mention a season record for blocked shots and a high-dollar existence above the league's luxury tax. Presti is booking that slow and steady eventually will win the race to the NBA crown, which is why the Thunder is a tortoise in a league filled with hares. While big-market teams have the means to play Texas Hold 'em, small-market places like OKC compete as best they can by playing five-card stud.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Bradley Beal was named to the all-Summer League team from Las Vegas on Sunday after averaging 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 record. Beal scored at least 20 points twice, grabbed at least six rebounds three times and handed out four assists once. His performance was more steady than spectacular. Beal wasn’t too pleased with his shooting from the floor (41.8 percent) or from beyond the three-point line (30 percent), but he also wants to get better. The most impressive aspect of Beal’s performance was that he never forced the action and let the game to come to him, even if assistant Sam Cassell asked him to be a little more aggressive.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Heading into the draft, perhaps the Cavs' most glaring need was a spot-up shooter. That doesn't describe Waiters. Early impressions are he's an inconsistent perimeter shooter. One could make a case that Florida's Bradley Beal and UConn's Jeremy Lamb are shooters. Waiters is more of a penetrate-and-kick type of player. He can to get to the basket, which opposing teams will quickly identify. That means they'll back off on defense and force him to shoot jumpers. The question is whether he can make them. The summer league was the perfect opportunity to unveil the Waiters-Irving backcourt. Irving, though, slapped a padded wall in practice and broke a bone in his right (shooting) hand. ... Irving and Waiters need a lot of work together. Now, they are not going to get acclimated to each other's game until training camp at the earliest. And that is if Irving has no complications with his broken hand, which required surgery Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic. By training camp, Waiters should be able to get in playing shape. He showed up to summer league a bit pudgy, perhaps about 10 pounds overweight. If he's not in shape for Camp Scott, the affectionate name given to Coach Byron Scott's training camp, he'll be spending a lot of time bending over garbage cans.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Christmas got his wish. Two minutes before the Celtics’ 92-77 summer league finale loss to the Los Angeles Clippers tipped off, free agent guard Dionte Christmas got word from his agent that he reached agreement on a deal that will get him into the club’s training camp. According to sources, the 6-foot-5 Christmas will get a partial guarantee, but it’s important to note he’s turning down better money overseas. The Temple product was heavily pursued by top European clubs offering in the high six figures. If things don’t work out with the Celts, Christmas will likely be able to get back some of that later on, but not all of it. The C’s reportedly like the fact he is willing to make that commitment. ... It may have happened a bit under the radar, but Jamar Smith has, indeed, been signed by the Celtics and will be at training camp. The 6-3 guard confirmed, however, that his deal is not guaranteed.
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Though observers would prefer longtime NBA veteran Ben Wallace to mentor first-round pick Andre Drummond, there's one guy on the team who has already volunteered for the job. Third-year big man Greg Monroe, who practiced with the Pistons' summer-league team recently, said he was more than willing to show Drummond the ropes of NBA life. "He's going to need help from us, from the coaching staff, from the front office," Monroe said. "So I think, personally, obviously, I was in a similar position, and he's going to need my help a whole lot. So I have to take the responsibility and just try to mentor him and help him any way I can." Some might scoff at the idea of a guy who just turned 22 last month being a mentor to Drummond, who is still only 18. But one of the reasons the Pistons like Monroe is his maturity beyond his years, which he displayed even during his tumultuous rookie season that ultimately led to firing of former coach John Kuester.
  • Chad Graff of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Arnett Moultrie and Maurice Harkless sat next to each other behind a foldout table in the back of a white tent protecting them from a scattering light rain. To Harkless' left were two clowns painting faces and blowing up giraffe balloons. To Moultrie's right was a large speaker blaring Lady Gaga at the control of a middle-aged white DJ. And in front of them stood a growing line of autograph-seeking fans, many wearing a 76ers jersey, T-shirt or hat. The two 76ers rookies, both first-round selections, rarely looked at each other. They each held a black Sharpie and signed everything that was put on the table in front of them. They posed for pictures and smiled at waving fans. This is one of their responsibilities as the team's brightest rookies. They'll head to 10 or so Sixers events before camp opens and repeat what is soon to become a routine of autographs and pictures. But at the 13th annual Sixers Beach Bash on Saturday afternoon, the duo - perhaps the future of the organization - were at their first public Sixers-sponsored event. ... "This isn't rookie hazing," Moultrie said. "That may come at camp. This is just part of what we have to do as new Sixers. It's been a good time to see all these fans. I really didn't know what to expect."

Las Vegas Summer League Bullets: Day 9

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
2:34
AM ET
By Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm
ESPN.com
Archive
  • The Bobcats brought a large chunk of their regular-season roster to Las Vegas Summer League, and it's shown. James Herbert of Hardwood Paroxysm shared his thoughts on the new additions and what they might mean for Kemba Walker. Is Walker primed for a breakout season? As Herbert points out, there was no summer league prior to Walker's rookie season. He and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are making the most of their opportunity this year to develop a rapport. That chemistry and Walker's emergence as a leader will go a long way toward determining how this season goes for Charlotte.
  • The word around Kings observers, both writers and fans alike, is how poorly Jimmer Fredette has played this summer. Over at Cowbell Kingdom, James Ham gets to the root of Fredette's problem: "Jimmer Fredette is too nice. He wants to fit in too badly. He doesn’t want to steal the spotlight, he just wants to be one of the guys and by doing so, he has lost the edge that made him great."
  • Andrew McNeill recaps Cory Joseph's struggles Friday night, when Joseph turned the ball over 10 times, as well as how summer league as a whole went for the Spurs. Joseph's disappointment in his own play shows he's committed to getting better. That's been a common sentiment among young players who have struggled here in Las Vegas. Overall, the week was a success for both Joseph and the Spurs.
  • When the Phoenix Suns signed Goran Dragic and drafted Kendall Marshall, there was talk about pairing the two in the backcourt. Regardless of that possibility, the Suns re-signed Shannon Brown to a two-year, $7 million deal to shore up their depth on the wing. Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns details how that deal fits into Phoenix's long-term cap situation. That story also includes a quote from Grant Hill indicating Hill would have liked to return to Phoenix. He, of course, ended up in Los Angeles, across the hallway in Staples Center from Steve Nash.
  • One of the scariest moments of summer league was Portland's Nolan Smith falling to the floor after a hard foul earlier in the week. Smith suffered a concussion and was taken off the court on a stretcher. He should be fine going forward; said Smith, "I’ll just keep playing with the same confidence and just being aggressive. That’s when I’m at my best. This injury isn’t going to slow me down."
  • Greg Stiemsma is living the dream for which so many summer league participants are striving. The restricted free agent has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the same team that offered him his first NBA contract way back on April 13, 2010.
  • For my money, the most fascinating team in action has been the D-League Select team, which vanquished the Phoenix Suns on Friday night and held a 45-35 lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves at halftime Saturday evening before eventually losing 86-78. The Select players are playing with the massive chip on their shoulder that one would expect from those who see themselves as just as talented as the franchise-affiliated summer league invitees.

