I don’t know Warriors coach Keith Smart, and I don’t think he’s doing a good job. But it’s painful to watch him slowly lose what I’m guessing is a dream vocation. Every now and again, I show up to Oracle, volley post-game questions from the folded chairs. After losses, Keith appears close to a crying rage. A losing coach bottles torrents. And I’m this bespectacled dork, bleating into his ears, clawing for some damning quote by which to screw him over.
Smart once approached after a presser, wondering why I had “something against Monta.” He towered over as I tried to say what should have been, “It’s hard to convey nuance when asking brief questions.” Whatever I spoke melted into a mumbled shrug as my eyes ran away from his glare.
(I’m just a nerd, obsessed with efficiency. There is no media agenda here, sir.)
As he walked away, I felt ridiculous. Suddenly, it was embarrassing to be a 5-11 twentysomething with bad facial hair, assessing a basketball coach’s performance--between tweets. I used to only watch these games on the TV, a device that never got mad at me. How had my livelihood become about judging his livelihood? It was similar to the shame I felt after Al Thornton tweeted me, in response to snickering digs. Thornton’s handle says “a driven country guy with an old soul.” He was born and raised in Perry, Georgia, where the population hovers near 10,000. At Florida State, Al slowly worked his way off the bench, finally blooming as an upperclassmen. The improbable NBA journey must have been doubted along the way by unathletic haters like myself. What does he think about the avatar in glasses who dares mock his game?
A few times this season, Smart cited “the tape,” as though obscure snippets of Warriors footage contained what I lacked in maturity and common sense.
“See you look at the stats...I watch the tape.”
To a weary coach, mastery of “the stats” could appear a youthful alchemy obsession--a beginner’s chemistry set. “The tape” may well represent all that escapes outsiders. Sure, I can re-watch Warriors games. But I won’t know the exact offensive sets or defensive schemes. I won’t know who’s hurting, who loafed through practice. “The tape,” is his coaching gravitas, the moat between Smart and marauding critics. With every loss, a little bit of that moat evaporates.
Before games, Keith’s gregarious, quick to smile. It’s easy to see how he held a happy locker room through a losing season slog. Reporters grumble about his vague, meandering quotes, but there’s presence behind the vocalized nothing. When basking in a win, Smart can tease writers into laughter. He’s confident and at ease, like so many former pros are.
But no one thinks he’s staying. The new ownership needed Keith to exceed expectations and he underwhelmed. Matt Steinmetz -- the guy who broke the Sprewell choking incident -- went so far as to call Smart’s ouster what should be a “forgone conclusion.”
So the coach is a dead man walking, except we can’t really say it to his face. He’s bound by a certain etiquette as well. In a home loss against the Mavs, Smart benched Stephen Curry for a crucial crunch time stretch. Curry had been playing poorly, the benching did not spring out of the air like some Nellie flight of whimsy. But, Keith refused to flesh out its logic, stating that the choice just wasn’t a “big deal.” The coach won’t trash his young star, even when the situational politics might call for it.
To reference Steinmetz again, the Curry-Smart relationship is chief among the reasons for this expected firing. There’s something strict and paternal in the way Keith handles his best player. A bad mistake often leads to a quick hook, while veteran Monta Ellis is free to frolic. It’s as though Smart’s trying to hone Curry’s mastery of split-second decisions through punishment. The process looks ridiculous to my eyes, like Keith’s foolishly channeling that Bobby Knight schooling, seeing if he can yell life’s rhythms into submission. I wouldn’t be shocked if Smart cites “the tape” as a rebuke to Curry’s frustrations.
If Stephen Curry played five more minutes per game, I’d hazard that his coach would have a chance. I’d also wager that Golden State would have a few more wins. This is why Smart’s Curry-handling might be an instance of misguided integrity. Keith will sacrifice job security in pursuit of his path. Eventually, “the tape” won’t save him. Eventually, his young star will have a new coach.
By Maurice Brooks
Q & A
D.J. Augustin's only contribution for the Bobcats today was putting pen to pad to appease the fans and even without their prized rookie in the lineup they roughed up the Knicks by 32.
