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.
ESPN's David Thorpe says that Arron Afflalo has been one of the best players here at summer league. While I've been most impressed with Portland's Jerryd Bayless and Golden State's Marco Belinelli, Afflalo does deserve to be in the conversation.
Here are Thorpe's thoughts on Afflalo.
"Every team likes a backup player to either be solid or to bring a spark off the bench -- think Eddie House, think Jannero Pargo, those are spark guys as two guards. Afflalo is a solid guy. He always knows what to do and where to be. He doesn't waste dribbles or movements. He digs in on defense and makes the right play on offense. Out here he is showing a better ability to score because that's his role. Going forward, that is something we might see, that he is someone that can provide production on offense off the bench for the Pistons."
Wouldn't you know it, on the day I choose to hype "Double A", he goes 1-for-7 from the field for six points in the first half. The Pistons are trailing the Mavs by six.
In the first three games, Afflalo is averaging 19.3 points and 4.0 rebounds.
With Rodney Stuckey out of the lineup again because of his bad toe, Afflalo has taken on more of a playmaker role today. He leads everyone with six assists. It's almost like he's switched places Will Bynum, who got the start at point guard. Bynum is 6-for-8 for 14 points.
Call it the TrueHoop curse. Afflalo missed all six of his shot attempts after intermission, finishing with seven points and six assists. Walter Sharpe showed a nice touch from outside, making his first two treys. Overall, he finished with 16 points and even though he hung out on the perimeter a fair amount of time, was still able to get three offensive boards.
Gerald Green, who scored eight points, closed out Dallas' six-point win with a big dunk.
Leading the Pack
Here are the statistical leaders through day six:
Donte Greene, Rockets: 28.5
Jerryd Bayless, Blazers: 27.0
Marco Belinelli, Warriors: 23.0
J.J. Hickson, Cavaliers: 22.0
Alando Tucker, Suns: 22.0
Kevin Love, Wolves: 15.0
Joey Dorsey, Rockets: 14.0
Elton Brown, Nuggets: 10.5
Shelden Williams, Kings: 10.5
Marreese Speights, Sixers: 10.0
Ramon Sessions, Bucks: 6.5
Bobby Brown, Hornets: 6.0
Aaron Brooks, Rockets: 5.5
Jamont Gordon, Sixers: 5.0
D.J. Strawberry, Suns: 5.0
C.J. Giles, Raptors: 3.5
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Wolves: 3.0
Javale McGee, Wizards: 2.5
Cheikh Samb, Pistons: 2.0
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: 2.0
C.J. Watson, Warriors: 4.3
Quincy Douby, Kings: 3.3
Julian Wright, Hornets: 3.0
Donte Greene, Rockets: 2.0
Hassan Adams, Raptors: 2.0
Williams starring again
Clippers forward Marcus Williams went off for 23 points and 10 rebounds last night against the Grizzies. He is following that up today with another strong showing, dropping in 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half. The key for Williams is shot selection. While a lot of players in Vegas have forced shots, Williams seems to let the game come to him. He also has four rebounds.
Al Thornton (1-for-4 from the field) is having a quiet game for L.A. He seems to be willing to let his teammates do the shooting.
Hornets' forward Hilton Armstrong is in a groove. He has 15 points and five rebounds for New Orleans, which trails by nine going into the last period.
The Hornets won the game by four in overtime. Armstrong stayed hot, totaling 25 points and eight rebounds in easily his best game here. Julian Wright misfired to the tune of 4-for-13, while Bobby Brown helped build the brick house by going 7-for-18. He posted 17 points and six assists.
Jordan's Glass Work
Clippers' forward DeAndre Jordan plays with a lot of emotion. Although that can sometimes be a bad thing, it seems to be working for him -- I'll ignore the airball he just shot from the foul line. He has six points on 3-of-8 shooting and 11 rebounds.
Here is Thorpe's take on the big man.
"If he was a stock on the market, you could pick him up at a pretty low price right now. I just don't think his future looks bright as a second-round pick because they don't have a lot of incentive to invest time with him. His 11 rebounds look great, but most of them came right to him. I don't think that he has got any rebounds out of area. It doesn't impress me that he jumps straight up in his spot and grabs rebounds. He doesn't play with great energy or intelligence and his emotional IQ is very low. He is a young man and he wouldn't be the first to change his career path. It doesn't happen very often."