Las Vegas Summer League Bullets: Day 8

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
12:40
AM ET
By D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried talks with Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com on the tragic shootings in Denver early this morning. The entire Nuggets team also paid tribute by wearing black headbands.
  • Decked out in a baby blue argyle polo and a beret (!), J.R. Smith gave the Knicks and his brother Chris a helping hand on the way to his courtside seat. As Cleveland Cavaliers guard Gary Temple spotted up in the corner, Smith walked by and gave a quick tug to the back of Temple’s shorts, pulling them down for a moment before Temple quickly yanked them back up. Never change, Summer League.
  • MVP! MVP! After receiving a somewhat random vote for Most Improved Player last season, Memphis Grizzlies guard Josh Selby solidified his case for Summer League’s Most Valuable Player. Through three games, Selby is 19-for-25 from 3-point land, averaging a whopping 29 points per game on 60.8 percent shooting from the field.
  • Jordan Hamilton talks with Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company on the improvements he made during his stay in Vegas, and reveals a hidden gem on the roster for Nuggets’ fans to watch out for.
  • Over the last few years, the Dallas Mavericks haven’t shied away from going after defensive specialists on the perimeter. Over at Hardwood Paroxysm, Connor Huchton has his eye on second-round draft pick Jae Crowder, who was dominant in the Mavericks’ win over New Orleans.
  • Andrew Han of ClipperBlog on positional scarcity in Vegas: “Of the 452 players invited to the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, only 76 had the assigned possibility to play center in at least some capacity (16.8%). Of the 76 forward/centers, 41 were positionally designated exclusively as center (9%). Of course, teams fill spots based on their regular season roster needs, but even in summer league the waning of centers is in full effect.”
  • How about some brotherly love? Justin Holiday, brother of Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday, showed off some smooth scoring instincts and a nice handle. Lock that kid in the Cheesecake Factory for a few months (Holiday is listed at 6-foot-7, 177 pounds) and he’ll be ready to play with the big boys.

