TrueHoop: Jason Thompson

Monday Bullets

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
11:24
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • J.A. Adande joined Baron Davis on the campus of UCLA, where the Cavs point guard will try to maintain a GPA, not a PER. At Hardwood Paroxysm, Holly MacKenzie shares a story about how, several seasons back, Davis blew her off in a locker room in Seattle, only to track her down later on in the tunnel to make amends: "[Davis] taught me a lesson: players can be cranky, and sometimes you’ll approach them after a bad loss or performance when they’re angry or bitter or caught up in something. But often times, how someone treats you on that single occasion isn’t a fair representation of who that person is."
  • Davis coached LeBron James in a Drew League game on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports: "[Drew League director Dino] Smiley said many fans tweeted and sent text messages about James’ arrival. 'Every edge' of the court in the tiny gym, Smiley said, was packed. Smiley said the gym doors were eventually closed shut during James’ game by law enforcement officers, who told fans if they left they couldn’t return"
  • Thunderground Radio evaluates how Sam Presti fared in 2010-11. Was the Perkins-Green trade necessary? Can Reggie Jackson make an impact in the backcourt?
  • Blake Griffin is a monster and, barring injury, projects to be a indomitable franchise player. For the Clippers, that's the easy part. The more elastic variable for the team is Eric Gordon. If the Clippers aren't able to land a marquee superstar, could they still be a force in the West with Gordon as their featured perimeter threat with Griffin down low, provided DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe continue to grow? Nick Flynt of ClipperBlog takes a look.
  • What happened to the Trail Blazers after they broke up their Finals core in 1993? A retrospective from Blazers Edge.
  • I'm a sucker for any basketball post that prominently features Bob Walk, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. A pitcher named Walk would the equivalent of a hoopster named Travel. But the thrust of the Negative Dunkalectics' post by Chris George is not the dubiously-named Walk, but the playing career of Warriors head coach Mark Jackson: "Mark Jackson was a comparatively small and non-athletic man, largely informed by a street game, who managed to use a few moves over and over again to put up much better numbers than he 'should' have. The combination of the back down, the baby hook, the no-look passes, the teardrop, and the push shot made him one of the most frustrating point guards of his era, even if he never had the ability to be a true star."
  • Jason Terry delivered the first pitch at Sunday's Texas Rangers game to Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Dirk Nowitzki via Twitter: "Was jet's first pitch at rangers game better than mine? Didn't anyone see it? Let me know."
  • Who is Manuel Velez Pangilinan? He's the very wealthy, very influential guy behind the pair of exhibition games at Araneta Coliseum in Manila between a slew of NBA stars and standouts from the Philippine Basketball Association. The two games were standing room only and tickets on the secondary market ran as much as four times face value.
  • The WNBA named its 15 best players ever. Ball in Europe follows with its 15 best Euroleague women players in history.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, Marco Belinelli and Hedo Turkoglu: Each initially excited Raps fans when he signed on the dotted line, only to fall way short of expectations. For good measure, five Raptors draft picks that raised eyebrows.
  • Six years prior to putting on a Raptors jersey, Olajuwon logged 39 points and 17 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher of the 1995 Western Conference finals against the Spurs. NBA Off-Season presents another in their Lockout Classics series.
  • If Kobe Bryant is Derek Jeter, then Derek Fisher is Jorge Posada. Does that make Robert Horry Scott Brosius?
  • Look out, Monday. Wes Matthews is in mission mode.
  • Kings big man Jason Thompson: "Congrats to the NFL on ending their Lockout....NOW its OUR TURN!!!!"

