Archive for the ‘2010 Summer League’ Category

What up, San Francisco?!

That is what we all said as we took one of the city’s famous trolleys from Portland to the Bay. Air travel is so bourgeoisie, so we off that.

Just kidding — we totally flew. Gotcha.

Anyhow, once we arrived in San Francisco, we immediately checked in to our hotel.

Lots of guys dressed as fancy cowboys hanging around this place, for some reason. Must be holdovers from the gold rush. Americana is very “in” right now.

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“You don’t gotta know why, you don’t gotta know how /
Just know I pick up bitches like Amir Johnson picks up fouls”
John Krolik

Three days removed from Vegas summer league and I’m still trying to recover.

I’ve got content that I’ll continue to roll out over the next few days, but for now, I wanted to try to wrap up one of my favorite weeks of the entire year. I’m not sure how that’s going to go and I’m hoping you’ll all bear with me as I navigate the slippery slope that is trying to recall a week of late nights around town and long days in the gym.

If the NBA Draft is my Christmas, then Las Vegas Summer League is my week-long birthday celebration. Rookies and D-League guys trying to show their stuff and earn their contracts while second year players who are eager to show the improvements to their game battle it out, trying to impress the collection of coaches, GM’s, agents and scouts in attendance.

People always say you can’t tell anything from summer league. I completely disagree. Sure, the outcome isn’t really that important — and I can promise you that the Raptors’ undefeated record holds no bearing on the regular season — but you get to see guys in action for the first time with their future teammates and coaches while having the pressure of media and hecklers and everything else that goes along with being a professional athlete that gets paid.

Watching Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandon Jennings face off last July was one of my favorite memories from my first summer league and this past week I made many more.

The second part of summer league that makes it so special is getting the chance to meet and spend time with so many of the people who help make this job one of the coolest in the world. Sure, we get to talk to the best athletes in the world at their respective sport, but we also have this built-in support system filled with emails, phone calls, instant messages, texts and blackberry messenger conversations with people we sometimes haven’t even met. A support-system that allows us to make it through a career path that isn’t really laid out for us.

Journalism is one thing. Or, it was one thing. Today, it’s a different world with different mediums for media and we’re all just trying to figure it out as we go. As a member of the new-school — starting online then moving to print afterward — I’ve gotten equal parts advice and support from beat writers, mainstream media and my fellow bloggers.

I wouldn’t be here without them and this is why summer league is so important to me. I get the chance to spend actual face-to-face time with these people “in real life” where we can take our stories about Jared Dudley and Rod Benson and Kevin Pritchard from G-chat conversation windows to bars without windows, but with many drinks.

And wow, did we take those conversations from the gym into the night. And early morning. And morning-morning.

Here are a few things I learned in Las Vegas:

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No matter how intelligent of an idea it may seem at the time, if you find yourself without contact solution go to the gift shop in your hotel that will definitely be open 24 hours and buy some. Putting your contacts in the glasses on the desk with water will not end well. You will wake up in the morning with green contacts.

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Those green contacts will not blind you. At least, I don’t think they will. I’m OK after braving one of them and using a friend’s disposable contact in my other eye.

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John Krolik belongs on a reality TV show. Maybe one with DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems. Krolik can — and will, without hesitation — come up with a rap off of the top of his head involving any player/coach/GM you give him. Most of these are too explicit to write here, but a favorite line was, “They eaten up my **** like cashews / I’m getting paid like Wesley Matthews.”

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Women lie. If they tell you they just turned 24 and it’s their birthday, add at least five years to that number. And, boys, trust your friends when they try to tell you as much. Bloggers won’t block you, they just want to look out for you.

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Ending up in a Cabana at TAO Beach at 11 a.m. just to “say hello” to friends before a day of basketball is never as simple as it seems. You will not escape unscathed and the heat will make two drinks feel like six. Plan accordingly.

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Of course John Wall will be sitting in his courtside seat for seven hours of summer league action. He’s got college teammates to cheer on and, yeah, he does love the game that much. And another interesting subplot for Wizards fans: The communication between assistant coach Sam Cassell and Wall is one to watch. Cassell, extremely vocal and involved, coaching the more reserved Wall is a relationship that will have the microscope on it when regular season begins.

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Matt Moore would have been one hell of a camp counselor. Taking on the unofficial role of rounding everyone up at the end of the night to make sure they had food, water and sleep to be up and at it, writing in the morning, Moore is hysterically focused when he needs to shut down the party. He also forgets how to use anything other than nouns past 5 a.m.

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Wauwatosa. Finally met Bucksketball as I fell in love with his team over the course of the week and made a promise to take a road trip to Milwaukee this season. Wauwatosa, where you at?

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Finding out Kelly Dwyer has your back from the other side of the country is yet another reminder of how cool the blogosphere is. I am an internet nerd and I like it that way, thanks.

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When you have the opportunity to eat poutine at 6 a.m., drink Monster energy drinks with Blazersedge until you feel like you’re going to float out of your chair, have chocolate-fudge cake for breakfast and take over the bar lounge, do it. And if you’re camping out in the hotel bar, do it big: Move the furniture around, kick your feet up, sprawl out and spend the next seven hours watching Jermaine O’Neal walk through with an entourage of beautiful ladies following, Chucky Atkins looking like a chill bro and John Krolik earning his spot on the next awful reality show for wannabe rappers.

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Oh yeah: If you’re gambling, go big at that, too. Lose a mortgage payment. You’ll still be smiling the next day. At least, one party in our crew was.