First Cup: Friday

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
5:02
AM ET
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: It took awhile and a couple of false starts, but the Celtics got their man last night, acquiring Courtney Lee from Houston in a sign and trade for JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams, Sasha Pavlovic and a second-round draft pick. The paperwork is expected to be finalized today. The deal originally had Phoenix and New Orleans as facilitators, but that came apart late yesterday afternoon Pacific time. Late last night, Portland became the third team and Pavlovic was included. The amended details were still being learned as the Herald’s final print deadline passed, but the Celts will clearly be ecstatic to acquire the coveted 6-foot-5 Lee without disturbing their main rotation.
  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Amar'e Stoudemire said the only thing that's going to cut it next season is a title. "Anything less than a championship," the power forward said on MSG Thursday during Knicks' Summer League broadcast from Las Vegas, "is a waste of a season." Stoudemire, looking leaner, said he's down to 245 pounds and has been training two times a day since May. He said he's strong, healthy and ready to go, and is thrilled with the trade for Raymond Felton. The two worked well in their short time together before Felton was dealt to Denver as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. "Awesome, awesome acquisition with Raymond," Stoudemire said.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: CNN and ESPN were at Toyota Center to report the latest chapter of a story difficult to believe. Local stations that needed a GPS to find the arena last season arrived early to herald Lin’s return. Media filled the 70 news conference seats with at least as many lining the court as Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey fielded questions about letting Lin go and bringing him back. And Lin, 23, spent another astonishing day as the center of attention to rival the entrance of Yao Ming a decade before. “I don’t see myself as a conquering king,” Lin said of the description assigned him in one of the day’s first questions. “It’s been an unbelievable ride, a lot of things I didn’t expect to happen in terms of the way last season went. I have to still remind myself this is all actually happening.” This was not Linsanity with its last-second shots, adoring fans and the compelling Star is Born story line of a kid succeeding in the big city. This was its result. “Look at this crowd,” said Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who took Lin to dinner and to scout neighborhoods Wednesday. “Tell me this isn’t fun. It’s going to be a lot of fun. And he’s a great player. Even without all this, we’d be happy to have him on the team, the way he plays and the way he handles himself on and off the court. He’s incredible.”
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mayo's plan came to fruition Thursday when he signed a two-year contract for $8.5 million with the Mavs, with the second year being a player option. The Mavericks are expecting Mayo, 24, to startat shooting guard. Mayo, who spent his first four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, sees this as a time to add a refreshing new chapter to his life. He even had "some dinners" with coach Rick Carlisle in Las Vegas so he could assess just where he can fit in with the Mavs. "I want to try out," Mayo said. "If the starting position is up for grabs, it's quite natural for the competitive nature to get the best of you and want to start. "I think the last two years of my career I've been pretty much sacrificing for the betterment of our team. I understood that and did that, but coming here is definitely a fresh start." Asked what Carlisle told him to do once training camp starts, Mayo said: "Just come in and play my game, bring my attitude and swagger to the team. He said just be myself, don't be a quiet guy. "Just be myself. We're looking forward to working with each other."
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The agent for Los Angeles Lakers All-Star center Andrew Bynum said he has held no discussions with the Cavaliers and doesn’t believe a deal involving his client and Cleveland is imminent. “I’ve had zero conversations with [Cavs General Manager] Chris Grant,” said David Lee, Bynum’s agent. “I would imagine any team involved in this trade would be smart enough to talk to us.” Bynum is under contract to the Lakers, and it is common in trades of this magnitude for agents to be consulted before a deal is completed. Particularly in the case of Bynum, who can be a free agent at the end of the season. Cleveland was listed in a recent Yahoo Sports report as a potential destination Bynum would consider in free agency next summer, but Lee said he had no idea how the two were linked.
  • Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: Unless cap guru Irwin Mandel is a magician, the prudent move should be clear: Let Asik go. Tom Thibodeau, a noted defensive coach, at least has a chance to replace Asik’s impact — if not with Darko Milicic or some other 7-footer, then by mixing and matching some other combination of second-unit players. More minutes for Taj Gibson automatically help fill that void. But the $15 million cap hit is virtually indelible, impossible to erase without pain. Asik has a role in the NBA, but he’s only going to be the next Omer Asik. With the Bulls paying Boozer $15 million, Luol Deng $13.3 million and Joakim Noah $11 million next season, they know all too well how debilitating high salaries can be when they don’t quite fit the production. So whether the Bulls are just kicking the tires on Milicic, it appears they’re already putting a Plan B in place in anticipation of losing Asik. Replacing Asik shouldn’t be that difficult.
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Let's get real: Orlando will always be able to get some draft picks and cap flexibility for a future Hall-of-Famer. That's why the Magic need to wait and make Dwight sweat some more. Look what happened last week when the Magic turned the heat on low and refused to trade Dwight to Brooklyn. He blinked and is now reportedly agreeable to going to the Lakers. Why not turn up the Heat a little higher and little hotter and see if he'll open up his trade-request list even more? If Dwight will play for the Lakers, why not the Clippers? Maybe the Magic could work a deal for exciting, young superstar Blake Griffin. Or what about the Bulls or the Thunder? Why not see if he'll sign a long-term deal with those two teams as well? He could do a whole lot worse than playing with Derrick Rose in Chicago or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. The fact is Dwight would probably agree to play just about anywhere to avoid coming back to Orlando this season. I don't believe he has the stomach to suit up for the Magic at the beginning of the season and take the court as angry Orlando fans shower him with boos, venom and vitriol.
  • Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press: Timberwolves all-star forward Kevin Love is glad he negotiated the option to leave Minnesota as a free agent in three years instead of securing a maximum five-year contract, demanding again that management invest in a playoff-contending team before he commits long term to the franchise. Love also was pleased to see "bad blood" purged from the locker room and stressed the "urgency of the situation" with the Wolves, whose roster remains unsettled after the team failed to sign Portland free-agent forward Nicolas Batum. In a telephone interview Thursday, July 19, from England, where the U.S. men's basketball team is preparing for the Olympics, Love doubled down on comments he made about his waning patience with the Wolves to Yahoo! Sports two weeks ago during Team USA's training camp. ... "There was some bad blood in that locker room we were able to get out of there and smooth things out. That should help us out going forward." Asked to elaborate, Love responded: "Just what I said. We had bad blood in the locker room. We got that out."
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Near the end of the Trail Blazers' summer league matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, a trio of fans started chanting "M-V-P" in honor of rookie point guard Damian Lillard. It didn't catch on with the rest of the Cox Pavilion crowd and quickly faded, but the sentiment was justified. The event features 23 NBA teams and 13 of the top 14 picks from the last month's NBA draft, and Lillard has looked every bit like the most valuable player through three games in Las Vegas. He ranks first in scoring (27.7 points per game) and 10th in assists (4.7), and his unflappable demeanor unmistakably screams "leader." The best news for Blazers fans is that he seems to get better and more confident each outing. Every time I talk about this kid, it just keeps (getting better)," rookie center Meyers Leonard said. "He's unbelievable. His ability to finish around the rim, shoot, create for others, defend, play hard -- he's a special player."
  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: Little things are big things to Leonsis, who said he now employs statisticians with PhDs and Stanford educations for analyses to help his clubs. He can get emotional in the moment and says he hasn’t gone all “Moneyball” on everyone. But he never lets his feelings trump empirical reasoning. That’s why, he says, he kept Ernie Grunfeld as the Wizards’ president, Randy Wittman as coach and George McPhee as the Caps’ general manager for the past 13 years. When told he had yet to fire a general manager, Leonsis replied: “I haven’t had to yet. You have to look at the arc of the team. It’s not just how the team is performing. It’s how the fan base is performing. The Caps have 98 percent renewals. 98 percent. We raised prices. We sell out every game. Again, counterintuitive, I’ll hear, ‘Well, everyone wants this.’ And I go, ‘Really? So you’re tuned in? Because if everyone wanted that, they wouldn’t renew. They’d say, ‘I don’t believe.’ They wouldn’t come to the games. They wouldn’t pay higher prices. They wouldn’t rock the red. So the decisions have been empirical. With Ernie what I found was, could we be on the same wavelength? Would he build the team with eight or nine first-round picks? Could he make trades? I thought trading Gilbert was impossible. I thought trading Rashard [Lewis] was impossible.”
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: For the first time in his career, Danny Green came to Summer League as a spectator, and not a player. Still, even after signing a three-year, $12 million contract to return to the Spurs last week, Green could recall his days as a fledgling Cleveland Cavaliers summer-leaguer hoping to play well enough to impress the right people. ... Green called his contract, the first guaranteed deal of his NBA career, “a stress-reliever.” Green is one of three starters the Spurs re-signed in hopes of keeping together a roster that advanced to the Western Conference finals before losing to Oklahoma City. Power forward Tim Duncan and center Boris Diaw are the others. The Spurs also re-upped with backup point guard Patrick Mills.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: With the maximum 15 players now under contract, there are questions about just who will play for the Nuggets next season. Nuggets coach George Karl took time on the phone Thursday to discuss numerous hot topics. Q: With McGee, Kenneth Faried, Al Harrington, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov and Randolph, you now have six players at the power forward and center positions. How will you handle this? A: "There's no question, it's too many. It's a situation that if everybody is healthy, it's going to be a tough thing. There's no question that 1-2 players, might even be three, might not be happy with the minutes they get. But I always tell people that it's a much better situation than the opposite one. Having good players usually figures its way out — sometimes that's by trade, sometimes it just works out."
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Kings first-round draft pick Thomas Robinson played without a number on his jersey Thursday. Robinson has worn "0" since his senior year of high school and was even showcased on the Kings' website wearing that number Thursday. But the Kings have added veteran guard Aaron Brooks, who has worn "0" his entire career. The Kings will introduce Brooks at a news conference today at 11 a.m. Don't be surprised if Brooks is holding up a jersey with a "0" on it while the rookie looks for a new number.
  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers on Thursday got center Kwame Brown's signature on a contract that will pay him $6 million over the next two seasons, his agent said. "It's done. We signed today," Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein said when asked about the status of the deal that Brown and the Sixers agreed to last Friday. ... On Tuesday, Sixers coach Doug Collins said that Brown will open training camp as the team's starting center. That will shift last season's starting center, Spencer Hawes, to forward.
  • Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel: The BMO Harris Bradley Center board of directors and the Milwaukee Bucks have been discussing a new six-year lease that, if approved by the National Basketball Association, will provide stability for both sides as discussion continues over the possibility of a new, multi-purpose arena. Details of the lease were not released. Information on an extended lease came from the minutes of the BMO Harris Bradley Center's March meeting, which were released this week. If approved by the NBA, a six-year lease would be, by far, the longest lease the two sides have had in years. In general, the Bucks and the BMO Harris Bradley Center have gone year-to-year on leases.
  • Michelle Kaufman of The Miami Herald “Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m experiencing life, and that’s what they need to focus on, life. For many of these kids, just having someone take the time to notice them can make a big difference.” Last week, James Jones made an appearance at a camp in Little Haiti and shared the same message. Next week, he will focus on basketball fundamentals at the 2012 Dibia Elite Basketball Skills Camp, which he runs with former UM teammate Brandon Okpalobi at Ransom Everglades High School in Coconut Grove for ages 8-18. Jones’ dream, he said, is to expand his life-enrichment camps all over South Florida. He grew up in Miami, attended American High in Hialeah and is committed to this community. He proved that when he accepted the league’s minimum salary to sign with the Heat in 2011 rather than make more money elsewhere. That, he said, is why the NBA title was extra special for him.