Wednesday Bullets

June, 9, 2010
6/09/10
2:50
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • The Knicks' Toney Douglas continued to struggle shooting the ball, but he performed his primary function as floor general quite well. He gave the Knicks what they needed at the point -- game management, penetration and kicking, creating for others, and, most of all, solid on-ball defense at that position. Douglas now has 21 assists to only two turnovers in his two games. Not bad for a guy who started out as a combo guard. 
  • Austin Daye The Pistons' order of the Daye
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Jordan Hill is at his strongest when he's facing up to the basket, but too often he rushes himself when he has the ball in the post. Several times on Wednesday, he lost track of where he was on the block, then flung an off-balanced shot up from close range. Hill also seemed a little passive as a post defender, even against the likes of Trent Plaisted. Hill stayed in close proximity on defense to his assigned man, but rarely tried to knock his guy off his spot. In general, the closer Hill was to the basket, the less comfortable he was.
  • You have to love a player who's useful at any spot on the court. Austin Daye is that guy for Detroit. He's a new wave three -- able to work as the ballhandler on the pick-and-roll, drive to the cup from the perimeter, post up against most small forwards, use a screen the right way, and hit from long range. Against the Knicks on Wednesday, he finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. 
  • DaJuan Summers was the butter and egg man down low for the Pistons. I can't quite figure out whether to classify him as a small or power forward. IMG's Mike Moreau referred to him as a "Power 3." Whatever he is, Summers continued to leverage his ability to face up for opportunities to get inside. There's a lot of offensive weaponry there, and he can clean the glass, too. His scoring line: 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field, and 5-for-7 from the stripe. 
  • Joe Alexander did a much better job off-the-ball finding space on the floor where teammates could hit him for open looks -- not just on the perimeter, but in Scola-territory along the baseline at 15 feet. The Alexander-Taj Gibson matchup was an interesting one and it was anything but a pitching duel. Alexander finished 9-for-16 from the field, Gibson 6-for-9. Gibson was able to exploit his length against Alexander, while Alexander used his versatility and triple-threat skills to beat Gibson. Meanwhile, Gibson became the second player in Summer League to rack up 10 fouls. The Spurs' Ian Mahinmi was the first Tuesday against Denver. Gibson now has 19 fouls in two games. 
  • Summer League is the perfect setting for an athlete like Amir Johnson to show off his wares under the basket. Johnson was an efficiency machine inside for the Bucks: 17 points on 11 possessions, along with eight rebounds. He owned the paint, gobbling up offensive boards, going up strong with the putbacks, either converting or getting fouled (11 free throw attempts for the game). Defensively, he was smart and physical, blocking shots and igniting breaks with sharp, quick outlet passes to Brandon Jennings
  • After sitting out Phoenix's first Summer League game on Monday with back spasms, Earl Clark displayed his full range of skills in his inaugural effort on Wednesday. He initiates the bulk of his offense along the perimeter, but he can do so many things from there to disarm the defense: a pretty touch pass into the post off a dish from his point guard, a catch-and-shoot, a dribble drive and pass-off that results in a hockey assist. He also showed his defensive flexibility, bothering guards and bigs alike.  
  • DeMar DeRozan is far more polished than advertised. He uses his quickness to build his game. As Mike Moreau said in David Thorpe's twitter thread, "Demar DeRozan really comes off the curl with speed, balance and elevation-very controlled. Will come off a decade's worth of pindowns."  He also rarely takes a bad shot -- uncommon among rookies and in Summer League, and particularly uncommon among rookies in Summer League. 
  • Jason Thompson was an entirely different player Wednesday. He claimed his spot down on the block, called for the ball, forced the action off the dribble, made hard back cuts when he was fronted, backed his guy in with force when he wasn't, and worked his tuchus off on the offensive glass. His totals: 31 points and 10 rebounds. 
  • Tyreke Evans didn't start for the Kings against the D-League Select team, and was very deferential when he checked in at the start of the second quarter and throughout the second half. He went 1-for-5 from the field, 3-for-4 from the line, with three assists in 23 minutes. Despite the off night, the change of speed on his dribble-drives was still ungodly.
  • Chase Budinger has a beautiful stride into his catch-and-shoot motion -- we know that -- but Wednesday night he also showed the athleticism to put it on the deck, weave through traffic, and finish strongly. He moved well without the ball to get open looks, and even absorbed a few bumps on defense to stay in front of his man, something he'll have to do this fall to stay in the Rockets' rotation.
  • Andray Blatche continues to be  one of the most confounding talents in the league. He flashed moments of sheer dominance Wednesday night with swift, whirling post moves off good recognition that made his defenders look silly. At other times, he tried to improvise and failed spectacularly. Blatche could be a top-shelf talent, but his preference for raw instinct over tactical strategy on a given play renders him inconsistent. He needs a plan. Still, between the potent face-up game at the top of the key, and the fancy footwork and explosiveness down low, it's hard to take your eyes off him. Let's see how he fares this season against NBA talent.
  • Dante Cunningham: NBA body, NBA aggressiveness, NBA defense ... NBA player? He didn't put up the most efficient line of the night (22 points on 23 possessions), but his physicality made the Rockets' defense work. He often chose to back his defender in with a dribble or two, then launch a mid-range jumper with good elevation. When he recognized there was something better, he'd build a head of steam and get to the rim. More than anything, he was out there with a purpose, moving with the offense, mindful of where Jerryd Bayless was at all times. 

