1. Highly Touted Selby Searching For A Shot
LAS VEGAS -- Promise is the Siren of most sports leagues.
While the most productive teams obviously win the games, earn the accolades and take home the awards, the prospect for greatness is often more alluring. By definition, the unknown produces more intrigue than the known. (The interest in the Miami Heat, for example, should take a dramatic tumble now that they have won their title and the sideshow has essentially been packed up. Rather than playing the villain role they were cast into since The Decision, the Heat will be only a really good team. Oh, how boring.)
That's the working theory behind the success of Las Vegas Summer League, at least from a business perspective. It's why a large poster featuring Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jeremy Lin and the like looms over the court at Cox Pavilion. Come see the stars of tomorrow, the advertisements beckon.
But while promise is indeed what fills the seats and draws the eyeballs, it's the redemption and the struggle that often lies at the heart of most players' tales here. Sure, you can catch a glimpse of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. And yeah, you can see if Bradley Beal is as good a shooter as advertised. But most players come from the D-League or abroad or the ranks of the undrafted, from the fringes of professional basketball, in search of having that Lin-like performance and latching on with an NBA team.
Or you can fit both. Which is where you can currently find Josh Selby.
Once billed as Rivals.com's top recruit in the high school class of 2010, ahead of other highly touted prep stars like Harrison Barnes, Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger, a rough single season at Kansas sent Selby tumbling down draft boards until the Memphis Grizzlies threw him a life raft with the 49th overall pick.
But even then, the production never fit the pedigree. Playing on a veteran-heavy roster and stuck behind both Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo at shooting guard, Selby logged only 28 games in the lockout-shortened season, averaging 2.3 points on 35 percent shooting, 1.1 assists (against one turnover) and 0.3 steals. His pace-adjusted numbers weren't any prettier: 3.36 player efficiency rating (PER) and 10.6 points and 5.1 assists per 40 minutes.
It took less than two months into the season before he was sent down to the Griz's D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. Hardly the path he expected when he set off for Lawrence, Kan.
"He had no place to play," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "He was just a one-and-done guy, didn't know anything about the NBA, he didn't have a summer league, we didn't have a fall camp. We had only two exhibition games. It's hard for a rookie to come in under those circumstances and have any shot at really playing."
Selby has certainly made the most of this year's summer league.
Through four games, the 21-year-old slashing guard is averaging a summer-best 27.5 points on 59 percent shooting, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists (against two turnovers) in 29 minutes a game and looks to be the favorite for the MVP award of the 10-day league. (Rookie Damian Lillard, who didn't play in Portland's finale on Saturday, is his only real competition.) But it's how smooth and effortless that Selby scores that stands out most. He'll toss up a 3-pointer from the corner with a look of boredom, but the ball will make a near-perfect arc, glide through the net and make only a faint sound.
The keys, according to Selby, are "playing and confidence."
"I've got a lot of confidence," Selby said after totalling 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting, 6 rebounds and 6 assists (against 3 turnovers) in a 96-75 loss to the Phoenix Suns. "Confidence will take you a long way."
It doesn't hurt to be playing a style almost tailor-made for him, as well.
While Selby didn't get a shot at Las Vegas Summer League last year because of the lockout, he could often be seen mixing it up with the Kevin Durants and Carmelo Anthonys in the summer-ball/charity-game circuit. Even though he was coming off a relatively gruesome season with the Jayhawks, in which he was suspended the first nine games for receiving improper benefits and hampered by injuries, he fit in alongside most of the players already entrenched as the best in the NBA.
Part of it appeared to be friendships with some of the marquee guys. Part seemed to stem from his success and reputation in high school. But his natural scoring abilities, and relative indifference on defense, were a match for the up-and-down style.
Which is generally what led to his strong showings in Reno, and what seems to be what has led to Selby's domination at summer league. Give the guy the ball against average defenses and he's going to rack up the points.
"I can score," he said. "So any time I can get out on the break, get a layup or take it in transition 3, that's my game. Like I said, the point guard's done a great job finding me and I've been knocking down shots."
Said Hollins: "He is what he is. He's got to be a scoring 2-guard. I don't think he's a point guard, but he makes plays while he's trying to score. And he just happens to be 6-2."
While Selby hasn't exactly flashed more than what we already knew about him, the Grizzlies seem encouraged by his performance, with Hollins saying he has "done a lot toward" contributing and making the rotation. And while Memphis returns the bulk of its veteran core, the loss of O.J. Mayo creates an opening for Selby at backup shooting guard behind Allen -- one you'd assume Selby would get first crack at given his performance here.
Which is what summer league is really all about.
Despite his immense scoring talent and the immense hype that surrounded him heading into college, like most others here in Las Vegas, Selby is just looking for a shot.
"I haven't really looked back in the past and really thought about it," he said. "I'm just worrying about what I've got ahead of me right now. I'm just going to take my best opportunity right here to try to fulfill it."