Las Vegas Summer League Bullets: Day 7

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
1:18
AM ET
By Connor Huchton, Hardwood Paroxysm
ESPN.com
Archive
  • One of the more compelling aspects of Summer League is the journey of players who aren't guaranteed roster spots on an NBA team. Dave McMenamin explores the nature of summer league and the frustration it can create.
  • Kendall Marshall struggled mightily again in the Suns' second summer league Game.
  • Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company talks to Corey Brewer, who believes Jordan Hamilton can provide "a scoring punch off the bench" for the Nuggets next year.
  • During his time in Las Vegas, Kawhi Leonard impressed. Andrew A. McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell: "The Spurs’ brass sent Vegas standout Kawhi Leonard home for the rest of the week, apparently having seen enough of what he can do against inferior competition and likely with a laundry list of things to fine tune before training camp starts."
  • The Rockets and Trail Blazers: The funnest teams of summer league. Both squads include very talented, highly regarded players, and few players have impressed me at summer league more than Damian Lillard and Jeremy Lamb. In this segment of TrueHoop TV, Kevin Arnovitz and David Thorpe discuss how they view the two teams' daunting amount of young talent.
  • Though Terrence Ross struggled in the Raptors' final Summer League game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Drew Packham of NBA.com that he expects him to improve his conditioning and compete for playing time this season. Zach Lowe also wrote a smart article about Ross and the Raptors' future.
  • At Hardwood Paroxysm, Sean Highkin has a feature on Meyers Leonard's game, his chemistry with Lillard, and the possibility of playing with LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard on Leonard: “He’s a threat to attack the rim and I’m a threat to make shots,” he said after the Blazers’ opening game, “so we’ve just got to work off each other.”
  • Zach Harper gives his thoughts on the Wolves' summer league squad, including this assessment of what Robbie Hummel can bring to the team: "Robbie Hummel can mix it up on the offensive boards a bit and his jumper is confident. After last season’s shooting debacle that was our perimeter, it’s weird seeing a guy raise up for a jumper, look completely calm and balanced, and then have a wave of confidence rush over you as he releases the shot. When Hummel takes a shot, it seems like a good shot."
  • Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger faced off as the Kings and Celtics met in a matchup filled with high-profile picks. As Scott Schroeder writes at Pro Basketball Talk, Robinson dominated the proceedings with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
  • John Henson says his favorite movie is "The Dark Knight," but if he was a superhero, he thinks he'd be Mister Fantastic from The Fantastic Four. I can't argue with either of those choices.
  • DeAndre Jordan claims either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul is his funniest teammate.
  • The Knicks may not have the best team here at summer league, but they do generate enough intrigue to warrant Seth Rosenthal's thoughts.
  • Charlie Yao also talked to Coby Karl, who had 18 points on 6-for-7 three-point shooting for the Timberwolves Thursday. Karl is somewhat of a veteran here at summer league, and he's established himself as someone whose primary focus is impacting the game in as many ways as possible. This interview also gives some insight into the mindset of a player who has played in several places around the world and has now returned to summer league.

TrueHoop TV: Mythbusters with David Thorpe

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
9:56
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

