TrueHoop: Lakers

Wednesday Bullets

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
2:06
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Just how did the Knicks play better against the Heat? Strategy savant Sebastian Pruiti shows us how New York found success, curbing pick and rolls.
  • Love when John Krolik uses a device like “Teams are allowed to shoot from behind that line, and in fact shots made from beyond that line count for more points bullets” to convey his Cavs frustration. I thought the second biggest tragedy of the Gilbert era was how a great writer got robbed of good fodder. Krolik is somehow finding new comedic heights in subterranean Cavs mediocrity.
  • As the reaper taps his foot next to Tim Duncan’s career, the Spurs are blossoming. 48 Minutes of Hell parses how San Antonio could be escaping the funeral pyre.
  • Darius Soriano from Forum Blue and Gold wonders if this is rock bottom for the Lakers. Why do I feel like Los Angeles will emerge from this funk, strong and scary as ever? Oh ya, the two consecutive championships. Now I remember.
  • Personally, I enjoyed Indy's dalliance with decency. Jared Wade is here to tell us that the Pacers have officially become mediocre.
  • Ryan DeGarma of Celtics Hub delves into the mysteries of Boston's bench. And apparently, a hilariously glum-looking Marquis Daniels is the straw that stirs the drink.

Subjective: Kobe is not clutch

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
11:21
AM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes/edits for HoopSpeak.com, Warriorsworld.net, and Salon.com. He lives in Oakland and wallows @SherwoodStrauss on Twitter. He once touched Ricky Rubio's hand.

In last night’s Spurs-Lakers game, Kobe Bryant got the better of Kobe Bryant again. When his team desperately needed him, he gave them a bit too much of him. It happens.

Credit to the San Antonio defense, offense, credit to DeJuan Blair’s ebullient flair. But, it’s impossible to watch a live game and absorb all the complexities of ten jerseys, tugging TV pixels in different directions. Frankly, I just funneled an attention span to the Kobe show.

Bryant started off shaky, out of rhythm. All seemed lost when he sauntered in with nine minutes left, Lakers down by double digits. In a rebuke to offensive sets, Kobe flooded the hoop. A deep contested two, a contested three, another three. Suddenly, the Lakers were tilting the see-saw. Suddenly, frightened announcers were sputtering: “He will score every time he gets the ball! Every time!”

(Uh-oh! Here it comes! Lava’s about to shoot out of his eyes and decapitate Gary Neal!)

Bryant’s next four shots were heavily-guarded misses. Gary Neal’s face still exists. Lakers to the exits, hence this missive.

The fourth quarter was illustrative of Kobe’s occasional crunch time lapses. When Bryant fails, it’s not because he shrinks from the moment--it’s because he tries to own it. That’s not to say that Kobe blunders often, it’s just to explain how it happens when he does. Our cultural assumption is that crunch time failing is “choking,” wilting under pressure, succumbing to the situation. But, when Bryant "chokes," he bites off more than he can chew--like a mamba chomping a hippo.

So here is my subjective, Playoffs-based needling of Kobe’s assassin credentials--the permit given to men whom you want shooting “with the game on the line.” I do it because so many Bryant debates pit stat lovers against conventional wisdom, and so many conventional wisdom clingers prey on emotional memory.

This dust-draped Youtube clip is the Game 6, 2006, series-losing airball that History forgot. It's a way-off airball, and a terrible miss amid a 50 point performance. Instead, we harp on his infamous following game, where KB “quit” in the second half. Strange that fans are willing to dismiss the botched heave, in favor of a bizarre moralistic narrative where Bryant failed out of spite. The unreasonable Puritanical screeching about Kobe’s Game 7 reminds me of the unhinged tumult that followed LeBron’s Game 5.

Below are two recent examples of fortuitous Kobe misses. I’m leaving out the most famous fortunate Bryant shank because Kings fans have it hard enough (Think: Horry, Robert). Notice the difficulty level of the Artest and Gasol shots.

His 1997 airballs versus the Jazz are barely worth mentioning. Kid Kobe was too young for the situation. Kudos to him for growing towards greatness, despite this early searing experience.