Late Is Better Than Early
Once again, it seems like the better games are scheduled later. No, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash aren't here, but I'm sure the Suns will get out and run, making their game against the Spurs at 5:30 p.m. PT interesting.
At 7, the closest thing there is to a must-see game at summer league will take place between Jerryd Bayless' Blazers and Kevin Love's Wolves.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Mike D'Antoni's old team plays his new team at 1.
Strawberry and Lopez
I just got done watching a half of the game between the Spurs and Suns. What can't D.J. Strawberry do? He used his explosive first step to get into the lane at will and once there he caused havoc on San Antonio. Sometimes he drove and kicked it out to open teammates for jumpers. Other times he went to the bucket hard. He seemed to be playing at a different speed than everyone else. What was refreshing is that he gave the same kind of effort on the defensive side of the floor. Completing my observation of him was how he embraced his leadership role. After a busted play between himself and Jared Jordan, he took 20 seconds to explain what he was thinking and where he wanted Jordan to be on the floor.
Strawberry had 11 points and three rebounds at the half for the Suns, who led by eight.
With his three brothers watching, Robin Lopez put on quite a performance. He followed up one miss with a thunderous dunk. He tipped in another miss. He caught a pass on the break and made a gorgeous feed to Strawberry in stride for a jam. And most importantly, he was a force on the glass, grabbing seven boards to go with his 10 points.
After going 0-for-10 and 0-for-6 from the field in his last two games, respectively, San Antonio's George Hill won't hit a shot tonight either. The San Antonio coaching staff gave him the night off.
Philly's Gordon to the rescue
The Sixers ended their time here in Sin City with three straight wins after starting 0-2. Jamont Gordon hit a reverse layup off a feed from Marreese Speights with 0.6 showing on the clock to give Philly an 87-85 win.
Speights had another double-double, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds while blocking four shots. Jason Smith had 12 and 12 and Thaddeus Young led all scorers with 21 points.
C.J. Giles continued to throw his body around, tallying 13 points, 12 boards and three blocked shots for Toronto.
I've noticed the same spectator alternating rooting and heckling at every game since summer league began. He has been rewarded for showing up. After the Wolves' game the other day, he asked Corey Brewer for his handband. Brewer responded
by tossing it to him -- sweat dripping off it and all.
Just now he begged Speights for his jersey. Although it is way too big for him, I bet it will be a nice addition to his collection.
Wolves vs. Blazers
Unlike during the regular season, the officials at summer league don't have numbers on the back of their jerseys. Portland's Jerryd Bayless appeared to get bumped going to the basket, but the ref on the baseline didn't make a call. This prompted a fan in the front row to yell, "You'll never get a number on your back blowing calls like that."
Kevin Love just pleased the crowd with a dunk and is off to a great start. He has scored seven of Minnesota's first 14 points, while Bayless has seven of Portland's first 15.
Once Bayless gets the rock, you know he's going to attack the basket, hence he has already attempted seven more free throws today. I would like to see him knock down a few jumpers and improve on his assist total (he has zero), but it's hard to argue with the way he is playing. He has 11 points and the always steady Petteri Koponen has 10 for the Blazers, who trail 40-36 at halftime.
Love has 13 points and five rebounds, but has missed a couple of shots from close range. He is 3-for-11 from the field.
How about that, Bayless just hit a step-back jumper and threw a no-look pass to Josh Davis for a bucket. As I'm typing, he drained another jumper to cap his 12-point period. He leads everyone with 23 points and at last, he got an assist.
Love has done more than his part, posting 20 points and seven rebounds en route to leading the Wolves to a double-digit lead heading into the fourth.
Portland's Brandon Robinson sat on the bench for three quarters before finally entering the game so obviously he was a little cold. Still, does that explain the long-sleeve shirt under his jersey? He is the second player in seven days to rock that look.
In the Love vs. Bayless matchup, Love came out the winner. For starters, his team won by 10. He went 7-for-20 from the field, 12-for-14 from the line, grabbed 15 rebounds (10 offensive) and had two assists (official stats say one, but there is no way the outlet pass he threw to Pooh Jeter for the and-1 wasn't a dime, even if he didn't receive credit for it).
Bayless, who had a heating pad on his back and ice on both knees after the game (maybe he was sore after crashing into press row and almost sending my computer into my lap), wasn't a slouch. He had 29 points on 8-for-15 from the floor, 13-of-16 from the line (that's 55 attempts in three games), gave out two assists and grabbed six boards.
