TrueHoop: Hornets

By Maurice Brooks

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 mbrooksnba@gmail.com.
By Maurice Brooks

Afflalo Impresses

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:

Points
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

Rebounds
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

Assists
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

Blocks
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

Steals
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."

Funny.

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 mbrooksnba@gmail.com.

NBA LIVE 09 Event

July, 17, 2008
7/17/08
12:55
PM ET

By Maurice Brooks

Hardwood Suite
I'm normally excited if my hotel room simply has a refrigerator.

My wife and kids play video games at home all the time, but me? Not so much anymore. Still, that didn't stop me from attending the media hospitality event for EA Sports' NBA LIVE 09 a couple of nights ago.

Although I'm not much of a gamer, how could I pass up free food, drinks and a visit to the legendary Hardwood Suite inside the Palms Casino?

By the way, the Hardwood Suite -- which I heard was around $25,000 a night -- is like going to an adult playground. It is 10,000 square feet spread out over two floors and has an indoor basketball court, complete with a scoreboard and professional locker room. If that weren't enough, there was a huge Jacuzzi tub, a bar with a lounge area, plasma televisions all over the place and a pool table.

I'm going to start putting a little money aside every check and in about 100 years, I'm going to spend the night there.

OK, back to the event. The Hornets' Julian Wright and the Bobcats' Jared Dudley participated in the 12-person NBA Live 09 Challenge, which was played on an Xbox 360 system. Although they both held their own, neither made it to the tournament final, which saw Brendan from Synergy knock off Wright's buddy Dre in overtime.

While getting some food, Wright told me that the game, which won't be released until the fall, is still ironing out some kinks. For instance, it has him wearing No. 30 -- Wright's real jersey number is 32.

Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey and NBA LIVE 09 producer Brian Ullrich gave a presentation about the use of Dynamic DNA -- a feature that lets the game emulate players with absolute precision.

I played using the Celtics and after falling behind by 20-plus to the Grizzlies, Ullrich came over and gave me a personal demonstration on how to run the pick-and-roll, call plays and lockdown on defense. His advice helped me a little although I still got blown out in easily the most realistic hoops video game I've ever seen.

(UPDATE: As I glance over the comments at the bottom of this page, I notice that readers are making it seem as if I've never played NBA LIVE or any other video game before. For the record, I own every version of NBA LIVE and Madden that have come out the past dozen years. As I've got older, I simply don't get the opportunity to play as much as I used to.)

  • Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mbrooksnba@gmail.com.

Wednesday Bullets

July, 16, 2008
7/16/08
6:59
PM ET
By Maurice Brooks
  • 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.
By Maurice Brooks
Bobby Brown, 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.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jerryd Bayless, Blazers

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.

BEST SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE: Donte' Greene, Rockets

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.

WORST SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE: George Hill, Spurs, and Julian Wright, Hornets

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.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Bobby Brown, Hornets

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).

BEST REBOUNDER: Kevin Love, Timberwolves

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.

BEST PLAYMAKER: Ramon Sessions, Bucks

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.

BEST DEFENDER: Julian Wright, Hornets

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.

BEST DUNK: O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies

Here is some friendly advice to the Hornets' Hilton Armstrong. Next time get out of the way. Watch

BEST BUZZER BEATER: O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies

Proof 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 mbrooksnba@gmail.com.
By Maurice Brooks

Average Joe

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.


Gallinari E-mail

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.

By Maurice Brooks

In their first two games, the Hornets have been using forward Julian Wright as one of their primary playmakers. So far, the results haven't been very good. In their opening game against the Grizzlies, he turned the ball over an eye-popping 11 times. He also missed 13 of his 17 shots.

I was ready to simply chalk that up as a bad game until I watched him this afternoon. While he is playing with a lot of energy, he appears slightly out of control -- turning the ball over four more times in the first half. Not all Wright news has been negative. He does have a block and three steals.

If I were a Bobcats fan, I don't know if I would be happy or concerned with the way D.J. Augustin is playing. The speedy point guard has thrilled the crowd on more than one occasion with his drives to the hoop and hasn't had a problem creating for himself. That's the good. The bad is through six-plus quarters, he only has three assists. Maybe once he gets a little more comfortable with his new teammates, the dimes will come.

Hard to believe, but the best player on the court is New Orleans' Bobby Brown, who spent last season playing for German League champion Alba Berlin. The former Cal State Fullerton guard had one of the top missed dunks I've seen in a while, when he elevated on the break and tried to put Charlotte's Kyle Weaver on a poster. The ball bounced off the back of the rim, but Weaver was called for a foul on the play.

Bobby Brown
Brown showed off his all-around skills Sunday.
(David Dow/NBAE/Getty)

Anyway, Brown is doing a little bit of everything. He is attacking the rim -- ask Weaver -- he has knocked down a couple of jumpers, he's passing and rebounding well, too. I'm not saying Chris Paul should be worried about his playing time, but Brown is getting the job done today.

