Eric Weiss, Day One
Portland and New York Shine in Summer League Opener
By Eric Weiss
Well, the first day of the Vegas Summer League went down with only a slight hitch as there was an hour delay to the start of the evening sessions. But, for those who were fortunate enough to attend the afternoon games (roughly 150 people) they got quite a glimpse into the future.
The Knicks and Blazers squared off in a barn-burning affair that saw the emergence of a stable of young players from both teams that should have their fans full attention come September. This is very good news for these two proud franchises who have struggled mightily over the course of the last few years.
The Blazers boasted an impressive young lineup that included Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Ha Seung Jin, with Sebastian Telfair at the helm. None of these players attended a minute of college basketball, but there was no evidence of that in the game as they handled the Knicks best punches and countered with their own.
New York came to play however, led by David Lee, Channing Frye, Trevor Ariza and Nate Robinson, the Knicks played an inspired fourth quarter of basketball and came up just four points shy of a comeback victory.
Ariza led the Knicks attack with a well-balanced game, which is not surprising given the experience advantage he enjoys over that of his rookie teammates. Ariza finished with 16 points 8 rebounds and 6 assists and shot the ball a judicious 6-12 from the field. Nate Robinson provided a solid scoring compliment to his backcourt teammate as he chipped in 20 points of his own to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
But, the play of Travis Outlaw and Sebastian Telfair was just too much for the Knicks to handle. Outlaw was an absolute terror as he ripped through the New York defense to the tune of 32 points on an impressive 12-17 shooting. He certainly wouldnt have shot as well as he did without the stellar point guard play of Telfair, who will soon be known as second year Sebastian. Telfair looked invincible as he controlled the tempo and dictated the action on the floor.
Posting a near triple-double with 18 points 9 rebounds and 10 assists, Telfair matched everything that Robinson brought to him and then some. The pairing was a spirited battle as both players displayed an extreme amount of energy and ferocity to their games. This tenacious pace led to some ill-advised shots for both players-Telfair going 1-7 on three point attempts-but, at this stage in their development the good far out weighed the bad.
Kevin Martin- 21 points, 9 rebounds, ~5 assists
Kevin Martin was clearly the best player on the court against Phoenix. Martin Has deceptive quickness going toward the hoop and his balance allows him to finish difficult floaters in traffic, which is important as he has not put on an ounce of weight since last season. His off the ball movement and activity both looked excellent.
Still, Martin didnt shy away from contact as much as he put himself in a position to free up his shooting hand. Martin began the game with a couple of nice corner 3s that got his defender leaning in on him the rest of the game. Martins shot has a slight hitch during the delivery, his leg looks as if it buckles in slightly and this led to his defender being unsure of whether Martin was going to drive or shoot. Itll be interesting to see how he handles himself as the week progresses
Summer League boxscore assist Totals do not appear to be very accurate, so they've been left out
Jonathan Givony's Take on Day Two
Knicks vs. Magic
Nate Robinson- 24 points, 3 steals- Robinson was the most dominant player on the court today, setting the tone repeatedly for his team and the crowd with some incredible dunks. Robinson looked like quite a PG today, keeping his head up continiously in traffic, finding teammates, making plays and taking a lot of pride in running his team effectively. He got into the lane time after time and made things happen with his tremendous athleticism and creativity, whether that meant elevating and finishing or drawing a crowd amongst the trees and dishing off at the last second with some surprisingly good court vision. Having a guy like Robinson on the floor in a game like this really helps get the crowd involved in the game, by the end no one could take their eyes off him and Robinson rewarded them time and time out even in deadball situations by showing off his hops.
Jerome Beasley- 21 points, 5 rebounds in 22 minutes- One of the nicer surprises today, Beasley put together a solid outing to show the scouts that the former #32 pick should not be written off despite playing in only two NBA games in his career so far. The offensive end is where Beasley did most of his damage today, putting the ball on the floor and taking it all the way to the rack or pulling up from 18 feet out and knocking down the mid-range jumper. After confirming what most people thought about his offensive game (he is pretty much a combo forward) in the game today, Beasley can now move on to showing that he can indeed rebound the ball and defend his position, two things that will probably ultimately decide whether he will end up on someones roster when its all said and done.
Cavs vs. Hornets
Eddie Robinson- 12 points (6-10 FG) - Jacking up wild shots all over the place, but nothing was falling for him early on. Got going from the baseline later on.