First Cup: Thursday

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
5:06
AM ET
  • Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM: Dwight Howard has long coveted the Brooklyn Nets as his next landing spot, but after a summer filled with daily rumors of four-team trade proposals, the six-time All-Star has moved on from his Big Apple infatuation and is locked in on joining the Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell RealGM. The Lakers, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly discussing a three-team trade that would send Howard to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum to the Cavaliers, while the Magic would receive Anderson Varejao and multiple draft picks.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets might be betting on a long shot as they continue to seek a trade for the star they lack, primarily talking with the Magic about center Dwight Howard. But particularly after their good fortune in his pursuit of Lin this week, Alexander was willing to gamble again. “I wish I had a set team like when I had Dream (Olajuwon) and all the set players, so I have to take risks to get where I want to go,” Alexander said. “We have to take risks.” He already has the Rockets back in the spotlight that left when Yao Ming retired. Alexander said the benefits to the business of basketball are nice, but far from the motivation, instead citing how they might help the Rockets rebuild. “I love it,” Alexander said. “I think it’s great for the city of Houston. It’s great for the fans. I think a team needs to have that attention to attract free agents and do what we have to do to win. It helps. It always helps (the business), but the real reason is it helps to attract free agents. They’ll want to play with Jeremy, but also they want to be someplace they will be on TV, they can market themselves, all that stuff.” The addition of Lin should immediately bring attention. ESPN will broadcast his introductory press conference. CNN will cover it. Alexander, however, was happy just to have Lin running the point on his dramatically rebuilt team. “I think he’s going to be a great addition for the team,” Alexander said.
  • Harvery Araton of The New York Times: We can also debate until opening night the basketball merits of retaining Lin versus letting him go, without reaching a satisfying conclusion. But that is exactly the point for long-suffering Knicks fans. A majority, I am betting, wanted Lin on their team next season, if only because they wished this compelling saga would continue in the Garden, where it started and where they have been extraordinarily loyal to a franchise that has not really deserved it. To that end, one season-ticket holder for decades whom I have known for many years expressed exasperation over Dolan’s unwillingness to do what he has asked of his fans over and over: keep the faith and invest in the potential for success, in this case that of the 23-year-old Lin. “After sitting there all those years and watching all that horrible basketball, we finally had such a feel-good story that felt like our own,” said the ticket-holder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from a management that has been notoriously contentious. “How many times can they hurt me?”
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards felt that paying a proven, veteran commodity in Nene was a smarter investment than dedicating an eight-figure annual salary to a freakish athlete who remained unpolished and provided inconsistent production. Denver, however, took the opposing viewpoint and rewarded the gifted but goofy center with the big money he started chasing last season in Washington. McGee announced on Wednesday on Twitter that he re-signed with the Nuggets. He will reportedly receive $44 million over the next four years (slightly less than the $14 million annual salary McGee reportedly sought from the Wizards before getting moved in March). Nene, who turns 30 in September, is set to earn $52 million over the same time period. ... Both franchises feel good about the trade that they made three months ago. And since both Nene and McGee play the same position, comparing which franchise came out ahead will be easy to do over the next four years.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The high-flying JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried are officially Denver's frontcourt, thanks to the Nuggets agreeing with McGee on a contract. The deal is a four-year, $44 million contract, his mother, Pam McGee, confirmed. ... "We are so excited to be a part of the Denver Nugget family, and the wonderful Denver community," Pam McGee said in a text. ... Denver has now made good on its promise to bring back McGee and point guard Andre Miller.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The next time the Bulls face the Rockets after Wednesday's summer-league contest, Omer Asik will be in uniform. Though Asik won't sign his three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet until likely Friday, more signs developed that his uniform will have "Rockets" on the front. Marc Cornstein, the agent for Darko Milicic, confirmed the Bulls have expressed interest in his client, who was a recent amnesty cut by the Timberwolves. League sources also indicated the Bulls are casting a wide net for other lower-salaried big men in free agency. Though management isn't commenting publicly, these moves would suggest the Bulls won't match Asik's offer, which contains a so-called "poison pill" third-year salary of close to $14.9 million. The Rockets waived Jon Leuer and Jerome Jordan on Wednesday and will sign Asik to his offer sheet when those players clear the 48-hour waiver process.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: On multiple occasions, Batum and Ndiaye said Batum longed to play with point guard Ricky Rubio and under coach Rick Adelman and had decided that it would be best for him to follow his "heart" and join the Blazers' Northwest Division rivals. All the while, Timberwolves executives tried to strong-arm the Blazers into agreeing to a sign-and-trade package that would ship Batum to Minnesota and avoid having the seemingly disgruntled Batum land in Portland. In an effort to inflate the offer sheet, Minnesota general manager David Kahn even attached some bonuses that were disallowed by the NBA office. But behind the scenes, Batum evidently was telling the Blazers a different story throughout all the drama. Olshey said he had daily communication with Batum after the sides met for lunch in Portland on July 5, and Batum never wavered on his commitment to the Blazers. Olshey never once contemplated letting Batum go.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Darko Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein, cautioned not to overstate Heat interest in the free agent center. He said he had a preliminary "fact-finding" conversation with the Heat, but Miami has not made an offer. The Heat can make offers only at the league minimum. The Clippers, Brooklyn and Chicago also have been linked to Milicic.
  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Just call him Book Lopez. "I kept to myself mostly," the Nets center said Wednesday, "and read a lot of books and comic books." With that four-year, $61-million contract he signed, perhaps Lopez should buy his own book store now -- just in case those Dwight Howard rumors resurface after Jan. 15. That's when Lopez, whose name was mentioned as a trade chip for Howard, will be eligible to be traded if the Nets revisit the talks for the Magic's superstar. Lopez, of course, wasn't totally oblivious to the constant trade talk and plans to use it as fuel. "There is definitely a motivational factor," Lopez said at a news conference in Brooklyn. "I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but the little bit that I do hear, yes, I definitely use it as motivation."
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks general manager John Hammond said Wednesday he never seriously considered using the amnesty option this summer. The deadline for exercising it was Tuesday. Backup point guard Beno Udrih is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $7.8 million this season. But he is a valuable hybrid guard who can play behind both point guard Brandon Jennings and shooting guard Monta Ellis. And the Bucks did not have a burdensome contract such as the $18 million remaining in the final year of Elton Brand's deal, which led to the Philadelphia 76ers using the amnesty rule on Brand. Amnesty can be applied only to contracts signed under the old collective bargaining agreement, the one in effect before last season. And it can be used just once during the new agreement, so the Bucks still have it for next season.
  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune: You couldn't really argue when watching Williams look slow and lost while trying to defend the position. Derrick was told at season's end to go home and lose some weight. He doesn't exactly have the look of a prison camp survivor, as did Love a year ago, but you can notice the missing 15 to 20 pounds watching Williams in the Las Vegas Summer League. Plus, he had septum surgery, which means he's going to enter his second NBA season carrying less bulk and breathing easier. He should be applauded for that, yet it sounds as if Adelman continues to disdain the idea of Williams as the forward opposite Love. The gentlemen telecasting Tuesday night's summer game said they had asked Adelman if Williams could play the "3,'' and the coach harrumphed: "He never has before.'' Right now, it would be rash to make the following claim about Wes Johnson, but I do know this: A coaching legend should be embarrassed if he can't fit Derrick Williams into his team and turn the 21-year-old into a productive NBA player.
  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: Perhaps significantly, Irving has proven fragile before. He played only 11 games in his only season at Duke after suffering a toe injury. He returned in time to play well in the NCAA Tournament and allay doubts about the toe. Irving missed three games after he banged his head against the knee of Wade in a fall during a game against the Heat last season. He missed a total of 10 more games after spraining his right shoulder in a collision with Milwaukee's Ergan Ilyasova. Irving said it was the same shoulder he had injured as a sophomore in high school. He did not play in 15 of 66 games overall, two of them by coach's decision, and was on the inactive list twice. It doesn't mean Irving is going to prove fragile throughout his career. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' career appeared to be over because of recurring foot problems. Then a medical miracle restored him to the lineup, and he became the franchise's all-time leader in games played. Still, this is not an event with Irving, it's a trend.
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: In his first two seasons as coach of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott is 40-108. He has lost 26 games in a row, the best player in franchise history left a week after he arrived and his .270 winning percentage is third-worst among NBA coaches (minimum 90 games) the past two years, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Yet anyone expecting Scott to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises can forget it. In his strongest comments since taking over the Cavs, Scott reaffirmed his commitment to the organization and was adamant he has no intention of leaving anytime soon for the Lakers. “I love where I am. I love the situation I’m in and I’ve got the right people around me,” Scott told the Beacon Journal prior to a summer league game in Las Vegas this week. “I tell people that in L.A. that ask me all the time about if that Laker job comes open. I am happy as hell here.”
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: For all the Suns' roster movement this month, it is not evident whether the Suns are any better or even as good as the teams that just missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They will be younger (only Luis Scola, 32, is older than 30) but have all sorts of questions from chemistry to leadership as they count on commodities with short, proven histories (Goran Dragic replacing Nash after 36 career starts) or inconsistent track records (Michael Beasley's maturity-impaired potential). The Suns could wind up being worse next season but adding a reliable, proven big man such as Scola on a high-value contract won't let them bottom out, to a lesser extent of what Nash's presence did amid a declining talent level in the past two seasons. Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver advocated adding Dragic and Scola, but the Suns apparently are putting the brakes on major signings. Instead, they could turn to bringing back Shannon Brown for another one-year deal rather than engaging in a battle for Courtney Lee and creating Houston Rockets West with a third starter from a team that also didn't make the playoffs.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Once Duncan’s new deal sapped any shot the Spurs had at salary cap room, doubling down on a roster that won 50 of 66 games last season and came within two wins of the NBA Finals became the only sensible play for Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. In a turn of events that should please team chairman Peter Holt, the Spurs were able to do it without crossing the luxury-tax line of $70.307 million. “Lots of times you don’t have a choice (but to stand pat), because of contracts or numbers or whatever,” Popovich said. “This year, we were able to do everything and stay under the tax at the same time. That was a goal, to stay under the tax. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to do it.” Between now and the start of training camp in October, Popovich and Buford will keep an eye on the waiver wire for opportunities to upgrade the roster. The bulk of the front office’s summertime work, however, is already done.
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Anybody worried about whether Jonas Valanciunas would play for the Toronto Raptors this season can rest easy. The Lithuanian big man’s buyout has been completed and the Raptors announced on Wednesday that the prized rookie, selected fifth overall in 2011, is now under his rookie scale contract. Valanciunas, 20, stayed in his native Lithuania as were the terms in his buyout agreement with Lietuvos Rytas last year and averaged 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks against older competition. “We are very pleased to welcome Jonas to the organization,” Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a release. “We are certain that Raptors fans will soon realize that the year-long process was worth the wait.” That’s the buzz in NBA circles and the team is counting on Valanciunas, though he will be brought along slowly, to be one of the major blocks in the foundation moving forward.
  • Dick Harmon of the Deseret News: Jimmer Fredette played his second to the last summer league game in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. His 19 points came on 5 of 17 from the field, and 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. He made 7 of 10 free throws (a real sign of fatigue), had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. In four summer league games he is a miserable 5 of 29 from 3-point range and that, aside from free throws, is his strength as an offensive player. Right now, since the Kings signed Brooks, Fredette is in a fight for playing time with Isaiah Thomas and Brooks, a former Rocket and Suns guard, who just finished playing ball in China. If Fredette finds time as a shooting guard, it will be behind Tyreke Evans and a logjam with John Salmons and Marcus Thornton — if he stays in Sacramento. Now, that's a great summer dilemma. Will he find himself in a trade and will that be so terrible? The Kings are a team with a myriad of problems. Fredette appears to be his best when another point guard is on the court. It'll be an interesting fall for Fredette. He's got a hoops Rubik's Cube going as a pro.
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: For a player as confident as any entering this year's NBA draft, Thomas Robinson's pro debut hasn't exactly been sterling. Four summer league games into his NBA career, the Kings rookie forward needed only two words to sum up his play. "Not good," Robinson said. Wednesday was another rough day for Robinson, the fifth overall pick in last month's draft, in the Kings' 96-89 exhibition loss to the Toronto Raptors at Thomas & Mack Center. Robinson missed his first seven shots and finished 3 of 13. He's shooting 32 percent (16 of 50) in the summer league and has more turnovers (19) than baskets. Robinson finished with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists. ... When asked what he's learned in four games, the self-critical Robinson said "not much." "I got the game experience, but personally, not much," he said.