Did I remember his game-tying three against the Pistons in 2004? What about those heroics in Game 4 of that same Suns series, referenced earlier? Sure I remember all that, but so do you. The task is to highlight what isn’t sepia-toned. The goal isn’t to declare Kobe incapable in these moments, but instead to deny his mastery of them.

To quote Tom Haberstroh’s brilliant piece on Kobe vs. LeBron in crunch time--an article that gives Bryant considerable credit:

“We watch in anticipation as the ball leaves Bryant's fingertips on a contested perimeter jumper, which is the toughest shot in the game. But the degree of difficulty of the shot works both ways. When he hits the back-breaking shot, it is heroic. But when he misses, it is understandable.”

What’s understandable is that he misses a tough shot. But it's hard for many to grasp the flaw in Kobe's courage of conviction. And my subjective Bryant belief is, “The bigger the moment, the tougher the shot.” Fan wisdom says: Bravery is virtue. To claim that Kobe’s late-game confidence leads him to Icarus misses is subversive to that notion. I'd like to rebound that airball.
By Maurice Brooks

Chandler Goes Off

Three of New York's potential starting five -- Renaldo Balkman (sprained left ankle), Danilo Gallinari (sore lower back) and Nate Robinson (no reason at all) -- are in street clothes for their matchup today against the Suns. What that means is more shots for forward Wilson Chandler who has already fired up 32 shots in the Knicks' first two games.

Chandler hasn't disappointed. He looks very comfortable on the floor, making 5-of-9 on the way to a game-high 12 points in the first half. Equally impressive are the block, steal and five rebounds he's pulled down for the Knicks, who lead by five at halftime.

Phoenix big man Robin Lopez had better enjoy today. When the season tips off for real there aren't going to be too many games when he has to go up against the combination of Paul Miller and Zhang Songtao. Lopez is having a field day against those two, hitting on 6-of-9 for 13 points. He also has five rebounds.

Someone at press row wearing a Suns.com shirt just asked me if Chandler deserves MVP consideration? That is an indication of how well he has played today. He has used his mid-range shooting and drives to the basket to torch everyone in a Phoenix uniform. After a slow third quarter, he has erupted for 14 points in the fourth to run his total up to 31.  Throw in the fact he has 12 rebounds and this was easily one of the top performances by anyone at summer league.

Chandler, who was mobbed by a group of kids with autograph requests after the game, was averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Phoenix's D.J. Strawberry (21 points) just pulled up for a game-tying 3-point attempt in the closing seconds only to have it swatted back in his face by Delonte Holland.

Final: NY 85, PHX 80.


Mistaken Identity

Last night while waiting in line with NBA.com's Dave McMenamin to get into a restaurant at Caesars, former NBA banger Dale Davis walked by.

Two older ladies in front of me asked out loud, "Is that a pro basketball player or something?"

Before me or McMenamin could respond, a guy behind me blurted out with a straight face, "I'm pretty sure that is Kevin Garnett."

Not exactly.


Show Me the Video Tape

Word on the street is that OKC's Kevin Durant drained 10 3-pointers on the way to 60 points while suiting up for a squad called the Sweat Mob.


Where's the D.J.?

Charlotte point guard D.J. Augustin will not play in today's game against the Pistons because of knee tendinitis.

In a sign that the Bobcats' coaching staff is more interested in evaluating than winning, 14 different Charlotte players have seen court time today. Coming off the bench, Kyle Weaver, the 38th overall pick of this year's draft, played his best game of the week for the Bobcats. His numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, but if you watched the game you saw him doing a lot of things right. He had 13 total points in the first three Charlotte games. Today he made 4-of-5 for 12 and also had two assists and two boards.


Summer Ball In Utah

On another note, the Utah Summer League begins play tonight with two games: Dallas vs. Atlanta and San Antonio vs. Utah. Here is a good preview.