I briefly chatted with the point guard after the game.
TrueHoop: What's up D.J., I noticed you've sat out the past two games with left knee tendinitis. How do you feel?
Augustin: I feel good. I hit my knee in the first game and then I fell on it against the Warriors a couple of days later so I've just decided to rest it.
TrueHoop: Before the injury, how do you think you were playing?
Augustin: I think I did alright. I had to make some adjustments, but it wasn't really hard.
TrueHoop: Your three-game averages of 19.7 points and four rebounds are good, but critics can point to the fact that you only averaged 1.3 assists. What do you think is the reason your assists numbers were so low?
Augustin: Everybody is trying to get used to playing with each other. We were only playing together for four days.
TrueHoop: Are there any players who have caught your eye this week?
Augustin: I'm surprised with how many teams have a bunch of great players like Nate Robinson.
TrueHoop: What's your plan for the rest of the summer?
Augustin: I'm going to keep working hard so that I can be as prepared as possible for training camp.
Will Belinelli Bounce Back?
Last night against the Kings, summer league darling Marco Belinelli was terrible -- six points on 1-for-10 shooting with no rebounds.
The Warriors are taking the floor right now against the Raptors. I'll be interested to see if he has lost any confidence in his jumper.
The first quarter is in the books and Belinelli missed his only attempt.
Toronto's Joey Graham is putting in work once again, making 5-of-7 shots for 12 points.
I don't know if Golden State's Anthony Randolph drank a Red Bull during a timeout or what, but he is playing with more energy in the second period. He seems determined to get to the cup and he hit the boards so hard in one sequence that a fourth of the crowd applauded his effort.
Randolph's field-goal percentage is down (4-for-14), but he is making a living at the foul line where he is 12-for-14. Anthony Morrow is leading the Warriors with 21 points on a scorching 9-for-11.
Just like the real Warriors, Golden State's games are all entertaining. Heading into the last period, Belinelli only has six six points but he has handed out six assists.
John Lucas is doing a good job running the show for Toronto. He leads everyone with seven helpers.
Randolph and Belinelli wrapped up their summer league experiences in style. He had a monster game for the Warriors, who went 4-1. He finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Proof of how aggressive he was are the 18 trips to the line he earned, making 16. He misssed 12 of his 17 shots from the floor, but who is going to argue with those final numbers?
Belinelli was the primary ball handler for the Warriors at stretches and he didn't disappoint, notching 14 points, eight assists and three steals. He finished 4-for-14 and thrilled the crowd with a couple of long bombs.
Donte the Chucker
Houston's Donte Greene leads all players in Vegas in shot attempts with an average of 17.3 per game. Couple that with the fact he hasn't had an assist in three games and you feel fairly comfortable calling him a jacker. Like most players who rely on their jump shot, he is streaky. In the first half today, he has started 2-for-8 but you know that isn't going to keep him from shooting. The Rockets' coaching staff simply have to hope he catches fire.
Houston's Joey Dorsey, who is not playing today because of an ankle sprain, is walking very slowly with a limp.
We are six minutes into the third quarter and Greene has already had enough time to fire up six more shots -- 3-pointer (made), 3-pointer (made), 3-pointer (missed), layup (made), jumper (airball), jumper (airball).
As we start the fourth, Greene is 5-for-16, while Aaron Brooks is 1-for-10. Ew.
(Update: Greene finished 5-for-19 and Brooks went 3-for-15. On another note, Dorsey managed to get himself ejected.)
Despite being 7-feet tall, the Wizards' JaVale McGee was having trouble scoring from around the basket (0-3 from the floor, two points in 12 minutes of play), so he came up with a new game plan. The center decided to launch a triple from the top of the key area. The result? The ball fell short of the rim by three feet triggering laughter on the Washington sideline and earning McGee a seat on the bench where he received an earful from a coach.
