Where's the Love?
When the summer league schedule was released, Knicks vs. Timberwolves was a must-see matchup. Without New York's Danilo Gallinari (his back is still sore) and Minnesota's Kevin Love (sore Achilles) it is simply game No. 49 of 53.
Love posted a double-double in three of the four games he played in. The one game he didn't was Saturday when he was on the floor for just 18 minutes before getting injured. He led the tournament in rebounds per game and his final averages are: 18 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 48 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the foul line.
Here are his game-by-game points and rebound totals:
Game 1: 18 points and 13 rebounds
Game 2: 18 points and 17 rebounds
Game 3: 26 points and 15 rebounds
Game 4: 10 points and nine rebounds
Non-Stop Cheering From Nate
While the game is pretty lackluster, New York's Nate Robinson, who is not playing today, has been fairly entertaining with his non-stop chatter from the stands. While his teammates appreciate his words of encouragement, I'm sure head coach Mike D'Antoni, who is seated directly in front of him, probably wishes he'd quiet down.
Minnesota's Pops Mensah-Bonsu (21 points) is letting his athletic ability shine through. His hops around the basket and his trips down the lane for buckets are the best thing about this otherwise unwatchable game.
Just like yesterday when they got blown out by the Bobcats, the Knicks have decided to let the Wolves rough them up today.
Showing off a nice touch from the outside, Anthony Roberson has 15 points for N.Y., which is down 20 in the fourth quarter. And yes, despite the deficit, Nate is still talking.
Speaking of Nate, this is his fourth straight year of playing summer league ball. At halftime there was a brief ceremony at center court where his No. 4 jersey was retired. I guess that explains why the jersey of the 2007 summer league MVP could be seen hanging underneath the far-end scoreboard this afternoon.
Lopez Switches Teams
Phoenix's Robin Lopez is not with the Suns for their game against the Wizards because he practiced with the select team earlier today.
The Suns' Judson Wallace is having a game to remember. He hit his first four shots -- including three 3-pointers -- on the way to 11 points. He also has three rebounds and two steals.
After his hot start, Wallace has missed six of his last seven. Phoenix's Alando Tucker has erupted for 10 fourth-quarter points and leads all scorers with 20.
The Wizards quit playing in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 30-6 on the way to an 88-69 loss.
Dee Brown was the only Washington player in double digits with 10 points. Tucker netted 25 and D.J. Strawberry added 20 for the Suns.
Here is what Tucker told me after the game.
On how he performed:
"I feel like I did a good job creating off the dribble, but I'm trying to get better and be more consistent with my jumper. Critics were saying last year that my jumper wasn't consistent."
Comparing last summer to this summer:
"I'm always trying to learn from my mistakes. I think I did a lot better this summer than I did last year. The coaches wanted me to take on more of a leadership role and that's what I tried to do."
On his approach to defense:
"That's something else I've been trying to get better at. Defensive intensity is what I tried to focus on out here."
On the Suns' coaching change:
"I wish [Mike] D'Antoni all the best, but he only had seven or eight players in the rotation. Terry Porter will give me a better chance to play more and I think I will show what I can do."
No Bayless Tonight?
There is a chance that Jerryd Bayless' 36-point special against Phoenix on Saturday will be his final shining moment at summer league. According to a summer league official, the Portland rookie, who was added to the select team today, attended the noon practice, but did not participate because of pain in his hand. He had an MRI and the results were negative.
(UPDATE 1: I just spoke to Bayless and he says the hand is fine and he is playing.)
(UPDATE 2: Did Bayless lie to me? The game just started and instead of playing he's sitting on the sidelines with a bag of ice on his left hand. While the Hornets and Blazers were warming up for the game, Bayless was presented with the T-Mobile NBA Summer League Top Rookie award aka the MVP trophy.)
"We came in here looking to get better as players and individuals and to get our team better and I think we did that," said Bayless after the game. "We won three and lost two and now we can move on and start getting ready for the regular season. My hand is OK. It's a little sore. I'm not sure what happened."
In four games, Bayless averaged 29.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while shooting 48.5 percent.
Who Needs Security?
When Carmelo Anthony walked into the arena, two huge body guards walked closely behind him keeping an eye on his every move. Meanwhile, fellow superstars Deron Williams, Chris Paul and O.J. Mayo today and LeBron James on Saturday moved around the arena body guard free.
Wesley Has Shown Up
Arriving just in time for USAB training camp is "basketball icon" William Wesley. He took a courtside seat next to Chris Paul for the Hornets vs. Blazers game.
Brown's In A Giving Mood
Hornets' point man Bobby Brown is going out in style. The ball is in his hands on every play and he continues to make the right decisions. Too bad there wasn't an all-tournament team because he deserves something for his outstanding play. He has nine points and seven assists at halftime.
If the Hornets thought they were going to have an easier time because Bayless was out of the lineup, they were mistaken. J.R. Pinnock started in Bayless' place and had a Bayless-type performance. He went 11-for-19 from the field (4-for-5 on treys) and finished with 30 points and six rebounds as Portland rolled 78-63.
Brown had 13 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maurice Brooks
Q & A
D.J. Augustin's only contribution for the Bobcats today was putting pen to pad to appease the fans and even without their prized rookie in the lineup they roughed up the Knicks by 32.
I briefly chatted with the point guard after the game.
TrueHoop: What's up D.J., I noticed you've sat out the past two games with left knee tendinitis. How do you feel?
Augustin: I feel good. I hit my knee in the first game and then I fell on it against the Warriors a couple of days later so I've just decided to rest it.
TrueHoop: Before the injury, how do you think you were playing?
Augustin: I think I did alright. I had to make some adjustments, but it wasn't really hard.
TrueHoop: Your three-game averages of 19.7 points and four rebounds are good, but critics can point to the fact that you only averaged 1.3 assists. What do you think is the reason your assists numbers were so low?
Augustin: Everybody is trying to get used to playing with each other. We were only playing together for four days.
TrueHoop: Are there any players who have caught your eye this week?
Augustin: I'm surprised with how many teams have a bunch of great players like Nate Robinson.
TrueHoop: What's your plan for the rest of the summer?
Augustin: I'm going to keep working hard so that I can be as prepared as possible for training camp.
Will Belinelli Bounce Back?
