TrueHoop: Mike Taylor

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz 

Five days down, five to go at Las Vegas Summer League. Some teams are nearly through with their schedule, while others are just rolling into town. Since we're halfway through, it's a good moment to take inventory of what we've seen so far, and hand out some early awards.

Keep in mind that some teams have played only a single game and some stellar performances might not be acknowledged (read: Jerryd Bayless): 

All-Rookie Team

  • Tyreke Evans (SAC): Evans' one-on-one power game has produced a sick line. In three games, Evans has averaged 24.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Most impressively, Evans has attempted 41 free throws in three games. His transition to point guard is a work in progress, but he'll be a scoring machine no matter where he plays on the floor.

    Tyreke Evans Tyreke Evans has shown the ability to score points at will.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Blake Griffin (LAC): Griffin followed up his momentous 27-point, 12-rebound debut Monday night with a hum-drum 16-point, 9-rebound, 5-assist performance. Griffin directs traffic on both ends of the floor, and has been a pleasant surprise on pick-and-roll defense -- something he didn't encounter a whole lot at the college level. 
  • Darren Collison (NOH): The Hornets' first-round pick has brought the discipline and patience of his UCLA pedigree to the pro game. He matched George Hill mano-a-mano in his first game, then came back Tuesday night with 23 points. He's also a perfect 16-for-16 from the stripe in his two games. 
  • Roddy Beaubois (DAL): Before the Mavericks' rookie point guard took a scary spill Monday night in his third outing, he was electrifying crowds in Cox Pavilion with his combination of speed and range. He ran up 34 points against the Rockets Saturday night, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc. 
  • Jodie Meeks (MIL): The second-round pick out of Kentucky might not be one of the more athletic two-guards here, but he has lit it up from midrange, averaging 16.7 points per game on 60 percent shooting. The Bucks' brass is said to be very, very pleased.

All-Sophomore Team

  • Anthony Randolph (GSW): Quite simply, the most dominant, skilled, devastating player in town. On Tuesday, his 42 points tied a Summer League record. His current averages through four games: 26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks on 60.9 percent shooting from the field.
  • George Hill (SAS): Hill has demonstrated a complete command of the Spurs offense. He has picked his spots offensively, and finished -- unlike last year, when he shot eight percent from the field in Summer League action. He's averaging 20.5 points per game and getting to the line at will.
  • Eric Gordon (LAC): In his two games, the Clippers' second-year guard has muscled his way to the hole for 21 and 22 points, respectively. His 21-for-22 totals from the free-throw line demonstrate that strategy is working well. 
  • Robin Lopez (PHX): The question surrounding Lopez has been one of resolve, but Lopez looked fierce in his first Summer League game, racking up 24 points, 16 boards, and a couple of blocks.
  • DeAndre Jordan (LAC): Jordan's athletic attributes have never been in question. Whether he could package it all together into a coherent low-post game was another matter. So far, Jordan has dominated the interior for the Clippers. He's shooting 15-for-19 from the field. He's shown sharp recognition in the post and is winning every race to the basket.  

All-Vets & Journeymen Team

  • Quincy Douby (TOR): Douby has been working hard on his game, and his effort is paying off in Las Vegas. He's shooting the ball efficiently from distance, racking up assists, and keeping turnovers to a minimum. Toronto may not have room for him in their backcourt, but his 19 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting should catch someone's attention. 
  • Nick Young (WAS): The Wizards haven't even unpacked, but Nick Young's first game Tuesday night was a revelation. The third-year guard went insane, running up 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting, against the Cavs' hapless perimeter defenders. 
  • Adam Morrison (LAL): It might not be the most efficient stat line of the week, but Morrison has put together a nice series of games. He's scored from distance, off cuts, and by putting the ball on the deck. It's a long road back for Morrison, but this week has served as a solid stepping stone back to respectability. 
  • David Monds (LAL): The forward spent last summer in the D-League, and has been a solid contributor to the Lakers' 3-1 Summer League record thus far. He's averaging 14 points and five rebounds, and only 0.5 turnovers per game. He's also shooting an efficient 64.1 percent from the field.
  • Walker Russell, Jr. (D-League Select): A sentimental choice off the D-League Select roster, Russell is a creative, pass-first point guard. He sees the floor with an uncanny awareness of exactly where his teammates are, and where they want the ball. His pinpoint passes were the highlight of the Select team's victory over the Timberwolves. 