Breaking Down Washington's McGee

Earlier today on the John Thompson Radio Show, I said that JaVale McGee's offensive game was raw. And he appeared to be proving me right against the Cavaliers, missing all four of his attempts in the first quarter. I don't know what he did at halftime, because he looks like a different player in the third quarter. His footwork is much better and he has shown off the entire big man skill set (dunk, up and under, jump hook). If his offensive game catches up to his defensive talent, he has the potential to be a quality power forward/center. The 7-footer, who is second in the league in blocks, has two rejections today, while altering several others.

McGee made 5-of-12 for 11 points. He also had four rebounds and two blocked shots. Here is what he told me after the game.

"I've been playing OK," said McGee, who noted his favorite move is the turnaround jumper. "For some reason, I've been scoring all of my points in the second half. The game on this level is a lot more physical and I have to work on getting stronger."

Andray Blatche continues to be the best player for the Wizards. He has led the club in scoring in all three of their games. He had 22 points and nine rebounds on an assortment of moves around the basket.


No Stopping Douby

Sacramento's Quincy Douby is cooking. I haven't figured out which was better, the 3-pointer he hit in Marco Belinelli's mug where he left his follow through up for what seemed like forever or the driving now you see me, now you don't spin move he used on his way to the last of his 23 (12 in the first quarter, 11 in the second) first-half points.

Golden State's C.J. Watson is lighting it up too. Doing his best Belinelli impersonation, the speedy Watson has gone 7-for-12 from the floor, including 2-of-5 on treys. He hasn't completely abandoned his point guard responsibilities, leading everyone with three assists.

As for Belinelli, he has been invisible. Anytime you have four times as many fouls as points, it's not a good thing. He missed all four of his shots in the first half and his lone point came on a technical free throw.

It's early in the third quarter and Douby has 27 points. Twice this period he has put a little mustard on his passes on the fast break and the ball has ended up at my feet out of bounds instead of in the hands of a teammates. When you are 10-for-13 from the field, what are you doing passing the rock anyway? Let it fly.

Belinelli finally hit a triple and added two free throws to bring his total to six late in the third. Everyone focuses on his shooting, but he is also a very gifted passer.

Meanwhile the Warriors still haven't figured out how to cool off Douby who now has 34. His jumpers have been pretty to watch, but it's his drives to the hole that are keeping everyone off balance.

Golden State's Dion Dowell had the chance to be a hero and he let it slip through his hands. With his team down two in the closing seconds, an inbounds pass by the Kings landed right in his hands. As he went in for the uncontested game-tying layup, he lost the ball on his way up.

Douby finished with 36 points for the Kings, who handed the Warriors their first loss. Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson both had double-doubles.

Watson led the Warriors with 24 points. Anthony Randolph had 16 and Belinelli went 1-for-10 for six points. He didn't grab a single rebound.  


Joey Graham Watch

The same way I slow down my car to stare at car accidents and move closer to people fighting so that I can get a better view, I find myself focusing on Joey Graham during every Toronto game.

I don't know why, I just do.

Graham appears to be the perfect combination of speed and strength -- two skills that play a big part in a successful NBA player. Why then has his career been on a steady decline since he was chosen with the 16th pick out of Oklahoma State in 2005?

He saw action in just 38 games this past season, averaging a paltry 3.6 points and 1.8 rebounds as his confidence dwindled along with his playing time.

"Last season was tough for me," said Graham following the Raptors' 89-71 win over the Lakers in Day 8 action at summer league. "I didn't really play that much."

The fourth-year pro is in Las Vegas trying to get a head start on fixing what has been wrong with his game.

"I want to stay consistent," Graham said. "The coaches asked me to come here and provid
e leadership, play defense and score points. I give myself a B minus."

Graham posted 20 points and five rebounds Friday. That is right in line with his four-game average of 19.3 and six.

"I have some things I need to work on," Graham said. "I want to rekindle the flame."

A couple of teammates have really impressed the power forward.

"[Nathan Jawai] is very athletic and C.J. Giles is like a sponge," Graham said. "He'll be able to learn a lot from guys like Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Bosh."

Like everyone else, Graham can't wait to see how O'Neal and Bosh play together.