When it came time to vote for the MVP of summer league last year, I put New York's Nate Robinson at the top of my ballot for two reasons -- he was playing outstanding and the Knicks were undefeated.
Since Portland and Minnesota both have 1-2 records, I may have to change my way of thinking. With apologies to the fans in Golden State (Marco Belinelli is hot, team is 3-0), Bayless and Love are the two best players after seven days in Vegas regardless of what their team's records are.
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Six quarters into his summer league experience, Milwaukee first-round pick Joe Alexander hasn't exactly set the world on fire. He scored seven points on 2-for-13 shooting in his opening game against the Grizzlies. Today against the Pistons, he hit a pair of short jumpers in the first quarter, but still doesn't appear completely comfortable.
Here is what ESPN's David Thorpe has noticed.
"He's still playing way too fast. He's not reading the game at all. Joe's knowledge and feel for the game aren't great and not only is he running too fast, but he is running too fast the wrong way -- if that makes any sense. He needs to stay away from the baseline and take advantage of his size and gifts. The last two times he touched the ball, he did that. He backed his man down and hit a nice turnaround jumper. Then, he did it again and made a simple pass to a teammate instead of rushing a shot when nothing is there. Just now he did a pick-and-pop, caught the ball on the wing and did a settle dribble. His teammate cut and he hit him in stride for a layup. He is definitely starting to figure it out. As long as he keeps making simple plays, his talents can come through in other areas."
Alexander is 5-for-9 from the floor with two assists and two rebounds. He has been floating around on the perimeter, mainly shooting jumpers and that is the biggest reason he hasn't attempted a free throw today.
I caught up with Alexander -- who finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists -- after the game.
"All I can do is continue to work hard," Alexander said. "I judge how I played, by how I feel mentally. I think I did some good things today."
Alexander had a simple explanation for the reason he didn't reach the charity stripe.
"I'm taking what's coming to me," Alexander said. "I shoot when I'm open. I want to stay calm and mentally in control. I'm trying to pick things up."
Although it has only been a couple of games, Alexander says there is a big difference between playing in college and playing in the pros.
"The guys are definitely bigger and faster," Alexander said. "Also, whenever you shoot, out of the corner of your eye you see hands. They really get to the ball. In college, if you were open, you were open."
Bynum vs. Sessions
The point guard battle between Detroit's Will Bynum and Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions has been fun to watch. Bynum causes havoc all over the floor. Three quarters into the game, he officially hasn't been credited with a steal, but he has forced several Milwaukee dribblers to lose control of the ball. On the offensive side, he continues to break players down off the dribble and set up teammates for good looks.
Sessions has had the hot hand shooting -- making 5-of-8 shots for a game-high 16 points -- while also grabbing five rebounds and giving out a pair of assists. Despite his point total, he knows his role is to get his teammates the rock and he has been very effective doing that.
Sessions had final numbers of 21 points, six boards and four assists. He has the tools to be a starting quarterback in the league.
This e-mail from TrueHoop reader Luke pretty much sums up Danilo Gallinari's debut.
"I'm watching the Cleveland vs. New York summer league game in the midst of errands. Within minutes of turning on the game, I see Danilo Gallinari assist a three. I leave the room. I return, just in time to see Gallinari cleanly foil a wide-open, fastbreak dunk. Again, I leave the room. When I come back, Gallinari's picking up an awkward pass on the baseline. He moves toward the perimeter in reset-speed, then turns and fires an easy college three. I'm already impressed.
"Then, I leave the room again. This time, I happen to return as a Knick shot bounces high off the rim, and Gallinari reaches back for a stretched-out, two-handed, put-back slam (with force). Before I can say, "What kind of fool would boo this kid?!", he drops another college three. In the meantime, as I type this, he just splashed two more long jumpers -- one after breaking a little ankle. Who booed this pick? Couldn't have been any Knicks fans, right?"
Possible 2009 NBA Finals Preview: Sixers vs. Lakers?
Once again, I'm impressed by Coby Karl. He has good handle, can shoot it from distance and I haven't seen a player with more heart (hustle plays, takes charges) all week. He has nine points for the Lakers who have a 38-37 lead on the Sixers.
I'm a Sixers fan and "WE" just got Elton Brand so I can dream, right?