All-The-Week-Isn't-Working-Out-So-Far Team

David Thorpe shares his thoughts about who's had a disappointing week in Vegas

  • Stephen Curry Curry has struggled with his shooting touch, while Randolph can't seem to miss.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

    Stephen Curry (GSW): The good news for Curry is that he's been able to get shots -- largely because the ball has been in his hand. He's picking his opportunities. Unfortunately, he's picking far too many of them. Although he's averaging 19.5 points per game, he's doing it on only 31.4 percent shooting. His assist/turnover ratio? 4.5 to 3.75. 
  • Donte Greene (SAC): Greene is a bit of collateral damage playing next to Tyreke Evans. He needs the ball in the right spots, and Evans can't deliver those passes yet. So Greene is struggling to score efficiently, shooting only 8-for-27 over three games. 
  • Mike Taylor (LAC): Taylor can shoot, is lightning quick, and plays with spirit. But he's not been able to put it together and doesn't look like a rotation point guard. 
  • Bobby Brown (MIN): Sorry to break fellow Titan Marc Stein's heart, but for a team that just drafted two rookie PGs, Brown hoped to show this week that he could be part of the Timberwolves' backcourt rotation. That's looking unlikely. He's shooting 35.7 percent from the field, and not giving the 'Wolves much else. 
  • Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL): Mbah a Moute has already proved he's a rotation player in this league. He was hoping to show that he can be more than just a tough defender. Thus far, that hasn't happen

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Moments prior to Blake Griffin's NBA debut, the Los Angeles Clippers' brass was lined up courtside, smiling widely like expectant parents. And if the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas weren't a smoke-free facility, they would've been lighting up stogies two minutes into the Clippers' Summer League game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Blake Griffin Blake Griffin: Scoring Every Which Way
(Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

Griffin, the Clips' prized rookie and the first overall pick in this year's NBA draft, delivered seven points in the game's first three possessions. In his first professional set, Griffin hooked up with second-year guard Eric Gordon for a pick-and-roll that resulted in an easy layup for the rookie.

"That should be the bread and butter this coming year," Gordon said. "We're both young guys and we should have a great chemistry."

The Gordon-Griffin connection was just the opening salvo in Griffin's 27-point, 12-rebound attack, but it was a huge relief for the rookie who was antsy to play competitive basketball for the first time since suiting up for Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament last spring.

"I really wanted to hit my first layup to take the edge off a little bit," Griffin said. "I kind of settled down on my jumpers."

You could say that.

Though Griffin hit a grand total of three 3-pointers in his two-year college career, he followed up that first layup Monday night by moving out to the perimeter for his next two buckets. On the Clippers' second possession, Griffin got the ball from guard Mike Taylor, absorbed hard contact from Lakers big man Ben McCauley, squared up and went glass from 15. He bested that the next trip down with a silky 3-pointer.

What got into Griffin?

It might have something to do with the fact that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy actually stopped practice the other day to implore the rookie to launch the ball when he's got an open look.

"I caught one almost in the same position, passed it up, and he stopped me and said, 'Shoot the ball. I'm not going to get mad if you take a wide-open shot,'" Griffin recounted. "So I'm trying to get into that mindset."

Griffin has been plugging away to refine his outside shot. In a league increasingly dominated by power forwards who can do more than just throw their weight around inside of 15 feet, he knows he'll have to develop a face-up game if he wants to live up to his promise.

"The kid's been working like crazy on his outside shot," Dunleavy said. "Yesterday in practice, he hit a 20-footer, then a 3-pointer to end one of the games, and made probably six jumpers over 20 feet."

Griffin finished 11-of-15 from the field, and those 11 shots came every which way. He worked familiar territory on the right block. He pulled down offensive rebounds and muscled up putbacks. He fired turnaround hook shots. He even ignited a solo, coast-to-coast break to punctuate his performance in the fourth quarter. Granted, Griffin will draw tougher assignments this fall than McCauley and David Monds, but the range of skills the rookie displayed Monday night was impressive.

"He did everything we expected him to do," Dunleavy said. "For a guy like him, it's hard to have a bad game because he plays so hard and does so many things. He's very unselfish and he draws a lot of attention. Tonight, he made the plays to the right people at the right time and got them easy scores."