An improvised summer league birthday raptacular for coach Pete Carril:

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Tyreke Evans did a lot of impressive stuff Friday afternoon in his debut as the Sacramento Kings' point guard. On the game's very first possession, he dished the ball off to the weak side, then rumbled to the block where he backed in a smaller, hapless Sean Singletary, who was whistled for a foul.

Tyreke Evans Tyreke Evans: A different kind of point guard.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

The play call wasn't a coincidence. When the Kings had Evans and some of the other top names come in for their point guard workout, they had the prospects play 2-on-2 inside of 15 feet. Evans' dominance that day gave the Kings a glimpse of how they could use a big, strong point guard to bolster a team that got pushed around last season. 

Evans is nothing if not assertive. When matched up against the likes of Singletary -- and even 6-4 Andre Owens -- Evans repeatedly dished the ball off, darted to the post, then waited for entry pass against a helpless defender. 

When Evans wasn't pushing opposing guards around on the block, he was tripping up defenders with his nasty crossover and getting to the rack.

"He can get into the paint whenever he wants," Kings head coach Paul Westphal said. "I like the way he attacks."

Making Evans a point guard has its virtues, because there are worse places for the ball to be on a Kings' offensive possession than in his hands. Evans is an incredible one-on-one player, something he demonstrated repeatedly Friday against the Pistons in both teams' first Summer League game. The rookie finished with 15 points on 4-10 shooting from the field and 7-10 from the stripe. 

As good as Evans was off the dribble for himself, he rarely looked to create for others. Not once did Evans complete a play for a teammate, something that should concern anyone with a vested interest in the Evans experiment at the point. A couple of times he lobbed passes into traffic, but only if his path to the basket was stymied -- and he failed on virtually every one of those attempts. Evans finished with four turnovers, and his only two assists came on simple entry passes into the post. 

"Hey, let us put some offense in before you say he can't do that," Westphal said, when asked if Evans truly had the instincts to run point. "He's just scratching the surface of what he can do. I think once he gets comfortable with the system and his teammates -- and they get comfortable with him -- there will be a lot of things he can do." 

Westphal might have a point, but what kind of system can the Kings run if there's no legitimate playmaker on the floor who can move the ball with confidence? Kevin Martin is an offensive efficiency machine (greater than 60% true shooting percentage each of the past four seasons), but like Evans, he's best as a one-on-one scorer who would benefit greatly from a pure point who knows how to find a scorer.

Look at the Kings' individual assist rates over the past few seasons, and you'll find that, apart from beleagured point guard Beno Udrih, the team's best distributors were Brad Miller and John Salmons. Spencer Hawes might be a high post threat as a shooter, but there's not much evidence that any semblance of an offense could be run through him. Jason Thompson? Andres Nocioni? Anyone? 

It's entirely possible that Evans' uncanny instincts will allow him to find his inner distributor. Maybe he'll develop the sort of skills that aren't showcased in 2-on-2 workouts. That metamorphosis would be a blessing for Sacramento, but it would also compromise some of what makes Tyreke Evans...Tyreke Evans -- the biggest, strongest, most devastating one-on-one guard in this year's draft class.

There were faint rumors that the Kings might get involoved in the Hedo Turkoglu chase, and there probably wasn't a team in more desperate need of Turkoglu's services as a point forward than the Kings. With their fortunes wed to the extremely talented, but self-sufficient, Evans at the point, the Kings might have to get their playmaking from someone else.

Ricky Rubio tempted the hearts of both Thunder and Kings fans -- but their respective GMs went with the conservative picks. Smart long-term thinking ... or overcautiousness?  Did the Spurs get the steal of the draft? And did Orlando help itself with Vince Carter? 

James HardenRoyce Young of Daily Thunder: "I'd been calling for [James] Harden for almost two months now. I don't think there's any player that fits us better than him. Oklahoma City was statistically the worst team at shooting guard in the league last season. Harden is talented and can do multiple things. He can step on the court tomorrow and make this team better. I truly think he's going to be a fantastic player. But for some reason I feel like the guy that just let a girl get away. Ricky Rubio was the most unknown thing about this draft. Honestly, we have no idea what he's going to do. All we've got are some YouTube clips and six games in Greece to base anything off of. But there was just something about him. I have no idea what it is. He was intriguing. He was cool. He had potential we could only imagine. And the idea of him in a Thunder uniform just got very appealing in the last 48 hours ... Common sense says James Harden is the perfect pick. We can assume Rubio was the best player available, but we don't know that. But the desire to field a freaking cool team said pick Rubio. Not to say Harden makes uncool -- I mean, he's got a beard and he wore a bow tie! -- but the flash of Rubio can't be ignored. But Sam Presti is smarter than all of us and he's got the common sense. He doesn't care about alley oops and behind-the-back passes. He cares about wins and losses. And in three years when James Harden is the perfect complementary piece to the Thunder Three, I don't think you'll care about how cool the team is."