Last night against the Kings, summer league darling Marco Belinelli was terrible -- six points on 1-for-10 shooting with no rebounds.
The Warriors are taking the floor right now against the Raptors. I'll be interested to see if he has lost any confidence in his jumper.
The first quarter is in the books and Belinelli missed his only attempt.
Toronto's Joey Graham is putting in work once again, making 5-of-7 shots for 12 points.
I don't know if Golden State's Anthony Randolph drank a Red Bull during a timeout or what, but he is playing with more energy in the second period. He seems determined to get to the cup and he hit the boards so hard in one sequence that a fourth of the crowd applauded his effort.
Randolph's field-goal percentage is down (4-for-14), but he is making a living at the foul line where he is 12-for-14. Anthony Morrow is leading the Warriors with 21 points on a scorching 9-for-11.
Just like the real Warriors, Golden State's games are all entertaining. Heading into the last period, Belinelli only has six six points but he has handed out six assists.
John Lucas is doing a good job running the show for Toronto. He leads everyone with seven helpers.
Randolph and Belinelli wrapped up their summer league experiences in style. He had a monster game for the Warriors, who went 4-1. He finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Proof of how aggressive he was are the 18 trips to the line he earned, making 16. He misssed 12 of his 17 shots from the floor, but who is going to argue with those final numbers?
Belinelli was the primary ball handler for the Warriors at stretches and he didn't disappoint, notching 14 points, eight assists and three steals. He finished 4-for-14 and thrilled the crowd with a couple of long bombs.
Donte the Chucker
Houston's Donte Greene leads all players in Vegas in shot attempts with an average of 17.3 per game. Couple that with the fact he hasn't had an assist in three games and you feel fairly comfortable calling him a jacker. Like most players who rely on their jump shot, he is streaky. In the first half today, he has started 2-for-8 but you know that isn't going to keep him from shooting. The Rockets' coaching staff simply have to hope he catches fire.
Houston's Joey Dorsey, who is not playing today because of an ankle sprain, is walking very slowly with a limp.
We are six minutes into the third quarter and Greene has already had enough time to fire up six more shots -- 3-pointer (made), 3-pointer (made), 3-pointer (missed), layup (made), jumper (airball), jumper (airball).
As we start the fourth, Greene is 5-for-16, while Aaron Brooks is 1-for-10. Ew.
(Update: Greene finished 5-for-19 and Brooks went 3-for-15. On another note, Dorsey managed to get himself ejected.)
Despite being 7-feet tall, the Wizards' JaVale McGee was having trouble scoring from around the basket (0-3 from the floor, two points in 12 minutes of play), so he came up with a new game plan. The center decided to launch a triple from the top of the key area. The result? The ball fell short of the rim by three feet triggering laughter on the Washington sideline and earning McGee a seat on the bench where he received an earful from a coach.
Love Gets Hurt
Early in the third quarter, Minnesota's Kevin Love appeared to roll his ankle and was helped to the locker room. I'll try to get an official word. Before the injury, Love had 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bucks' Joe Alexander is still searching for his jumper. He has missed five of his first six shots and has just four points, two boards and an assist midway through the third.
It turns out that Love has a sore right Achilles and will not return to the game.
Alexander's cold shooting continued after halftime -- he went 1-for-5 and finished with eight points.
Love, Mayo and Lopez To Be Teammates
Three of the top performers here in Vegas -- Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Phoenix's Robin Lopez and Memphis' Kevin Love -- were all picked to scrimmage against/get crushed by the U.S. Olympic team in practices next week.
Slow Day For MVP Candidates
First Love gets hurt, now Portland's Jerryd Bayless just had a quarter where he didn't attempt a free throw. Maybe Bayless is a little tired, but he doesn't appear to be playing with his usual fire. He missed both of his shots during his five first-quarter minutes.
Actually, the entire Portland team appears to be sleep. The Suns raced out to a 17-4 lead and haven't looked back, leading by 10 after one.
It's now late in the second quarter and although he is shooting more jumpers instead of driving to the hoop, Bayless is scoring. He's hit a couple of jumpers and has seven points. As I'm typing, he just shot an airball that was so short, I don't know if he'll be credited with a missed shot or a turnover for a bad pass.
Like all good players, Bayless apparently can turn it on and off at will. Right now he has it on. He erupted for 10 points in the third quarter -- mainly on jumpers -- and has four more points early in the fourth for a total of 23. The leading scorer in summer league is 9-for-18 from the field and Portland has a three-point lead.
There is no need to have a vote for MVP tomorrow because Bayless clinched it with his performance tonight. He went crazy in the fourth quarter scoring 17 of his team's 22 points. He drained short jumpers, long jumpers, runners and layups. He hit the game-winner with under 10 seconds left -- a floater in the lane.
His stat line reads like this: 36 points on 14-for-26 from the floor, 6-for-6 from the line, three boards, three steals and an assist.
King James Is Here
Sitting courtside for the last of today's seven games -- Cavaliers vs. Hornets -- is LeBron James. I wonder if he likes what he is seeing? The Cavs lead by five late in the first quarter.
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
ESPN's David Thorpe says that Arron Afflalo has been one of the best players here at summer league. While I've been most impressed with Portland's Jerryd Bayless and Golden State's Marco Belinelli, Afflalo does deserve to be in the conversation.
Here are Thorpe's thoughts on Afflalo.
"Every team likes a backup player to either be solid or to bring a spark off the bench -- think Eddie House, think Jannero Pargo, those are spark guys as two guards. Afflalo is a solid guy. He always knows what to do and where to be. He doesn't waste dribbles or movements. He digs in on defense and makes the right play on offense. Out here he is showing a better ability to score because that's his role. Going forward, that is something we might see, that he is someone that can provide production on offense off the bench for the Pistons."
Wouldn't you know it, on the day I choose to hype "Double A", he goes 1-for-7 from the field for six points in the first half. The Pistons are trailing the Mavs by six.
In the first three games, Afflalo is averaging 19.3 points and 4.0 rebounds.
With Rodney Stuckey out of the lineup again because of his bad toe, Afflalo has taken on more of a playmaker role today. He leads everyone with six assists. It's almost like he's switched places Will Bynum, who got the start at point guard. Bynum is 6-for-8 for 14 points.