Along those lines, Griffin repeatedly laid out hard screens for Gordon and Taylor, precisely the sort of grunt work that the Clippers sorely missed last season at the power forward spot. Twice when he got doubled in the right post, Griffin whipped sharp interior passes to open teammates.

On defense, Griffin was the most vocal presence on the floor for the Clippers, playing traffic cop on every defensive set. He let his guards know when screens were coming, and called out defensive assignments in transition.

"I did a lot of that last year in college," Griffin said. "This year I have to step it up even more because it will help me out, and if I talk I'm more aware of everything that's going on around me."

Awareness wasn't a strong suit of the Clippers last season. They finished 19-63, and dead last in the league in offensive efficiency. Although injuries played a measurable role in the team's struggles, their nightly routine was marred, above all, by laziness and a lack of intensity.

Griffin brings no such deficit to the court. If anything, the rookie was overly keyed up for his first game. After his early scoring spurt, Griffin racked up a couple of careless turnovers -- a function of playing too fast. As he went back to the bench at the end of the first quarter, the coaching staff had a tip for him.

"Just relax and have fun," Griffin said.

Thursday Bullets

April, 2, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • Former Pistons coach Chuck Daly is drawing up plays from his hospital bed for Jay Wright to run for Villanova in the Final Four.
  • Bad break for a good Sixers team:"[Thaddeus] Young sprained his ankle in Tuesday's 98-85 victory, and the Sixers learned the extent of that injury yesterday. An MRI exam also revealed a bone bruise. The team expects him to be sidelined for two to three weeks, which means he could miss the start of the playoffs."
  • Dave D'Alessandro on Nets coach Lawrence Frank: "Business as usual for L-Frank. Still upbeat, still classy, still team-obsessed, still has his head in the game. He probably knows this is not going to end as well as he had hoped, but this isn't the kind of guy who burns bridges, and the only preemptive strike he believes in would be a 2-0 lead."
  • SLAM's Lang Whitaker with a stellar Twitpic of "Derrick Rose Colored Glasses.
  • Interesting conclusion from Ira Winderman on the Heat's backcourt situation: "In a moment of semi-candor, Spoelstra said before the game the loss of Luther Head means the team lacks a needed combo guard. Translation: Cook lacks the needed handle to play point and Quinn lacks the size to defend shooting guards."
  • I'm still partial my original Darko in Chains tee, but FD has released some new swag in anticipation of a certain potential Finals matchup. 
  • Baron Davis has a confession: "I talk to my beard all the time. He has a mind of his own."
  • Dwight Howard: Not of fan of the zoo, or Stan Van Gundy's sideline antics. Much more bullish on Philippians 4:13.  
  • Clips Nation on rookie guard Mike Taylor, and the Clippers' proximity to rookie explosions: "Taylor has started the last two games at the point guard, and scored 35 in the game before that against the Knicks.  Did you know that the Clippers were involved in the top three rookie scoring performances of the season?  (1) Eric Gordon, 41 points against the Thunder.  (2) Anthony Morrow, 37 points against the Clippers.  (3) Mike Taylor, 35 points against the Knicks.  That's correct -- Mike Taylor's 35 are better than any game by O.J. Mayo or Russell Westbrook this season."
  • At some point the exploits of Charles Charles MaGall will cross from funny to creepy.  Right now, his persistent challenges to Dwyane Wade are funny. For now.
  • Ross Siler reassures skeptical Jazz fans: "I just wanted to address the perception that some/one of you has that your Jazz beat writer is a closet Lakers fan. Although I covered the Lakers for three seasons, I write about them in this space only because they are my frame of reference in covering the Jazz now .. If I left tomorrow to cover another team, I'm sure I would annoy their fans by writing about the Lakers and the Jazz in a blog there. If you're interested, I grew up outside of Washington and still follow the Redskins/Wizards/Nationals more than anything."
  • From the Golden State Warriors: "Referee Bob Delaney, who worked our game last night, visited the Oakland Police Department during his stay in the Bay Area this week.  He spoke to a group of the officers and offered his support for the department following the tragic events on March 21, when four Oakland Police Offers were tragically murdered in the line of duty in what started as a random traffic stop. Delaney has been involved in the training of Police Officers for the last 30 years and said he considers the men and women of the OPD among the best in the world. The funeral for the four offices was held at ORACLE Arena last Friday, when over 20,000 people filled the venue to its capacity."
  • Reader Eli Steinberger has a thought about Allen Iverson: "Allen Iverson to Europe. It's the perfect storm:  1. Aging superstar 2. Can still score on anyone 3. Refuses to take a smaller role - DUDE, just hop across the pond!  Think he'd go for it?  He'd get a HUGE paycheck, super-duper-star status, and as much PT as he wants.  He could become the first guy to win an MVP in both leagues."
  • The NBA launches a reality show in China. Buried toward the bottom of the story: "The NBA has opened three league retail stores in China and sales have topped projections by 70 percent. Even sales of Yao's jersey rank only No. 10 in China, trailing such American stars as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, according to the NBA. The league projects retail sales in China to rise 60 percent this year and another 70 percent in 2010."