Love Gets Hurt
Early in the third quarter, Minnesota's Kevin Love appeared to roll his ankle and was helped to the locker room. I'll try to get an official word. Before the injury, Love had 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bucks' Joe Alexander is still searching for his jumper. He has missed five of his first six shots and has just four points, two boards and an assist midway through the third.
It turns out that Love has a sore right Achilles and will not return to the game.
Alexander's cold shooting continued after halftime -- he went 1-for-5 and finished with eight points.
Love, Mayo and Lopez To Be Teammates
Three of the top performers here in Vegas -- Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Phoenix's Robin Lopez and Memphis' Kevin Love -- were all picked to scrimmage against/get crushed by the U.S. Olympic team in practices next week.
Slow Day For MVP Candidates
First Love gets hurt, now Portland's Jerryd Bayless just had a quarter where he didn't attempt a free throw. Maybe Bayless is a little tired, but he doesn't appear to be playing with his usual fire. He missed both of his shots during his five first-quarter minutes.
Actually, the entire Portland team appears to be sleep. The Suns raced out to a 17-4 lead and haven't looked back, leading by 10 after one.
It's now late in the second quarter and although he is shooting more jumpers instead of driving to the hoop, Bayless is scoring. He's hit a couple of jumpers and has seven points. As I'm typing, he just shot an airball that was so short, I don't know if he'll be credited with a missed shot or a turnover for a bad pass.
Like all good players, Bayless apparently can turn it on and off at will. Right now he has it on. He erupted for 10 points in the third quarter -- mainly on jumpers -- and has four more points early in the fourth for a total of 23. The leading scorer in summer league is 9-for-18 from the field and Portland has a three-point lead.
There is no need to have a vote for MVP tomorrow because Bayless clinched it with his performance tonight. He went crazy in the fourth quarter scoring 17 of his team's 22 points. He drained short jumpers, long jumpers, runners and layups. He hit the game-winner with under 10 seconds left -- a floater in the lane.
His stat line reads like this: 36 points on 14-for-26 from the floor, 6-for-6 from the line, three boards, three steals and an assist.
King James Is Here
Sitting courtside for the last of today's seven games -- Cavaliers vs. Hornets -- is LeBron James. I wonder if he likes what he is seeing? The Cavs lead by five late in the first quarter.
- Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- I've been giving D.J. Strawberry his props for how he has been playing in Las Vegas. Apparently, that doesn't mean he'll be Steve Nash's backup in Phoenix.
- Unlike fantasy sports, Detroit's Joe Dumars doesn't believe in making trades just to make trades.
- Not everyone is a fan of the Nellie-ball system.
- Kevin Love's father said that his son absolutely made the right choice by leaving UCLA early.
- Chris Mullin is going to make sure that Al Harrington sticks around.
- Here are Matt Moore's thoughts on the Suns vs. Knicks.
- In case Stephon Marbury wants to get a tattoo on the other side of his head, here are some suggestions.
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.
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Part of the Jazz's future is now wonderfully clear. The rest remains terribly blurry. Deron Williams' contract extension is the centerpiece of the Jazz's 2008 offseason, a $50 million (or more) development that gives the point guard and his team some security. Of course, everybody knew Williams was going to re-sign with the Jazz this month. So the only trouble with this resolution it is leaves so many other issues unanswered. Everything's cloudy regarding the long-term futures of center Mehmet Okur and forwards Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, thanks to the team's obvious inability to pay all of them at market value forever."
- Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "Let's not rehash the Rockets vs China loyalty again, but those who think Yao would risk his future by returning from such a major injury too soon are probably off. No one, not even the Chinese government, would benefit from Yao defying doctor's orders to take to the court. Though he might not be 100 percent at the Olympics, there is no reason to believe he won't be fully healed when the NBA season begins in November. With the type injury Yao had -- and I have talked to a host of doctors who are experts on this (including Yao's surgeon and the doctor who told Michael Jordan not to come back when he returned and scored 63 points against the Celtics in the playoffs) -- his future may depend more on genetics and luck than when he chooses to return to play."