Call it the TrueHoop curse. Afflalo missed all six of his shot attempts after intermission, finishing with seven points and six assists. Walter Sharpe showed a nice touch from outside, making his first two treys. Overall, he finished with 16 points and even though he hung out on the perimeter a fair amount of time, was still able to get three offensive boards.
Gerald Green, who scored eight points, closed out Dallas' six-point win with a big dunk.
Leading the Pack
Here are the statistical leaders through day six:
Donte Greene, Rockets: 28.5
Jerryd Bayless, Blazers: 27.0
Marco Belinelli, Warriors: 23.0
J.J. Hickson, Cavaliers: 22.0
Alando Tucker, Suns: 22.0
Kevin Love, Wolves: 15.0
Joey Dorsey, Rockets: 14.0
Elton Brown, Nuggets: 10.5
Shelden Williams, Kings: 10.5
Marreese Speights, Sixers: 10.0
Ramon Sessions, Bucks: 6.5
Bobby Brown, Hornets: 6.0
Aaron Brooks, Rockets: 5.5
Jamont Gordon, Sixers: 5.0
D.J. Strawberry, Suns: 5.0
C.J. Giles, Raptors: 3.5
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Wolves: 3.0
Javale McGee, Wizards: 2.5
Cheikh Samb, Pistons: 2.0
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: 2.0
C.J. Watson, Warriors: 4.3
Quincy Douby, Kings: 3.3
Julian Wright, Hornets: 3.0
Donte Greene, Rockets: 2.0
Hassan Adams, Raptors: 2.0
Williams starring again
Clippers forward Marcus Williams went off for 23 points and 10 rebounds last night against the Grizzies. He is following that up today with another strong showing, dropping in 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half. The key for Williams is shot selection. While a lot of players in Vegas have forced shots, Williams seems to let the game come to him. He also has four rebounds.
Al Thornton (1-for-4 from the field) is having a quiet game for L.A. He seems to be willing to let his teammates do the shooting.
Hornets' forward Hilton Armstrong is in a groove. He has 15 points and five rebounds for New Orleans, which trails by nine going into the last period.
The Hornets won the game by four in overtime. Armstrong stayed hot, totaling 25 points and eight rebounds in easily his best game here. Julian Wright misfired to the tune of 4-for-13, while Bobby Brown helped build the brick house by going 7-for-18. He posted 17 points and six assists.
Jordan's Glass Work
Clippers' forward DeAndre Jordan plays with a lot of emotion. Although that can sometimes be a bad thing, it seems to be working for him -- I'll ignore the airball he just shot from the foul line. He has six points on 3-of-8 shooting and 11 rebounds.
Here is Thorpe's take on the big man.
"If he was a stock on the market, you could pick him up at a pretty low price right now. I just don't think his future looks bright as a second-round pick because they don't have a lot of incentive to invest time with him. His 11 rebounds look great, but most of them came right to him. I don't think that he has got any rebounds out of area. It doesn't impress me that he jumps straight up in his spot and grabs rebounds. He doesn't play with great energy or intelligence and his emotional IQ is very low. He is a young man and he wouldn't be the first to change his career path. It doesn't happen very often."
Late Is Better Than Early
Once again, it seems like the better games are scheduled later. No, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash aren't here, but I'm sure the Suns will get out and run, making their game against the Spurs at 5:30 p.m. PT interesting.
At 7, the closest thing there is to a must-see game at summer league will take place between Jerryd Bayless' Blazers and Kevin Love's Wolves.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Mike D'Antoni's old team plays his new team at 1.
Strawberry and Lopez
I just got done watching a half of the game between the Spurs and Suns. What can't D.J. Strawberry do? He used his explosive first step to get into the lane at will and once there he caused havoc on San Antonio. Sometimes he drove and kicked it out to open teammates for jumpers. Other times he went to the bucket hard. He seemed to be playing at a different speed than everyone else. What was refreshing is that he gave the same kind of effort on the defensive side of the floor. Completing my observation of him was how he embraced his leadership role. After a busted play between himself and Jared Jordan, he took 20 seconds to explain what he was thinking and where he wanted Jordan to be on the floor.
Strawberry had 11 points and three rebounds at the half for the Suns, who led by eight.
With his three brothers watching, Robin Lopez put on quite a performance. He followed up one miss with a thunderous dunk. He tipped in another miss. He caught a pass on the break and made a gorgeous feed to Strawberry in stride for a jam. And most importantly, he was a force on the glass, grabbing seven boards to go with his 10 points.
After going 0-for-10 and 0-for-6 from the field in his last two games, respectively, San Antonio's George Hill won't hit a shot tonight either. The San Antonio coaching staff gave him the night off.
Philly's Gordon to the rescue
The Sixers ended their time here in Sin City with three straight wins after starting 0-2. Jamont Gordon hit a reverse layup off a feed from Marreese Speights with 0.6 showing on the clock to give Philly an 87-85 win.
Speights had another double-double, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds while blocking four shots. Jason Smith had 12 and 12 and Thaddeus Young led all scorers with 21 points.
C.J. Giles continued to throw his body around, tallying 13 points, 12 boards and three blocked shots for Toronto.
I've noticed the same spectator alternating rooting and heckling at every game since summer league began. He has been rewarded for showing up. After the Wolves' game the other day, he asked Corey Brewer for his handband. Brewer responded
by tossing it to him -- sweat dripping off it and all.
Just now he begged Speights for his jersey. Although it is way too big for him, I bet it will be a nice addition to his collection.
Wolves vs. Blazers
Unlike during the regular season, the officials at summer league don't have numbers on the back of their jerseys. Portland's Jerryd Bayless appeared to get bumped going to the basket, but the ref on the baseline didn't make a call. This prompted a fan in the front row to yell, "You'll never get a number on your back blowing calls like that."
Kevin Love just pleased the crowd with a dunk and is off to a great start. He has scored seven of Minnesota's first 14 points, while Bayless has seven of Portland's first 15.
Once Bayless gets the rock, you know he's going to attack the basket, hence he has already attempted seven more free throws today. I would like to see him knock down a few jumpers and improve on his assist total (he has zero), but it's hard to argue with the way he is playing. He has 11 points and the always steady Petteri Koponen has 10 for the Blazers, who trail 40-36 at halftime.
Love has 13 points and five rebounds, but has missed a couple of shots from close range. He is 3-for-11 from the field.