Chris Paul- 21 points (8-13 FG), 5 rebounds, ~7-8 assists- By far the best player on the court, and it wasnt even close. Did an awesome job pushing the tempo and making great decisions in transition. Kept his teammates happy with a steady flow of fantastic passes, a few gorgeous bounce passes from the perimeter or over the top of the defense and another excellent alleyoop pass to JR Smith for the highlight of the day so far. Looked extremely smooth, using an awesome crossover to get in the lane repeatedly and either finish around the basket with contact, pull up for a beautiful floater or find the open man. Also shot the ball extremely well. Really dominated this game.
Matt Freije- 13 points (2-3 3P, 5-9 FG), 4 rebounds- Fairly quiet, but knocking down almost all of his shots, both from mid-range and from behind the arc. Did a good job trying to rebound and play defense, within his limitations of course. Used his length to challenge shots around the rim, one great block on Chris Paul in transition.
Luke Jackson- 8 points (3-15 FG), 6 rebounds, 4 assists- Jackson had a nightmare of a game. Nothing was falling for him from outside. Forced the issue constantly, turning the ball over. Blew a wide open layup and generally looked very frustrated. Clearly rusty from his extended absence over the past year.
Maciej Lampe- 12 points (5-10 FG), 7 rebounds- Settled for a lot of bad shots from the perimeter, but they werent really falling for him. Not super active or aggressive. When he went to the paint, good things always happened. He has a very nice body and is definitely athletic for a player his size, he just needs to use it more.
J.R Smith- 15 points (5-12 FG), 4 turnovers- Obviously the most explosive player on the floor, and that really showed with the way he can get to the basket and finish. The problem is that his shot selection is horrendous and his decision making is poor, making you wonder if he has what it takes to be a true star in the league if his basketball IQ doesnt improve.
Denver Nuggets vs. New Jersey Nets
Linas Kleiza- 14 points, 5 rebounds, 7 fouls- A great first game for Kleiza, using his toughness and grit to make his presence felt in every facet of the game. Kleiza ran the floor like a bull all game long, always placing himself in the right spot at the right time to make the most of his time on the floor. He showed great hands, a high basketball IQ, a nice mid-range jumper, good passing ability and possibly the biggest heart of anyone on the floor here. He has clearly lost some weight since his time at Missouri, and therefore is also a bit more mobile. Kleiza will struggle somewhat to find a clear-cut position for himself in the pros, but you can tell that he will do everything he can to make up for that.
Luis Flores- 16 points (7-12 FG)- Got to the basket at will and converted at a high rate. Flores is really good at what he does, scoring, and he just seems to have a knack for getting to the hoop and putting the ball in the cup. He is not selfish, but is certainly not a PG at this point. He should find himself on someones roster or another, but if he wants to quench his thirst for putting up multiple 30 point games every single week, he will have to do it in Europe most likely.
Antoine Wright- 11 points (3-8 FG, 5-10 FT), 3 turnovers- A somewhat quiet game for Wright tonight, but very efficient regardless as he did a lot of little things to try and keep his team in the game. Wright continued to shy away from taking the ball all way to the basket, but was very good off the mid-range jumper to make us believe that thats not a problem at this point. Also played pretty good defense.
Sam Clancy- 10 points (2-9 FG), 8 rebounds- Clancy was actually one of the better players on the floor today, for the second day straight here in Las Vegas. He is a real load to handle out in the post, and can step out and knock down the mid-range jump shot if you give him room. As a 6-7 power forward, he is most likely more of an excellent prospect for Europe, though. He is tough, smart and fundamentally sound, and played pretty well today for long stretches of the game when he was in.
Clippers vs. Celtics
Chris Kaman- 7 points (2-10 FG), 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers- Probably the biggest disappointment of the day, Kaman is a player who should be able to come in and dominate on his way to 20 points and 10 rebounds with the greatest of ease playing here. Kaman was getting the ball in good positions early on thanks to Shaun Livingston, but was very impatient using that position to get a good shot off and often ended up settling for soft fadeaways or just downright heaving the ball at the basket hoping it sticks. He was guarded effectively by Ryan Gomes, Taylor Coppenrath, Al Jefferson and especially Kendrick Perkins. You can tell why he was drafted where he was with his size, footwork, mobility and touch around the basket, but his extremely average basketball IQ makes you wonder whether he will ever put it all together. Kaman wasnt trying very hard to make his presence felt on the defensive end or on the glass, and didnt look to be in very good shape either. Kaman was dominated by the Celtic big men all night and did a very poor job helping Livingston out.