The Hornets hung on for a two-point win. Brown stuffed the box score to the tune of 20 points -- including what turned out to be the game-winner with 30 seconds left -- five assists and five rebounds. He also had a steal and turned the ball over just one time.

Wright put on quite a defensive performance, finishing with two blocks and five steals. He also had six turnovers bringing his two-day total to 17. He did shoot a little better, going 5 of 12 for 11 points.

Augustin scored a team-high 15. He finished with five turnovers and just two assists.

"I'm trying to get my teammates involved as much as possible," Augustin told me after the game. "We've had some tough misses, but I'm trying to get them open shots. We're still trying to get a better understanding of each other."

In Game 2, I'm anxious to see how Anthony Randolph follows up his huge opening-day performance. And in case you were wondering, C.J. Watson has taken the floor today without his long-sleeve shirt.

Marco Belinelli has the Warriors off and running in the second half. He just hit consecutive jumpers and threw a no-look pass that was so pretty, I found myself looking the wrong way as his teammate caught the ball and laid it in. Midway through the third, Golden State has a 15-point lead.

Belinelli has stayed hot in the fourth quarter and now has a total of 23 points. Randolph is not having a big offensive game, but he has still been effective, cracking double digits in points again.

James Singleton (17 points) has been the best player in a Mavericks uniform. He crashes the boards hard and has got into the lane for easy buckets.

Belinelli finished with 25 points, while Randolph (5-for-12) scored 11. Brandan Wright was the top big man in a Golden State uniform, pulling down seven boards to go with his 15 points.

From the "Did that really just happen department?", Coby Karl just blocked O.J. Mayo's jumper on one end of the floor and threw a perect alley-oop pass on the other end. I immediately looked into the stands to see his dad, George, softly clap his hands twice in approval. As I'm typing this, Karl just hit a near-impossible turnaround jumper.   

It looks like playing three games in three nights is catching up to Mayo. He doesn't have his normal bounce. He has missed four of his first six shots and he has been sloppy with the ball, turning it over four times. Darrell Arthur is also struggling, hitting just 1 of 4 shots for two points, while committing five fouls.

It appears the Grizzlies have stopped calling plays and are just letting Mayo go to work in the the third quarter. He has been way more effective going one-on-one, scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes of the period on a combination of jumpers and drives.

I got a new-found respect for Karl. When a bully punches you in the mouth you can either just take it or fight back. He has chose to fight back. Karl, who has covered Mayo for most of the game, has responded to the challenge in the third quarter, firing in nine points of his own. He just went to the hole for two points prompting the P.A. announcer to scream, "Kobe Bryant." Not quite.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Mayo was toying with the dribble in front of L.A.'s Dwayne Mitchell. Mitchell made him pay, ripping Mayo at the top of the key and then racing up the court for a thunderous dunk.

Karl finished with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Lakers toppled the Grizzlies 85-76.

Mayo ended the contest with 15 points, six fouls and six turnovers, while Arthur had three times as many fouls (9) as points (3).

In the last game of the night, the Pistons, who I can't see losing in Vegas, are taking on the Clippers.

Starting tomorrow, games will be held at both the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. The Knicks, Cavaliers, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets and Spurs will all make their summer league debuts. 

Mayo Dunks On Armstrong

July, 12, 2008
7/12/08
4:57
PM ET

By Maurice Brooks

The critics will look at the box score from O.J. Mayo's Vegas Summer League debut and see that he turned the ball over eight times.

They will point out that he only scored 15 points against watered-down competition.

They will say that he wasn't even the best Memphis rookie on the floor -- that honor goes to Darrell Arthur (18 points on 9-for-12 shooting).

And they will be right.

But the numbers on a piece of paper or a computer screen don't do Mayo's game justice.

They don't show how comfortable he was playing both the role of primary playmaker and No. 1 scoring option.

They don't show how hard he worked on the defensive end of the court.

They don't show how he learned from his mistakes and got better as the game went on.

The No. 3 pick in the draft made three steals, grabbed three rebounds, handed out five assists and shot 50 percent from the floor in the Grizzlies' 13-point win over the Hornets on Friday.

His coach was impressed.

"I'm very pleased with how he played defensively," Marc Iavaroni said. "He is very driven to be a great player. In the second half, he just slowed down a little bit and it's good to see growth from half to half."

Actually, it was more like quarter to quarter. After scoring just two points in the first quarter, he erupted for 10 in the second, including a crowd-pleasing stuff over Hilton Armstrong.

"I just wanted to play hard and win," said Mayo after the game. "I always feel I can do better. I put forth a lot of effort on defense."

What did catch Mayo off guard was the large crowd.

"I was nervous," said Mayo, who was heckled by a group of fans throughout the game. "I didn't expect there to be so many people at a summer league game."

Mayo worked well with fellow guards Javaris Crittenton and Mike Conley.

"In practice, we all work hard," Mayo said. "There is a lot of hustling and diving on the floor. We're trying to make each other better."

So far, so good.