How about that, Bayless just hit a step-back jumper and threw a no-look pass to Josh Davis for a bucket. As I'm typing, he drained another jumper to cap his 12-point period. He leads everyone with 23 points and at last, he got an assist.
Love has done more than his part, posting 20 points and seven rebounds en route to leading the Wolves to a double-digit lead heading into the fourth.
Portland's Brandon Robinson sat on the bench for three quarters before finally entering the game so obviously he was a little cold. Still, does that explain the long-sleeve shirt under his jersey? He is the second player in seven days to rock that look.
In the Love vs. Bayless matchup, Love came out the winner. For starters, his team won by 10. He went 7-for-20 from the field, 12-for-14 from the line, grabbed 15 rebounds (10 offensive) and had two assists (official stats say one, but there is no way the outlet pass he threw to Pooh Jeter for the and-1 wasn't a dime, even if he didn't receive credit for it).
Bayless, who had a heating pad on his back and ice on both knees after the game (maybe he was sore after crashing into press row and almost sending my computer into my lap), wasn't a slouch. He had 29 points on 8-for-15 from the floor, 13-of-16 from the line (that's 55 attempts in three games), gave out two assists and grabbed six boards.
When it came time to vote for the MVP of summer league last year, I put New York's Nate Robinson at the top of my ballot for two reasons -- he was playing outstanding and the Knicks were undefeated.
Since Portland and Minnesota both have 1-2 records, I may have to change my way of thinking. With apologies to the fans in Golden State (Marco Belinelli is hot, team is 3-0), Bayless and Love are the two best players after seven days in Vegas regardless of what their team's records are.
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If I would have known that Knicks' first-round pick Danilo Gallinari might only play one game, I would have watched warm-ups a lot more closely.
- Greg Oden goes one-on-one with J.E. Skeets.
- The big three of Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony weren't going to be planning a championship parade anytime soon.
- According to Brent Barry, he has two seasons left as an NBA player. Helping the Rockets win a title would be the perfect ending to his career.
- This is not exactly how Luol Deng and Ben Gordon drew it up.
- By signing Daniel Gibson early, the Cavaliers are proving they have learned from their mistakes.
- Allegedly Canada's national team coach told Samuel Dalembert to take a hike.
- Here is some really good advice for Ron Artest.
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Danny Ainge is the reigning NBA Executive of the Year. And if the Celtics are to win another championship this season, the director of basketball operations will have to come up with a performance worthy of a repeat. There is more than one way to knit a championship banner, but replacing James Posey will be difficult. ... In the end, the Celtics believed Posey's outside shooting was his biggest tangible contribution and that they can get that from other sources for less money. They believed they would have been tying their hands down the line. Are they correct? Ask that question again in 11 months. In the meantime, Ainge has once again shown he won't take the easy way if he doesn't believe it's the right way. In altering a successful formula, he's clearly put himself on the line, kind of like Posey so willingly stepping behind the 3-point arc late in games."
- Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "Realistically, though, the Nuggets probably will be luxury tax payers next season. If J.R. Smith comes back for the qualifying offer, their payroll could be around $75 million. If he gets $5 million for next season, it could be around $77 million. So Stan Kroenke might not really be a happy man until 2009-10, after Allen Iverson's contract comes off the books. By then, he has a very good chance of not being a tax payer. How good his team will be remains to be seen."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "T.J. Ford lives for the postseason. He lives for the national television exposure, the hope of winning an NBA title and having 14 other Eastern Conference teams sitting on their couches, eating popcorn, watching him play. Ford wants those same things to happen with the Indiana Pacers. 'I'm familiar with that playoff taste and I'm not ready to give that taste up,' said Ford, who has been to the playoffs in three of his four NBA seasons. 'That's the challenge and the goal, to show people we are contenders in the East.'"
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "According to Christopher Arena, the NBA's vice president for apparel, sporting goods and partnerships, 'It's usually a 22-month process' to approve a new nickname, color scheme and whatever else is involved. Twenty two months? So, if this relocation process started roughly the same time Rhett Bomar got booted off the Oklahoma football team two summers ago, we'd be on the cusp of learning the nickname of our new NBA team? Twenty two months? Two months short of two years is too darn long to wait. Perhaps this explains why the Jazz never changed nicknames when they moved from New Orleans to Utah, ditto for the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis, the Lakers from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, et al. They didn't want to wait on all the NBA paperwork. We realize there are a lot of i's to dot and t's to cross in a project like this, but 22 months' worth?"
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "As far as calculated risks go, Speedy Claxton is taking a major one. The Hawks' oft-injured point guard is currently taking part in the Hawks' free-agent minicamp. He will also play summer league, which starts Friday in Salt Lake City. ... He requested the opportunity to join the youngsters and free-agent hopefuls who were on the Hawks' practice floor Wednesday. He needs to know if he can still do this, and do it the way he's been able. 'I'm not worried about what anybody else thinks and who might be out there gunning for me,' said Claxton, a seven-year veteran who already has an NBA title on his resume. 'I'm doing this for me, trying to check and see how my knee feels and how I can play and how I can do on consecutive days. I haven't been out here in a long time.'"
- John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The players can only hope that management still feels as good about them now as it did last summer. The odds are the Sixers will come to Iguodala with a suitable contract offer -- probably similar to the one he originally rejected. They know what he brings to the table and want to keep him happy. They didn't sign Brand simply to create another problem by having to replace Iguodala. The plan is for Brand and Iguodala to take the Sixers to the next level. Thanks to the Clippers and Denver Nuggets, that should now be a bit easier to accomplish."
- Raphael Bartholomew of The New York Times: "For N.B.A. players making their first visit to the Philippines, the adoration of fans can be flattering and startling. 'They make you feel like you're a god,' said Gilbert Arenas, who recently spent three days promoting his new line of sneakers. 'When my N.B.A. career is done, I have to play here one year just to feel that.' Arenas, 26, sometimes jokes that being the Washington Wizards' franchise player makes him 'the black president.' Sure enough, this tour gave him a taste of presidential life."
- Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "If Larry Miller's extended hospital stay illustrates anything, it is that the hardest-working Utahn of us all is mortal, and that he's not going to be making all the big decisions about the Jazz forever. Not even his son could say Wednesday exactly what the division of labor or the time table for transition will be, such as who will represent the team among the owners on the NBA Board of Governors. Yet he knows that somebody in the organization has to be the one ultimately making decisions about player contracts, luxury taxes and other issues. At some point, obviously, he will be the guy. That will require some adjustment. 'I would consider myself to be a big Jazz fan. I don't think it would be accurate to say I'm as interested as Larry is,' Greg Miller said. 'The fact is, I don't have as much at stake at the moment as Larry does.'Someday, that will be the case.'"
- Dwight Jaynes of The Portland Tribune: "Take it easy, Blazer fans. Jerryd Bayless could set the Vegas Summer League on fire this week, but it wouldn't mean a whole heck of a lot. Let's back up and add a little perspective before getting carried away with this talent. Success in the summer league doesn't exactly mean you're going to be a consistent NBA player when the regular season starts. Who was the most valuable player in Las Vegas last summer? Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks, who started a grand total of 17 games last season for the Knicks. And who won the MVP the year prior to that? Well, it was Minnesota's Randy Foye, who may or may not someday be a pretty decent NBA player."
- The Iranian Olympic Team is making a trip to Utah.
- Examining the pastime that is pickup basketball.
- It looks like it is time for a lot of free agents to come up with a plan B.
- Maybe James Posey felt uncomfortable at an event to promote Boston's new championship DVD because he knew he was New Orleans-bound.
- Mayo and Love have both been very successful at summer league so far. Should we be surprised?
- Like all of the other players out here in Las Vegas, the Sixers' trio of Marreese Speights, Jason Smith and Thaddeus Young are learning on the fly.
- I was wondering why Portland's Petteri Koponen seemed so confident on the court. The pressure of an NBA game is nothing compared to what he has already been through.
- The Hornets have championship dreams. If they are going to achieve their goal, expect a big contribution from Julian Wright.
The Hornets' Bobby Brown (left) and Julian Wright have created some buzz with their summer-league play. (Getty Images)
A lot of general managers, coaches and fans are hoping that what happens in Vegas, doesn't really stay in Vegas when it comes to the performances of their players at NBA Summer League. They want some of the experiences and lessons learned to carry over to October when the basketballs get rolled out for real -- that goes for the positive experiences and the negative ones, too.
Since we are at the midway point of the 10-day, 53-game extravaganza, let's take a quick look at some of the best and worst so far.
In both of the games he has played, he has been the best player on the court and it hasn't been close. Using his speed and exceptional handle to set up defenders, the combo guard has made a living at the charity stripe, attempting a two-game total of 39 freebies (making 31). He followed up his 28-point, four-rebound debut against the Wizards by hanging 26 and six on the Kings.
His 40-point outburst against the Suns may have been the greatest game in NBA Summer League history. How can you argue? In 36 minutes, he didn't commit a turnover, needed only 20 shots to get his 40, drained 50 percent of his 10 3-point attempts and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals. And his team won.
When training camps open, nobody will remember, but for now it's hard to forget Hill missing all 10 of his shots against the Hornets from both close range and afar. Throw in the fact that he was floored by a Hilton Armstrong pick and it just wasn't a good night.
Wright's opening day line of 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting with 11 turnovers was as ugly as the numbers seem.
He has faced the Grizzlies' Mike Conley, the Bobcats' D.J. Augustin and the Spurs' George Hill and come out as the best point guard on the floor each time. The unheralded playmaker is good not only at dialing up his own number -- scoring 46 points on just under 50 percent shooting -- but also at getting good looks for his teammates (18 assists).
Houston fans may have beef with me on this selection since Mike Harris is tied with Love for the rebounding lead -- although they have played only one game each. But Love gets the nod because I watched him fight for every ball that came off the glass/rim like his life depended on it and because Harris' numbers are inflated since they came in the how-quickly-can-we-shoot-game between Houston and Phoenix.
He is very good at changing up the speed of play, controlling the game and taking what the defense gives him. Against the Grizzlies, he took just four shots, but handed out a game-high nine assists. He was more shot-oriented yesterday against the Pistons, scoring 21 points on 6-for-11 from the field, but still found time to give out four helpers, while reducing his turnovers from seven to two.
On offense, he has been turnover prone. Luckily, he has a tendency for making up for his miscues on the other end of the floor. He has thrived at jumping into passing lanes and picking up loose balls. Through three games, he is averaging 1.3 blocks and 3.0 steals per outing.
BEST INJURED PLAYER: Eric Gordon, Clippers
Although he didn't shoot well, Gordon gave L.A. fans a glimpse of the future, averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games before shutting it down with a strained left hamstring.
Here is some friendly advice to the Hornets' Hilton Armstrong. Next time get out of the way. Watch
BEST BUZZER BEATER: O.J. Mayo, GrizzliesProof that practice does make perfect, the third pick made a 69-foot heave at the buzzer against the Spurs. Watch
"I thought it wasn't going to make it to the rim," Mayo said. "I was surprised. After practices recently, we have been practicing half-court shots. I made a few there."
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Six quarters into his summer league experience, Milwaukee first-round pick Joe Alexander hasn't exactly set the world on fire. He scored seven points on 2-for-13 shooting in his opening game against the Grizzlies. Today against the Pistons, he hit a pair of short jumpers in the first quarter, but still doesn't appear completely comfortable.
Here is what ESPN's David Thorpe has noticed.
"He's still playing way too fast. He's not reading the game at all. Joe's knowledge and feel for the game aren't great and not only is he running too fast, but he is running too fast the wrong way -- if that makes any sense. He needs to stay away from the baseline and take advantage of his size and gifts. The last two times he touched the ball, he did that. He backed his man down and hit a nice turnaround jumper. Then, he did it again and made a simple pass to a teammate instead of rushing a shot when nothing is there. Just now he did a pick-and-pop, caught the ball on the wing and did a settle dribble. His teammate cut and he hit him in stride for a layup. He is definitely starting to figure it out. As long as he keeps making simple plays, his talents can come through in other areas."
Alexander is 5-for-9 from the floor with two assists and two rebounds. He has been floating around on the perimeter, mainly shooting jumpers and that is the biggest reason he hasn't attempted a free throw today.
I caught up with Alexander -- who finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists -- after the game.
"All I can do is continue to work hard," Alexander said. "I judge how I played, by how I feel mentally. I think I did some good things today."
Alexander had a simple explanation for the reason he didn't reach the charity stripe.