Shaun Livingston- Without anything resembling a team here in terms of talent, Livingston was forced to create his own shot every single time down the floor as there was absolutely no movement, game plan or half court sets set up by his coaches before or during the game. While he can certainly create off the dribble, he much prefers to settle for weak fadeaways at this point rather than taking the ball strong to the hoop using his superior size and athletic ability. His shot is very streaky still so obviously that plan didnt go over too well as he was guarded by the best defenders the Celtics could muster up, especially Justin Reed. Still, its impossible not to notice how incredibly talented this kid is with the ball in his hands; his ball-handling and court vision are nothing short of superb, but he looks like he still has a ways to go before he can really make an impact on the NBA.
Eric Weiss' Take from Day Two
Knicks vs. Magic
Jerome Beasley was straight up impressive today. On a team devoid of any real intriguing rookie prospects Beasley was a surprise. The one time Miami draftee looks like he can play the PF spot for some team this year and should Orlando ship out Kelvin Kato Id say that Beasley would make a fine backup to Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard is a player who probably doesnt need this summer league and its a surprise to even see him here considering how well he played last season. I didnt notice anything new from Howard other than his body strength has probably increased since last year. Howard is tall and could legitametely play the 5 if the Magic felt the urge. He looked nice when paired with Beasley and certainly is more composed on offense than he was this time last year. Still, waiting to see some specific move that hes been working on. Nothing new really.
Jameer Nelson falls into the Howard category of why am I here. While it was fun to see him pitted against Nate Robinson I cant see what the point of him being here is besides getting summer work in with DHoward. Taking his time a lot more than he did last summer, letting the game come to him, etc, etc. He makes the franchise expendable if they dont feel that Steve can play the 2.
David Lee had another solid near double-double game despite an atrocious shooting performance. Lees misses were more of the #$#$ ball! variety as almost all were point blank tip-backs and challenged hooks that just missed. Still, his touch was soft and he was extremely active on the glass and just moving around the court in general. Lee didnt show his mid-range game at all and I await its appearance as that is his biggest hurdle in successfully transitioning to the 3 spot. He keeps his elbow in nicely and his feet and shoulders square up in the motion, but his elbow still pops when his wrist should hold all the action. Well see how things go as the week goes on.
Channing Frye had a frustrating game as he looked to rush almost everything he did on the court. Stating yesterday that hed have a better game today, I think Frye put undue pressure on himself. Frye shot from deeper than normal range on a number of occasions and looked a bit out of control on a number of interior moves. You cant take away from his aggressiveness though, as he has shown a willingness to take a blow in both games and has been rewarded with free throws for his efforts.
Nate Robinson is by far the most impressive player to this point in the Summer League. While its still early Ill be willing to bet that Robinson will get some serious run before this upcoming season is through. Robinson is still a score-first guard, but he keeps his head up on every play and really waits for things to develop before making his move. Small as he is, Robinson makes fearless moves on both sides of the ball, driving into traffic with compossed abandon as well as taking charges from much larger players (including a center at one point-right in the chops) Hes clearly beyond the talent in this league and it shouldnt be hard for him to continue to impress due to the relatively weak competiton hell face after squaring off against Telfair and Nelson in the first two games.
Hornets vs. Cavs
Luke Jackson looked very rusty as he had trouble getting a smooth release on the ball, which is very uncharacteristic of his play. The year off has taken a toll apparently. Considering the need for perimeter shooting on the Cavs I expect Cleveland to continue to get the ball into his hands the rest of the week. A very ugly 3-15 game didnt seem to rattle his confidence in shooting the ball and coach Mike Brown looked to be satisfied with his decision making.
Blake Stepp looked very good handling the PG duty as he had no problem handling against Chris Paul. Not many assists but didnt need help either and in a more controlled environment his movement with and without the ball is going to create many shot opps. For himself and others. Great 3 ball as usual.
Hornets have a nice stable of young players to build with including Chris Paul, JR Smith, David West, and Maciej Lampe.
West looks to be building off of last seasons PT and will take over for PJ Brown sometime soon. His handle and shot release look improved though he still enjoys driving into the lane and mixing it up. West is only about 68 but hes got nice long arms and is much stronger than his frame suggests. West played very physical down low and really had no trouble deterring the Cavs nameless frontcourt players into shying away from the post.