Mike Taylor Ascending

November, 10, 2008

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The summer of 2007, Mike Taylor was booted off the Iowa State University squad for disciplinary problems.  As an NBA prospect, he was essentially left for dead.  Fast-forward about a year: After a productive season with D-League's Idaho Stampede, Taylor became the first D-Leaguer in history to be selected in an NBA draft when he was chosen by Portland in the second round at #55, then traded to the Clippers.  

Since then, Taylor has zoomed up the Clippers' depth chart at point guard and has dazzled Clipper fans with his transition game and quicks.  Last week he made his first NBA start against Utah. 

I sat down with Taylor after the Clippers win over Dallas yesterday afternoon:

TrueHoop: First off, how's it going in Los Angeles?  
Taylor: Real Good.  Real Good.  I'm taking every day as a learning process.

Going back to the Summer of 2007: How did you regroup after you left Iowa State?  How did you get from Ames, Iowa to Boise, Idaho and arrive at your decision to go to the D-League?
For about two months after ISU, I didn't touch a basketball.  But I had to make a decision:  If I wanted to stay in Division One, I'd have to sit out a year.  I could go to a D-2 program and play right away.  So I went on a couple of D-2 visits, but I didn't see myself getting better as a player in D-2I talked to Curtis Weathers, my AAU coach in Milwaukee.  He sent me out to Sacramento to work out with Gus Armstead.  I spent about one or two months out there.  That's when I met the assistant coach for Idaho.  Once the D-League came calling&I'd rather be there than a low-level D-2 program.  So I set my mind on the D-League.

The D-League held their draft on Friday. If you had to give three pieces of advice for a D-League player who wants to make it to the Association, what would you tell them?

First: Pray.  I did a lot of that every day.
Then, never expect anything to be given to you.  Through my whole time there, I never looked for a call-up.
Last, play to your strengths, but also play for your team.
After you got done with the D-League season last summer, what was the process like?
It was a grind.  I worked out for 14 teams.  Two-hour workouts.  Every day -- new city, new hotel, lots of fast food.  But I was chasing my dream.
Tell me about Draft Day.  Did you expect to have your name called?  Were you glued to the tube?
My agent told me that I was projected late first round/early second round.  I watched the draft with my family back home in Milwaukee. I stopped watching at, like, #45.  I went into my room, and my phone was dead.  But I left my agent my sister's number.   So a little later, my sister comes running into my room with her phone.  And my agent said, "I'm not sure when you're going to go, but the Clippers are going to make a trade for you.  It was ironic, because I thought I was a higher pick, but that's been the story of my life.  Getting picked so low made me feel that I gotta prove myself.  So I was satisfied.
Guarding NBA point guards is a far cry from defending PGs in the Big 12 or the D-League.  And Mike Dunleavy is known as a hard-nosed, defense-first coach.  How are you adjusting?
I always had a lot of energy.  But in college, I was looked upon as a scorer.  What I've tried to do here is channel that energy into playing defense.  I can move quick laterally, and I don't like anyone beating me off the dribble.  I take pride in that.

Coach Dunleavy clearly likes your style, and you got your first NBA start last week.  How did that go down?
He told me after we played Utah the first time.  He said, "We're going to start you the next game.  It was exciting.

What part of your game do you want to work on the most this season?
Court vision.  I want to continue to learn how to be an NBA point guard.  It's a learning process every day.