Tyreke EvansZach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom: "The decision was made with Tyreke Evans as the newest member of the Sacramento Kings and it brought about mixed emotions and feelings. I honestly thought that Ricky Rubio was the best-case scenario for the team. He seemed to be perfect for guys like Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes to develop. He seemed to be a great guy to put alongside Kevin Martin to get him open, easier shots. He seemed to be the smartest business decision with instant national exposure surely to come and international interest after that. But in the end, the Kings didn't feel like he was tough enough and that Tyreke Evans was the best player now, five years from now, and ten years from now. And you know what? Geoff Petrie is probably right about all of this. The Kings biggest problem for years was having a glitz and glamour squad that made offense look easy and fun while defense was the great divide ... The Kings were soft both physically and in spirit .. The Kings clearly decided it was time for a change in philosophy and culture. They grabbed a veteran coach who has been there before. And now they've grabbed the player to match the toughness and offensive attack that go along with that coach. Tyreke Evans means no more moments of the Kings point guard being abused on either side of the ball. From now on, the Kings are the enforcer at the point for 48 minutes. From now on, the Kings are going to be tougher and more physical with their opponents. Shots to the mouth will be responded to."

DeJuan BlairGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "Those looking to react negatively to what was an unequivocally great night for the Spurs will look at the questions surrounding [DeJuan] Blair's knees and claim he isn't all he is cracked up to be. They will say he slid to 37 for a reason. I have two responses to that: First, there is no way in Hell the Spurs could have landed a more talented player at 37. Yes, there are a couple questions surrounding our early second round pick. Welcome to the reality of having only second round picks. Second, even if Blair's knees are a long-term issue, they are exactly that: A long-term issue. With the Jefferson trade, the Spurs announced their intention to make a run for a 5th title and make it now. Aside from Blake Griffin, I would argue no big was more prepared to come onto an NBA squad and readily earn significant minutes than DeJuan Blair. The truth of the matter is, being able to select Blair with the 37th pick is an unmitigated coup. Blair was a dream, someone we mentioned just in case the front office became unexpectedly aggressive and moved up into the lottery. Well, sometimes dreams do come true."

THE FINAL WORD
Orlando Magic Daily: Five reasons the Vince Carter deal makes sense for Orlando.
Nets Are Scorching: Courtney Lee -- and a whole lotta cap space --  is coming to the swamp. 
Valley of the Suns: Earl Clark and PHX -- a nice fit.

(Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant, Jennifer Pottheiser, Andy Lyons/NBAE via Getty Images)

Everyone Buddy Up

April, 2, 2009
4/02/09
5:22
PM ET

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

If you watched the Bobcats-Lakers game earlier this week, the interplay between Kobe Bryant on the floor and Michael Jordan courtside was infectious. Bryant drained an unconscious shot in the third quarter and as he ambled down the court his eyes were locked on MJ. In some sense, it was completely natural.  Bryant has been staring at Jordan since childhood, studying every facet of his hero's game -- his mannerisms, his biomechanics, his competitive spirit. It's undoubtedly one of the things that makes Bryant the killer he is. So far as Jordan goes, there are reasons icons are icons. There probably isn't a guard born in the 1970s or 1980s who hasn't imitated MJ on some court somewhere in some fashion.  

Figuring out who to imitate is half the fun. In David Thorpe's new Rookie Watch feature, he assigns each rookie a veteran mentor to study. I like the homework he gives Sacramento's Jason Thompson, taking a closer look at second-year big man, Al Horford :

I actually think Thompson and Horford are already very similar -- both have great size, length and speed for either post spot. But while Thompson plays at 100 mph at all times, Horford is a model of tremendous effort under control. The Hawks' second-year man never takes a play off, is always around the ball and basket and, despite playing out of position, has not fouled out of a game this season.

Thompson has the right motor, but he needs to adjust his speeds better so he can finish around the rim more and foul less. He's starter material for a good team when he learns this trait.

Thorpe tells another big, the unrefined but talented J.J. Hickson, to track down some David West game tape: 

Hickson has loads of raw potential, so who better to study than a technique guru like West? The Hornets' two-time All-Star is an expert at creating angles for easier shots by using fakes and changing speeds on his back-in moves. And he has all the shots within 15 feet of the rim.

West also competes at a high level with passion, but under control. He is a great example for Hickson and other young power forwards.

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