TrueHoop TV: Daryl Morey on Jeremy Lin

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
1:13
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

TrueHoop TV: Hornets rookie Austin Rivers

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
1:12
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Las Vegas Summer League Bullets: Day 6

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
12:06
AM ET
By Sean Highkin, Hardwood Paroxysm
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Since the days leading up to the draft, Royce White has been one of the more intriguing personalities in this year's rookie class, and this distinction has only been strengthened by his excellent play in Vegas. Jason Friedman of Rockets.com has a must-read feature on White. Among other things, he talks about the need to nurture his interests outside of basketball in order to improve his game: “We could say that a basketball player, a young kid eating, sleeping and breathing the sport, might help that player more basketball-wise, but life-wise it can’t. You can’t tell me that’s healthy for your all-around well being to just eat, breathe and sleep one thing. If you’re not a well-balanced human it’s no different than if your game’s not well balanced; if you just focus on passing and you can’t shoot or dribble, it’s not good. If we’re giving up humanity for basketball then we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands. At the end of the day, basketball is important but it can’t be at the expense of the bigger picture. I think there is a way to be the best basketball player you can be and have other interests.”
  • Jim Buss stopped by the NBA TV booth during the Lakers' Tuesday Summer League game. As expected, there's a lot of talk about the Steve Nash trade and Dwight Howard rumors, but Buss also spends time giving his thoughts on some of the players on the Lakers' Summer League squad.
  • The Rockets' Scott Machado and the Kings' Jimmer Fredette break down each other's games in a pair of video interviews on Cowbell Kingdom following strong performances on Monday.
  • Brendan Jackson of CelticsHub thinks Dionte Christmas may be worth a roster spot to back up newly signed Jason Terry: "Christmas continues to show that he’s not afraid to shoot the basketball even if it hurts his chances of making this or any NBA roster. Regardless of Summer League shot selection, Christmas displays the type of fearless and aggressive effort you want coming off your bench. He’s almost ignorant of his own abilities and limitations. As if he would continue to attack the basket and shoot if LeBron James or Kobe Bryant were guarding him. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The Celtics’ options for the backup shooting guard position are looking pretty sparse with the Jason Terry signing officially taking up the mid-level exception, and the C’s could do worse than taking a flyer on Christmas."
  • WEEI's Paul Flannery has a more extensive profile of Christmas, detailing the work he's put in to try to make it in the NBA: “'He stuck with John [Hardnett] and worked out every day, worked out in the gym when there wasn’t nobody around but him,' his trainer Chuck Ellis said. 'He always had the will and he always had the determination. Growing up, he got better and got better just by working hard. He’s what you really call a gym rat.'"
  • Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company talks to Nuggets Summer League coach Chad Iske about the play of Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton in Vegas.
  • Several NBA players name their ideal one-on-one opponents.
  • This crossover/no-look pass combo by the Grizzlies' Jeremy Pargo is as impressive as any move you'll see at Summer League.
  • Scott Schroeder takes a look at Milwaukee's Tobias Harris, who didn't play much his rookie season but is trying to make a case for more minutes: "The second-year wing played more minutes than anyone else in the afternoon matchup between the Bucks and Washington Wizards and, in a move that won’t surprise most who have followed his career, he did quite a bit with the time he was given. The 6-foot-8 wing followed up a 19-point performance in his Vegas Summer League game earlier this week with a 24-point, 12-rebound performance in his second game of the exhibition season."
  • Bucksketball's Jon Hartzell was also impressed with Harris: "He seemed superior to everyone else on the court in both talent and size. The Wizards couldn’t stop him in the post, he showed a somewhat unknown touch on his jumper, and he was constantly in the right position for defensive rebounds. If he can continue with this consistent offense throughout Summer League, then hopefully Hammond will stop talking about how it might be hard for Harris to find minutes behind Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Harris has the offense this team needs and he deserves to be on the floor."
  • From Red's Army, a few highlights from Tuesday night's Bulls-Celtics game, in GIF form.
  • Truth About It's Adam McGinnis is buying the hype around third overall pick Bradley Beal: "He nailed jumpers on dribble drives, off spot-ups, finished in transition, and sprinkled in a few floaters. When he attacks the basket, he does so instinctively -- almost effortlessly -- and can draw contact for fouls; this aggressiveness will give him the benefit of the doubt on many whistles in the future. Beal rarely forces play, choosing his spots wisely even if he’s mired in a mini-drought of missed buckets. His calm demeanor masks any frustrations while he finds other ways to positively impact the game. Beal recovers sharply on defense without fouling and has advanced timing on his shot-blocking prowess."
  • In this video interview, Beal names some of his favorite movies and restaurants, among other things.