Philly got 16 points each from Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith on the way to an eight-point win.
Karl led L.A. with 18, while Joe Crawford threw in 16.
Learning What To Do From Marc Stein
I haven't really enjoyed carrying my laptop with me all over Las Vegas. Apparently, ESPN's Marc Stein has the solution to that problem -- leave it in the hotel and simply borrow a co-workers. This explains why there haven't been any new LIVE BLOG posts in the past two hours -- Stein was busy using my computer to report on the Marcus Camby to the Clippers trade.
Bobby Brown Shows Off Again
Speaking of Stein, he wore a Cal State Fullerton shirt to the arena today in honor of Hornets' guard Bobby Brown, who like Stein, attended the university.
Stein should be proud, as Brown continued to be one of the stars of summer league, tallying game highs in points (15) and assists (8) in New Orleans' 76-68 victory over the Spurs.
Hill's Night To Forget
Whenever my kids act up and I have to discipline them, I usually start off my lecture with something they did right before I hit them with the list of things they did wrong.
I'm going to take a similar approach to describe George Hill's performance against the Hornets.
What went right: The guard had seven rebounds, four assists and for the most part, did a good job directing the Spurs' offensive attack.
What went wrong: He had six fouls, five turnovers, scored just three points and was 0-for-10 from the field. He missed his shots in a variety of ways. He had them blocked, he had layups rim out, he had jumpers hit the back of the rim.
And just when it looked like his night couldn't get much worse, he ran into a Hilton Armstrong screen in the fourth quarter that left him crumpled on the court in pain for about two or three minutes. Ouch.
Portland's two standouts
Any talk of a summer league all-star team or MVP has to start with Jerryd Bayless. Simply put, the Portland frosh makes things happen. After getting to the line 23 times in his first pro action, he has already attempted 12 more freebies through three quarters against the Kings. Once he makes up his mind that he wants to get into the paint -- defenders on this level at least -- appear helpless. His jumper still needs a little work, but he is a flat-out scorer. Midway through the fourth quarter, he has 18 points and six rebounds.
Teammate Petteri Koponen has also had a strong showing in Vegas. The point guard has a money jumper and has done a solid job of creating looks for others. Tonight he has 18 points and three assists and with four minutes to go Portland leads by three.
Bayless almost capped an outstanding evening in style. He nailed a jumper with 9.7 seconds left to force overtime. In the extra period, the Blazers called on Bayless to play hero again, except this time his jumper with two seconds left didn't fall in a one-point loss.
He finished the game 6-for-15 from the floor and 13-for-16 from the line for a total of 26 points. He also had two helpers.
Quincy Douby was the high man for Sacramento with 24 points and six
steals, while Jason Thompson pitched in with 17 points and nine boards.
- David J. Neal of The Miami Herald: "We like to see passion in our athletes, especially if it's angry passion. Passion shown joyfully too often gets called 'showboating,' 'unsportsmanlike' or 'unprofessional,' but angry passion almost always goes over well. Heat center Alonzo Mourning has been the face of angry passion in the NBA for 16 years. Mourning's scowls, roars and flexes gave the idea he would be having a great time out there if not for the continuous annoyance of those fools in the other uniforms having the audacity to try scoring on his hoop. But when he got on a roll Sunday discussing Zo's Summer Groove, a charity event that has mushroomed into a celebrity-studded, five-day, cross-cultural festival, Mourning could have been the voice of passion for any South Florida parent."
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "It's a long way from Milan to Caesars Palace, but that's nothing compared to dominating the summer league to becoming a top flight NBA player. Nate Robinson was the MVP of last year's Vegas Summer League, only to return to his role as a backup for a 23-win Knicks team during the real season. Danilo Gallinari's career will not be made or broken on how he performs here. This is merely a start - for the Knicks' rookie and a new regime."
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Sunday, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were winking and grinning before participating in the Zo's Summer Groove charity game at AmericanAirlines Arena. The punchline? The summer of 2010, when Wade, James and several other top-tier NBA players can become free agents, such as Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh. 'We're just going to joke about it for the next two years until that time comes,' Wade said. 'So, it's going to be an exciting year for the NBA, but it's two years away.' ... 'I've been playing with him for the last four years now, playing in the summertime, off and on,' James said of the time the two have shared on the U.S. national team. 'So I could see myself playing with him.' James, of course, has indicated the same of playing for the Nets, who have already cleared out the requisite salary-cap space for '10."