"I'm taking what's coming to me," Alexander said. "I shoot when I'm open. I want to stay calm and mentally in control. I'm trying to pick things up."
Although it has only been a couple of games, Alexander says there is a big difference between playing in college and playing in the pros.
"The guys are definitely bigger and faster," Alexander said. "Also, whenever you shoot, out of the corner of your eye you see hands. They really get to the ball. In college, if you were open, you were open."
Bynum vs. Sessions
The point guard battle between Detroit's Will Bynum and Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions has been fun to watch. Bynum causes havoc all over the floor. Three quarters into the game, he officially hasn't been credited with a steal, but he has forced several Milwaukee dribblers to lose control of the ball. On the offensive side, he continues to break players down off the dribble and set up teammates for good looks.
Sessions has had the hot hand shooting -- making 5-of-8 shots for a game-high 16 points -- while also grabbing five rebounds and giving out a pair of assists. Despite his point total, he knows his role is to get his teammates the rock and he has been very effective doing that.
Sessions had final numbers of 21 points, six boards and four assists. He has the tools to be a starting quarterback in the league.
This e-mail from TrueHoop reader Luke pretty much sums up Danilo Gallinari's debut.
"I'm watching the Cleveland vs. New York summer league game in the midst of errands. Within minutes of turning on the game, I see Danilo Gallinari assist a three. I leave the room. I return, just in time to see Gallinari cleanly foil a wide-open, fastbreak dunk. Again, I leave the room. When I come back, Gallinari's picking up an awkward pass on the baseline. He moves toward the perimeter in reset-speed, then turns and fires an easy college three. I'm already impressed.
"Then, I leave the room again. This time, I happen to return as a Knick shot bounces high off the rim, and Gallinari reaches back for a stretched-out, two-handed, put-back slam (with force). Before I can say, "What kind of fool would boo this kid?!", he drops another college three. In the meantime, as I type this, he just splashed two more long jumpers -- one after breaking a little ankle. Who booed this pick? Couldn't have been any Knicks fans, right?"
Possible 2009 NBA Finals Preview: Sixers vs. Lakers?
Once again, I'm impressed by Coby Karl. He has good handle, can shoot it from distance and I haven't seen a player with more heart (hustle plays, takes charges) all week. He has nine points for the Lakers who have a 38-37 lead on the Sixers.
I'm a Sixers fan and "WE" just got Elton Brand so I can dream, right?
Philly got 16 points each from Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith on the way to an eight-point win.
Karl led L.A. with 18, while Joe Crawford threw in 16.
Learning What To Do From Marc Stein
I haven't really enjoyed carrying my laptop with me all over Las Vegas. Apparently, ESPN's Marc Stein has the solution to that problem -- leave it in the hotel and simply borrow a co-workers. This explains why there haven't been any new LIVE BLOG posts in the past two hours -- Stein was busy using my computer to report on the Marcus Camby to the Clippers trade.
Bobby Brown Shows Off Again
Speaking of Stein, he wore a Cal State Fullerton shirt to the arena today in honor of Hornets' guard Bobby Brown, who like Stein, attended the university.
Stein should be proud, as Brown continued to be one of the stars of summer league, tallying game highs in points (15) and assists (8) in New Orleans' 76-68 victory over the Spurs.
Hill's Night To Forget
Whenever my kids act up and I have to discipline them, I usually start off my lecture with something they did right before I hit them with the list of things they did wrong.
I'm going to take a similar approach to describe George Hill's performance against the Hornets.
What went right: The guard had seven rebounds, four assists and for the most part, did a good job directing the Spurs' offensive attack.
What went wrong: He had six fouls, five turnovers, scored just three points and was 0-for-10 from the field. He missed his shots in a variety of ways. He had them blocked, he had layups rim out, he had jumpers hit the back of the rim.
And just when it looked like his night couldn't get much worse, he ran into a Hilton Armstrong screen in the fourth quarter that left him crumpled on the court in pain for about two or three minutes. Ouch.
Portland's two standouts
Any talk of a summer league all-star team or MVP has to start with Jerryd Bayless. Simply put, the Portland frosh makes things happen. After getting to the line 23 times in his first pro action, he has already attempted 12 more freebies through three quarters against the Kings. Once he makes up his mind that he wants to get into the paint -- defenders on this level at least -- appear helpless. His jumper still needs a little work, but he is a flat-out scorer. Midway through the fourth quarter, he has 18 points and six rebounds.
Teammate Petteri Koponen has also had a strong showing in Vegas. The point guard has a money jumper and has done a solid job of creating looks for others. Tonight he has 18 points and three assists and with four minutes to go Portland leads by three.
Bayless almost capped an outstanding evening in style. He nailed a jumper with 9.7 seconds left to force overtime. In the extra period, the Blazers called on Bayless to play hero again, except this time his jumper with two seconds left didn't fall in a one-point loss.
He finished the game 6-for-15 from the floor and 13-for-16 from the line for a total of 26 points. He also had two helpers.
Quincy Douby was the high man for Sacramento with 24 points and six
steals, while Jason Thompson pitched in with 17 points and nine boards.
- Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "David Stern needs to step down. His league's credibility depends on it. Former Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo would make a pretty good replacement. If it is determined that Foster was involved with Donaghy, then Stern needs to take one more step. Remember when the NBA filed a court request to have Donaghy pay the league $1.4 million in restitution? They factored in the salary he was paid in games he fixed and even the cost of his shoes. Oh, and $1 million for the league's internal investigation into the matter. Well, we figure Stern needs to pay the league $10 million in restitution, because all this happened on his watch."
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Kevin Garnett said he still hasn't gotten a full night's sleep since winning the championship. 'A lot of cat-napping,' he said. 'I am the No. 1 spokesman for cat-napping.' Soon, however, Garnett will begin to push the past season aside and focus on banner No. 18. 'Enjoy 17,' he said. 'Enjoy that right now. Enjoy the winning part of it. Enjoy the fact that we're doing this together. Then when we lock back in, we lock back in.'"
- Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "After several seasons of playing catch-up with the Western Conference, the Beasts of the East may be coming back. Following the Boston Celtics' title, Eastern Conference teams have gone to work in free agency and the draft to enhance the talent of the NBA's perceived weaker half."