TrueHoop TV: Rockets and Trail Blazers standouts

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
9:10
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

TrueHoop TV: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
7:04
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

First Cup: Wednesday

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
5:02
AM ET
  • Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle: Will the toast of Broadway become toast in Houston? His team, the New York Knicks, had until midnight Tuesday to decide whether he would still be their Linderella. (The promise I made the other day not to engage in the trite plays on his name was confined to the sports pages.) But the Knicks’ chose not to match the Rockets’ offer to Lin by the deadline. So Houston is now committed to pay $25.1 million over the next three years to a point guard they sent away less than seven months ago for zero in return. Now I didn’t go to MIT—I can’t even spell it—but I doubt that’s the kind of business the Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, was taught when he was earning his MBA there. And I sure hope it’s not the kind of business he taught when he was the professor of a class there called “Analytical Sports Management.” If Lin doesn’t work out for the Rockets, students of that class in the future will be studying this deal like aspiring petroleum engineers study “Deepwater Horizon.”
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The final decision for the Knicks rested with James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, and Dolan was the only one who could reverse it as the final hours ticked away Tuesday. But by midafternoon, a person briefed on the situation said the deliberations had ended. “It is done,” the person said. The decision was said to be financial, not emotional. Lin’s contract contains a third-year balloon payment of $14.9 million, which would have cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury-tax penalties. This so-called poison pill was devised by the Rockets to dissuade the Knicks from matching, and it proved effective. “We were comfortable with the money we were going to give Jeremy, and we hoped they wouldn’t match,” Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s hard to know what was the key to their decision.”
  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Are the Rockets paying too much for Jeremy Lin? Oh yeah. But as I like to say, it ain’t my money, so I’m all in with Lin. He is one of my favorite players, so I am happy for him. And I’m happy the New York Knicks have decided to let the Rockets have him. Lin is entertaining. The Rockets haven’t been entertaining since before Ron Artest became Metta World Peace. Last fall, Lin would have been happy as all get-out to have signed for two seasons with the Rockets for well under a $1 million a year. Now, he is hitting Les Alexander’s bank account for an average of around $8.3 million per season over the next three years. Sweet. Not so sweet if you’re general manager Daryl Morey. This is a huge gamble. ... If Lin flames out and heads to the bench any time in the next three years, I can’t imagine Alexander will be so forgiving of Morey’s mismanagement of his moolah. If Asik comes here and is the dud I expect him to be, Alexander is likely to have serious Kelvin Cato flashbacks. That wouldn’t be good for Morey. Then again, if Morey hauls in Howard in the next week or so and if Howard and Lin form what could be one of the NBA’s most potent pick-and-roll combos, all this talk of his job being in jeopardy will be forgotten.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards waived the 25-year-old Blatche on Tuesday, exercising the NBA’s amnesty provision to end a seven-year relationship that begin when they drafted him in the second round in 2005. Under the rules of the latest collective bargaining agreement, Blatche will receive the remaining $23 million that he is owed through 2014-15 and the Wizards will remove his salary from their payroll. "Andray’s time in D.C. didn’t unfold as any of us had envisioned, and we felt it was best for the Wizards — and for Andray too — if we parted ways,” Leonsis wrote on his blog, Ted’s Take. “I briefly got to know Andray, and I like him and wish him well, but he needs a fresh start somewhere, and we need to move forward with our current core group of players.” Paying Blatche simply to go away solidified the Wizards’ desire to separate from an embarrassing period in franchise history that was clouded by losing and a lack of professionalism. Blatche is the last remnant of the Wizards’ playoff teams but he also was the only player remaining from the team on which Gilbert Arenas brought guns into the locker room three seasons ago.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets cut Chris "Birdman" Andersen and signed in his place free agent Anthony Randolph, a source said Tuesday. The team used the NBA's amnesty clause to waive Andersen, a source said. Randolph, a power forward and center, averaged 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 34 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. ... The move makes sense for Denver because the 33-year-old Andersen didn't play much last season and the Nuggets have numerous younger big men on the roster. Last season, Andersen appeared in only 32 games, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.2 minutes.
  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: The Clippers have used the NBA’s one-time amnesty provision on small forward Ryan Gomes, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The team did so just before the league’s 8:59 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday deadline. Gomes will make his entire $4-million salary, but it won’t count against the Clippers’ salary cap and luxury-tax threshold. That now opens the door for the Clippers to sign free-agent small forward Grant Hill, as the team plans to do with the biannual exception, the NBA executives said. Hill is expected to sign a two-year deal worth $3.87 million. Because the Suns were not willing to participate in a sign-and-trade for Hill and Gomes, the Clippers were forced to waive Gomes, said the executives.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Charlie Villanueva, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., has known for a while he wouldn't be a casualty of the clause. Villanueva and Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars cleared the air about the matter a couple months ago, when Villanueva privately expressed to those close to him he thought it could happen. ... When Villanueva got healthy, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank was comfortable with his set rotation and Villanueva was left on the outside looking in. And by the time he received some time, the season, for all intents and purposes, was over. Villanueva knows what he symbolizes to his detractors. He knows fans feel he hasn't lived up to the five-year, $35 million deal that he signed in July 2009. ... The Pistons have added six new players since April, and Villanueva feels energized because of the faith the team's front office showed in him. Villanueva remains and he was asked if he was surprised if he hasn't been jettisoned yet. He paused. "Umm, nothing surprises me in this league now," said Villanueva.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Not only has Heat swingman Mike Miller decided against retirement, but he also now expects to avoid the back surgery that many thought was inevitable. “The plan is to avoid surgery,” Miller said Tuesday while hosting a basketball camp for children in Hialeah. “We’re doing everything we can. I fully intend on being ready for training camp.” And he’s optimistic about playing a full 2012-13 season. Miller, who has said he has multiple bulging discs, was in pain throughout the playoffs but still drained seven three-pointers (in eight attempts) in the Heat’s series-clinching win against Oklahoma City. But Miller feels “a ton” of improvement since the playoffs: “There’s no comparison.”
  • Iliana Limón Romero and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: If Fran Vázquez ever plays for the Orlando Magic, it won't be before the 2014-15 season. The Magic's 2005 first-round draft pick has decided to keep playing in Europe. Again. In an interview Tuesday, Vázquez's agent, José Cobelo, confirmed that Vázquez has agreed in principle to a new contract with Unicaja Málaga, a team in Spain's top league. ... The Magic will continue to retain Vázquez's draft rights unless the team trades away those rights. Vázquez has never played in the NBA. And it looks increasingly like he never will. He is 29 now and will be 31 years old when the 2014-15 NBA season begins.
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Kyle Lowry was Toronto’s marquee off-season acquisition, but Landry Fields could also play a prominent role going forward. In the former New York Knick, the Raptors believe they have acquired a versatile player who will mesh well with the new roster. “(Fields) will address multiple needs. Versatility, defending multiple positions and also scoring with good efficiency,” general manager Bryan Colangelo said on Tuesday. ... He will have more of a chance to contribute in Toronto but will also have to try to justify the three-year, $19-million US contract he received. Alan Anderson will be brought back by the club for the veteran’s minimum and will battle for playing time as he did down the stretch last season during an eye-opening run.
  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Doug Collins has a plan. During an informal gathering with the media Tuesday, Collins discussed how he wants to move Spencer Hawes to power forward with the idea of starting free agent Kwame Brown at center. Collins said his goal is to begin training camp in late September with a first five of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Hawes and Brown. He believes the 7-foot-1 Hawes is best suited at the “four’’ position because Hawes is more comfortable there and “wants to float around on the perimeter and shoot the ball anyway and stuff.’’ Hawes was mainly a high-post center on offense and has range with his jumper, though chasing down athletic power forwards could be an issue. That will leave “Kwame (to) do the heavy lifting and play against all the big centers,’’ according to Collins.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Summer league took a scary turn for the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, when Nolan Smith was wheeled off the arena floor on a stretcher and rushed to an area hospital after taking an elbow to the head and collapsing to the court. Smith suffered a concussion during the incident, but was released from the hospital late Tuesday night after CT scan results came back normal and he had full range of motion. "It hurts my heart to see him go down because I know how hard he works," Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard said. "I know how good of a guy he is. You never want to see one of your soldiers go down."
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: For Kawhi Leonard, it didn’t take long for the memories to come flooding back Tuesday. Out the locker-room door, past the framed photos of UNLV greats, hang a right down the tunnel, and suddenly he was back on the floor at Thomas & Mack Arena, reliving a moment from his past. As an All-American at San Diego State, Leonard played in Las Vegas on numerous occasions, most recently in the Mountain West conference tournament his Aztecs won in 2011. “Walking through the tunnel and looking at those pictures brought some memories back,” said Leonard, now a second-year small forward and the undisputed leader of the Spurs’ summer-league team. Then, Leonard did something seldom seen during his All-Rookie first season in the NBA. He smiled. The goal for Leonard this week has been to channel his inner Aztec. So far, so good. Handed the reins of the Spurs’ summer squad and instructed to be The Man, the newly turned 21-year-old has responded by averaging 25 points in the first two games. Leonard had 27 in Tuesday’s 92-81 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, using an array of scoring moves last seen at San Diego State.
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Josh Selby insists that he's not trying to make a statement. He's only doing what the Grizzlies have asked of him — and that's to go out and score the basketball. After two Las Vegas summer league games you can consider the second-year guard out of Kansas very obedient. Selby scored 35 points Tuesday night despite the Grizzlies' 83-77 loss to the Washington Wizards in the Cox Pavilion at UNLV. Selby's point total, which came on 12-of-22 shooting, is a high for Las Vegas during this summer. "I was trying to do enough to get us the win," Selby said. "I'm disappointed that we lost. I didn't do enough to win. … I don't really care about the 35 points I scored." The coaching staff is pleased with Selby's consistency. He's made 19 of 33 shots, including 12 of 16 3-pointers, since the Griz began summer league play last Saturday.
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Thomas Robinson has been hard on himself through three summer league games. He's shooting just 35.1 percent (13 of 37) while averaging 5.3 turnovers. So before boarding the team bus after practice, Robinson challenged Darnell Jackson to a three-point shooting contest and dropped back like a quarterback to throw the basketball toward the hoop at the opposite end of the practice court at Cox Pavilion. "I'm trying to take some of the stress off myself," Robinson said. "I've been beating myself up about these games, so I'm trying to get back to having fun." Kings coach Keith Smart said Robinson is a willing student. One lesson Smart wants Robinson to learn is how to temper his emotions.