"They both have all of the tools," Graham said. "It's going to be exciting to see how Jermaine fits into the chemistry of the team."

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

Gallinari out with sore back

I was running late today -- as usual -- and I get to the arena for the Knicks vs. Spurs game in time to read this from the Associated Press.

"New York Knicks rookie Danilo Gallinari has a sore lower back and is listed as doubtful for the remainder of the Las Vegas summer league.

The forward from Italy, the No. 6 overall pick, was hurt during the Knicks' opener, a 97-94 victory over Cleveland on Monday. He rebounded from a scoreless first half to finish with 14 points, shooting 5-for-7 after halftime.

Gallinari didn't dress for New York's game against San Antonio on Wednesday. An MRI revealed no significant findings, and he will rest and get treatments the rest of the week in Las Vegas before returning to Italy."


Knicks vs. Spurs

Reigning NBA Summer League MVP Nate Robinson, who didn't play in New York's opening game, is off to a slow start shooting (1-for-5), but has handed out three assists.

It's late in the third quarter and the game is tied at 53. Bad news for New York fans, Renaldo Balkman was just carried off the court with an apparent ankle injury.

Robinson's shooting didn't improve as the game went on. He finished 2-for-10 from the floor (including missing five of six treys) as the Knicks lost 82-67.

For the second straight game, San Antonio's George Hill didn't make a shot. He missed all 10 of his attempts Tuesday and was 0-for-6 from the field today. His poor shooting didn't prevent him from rebounding (six boards) or passing well (four assists).

Big men James Gist and Ian Mahinmi both had a double-double in the win.


Roberson's big deal

Earlier today, it was reported that the Knicks are going to sign Anthony Roberson to a two-year deal. Through three quarters, he is 3-for-10 for a total of 10 points off the bench. Does this mean the end of the Stephon Marbury era in New York?

Roberson finished the game 4-for-13, but led the Knicks in scoring with 12 points. He also had two assists and two rebounds.


Reggie the Cameraman

It's early in the first quarter and Kings head coach Reggie Theus is in the stands videotaping the game between Sacramento and Dallas. I have no clue why he's personally doing that, but he has to like what he's seeing. Sacramento 10, Dallas 3.

Man has this game been brutal to watch. The Mavericks led by 14 at halftime and by 20 after three quarters. Gerald Green has knocked down a few jumpers and leads all scorers with 18 points for Dallas. He's also grabbed seven boards in easily his best showing of the summer. The athletic Charles Rhodes has also reached double digits in points for the Mavs.

The only noteworthy thing I can bring up about the Kings is, why does Jason Thompson keep ice-grilling the Mavericks after routine dunks when his team is down 20 plus? I never dunked in my life, so maybe I can't relate.


Thorpe on Sacramento's Jason Thompson and Sean Singletary

David Thorpe of ESPN.com weighs in on a pair of Kings.

"Thompson is an immediate upgrade to the Kings frontline as an athlete. They had the least athletic frontline in the league last year. He's got a nice combination of skills with size and projects as someone who can play well next to Spencer Hawes. Geoff Petrie likes his offensive sets to include pinch-post action. For that action to work effectively, the big has to be able to make that shot or get to the rim while being a good passer. Both Thompson and Hawes look like they'll be able to do those things.

"Making a game-winning shot in an NBA Summer League game, while playing well in general, sends him into the rest of the offseason thinking positive thoughts. The alternative to that would have been scary because he's coming from Rider. You don't want him questioning if he can play on this level. That thought is no longer an issue."

On Singletary: "Beno Udrih is the starting point guard in Sacramento, but he is more of a score first, pass second type of point guard. That style works for him. If the Kings want more of a true lead guard, Sean may be the answer. He was a prolific scorer in Virginia, but has been a pass-first guy in summer league. Kevin Martin told me Saturday that he really likes the "way that kid plays and passes."


Wake Me At 8:30 p.m. ET

The first two games of the day were both blowouts and neither featured a great individual performance. Hopefully things will get better in the late games when the trio of Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo and Donte Greene take the floor in three separate games. I'm most interested to see how Green follows up his 40-point effort.