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard has a tough decision to make in the coming months: Sign up-and-coming point guard Petteri Koponen, or keep an open roster spot entering the regular season. On Monday, after Koponen scored 19 points and made 4-of-6 three pointers in the Summer League opener, his decision became even tougher. 'I don't know. I don't even really want to think about it,' Pritchard said. 'I want to watch these games, have fun with that, see if he improves as the week goes on ... and if he does, he has a spot.'"
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Cleveland Cavaliers assistant John Kuester was on a roll Monday, thinking up new ways to praise rookie J.J. Hickson. 'We're talking about an N.C. State guy, and I'm still saying nice things,' former Tar Heel Kuester joked. 'He's that great a kid.' And seemingly that good a prospect. Hickson looked spectacular during a 97-94 summer-league loss to the New York Knicks, with 26 points and nine rebounds."
- Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Kyrlo Fesenko returned to town for the Rocky Mountain Revue with blond hair, apparently forgetting he plays for a no-nonsense coach who doesn't even allow his players to wear headbands. Although he was able to joke about Fesenko -- 'I didn't know who he was. I was totally taken aback by the blond hair' -- Sloan clearly would have preferred his 21-year-old center call attention to himself with his play on the court instead of the coloring in his hair. 'He's got a long way to go to make himself a better player,' Sloan said. 'He has skills, but sometimes the outside things will take you right out of this game. If those things are more important than basketball, that's where you get in trouble." ..."A lot of people have skills, Sloan added. 'A lot of them are sitting on the sidewalk wondering what happened 20 years ago when they had a chance. He's got to figure out what he wants to do and play basketball or be a clown.'"
- Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Posterity will record the trade that brought Rodney Carney to the Timberwolves as a morsel of NBA bookkeeping, a shuffling of digits on the financial ledger that summoned shock and change to a player who spent his first two seasons in Philadelphia. Carney considers differently the deal that sent him and Calvin Booth packing for a future first-round draft pick and valuable salary-cap space that let the 76ers sign free-agent Elton Brand to an $82 million contract. 'The way I look at it is, they traded me and Booth to get Elton Brand,' Carney said. 'So I say I got traded for Elton Brand. You put it that way, it sounds pretty good.'"
- Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "With one career goal accomplished, Gordon Herbert moves on to the next. As a bonus, he gets to come home, too. The newest member of the Toronto Raptors' coaching staff is in Las Vegas working with the team's summer league entry, but that's just the latest stop on a long basketball journey that began in Penticton, B.C., visited Idaho for college basketball, and took him all over Europe as a player and coach. 'Since I began coaching, it's always been a goal of mine to coach a Euroleague team and to be an assistant coach in the NBA,' Herbert said in a telephone interview yesterday. 'This opportunity allowed me to get into the NBA and come back to Canada, too.'"
The sight of Robert "Tractor" Traylor running up and down the floor for the Cavaliers is exactly what summer league hoops is all about. The veteran, who last played in the NBA in 2005, is trying to earn a roster spot.
He is performing well for a guy who hasn't been in the league in a few years -- making three of his first four shots, while pulling down a board and giving out an assist.
Traylor finished with eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes.
Meanwhile, New York's Danilo Gallinari is not off to a good start. The No. 6 pick in the draft has missed his first five shots before splashing a jumper with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
Gallinari is going to turn boos to cheers in N.Y.
ESPN's rookie guru David Thorpe weighs in on what he's seen so far from Gallinari.
"Basically the first adjustment he has to make is to the style of play in summer league with these athletes compared to a physical but smooth, smartly played European game. These are boys for the most part, compared to the men he is used to playing against. There isn't any kind of rhythm to what's going on. He's obviously a good shooter, but the NBA line is further back than the European line -- so he has to change his shooting habit, meaning he has to bend his knees more to make up for the difference in range.
"Physically, he looks great. He's not a stick figure, he has a great body. One thing I love, even though he missed his first five shots, it didn't impact how hard he played and because of that he has now scored eight points in the last two minutes. The teaching point: You can't let success on shots impact effort. He has that figured out. He kept fighting and now look, the Knicks have the lead thanks to his play."
The Knicks lead 68-67 after three quarters thanks to Gallinari, who knocked down two long jumpers, followed up a missed shot with a dunk and made two free throws after drawing a foul on a strong post move.
He has picked up in the fourth quarter where he left off in the third. To the crowd's delight, he just nailed another jumper and is clearly in a groove now.
Everyone in Knicksland feels good as the Knicks edged the Cavaliers by three and Gallinari showed that he is a player. After a scoreless first half, he finished with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting (0-for-4 on treys). He pulled down six rebounds and handed out two assists.
The No. 26
New York's Wilson Chandler didn't have ice on his elbow after the game, but it has to be sore after firing up 21 shots. He played extremely well, making 11 of those attempts to finish with 26 points. With Quentin Richardson and Stephon Marbury in the crowd, he also tallied eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Hickson looked like the real deal Monday afternoon.
Cleveland rookie J.J. Hickson, who played only one year at N.C. State, matched Chandler's 26 with 26 of his own. He went 11-for-15 and grabbed nine rebounds.
Here is what the No. 19 pick had to say after the game.
"I was trying to be aggressive. I competed well, but not well enough because we didn't win," Hickson said. "My role is to play hard and block shots. I wouldn't have come out of college early if I didn't think I was ready to play on this level."
Thorpe, who just updated his Rookie Report, liked what he saw from Hickson.
"He got his points with a skilled face-up game. He gave a great effort and was very active and physical. He finished well around the rim."
Nuggets vs. Raptors
I've watched the entire first half of this contest and have yet to be moved to write anything. Joey Graham continues to play as if he has a point to prove and leads all scorers with 11 points. Dahntay Jones is high man for the Nuggets, who lead 39-34, with eight.
Although he hasn't scored a point, I'm happy that Nuggets guard Chris Lofton is on the floor. The former University of Tennessee standout, who made more triples than anyone is SEC history, had a cancerous tumor removed from one of his testicles in March 2007.
He didn't get drafted, but is now trying to catch on with Denver.
Blazers vs. Wizards: Bayless Is the Truth
It took Jerryd Bayless all of 15 seconds to be whistled for his first summer league foul. That was about the only thing that didn't go his way during the first 10 minutes of his professional career. Playing mostly off the ball, he went to the line eight times -- making six -- and led all players with 10 points. Despite his lack of size, the Portland guard had no problem creating his own shot.