Las Vegas Summer League Bullets: Day 5

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
12:21
AM ET
By Sean Highkin, Hardwood Paroxysm
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Bucksketball's Jeremy Schmidt likes what he's seen so far from Milwaukee's second-round pick, Doron Lamb: "Lamb was aggressive in everything early. He shot when he was open. He cut very hard. He rubbed shoulders on screens and changed speeds quickly. Offensively, he was filling the same role he’ll likely take on in Milwaukee -- running off screens and being asked to make some decisions with the ball after the initial action."
  • Scott Schroeder takes a look at some of the best unsigned players playing in Las Vegas, including the Knicks' Chris Copeland, who's already been invited to New York's training camp.
  • Conrad Kaczmarek of Fear the Sword has a postgame interview with Dion Waiters.
  • The FreeDarko guys directed an awesome Team USA-themed Nike commercial.
  • Here's a name you likely haven't heard in a while: Shavlik Randolph. He was terrific in the Wizards' 83-77 win over the Grizzlies, scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 boards in only 21 minutes.
  • Tyler Zeller gives us a tour of his backpack.
  • The Two Man Game's Rob Mahoney looks at the continued impact Dominique Jones is having on the Mavericks' squad.
  • Some Wizards video highlights and an interview with Sam Cassell, the team's summer league coach, over at Truth About It.
  • Derrick Williams breaks down his daily exercise regimen.
  • Postgame video interviews with Hornets Summer League coach James Borrego as well as Lance Thomas, from Joe Gerrity at Hornets 247.
  • On a frightening note, Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith took a nasty blow to the head from Houston's Zoran Dragic and was carried off on a stretcher. The remaining 41 seconds of the game were called off.

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