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "And every time, Jay Triano takes the jibes and the shots and all the snide comments and smiles, knowing it was a day when Canada ruled the United States in basketball. It's been 25 years and a few days since that occasion in Edmonton, a moment that's still among the most significant in Canadian basketball history, the day a group of university kids beat a star-studded American team en route to the gold medal at the FISU Games. 'Charles Barkley, every time I see him, he says the whole country of Canada cheated them,' Triano joked this week. 'Ed Pinckney, I saw him in Istanbul and we were talking about it. I saw Johnny Dawkins with USA Basketball and I reminded him about it.'"
- Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Tyronn Lue and Malik Allen saw an opportunity to make a real impact. Lue, a 6-foot point guard, and Allen, a 6-10 power forward, signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, offering further proof that general manager John Hammond is trying to build a winning team in the near term. The two National Basketball Association veterans bring a certain savvy that could prove essential as the Bucks try to rebound from a dismal 26-56 finish last season."
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: "How ironic is it if Stephon Marbury's roster spot is taken by a former undrafted D-leaguer (Anthony Roberson) who played in Istanbul and Israel last season? The Knicks have 16 guaranteed contracts -- one too many -- and now have to cut a player, with Jerome James and Marbury on the chopping block. Walt Frazier, who's broadcasting summer league games with Mike Crispino on MSG Network, said he still believes Marbury should get a chance to strut his stuff at training camp in Saratoga on Sept. 30. 'I wouldn't rule him out yet,' Frazier told The Post. 'I think bringing him to camp to see what he looks like, I think they should. He gets $20 million, he might as well help this team. I think he's willing to sacrifice. His reputation has been tarnished. He's got something to prove. I saw him (Monday) and he looked great.'"
- Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "There's only one road in Brad Miller's mind, and that's to recovery. In a remorseful and candid interview, the Kings center who failed a drug test for a third time because of marijuana use late last season discussed his transgressions for the first time publicly Thursday. Miller was suspended for the first five games of this coming season and will lose approximately $693,000 of his $11.3 million salary. Yet as he talked by phone while his 18-month-old daughter Anniston played in the background, he said the lost wages don't matter nearly as much as the importance of changing his ways."
- Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "Warriors' followers may be waiting for Brandan Wright to leap into stardom, a la guard Monta Ellis. But Wright is fine with steady progression. He isn't pining for All-Star births or anxiously waiting his chance to hit game-winning shots. He's looking forward to hours of dribbling, thousands of shots, sets of weights. He isn't looking to be the man right now but to feed off his teammates. Unlike many highly talented athletes his age, Wright isn't in a hurry to reach his peak but content with the process of getting there. He's the type who instead makes sure to cover all his bases, do all the little things and let everything else fall into place."
- Michael C. Lewis of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Samad Bahrami and his teammates are visiting Utah on a mission clouded by grave political overtones. But it has nothing to do with missile tests, nuclear ambitions, terrorism or the threat of war. For them, it's all about basketball. Bahrami is the captain of the national basketball team of Iran - the nation that President Bush once denounced as part of an "axis of evil" and whose own religious leaders for years have urged 'death to America' in rallies and prayers. Yet while his team's historic participation in the annual Rocky Mountain Revue summer league that starts today has stirred international attention because of the strained relationship between the respective governments, Bahrami and his teammates insist that politics is not their game. 'We are just looking for sport and basketball,' Bahrami said. 'For us, it's great, because everybody knows basketball in the United States. It is the most popular sport. ... We just come here to take the experience and play with the good players and improve our odds of our game.'"
- Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "Camby for Gumby? Actually, the Nuggets got ... get this: the right to exchange second-round draft choices with the Clippers in 2010. Uh. A blipping second-round draft-pick swap. Duh. They'd been better off acquiring a lovable, green clay figure with a horse named Pokey. The Nuggets got clipped. ... They call that outrageous deal a plan to win a playoff series? They call that ridiculous move a way to improve the defense? They call that nonsensical decision the solution to the Nuggets' problems? They should call that the 9-1-1 deal."
- Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "Mark Warkentien was asked if he's concerned about the public-relations implications of getting nothing immediate for Camby, who averaged 9.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and an NBA-high 3.61 blocked shots last season. 'It's not a checkers move,' he said. 'It's a chess move. Chess is a tougher game to understand. You've got to wait longer to see the results of the move.' Rick Kaplan said Camby was 'shocked.' He said Camby, who played six Nuggets seasons, was most concerned about his charity endeavors in Denver."
- Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times: "It's the biggest rebound of the year for the Clippers. And, arguably, the most dramatic in their tortured history. One week after the heart and soul of their team, their most skilled, most respected and most beloved player, Elton Brand, walked out on them, along with Corey Maggette, their leading scorer, the Clippers obtained an imposing substitute in 6-foot-11, 235-pound Marcus Camby."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Patience could pay off for the Charlotte Bobcats, in regard to Emeka Okafor, after the Los Angeles Clippers made a big trade Tuesday. The Clippers used up most of their room under the salary cap, absorbing the $11.2million salary of Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby. The Nuggets, deep in luxury-tax territory, needed to reduce payroll, and accepted a second-round pick for Camby. The Clippers previously had about $12million under the cap, and were a threat to sign Okafor, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet. 'It eliminates a scenario,' said Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins, while watching his team play a summer-league game against the Golden State Warriors. 'Still, it was just more speculation from our standpoint.'"
- Scott Howard-Cooper of the Sacramento Bee: "One of the best and worst thing about the Maloofs as Kings owners is that they're fans and often lead with their emotions, and so they're as frustrated by the waves of nuttiness as you. But here's what they won't say, with any tone: It's their fault too. Not just Joe or Gavin or Mama Maloof, as Ron Artest calls Colleen, the family matriarch. Anyone in the organization that had a hand in trading for him. Anyone in the organization that has not seen to it that Artest has not been traded away. Anyone in the organization that has let him get away with it for the two years, 5 months and 19 days in the interim. Not that you're counting."
- Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "After leading the Big East regular-season champion Hoyas in scoring (13.4), rebounding (6.4) and blocked shots (2.2) as a senior, Roy Hibbert said Tuesday his immediate goal is 'jump in headfirst and make a splash.' ...'Obviously, being a defensive presence is one thing a big man has to make sure he does,' Hibbert said. "Shooting and scoring, that's one thing. But at the same time, I have to protect the basket, so I'm going to make sure I do that to the best of my ability. I know a lot is going to be asked of me, and I'm going to make sure to bring it every day.'"
- Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "For all those who doubt Anthony Randolph, keep doubting. For all those who say he's too skinny, too raw, for the highest level of basketball, keep talking. He's listening. 'It's motivation,' Randolph said Tuesday. 'People always have their opinions. I have so much to prove.'"
- Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "Yaroslav Korolev returned in December to his native Russia and played instead for his hometown Moscow Dynamo, thinking the whole time about an eventual return to the NBA. And now he is a free agent in the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue camp, now just 21 and hoping to salvage what once was at his fingertips. 'It's the best league in the world, and everybody's trying to go here. Me, too,' Korolev said Tuesday. 'Especially at my age,' he added, 'I still have a lot of years in front of me, so I'm gonna do my best to get back here as early as I can.'"
- Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Jason Richardson is aware. He sees plant closings, struggling families and high crime rates. And he recognizes the power of his position as an NBA star. So Richardson, capitalizing on his status, is reaching out to children in his hometown of Saginaw. He said it's important for him to act now, while the kids still can see him dunking and hitting 3-point shots for the Charlotte Bobcats. On Friday, Richardson will host his third annual Man-up Forum in Saginaw Valley State University's Curtiss Hall Auditorium. This year's theme is 'bridging the gap between fathers and sons.' ... 'The expression 'man-up' means that men have to face what's in front of them -- responsibility, challenges, fears -- anything that needs addressing," Richardson says. 'That's what we're doing at the forum: addressing the common concerns we face as men of all ages and personal backgrounds.'"
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.
Brown showed off his all-around skills Sunday.
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.
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.
Randolph made 12 of 18 shots from the floor.
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.'
Mayo surprised some people with his solid defensive play.
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.