Petteri Koponen did a good job of running the team, and although he didn't have an assist, he did score five points as the Blazers took a two-point lead after one quarter.
Washington big man JaVale McGee is still trying to work the kinks out of his game, missing five of his first six shots in eight minutes.
It's halftime and Bayless has run his point total up to 17. It's not supposed to be this easy.
In the second half, Bayless has continued his strong play, but it has been Koponen who has impressed with his outside shot. He just hit back-to-back long jumpers and has 19 points for the game.
Bayless just fired in two pivotal free throws with 12.3 seconds left to give himself a game-high 27 points and the Blazers a four-point lead.
He finished with 28 points (5-for-12 from the field, 18-for-23 from the line) in a Portland victory.
DraftExpress President Jonathan Givony
DraftExpress president Jonathan Givony has joined me courtside to give his thoughts on the first half of Wizards vs. Blazers.
TrueHoop: What did you think of Portland's Jerryd Bayless in the first half?
DraftExpress: Probably the most impressive first-half performance by any rookie in the summer league so far. He played a similar role to how Portland will use him in their real offense at the 2 alongside a big point guard -- Koponen/Roy. I love how aggressive he was, trying to get to the rim, finishing with both hands. He's athletic, skilled and doesn't fall in love with his jumper like a lot of combo guards these days tend to do. He also competed admirably on defense and tried to take a charge.
TrueHoop: I think Portland's Petteri Koponen did a nice job of handling the rock and can play both guard positions.
DraftExpress: He was very impressive, much better than last year. I'm very intrigued by his combination of size, ballhandling skills, athleticism and basketball IQ. He showed a lot of poise and has a pretty stroke and didn't look bad defensively.
TrueHoop: Washington's JaVale McGee didn't look good at all out there. What did you notice?
DraftExpress: No surprise here whatsoever. This is how he looked in college often. The Wizards would be the first ones to tell you that he is two or three years away. Still, you can't ignore his physical tools. The guy is a freak, look at his arms an
d athleticism. He just needs to learn how to play.
Getting Up and Down
At Thomas & Mack, the Suns and Rockets are playing at break-neck speed. As a result, Houston's Donte Greene is in position to break the summer league record for points in a game (42). The forward hit 7 of 10 shots and 7 of 8 free throws for a first-half total of 23 points. He scored 19 in the first quarter.
He got his buckets in a bunch of different ways -- off the dribble, cutting to the basket, knocking down jumpers. He hustled for loose balls and played hard on both ends of the floor.
Phoenix, which leads 64-51, received strong contributions from Robin Lopez and D.J. Strawberry.
Lopez went 4-of-5 from the field and the line en route to 12 points. He had a monster dunk and a big rejection.
Strawberry, who led summer league in helpers last year, has 17 points, five dimes and four rebounds.
Greene finished the game with 40 points. He went 12-for-20 from the floor, 5-of-10 from deep and 11-of-12 from the charity stripe in Houston's 100-97 comeback win.
Lopez, who is known for his defense, showed he has offensive skills, too. His final numbers: 19 points (5-of-13 shooting) and five rebounds.
The Love Era Has Begun
Somebody tell Kevin Love that in the NBA you have to move your feet. He picked up four fouls in seven minutes and now finds himself sitting on the bench. Before he left, he did some good things. He put the ball on the floor, drew a foul and was awarded the basket on a goaltending call for his first two pro points. He also knocked down a 15-foot jumper and passed well in the half-court set. On the defensive side, he snatched a board, and his first outlet pass ended up out of bounds. The point guards are going to need time to learn to appreciate his ability to get them the ball in stride.
Midway through the second quarter, the Mavericks have doubled Minnesota's point total.
It's a safe bet that Love is going to lead summer league in rebounds. He attacks the glass as if his life depends on it. If the ball comes off anywhere near him, it's his. In the first half, he struggled from the line, missing three of seven, but still finished with eight points and five rebounds.
In the second half, he is trying to score more. He has two putbacks. He made a layup off a nice pass from Corey Brewer. He just hit a hook shot. The good: Love has 16 points and 10 rebounds. The bad: He has six fouls and his team is still down 20.
Love finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Mavericks got the 88-74 win.
Just got word from the Los Angeles Clippers that lottery pick Eric Gordon, who has shown some nice flashes here in Vegas despite his struggles from the perimeter, will be sidelined for the remainder of the NBA Summer League with a strained left hamstring he suffered in Saturday's third quarter against the Charlotte Bobcats.
So we won't be getting what looked to be one of the better individual duels at UNLV: Gordon's scheduled showdown Wednesday with O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Gordon has missed 19-of-28 shots from the field in two games but has relied on his good strength, body control and undeniable confidence to get to the free-throw line 21 times (and making 16) in just under 60 minutes of court time, enabling him to average 19 points along with 6.5 rebounds.
Clippers summer-league coach Kim Hughes has been primarily playing Gordon at the two spot, where Gordon is likely to be deployed most as a rookie alongside Baron Davis, and told NBA.com: "I think once [Gordon] figures it out, he'll understand that he doesn't have to take the first available shot. When he uses the picks a little bit more, we'll send the ball to him weak side and he won't have to shoot the ball so quickly. I think he's got a good feel for the game, I think he can break his own guy down one-on-one and I think in transition he can be a monster."
The Portland Trail Blazers play their first summer-league game Monday night against Washington, but Blazers front-office chief Kevin Pritchard has squelched any notion that Greg Oden might make a cameo in one or two of the Blazers' five games.
When we checked on Saturday night just to make sure, Pritchard said that Oden is far enough along in his recovery from September microfracture surgery on his right knee to return to the Cox Pavilion. That's the same building where we last saw Oden in uniform for two games last summer before he underwent a tonsillectomy, but the Blazers see no need or upside to hurry him back onto the floor.
And who can argue?
As much as we'd all enjoy a big-name cameo -- with this July's rookie contingent in Vegas lacking the buzz factor Oden and Kevin Durant generated in 2007 and now without Gordon it's not as if Oden needs a big summer to secure a spot in the Blazers' rotation. You can safely assume Oden is up there with Mayo on the list of favorites to win the 2008-09 NBA Rookie of the Year award, which Oden is eligible to win after sitting out his entire first season with the injury.
"We like him, Pritchard said with a smile.