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Now Robert Traylor thinks he's ready to come back. He'd love to grab one of the Cavs' roster spots, but he's happy to have the opportunity just to show everybody he's ready to return. 'I'm blessed,' he said. 'Everything's going great. I've been healthy the last year-and-a-half or two years.' Of course, Traylor said he has changed since the last time he was with the Cavs. 'I'm a totally different person,' said Traylor, now married with a 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. 'I've grown up a lot. When you've been playing basketball since you were 9 years old ... I don't want to say that basketball's not important to me. I couldn't say that. I've been playing since I was 9 years old. But now my family is 1A, and basketball is 1B.'"
- Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Carlos Boozer's not Karl Malone, especially not at the defensive end, but he is the team's low-post presence, bringing 20 points and 10 rebounds every night, and in the NBA that makes him a ridiculously valuable asset. The question is: How ridiculously valuable? Boozer can opt out of his deal at the end of next season, which he likely will do, making his services available to the most attractive -- read: highest -- bidder, whose bidding might blast into the $130 million range. That's a difficult plate of biscuits for the Jazz to chew, given that they already will be paying Williams max money, well worth it, and Andrei Kirilenko the same, well ... not worth it. Add Boozer's new market value to that mix, along with the Jazz's other projected salary obligations, then consider that their payroll already rests in the low $60 million range, with the luxury-tax threshold at $71 million, and it's easy to see why the whole equation doesn't compute."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Randy Foye took Kevin Love aside often during three practices together Friday and Saturday for chats. He didn't do so to provide veteran advice to an NBA rookie. 'I picked his brain to see what his basketball knowledge is,' Foye said. 'You wouldn't know he's 19. He knows how to set screens. He can pass the ball. I was surprised how athletic he is. The way he outlets the ball -- half-court for a strike, just guns the ball coast-to-coast -- if you can get three or five of those every night, that makes the game easy. 'He's great; he listens to me. That's one thing I love about him.'"
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "These days, Acie Law has traded the limelight for a spotlight on his own personal challenge -- the Hawks' point guard's focus is to regain the form that made him the No. 11 pick in the 2007 draft. He intends to shed the memories of an uneven rookie season plagued by injuries and lost opportunity. That's why he's attacking the start of rookie/free agent minicamp today as the first step of his comeback tour. 'I had high expectations for my rookie season, and I didn't get to show off my game,' Law said. 'I feel like I have so much to prove. This is the first step. But I'm really looking forward to training camp and proving to my teammates, the new general manager [Rick Sund] and Coach that I can play.'"
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Why would a native Mexican living in Oklahoma City uproot his wife and two young children to live in, of all places, New Jersey? 'I'm not going to lie. The Spurs and Hornets were in the mix,' Eduardo Najera said. 'But in the end, I felt a change would be good -- to go east, to play for a totally different kind of team.' So when he decided to sign with the Nets after meeting with team officials Thursday night, the 32-year-old forward weighed two factors (besides money) above all others: comfort level and where he believed he could be most useful. And that's what makes him a unique NBA player. By now, Najera's reputation is well-known. He is a plow horse with heart and skill -- not the most gifted athlete, not a box-score stuffer, but someone who makes teams better during his 20 to 22 minutes of floor time each night."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "The 13 players who suited up for the Spurs in their playoff run last season averaged 32.46 years old. That made them, if not quite as ancient as dirt, the oldest team in the NBA. Depending, in part, on what Popovich and his assistants see from first-round draft pick George Hill, who is 22, and a group of equally young players who will put their skills on display in summer league games in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City over the next nine days, the Spurs figure to be significantly younger when the 2008-09 regular season begins. Simply plugging free agent signe
e Roger Mason Jr., 27, in the guard spot once occupied by Brent Barry, who is 36, instantly drops the average age to 31.76. It will drop more before next season's opener, perhaps dramatically, depending on which players make the roster."
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The NBA calls it '50-win ready' when the business side of a franchise is more accelerated than the basketball end. Oklahoma City's new team will get there by learning as much as it can about its new fan base while the fans are busy learning about Kevin Durant. It's all a part of a league trend in which NBA teams are using detailed research and analysis of their customers' buying habits in an attempt to increase revenue by providing better products. So while fans might initially ask questions like 'What size shoe does Durant wear?' the team might turn around and inquire about how much you typically spend when you go out to eat."