Justin Verrier is an editor for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2. Smith's Summer Cut Short After Scary Fall
LAS VEGAS -- One of the low points of this year's Summer League came on Tuesday, when Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith took an inadvertent elbow to the head from the Houston Rockets' Zoran Dragic and suffered a concussion. The game was called with less than a minute left, and it took nearly 10 minutes for paramedics to run a series of memory tests on Smith before carting him off on a stretcher while his teammates looked on, stone-faced.
"I feel better," Smith said on Saturday, following Portland's final game of summer league. It was the first time he was on the bench with team since the incident, although he was not cleared to play. "The doctors have just been telling me to take it easy. So right now I'm just trying to get past the headaches from the concussion."
Smith, a former ACC Player of the Year at Duke and the No. 21 selection by the Blazers in the 2011 draft, had been looking to compete for minutes at point guard with Damian Lillard, who has been turning heads all week.
Prior to the concussion, Smith was having a stellar game against the Rockets, totalling 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting and five assists. For a player who didn't get on the floor much in his rookie season, having his showcase cut short is far from ideal. Smith, however, didn't seem worried. "It was a little setback, but I showed the organization what I can do and what kind of player I am in just two games," he said.
The more important question is whether Smith will be ready to go when Portland's training camp opens this fall. For that, he had a definitive answer:
3. One-On-One: DeAndre Jordan
A brief summer league chit-chat with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
On the addition of Lamar Odom to Clippers:
"Lamar and I actually worked out [Wednesday]. It was good. Lamar is a huge threat offensively and defensively at different positions. He's gonna help us out a lot this year. He can handle the ball, me and him and Blake in the pick-and-roll with [Chris Paul], it's going to be good. He's an all-around great player, so it's going to be good for us. "Last year, we're not really worried about that. We're just about him, with the Clippers, and how much he's going to help us. Not just Lamar but we just signed Chauncey, we just got Grant Hill. That's a lot of veterans [to add to the mix]."
On Blake Griffin's torn meniscus, which will keep Griffin out of the 2012 Olympics:
"Somebody said, 'I think Blake messed up his knee.' [Laughs.] So I didn't know what happened. I shot him a text and he told me what it was. So he said it's really not that bad. I talked to him and he wasn't too down. Obviously a little bit, but not as much as I thought he would be."
On what he's been up to this summer:
"Just working on my offense all-around, my jump shot, my free throws, a couple of go-to moves. I've definitely improved a lot. I can't wait for the season to start. Just keep getting better, and show it on the court this year."
4. Corner 3
News and notes from Day 9 of Las Vegas Summer League.
1. Every basketball player can easily describe the yearning they had for their first NBA moment growing up. But Bernard James has waited longer than most. The 27-year-old forward/center spent six years in the Air Force, where he first took to the sport, before moving on to Tallahassee Comunity College and, eventually, Florida State.
"I think all the time about all the stuff that could've went wrong that went right for me to be here right now," said James, who was selected No. 33 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and promptly dealt to the Dallas Mavericks "There was a lot of people that helped me along the way that didn't have to help me. That ultimately led me to being here. Any number of one of those that could've changed -- if my commander in the Air Force didn't let me go play for the Air Force team, I would've never got seen. Little stuff like that. He didn't have to do that. Most commanders don't do that."
James, a staff sergeant who some staffers affectionally call "Sarge," has been solid in the Mavs' five summer games, averaging 10.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
2. Portland's Kaleb Canales is the only NBA head coach from the 2011-12 season to take up the same position here in Las Vegas. That probably has something to do with the fact that all signs point to Canales, who took over for Nate McMillan with about two-thirds of the way through the regular season, taking a step back next season.
A Comcast Sports Northwest report earlier this week indicated that new general manager Neil Olshey offered the head-coaching job to Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan, but was turned down by both veteran coaches. When asked Saturday if he recieved an interview, Canales sidestepped the question, saying he was "focused on summer league."
"I'm a Portland Trail Blazer and I've always going to be a Portland Trail Blazer," said Canales, who started with the team as a video intern in 2004. "I'm just going to continue to focus on working with our guys and helping them get better."
3. Will Barton had the highlight of Day 9 in the opener against the Miami Heat. Barton, a projected first-round draft pick who slipped to the No. 40 overall, received an off-the-backboard pass from point guard Dee Bost and slammed home two of his 27 points in the Blazers' 81-55 win. Barton punctuated the move by throwing up signals with both hands and staring right into the camera on the baseline.
Said Canales: "We addressed it."
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6. Best Of The Night
Markieff Morris, Suns: Well, he couldn't let his brother get all the attention. Morris, whose twin brother Marcus played for the Houston Rockets' summer league team, ended his stay in Vegas with his best performance: 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting and 11 rebounds. That'll help seperate him from his bro. Well, as long as he gets a new hat.
7. Worst Of The Night
Summer Heat: With Norris Cole sitting on the sidelines, the Miami Heat couldn't do much in their summer finale to stop the Portland Trail Blazers, who were without 2012 lottery picks Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard. Miami mustered only 55 points on 30 percent shooting, and Cole's replacement, Kyle Weaver, went 0-for-8 from the field.
8. Good As Gold
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