Lampe still has the nice hands and at 20 years old should get a chance to get minutes on a young Hornets team. Not the quickest cat in the world and has a bit of a flat outside shot, but hes strong and decisive with his interior moves and appears much more comfortable then he did this time last year.
Eddie Robinson is a little older, but hes worth mentioning since its the Hornets, then Charlotte, who put him on the map to begin with. If he stays healthy he can contribute to this team. His shot is still unorthodox, but he made it look natural and didnt hesitate to go up with it when given the ball. Still moves well without the ball and has got the crazy length to give opponents fits. Will be interesting to see what happens with him.
JR Smith seemed to be forcing his drive to the right side a lot and was being frustrated by Carl English of all people. Still, he has his complete floor game going for him still, inside and out, and is a great transition player. Not his best game though. Looked to take charge at the point on a number of occasions but didnt make any passes worthy of mention. I look for improvement as the week goes on.
Chris Paul was a little disappointing. While he did shot an impressive handle on the ball and a few crafty tear-drop jumpers he was far too concerned with creating his own offense and missed a number of opportunities to get the ball to teammates in better scoring postions then himself. Ill be keeping an eye on him as this week goes on. The real test for Paul will be Saturday when he faces off against Jameer Nelson.
One player who doesnt get a grade at all is Brandon Bass. The kid didnt get his hands on the ball ONE TIME that I can remember, at least not on offense. I expected more from him considering how talented a player he is and the type of game he plays-physical and explosive. I hope to see a more assertive player on Friday against a week Wizards squad.
Celtics vs. Clippers
First off, this Celtics team has more talent than any other squad here so itll take a little more time to go over.
The star of tonights game was Justin Reed. The unknown second round pick from a year ago has scratched, clawed and hustled his way into a much larger role for this upcoming season. Reed finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, but must have deflected about half a dozen passes and challenged every shot taken by his man. Reed played the 2,3,and 4 on both ends of the court and his opponents shot no better than 3-20 against his tenacious defense. For a stretch he even balled up sophomore sensation Shaun Livingston who couldnt do anything offensively against Reeds pressure D. Look for more good things to come from this kid.
AL Jefferson, a star of last years Summer League, came up a bit short tonight offensively. Jefferson was forcing his moves more than usual and couldnt get a free throw to drop for the life of him. Still, the team made a concerted effort to get him the ball and Id be surprised if he doesnt bounce back.
Delonte West and Tony Allen are like Laural and Hardy for this young squad. Hustle plays and spectacular instincts are what these two are about and tonight was no exception. At one point West fell on a Livingston cross-over but still managed to steal the ball and instigate a fast break from is rear end! Allen displayed the same flare for the dramatic Celtics fans grew accustomed to last season as he complimented his 12 point effort with 9 rebounds.
Ryan Gomes, in the words of Celtic coach Doc Rivers, just knows how to play basketball. Gomes collected 6 official rebounds on the night, but probably was closer to 8. His positioning on the glass was second to none, especially on the offensive end. Ryan also showed a solid release on his shot even though he was only 1-5 on the night. Gomes logged time against a number of different positional matchups and drew the praise of the attending Celtic officials. He should be more involved in the offensive sets for the next game.
Gerald Green was his namesake, green. But, for all the times he was caught ball watching or looking confused on an assignment, the kids natural abilities should have everyone excited. His shot mechanics are outstanding and his free throw shooting is superb. Oh ya, he had the craziest dunk Ive ever seen in my life during the first half of the game. Driving from the left baseline, Green took off OUTSIDE THE LANE due to the other teams center rotating into his path. Green pulled the old go-go gadget hops move and lept over the man to literally throw it down into the hoop. His head was clearly above the rim at one point and everyone in the crowd was speechless.
No one on the Clippers stood out. Livingston had two nice passes, but the Celtics defense didnt leave a lot of opportunities for his teammates to get free. Id expect more from him when the Clippers play a lesser opponent.
Accurecruit.com will have all of the Vegas Summer League games on their site for you to view. Right now there are select games along with a great free three minute highlight clip of some of the best plays seen in Vegas. Head over to Accurecruit.com's website and check out what they have to offer. On Tuesday, July 26th the entire Summer League will be up for you to view