By Maurice Brooks

The NBA Summer League is officially off and running with the Sixers and Warriors on the floor. This gives me a chance to get an up close and personal look at Philadelphia first-round pick Marreese Speights. His pro debut is off to a good start. He has been real active around the basket and after missing his first five shots, he has just rocked the rim three straight times as the Sixers have opened up a seven-point lead late in the second quarter.

Reminder, to those of you who can't make the trip to Las Vegas -- all of the games are being shown via webcast on NBA.com and 23 of the games can be seen on NBA TV.

Early observations from the opening game of the NBA Summer League:

Why is Golden State's C.J. Watson wearing a long-sleeve shirt under his jersey?

Maybe the Warriors should play all of their games at UNLV -- Marco Belinelli has already gotten a rise out of the fans by draining two long jumpers.

Although I don't have the official attendance numbers, there is a nice crowd in the building.

Bryon Russell -- yeah the one MJ shoved and the refs swallowed the whistle -- is in the crowd.

Halftime: Warriors 40, Sixers 38. Anthony Randolph is pacing Golden State with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting, while Thaddeus Young has 11 on 4-of-7 for Philly.

Randolph is playing with a ton of confidence. He just knocked down a jumper he had no business making and he has pulled down four rebounds. Although he was just called for a charge, he has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the cup.

Anthony Randolph
Randolph made 12 of 18 shots from the floor.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty)

With just over four minutes left to play and the Warriors up six, they may as well clear the floor and let Randolph and Young play one-on-one. Randolph just came down and fed his teammate for an easy basket. Young responded on the other end by attacking the basket and drawing a foul.

They are tied for game high honors in points with 24 each.

Game one of 53 is in the books. The Warriors, behind 30 points and eight rebounds from Randolph, stopped the Sixers 96-89. Brandan Wright was also a bundle of energy for the Warriors, blocking four shots to go with seven rebounds and 17 points.

Even though they lost, the Sixers have to be pleased with what they saw from Young, who finished with 27 points, and Speights, who went 7-for-19 from the floor, but had an impressive line of 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Here is what Young had to say after the game.

On Brand: "He is not only a good player, but he is a good person. With his addition, we'll be a much better half-court team. He is going to make it easier for everyone else."

On Speights: "I thought he did well and was very aggressive. We made a good pick."

Speights wasn't available to the media after the game.

Game 2 features the Hornets and Grizzlies. The arena is full and it is a safe assumption that the large crowd is here to see Memphis rookie O.J. Mayo.

Despite what some of the hecklers in the crowd are saying, Mayo is the goods. He is virtually impossible to stay in front of off the dribble and uses his body well to get his shot off. He scored 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting in the first half.

So far today there have been two signature moments and both involved Mayo. Mayo applied the finishing touches on a perfectly thrown lob pass from Michael Conley. The second was Mayo's made-for-tv right-hand jam on Hilton Armstrong's head. Not only did he draw the foul, it was almost like he announced to the rest of summer league that 'Hey, I can play well on this level.'

O.J. Mayo
Mayo surprised some people with his solid defensive play.
(David Dow/NBAE/Getty)

Mayo isn't the only Memphis player having an outstanding pro debut. Darrell Arthur is showcasing the skills that will one day make him a starting power forward. The big man has demonstrated a nice outside shooting touch, scoring a game-high 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

Not that the winners or losers really matter at summer league, but the Grizzlies ran past the Hornets, 88-75. Arthur finished with 18 points, while Mayo scored 15 (5 of 10 from the field), gave out five dimes and grabbed three boards. The only negative on his outing were the eight turnovers.

Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni had nothing but good things to say about Arthur. "He was very efficient today," Iavaroni said. "He probably had the most impressive game of anyone."

Not a bad first game for a player that nobody seemed to want -- he was traded three times on draft night.

Meanwhile, the Hornets' Julian Wright probably wants to act like this game never happened. The second-year pro missed 13 of his 17 shot attempts and turned the ball over 11 times.

A quick glance at the rosters for the Lakers and Pistons told you all you needed to know about who was going to win. L.A. has a squad full of players who will be fighting to be invited to training camp, while Detroit's lineup features players who saw considerable time in the playoffs this past season.

Led by Rodney Stuckey, who starred at last year's summer league, the Pistons beat the Lakers 84-73. Stuckey didn't shoot well, missing nine of his 15 shots, but he finished with 21 points. Arron Afflalo added 15 and Amir Johnson had 12.

The Lakers were paced by Coby Karl's 14 points.

Finally, in the nightcap, the Clippers powered by NBA-ready Eric Gordon, have jumped out to a 12-4 advantage over the Mavericks. The Clippers easily have the biggest rooting section at summer league so far. 

The Clippers have a 17-point lead at halftime despite the fact that Gordon is just 2-for-11 from the field. He has made 6 of 7 from the line and despite his poor shooting, stayed in attack mode.

Final: Clippers 86, Mavericks 69. Gordon shot it a little better in the second half, making 3 of 7 to finish 5 for 18. He led all scorers with 23 points, and also pulled down seven boards, but gave out just two assists. His numbers were saved by the fact he made 10 foul shots. 

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