The Sixers and Wizards on playing right now. When Philly took Marreese Speights, I didn't boo, but I didn't cheer either. I took a wait-and-see approach. Although it's summer league, I'm impressed by what I've seen so far. The big body has a nice touch around the basket and brings energy to the floor. He is definitely good enough to crack Philly's regular rotation. Today he has combined with Jason Smith to score 20 of the Sixers' first 22 points.

Speights and Smith both had monster games as the Sixers rolled. Speights had 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Smith had 24 and 11.


Kevin Love aka Chairman of the Boards

Kevin Love, who needs a good nickname by the way, is ridiculous. No really he is. Anyone who can get 20 points and 10 rebounds on a nightly basis without ever having a play called for them is special. He had all of his gifts on display in the second quarter of Minnesota's game against the Lakers. He drove to the hole for a bucket and a foul. He followed up a missed shot with a layup. He filled the lane for another basket on the break. He penetrated and kicked it out to a teammate, who drained a jumper. And of course, he threw his signature outlet passes. Through three quarters, he has 16 points, 13 rebounds and four assists -- which is more than anyone on either team. Problem is, the Wolves still enter the last people trailing by two. There are going to be a lot more games that follow that pattern in his future.

The Lakers' Joe Crawford hit a layup in the closing seconds to ruin Love's big night. Love finished with 18 points (9-for-18), 17 rebounds and two blocked shots. Teammate Corey Brewer also had a strong game in defeat, dropping in 19 points.


Greene Is Smooth

In the final game of the night, Donte Greene has splashed three jumpers -- one triple, two doubles -- for the Rockets in the first quarter. He kind of glides around the court, chomping on his gum at a frantic pace, on offense until it's time to raise up and unleash his jumper, which keeps hitting the bottom of the net. Eight minutes into the period and he has seven points already.

Joey Dorsey entered the game midway through the first quarter for the Rockets. The power forward has been doing what he does -- he got called for a charge and pulled down two rebounds in six minutes.

With his height, if Greene continues to shoot the ball this well, he will be a nightmare to defend. He scored 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first period.

Greene has cooled off but Dorsey continues to be a problem. He just had back-to-back dunks, has pulled down eight rebounds and leads everyone with three assists.

Remember all that stuff I was saying earlier about Greene? Forget about it. He has missed seven straight in a variety of ways.

Cleveland's J.J. Hickson isn't having a much better go of it. He has missed six of nine shots, but still leads the Cavs with nine points.

If you are the best boxer in the world, why do you have to travel with an 11-person entourage? Floyd Mayweather and friends have seen enough of this contest, leaving midway through the
fourth quarter with the Cavs up four.

Houston's Maarty Leunen is having a day. He is 5-of-6 from the field (3-of-4 on treys) and leads everyone with 17 points.

Hickson closed out the game in style by making four of his last six shots and led the Cavaliers with 18 points.

Greene took 17 shots (making four) to score 17 points. Teammate Aaron Brooks had an outstanding all-around game, posting 16 points, including the game-winning free throws in the closing seconds, and seven assists. 

  • 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.

Tuesday Bullets

July, 15, 2008
7/15/08
4:00
PM ET
By Maurice Brooks
  • Minnesota's Kevin Love learned a lot in his first summer league game, including that he needs to get in better shape.
  • Summer league or not, this slam by Gerald Green is one of the top dunks I've ever seen.
  • $3.8 million was not enough dough to get Keyon Dooling to sign on the dotted line.
  • Danny Ainge is happy that the Celtics were able to reward their loyal fans with a championship.
  • When the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari, they knew they were getting the player we saw yesterday, which is a good thing.
  • Although they probably won't be suiting up for the Lakers in the fall, Davon Jefferson and Lorenzo Mata-Real are thrilled to be playing on the summer league team.
  • The Nets have too many bigs and not enough point guards.
  • The place I grew up visiting on a weekly basis as a kid is getting demolished.
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. 

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. 

SPONSORED HEADLINES