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In short, enjoy every second because just like Christmas and your birthday, summer league only comes around once a year and you can’t get that precious, glorious, spectacular week back. And this isn’t even mentioning the goodness that was basketball.

Whoever brought summer league to Vegas, bless your sweet, sweet soul.

By now you’ve seen the report cards, rankings and ratings of how the class of 2010 fared at Las Vegas Summer League (and I’m glad you did, because I hate trying to grade players when I don’t feel entirely comfortable at guessing where their games should be just yet).

After a week of watching games, discussing players and taking notes, I wanted to leave you with some of my observations from press row:

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John Wall is going to be very, very good. Besides the obvious, it’s the approach that Wall is taking that sticks out to me above all else. Yes, he averaged 23.4 points and 7.8 assists per game (the leader in both categories), but it was his post-game scrums that had me smiling.

When he was asked about the part of his game he most wants to get right before season starts he said: “Shooting the midrange. That’s the main shot they’re going to give me coming off of the pick and roll and I want to be able to knock it down. Derrick Rose said he came back and worked on his and the next season he was making them so going into my rookie year I want to be able to make that shot consistently.”

A rookie that looks at what Rose said and wants to get it right from the jump is impressive to me. On the days when he struggled from the floor, he was the first to critique himself, lamenting his decision to shoot the tough fadeaway and get away from the proper mechanics he has been taught. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve heard a young player in the league talk about his mechanics. Wall is a superstar in the making, a phenomenal talent and somehow, still a very self-aware and humble player when it comes to sizing up his own game.

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Sam Cassell is a joy to watch … coach. Pacing the sidelines, screaming out instructions to his players, arguing with the refs on every other play, Cassell took summer league seriously. It was so much fun to watch him in action and even more enjoyable when he comes over to press row a day after his Wiz got the W to talk to talent evaluators and discuss some of those missed calls from the day before. He wasn’t playing, but he was just as into it as when he was a player. It’ll be fun to watch Wall and Cassell over the course of the season.

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DeMarcus Cousins is going to have his hands full learning how to control his emotions. The Kings are going to have their hands full with helping him. Still, he’s worth the fifth pick in the draft. Wow, is this guy is talented. He’s got the hands, feet, size, speed, skill — you name it, he’s got it. Gifted with so much ability, Cousins has already earned the rep of “problem child” and hecklers have eaten it up. No other player was heckled as much as Cousins in Vegas and there were times when he was visibly frustrated. There were also times when he looked like he should have gone higher than the fifth pick. Yeah, yeah, everyone will remember his “bad triple-double” where he fouled out with the 10 summer league fouls, but he still had a double-double in that game and finished up by leading the league in rebounding. He’s going to be alright. And I would have taken him with the second pick. Seriously.

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Dominique Jones might not be able to shoot, but he sure can score. At first glance, Jones is much, much shorter than he is listed, but he’s solid. That frame aids him in his ability to attack the rim fearlessly, making up for a less than stellar jumpshot. I knew that Jones was a scorer, but it was so much fun to watch him get to the hoop. He was pretty much unstoppable when he decided where he wanted to be on the floor. Now, if he can take some of Wall’s advice and learn how to shoot a jumper, he’s got a chance to be a real steal in this draft class.

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Ed Davis is much better offensively than advertised. Covering the Raptors, I thought I had a handle on whoever they would end up selecting in the draft. After a handful of workouts, talking to prospects, I was ready. That is, I was ready until Davis slipped and the Raptors had a rookie who had never before been to Canada. Going into Vegas, I had been told Davis was great defensively and beyond raw offensively. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. He was great defensively and he was relentless at attacking the boards and trying to block shots. One result of crashing the boards was his 12.6 points per game average, coming on 62 percent shooting from the floor. Davis has lots to learn, but in his Raptors debut he’s turned heads.

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Seeing Monty Williams for the first time since he accepted his first head coaching job with the Hornets was fun. I spoke at length with Williams this past season when Portland was in town and have a great deal of admiration for the way he conducts himself in this world of professional sports. Despite all of the drama that is going on with Chris Paul and the Hornets, I’m thrilled he’ll get a chance to have a truly great player’s coach on the sidelines.

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JaVale McGee is a summer league superstar. He had the dunk of the summer, he posted averages of 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and he looked every bit the summer league veteran that he is. What’s more, he seemed to have already developed great on-court chemistry with Wall, great news for Wizards fans. Now, to see if he can keep his emotions and maturity in check and stay on the floor, where his team will need him to be.

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DeMar DeRozan was everything this time around that fans had hoped he would be last year. Averaging 21 points per game on 58 percent shooting, the work DeRozan has put into his game was on display for everyone to see. His new found confidence in both his shot and attacking abilities allowed him to put his athleticism to use as he sprinted up and down the floor, the recipient of too many alley oops to count. Looking stronger than last season, if DeRozan can improve his defense as much as he’s improved his mechanics on the offensive end, it should be a solid sophomore year for the 20 year-old.

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Other notes: Joey Dorsey is Dwight-lite with his shoulders and tied Cousins for rebounding honors. … Roddy Beaubois is still the fastest player I’ve seen live. … Omri Casspi makes summer league games look like a matter of life and death and I love him for that. … Devin Ebanks is a perfect fit for the Lakers. … Donte Greene works so hard and has so many ups and downs in his game, I want so badly for him to succeed and get it right. … Lester Hudson is really fun to watch in games like these. … Bill Walker looks a million times better since shedding some serious weight. … It’s awesome watching Brandon Jennings, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Amir Johnson, Jarrett Jack, Tyreke Evans and others sit on the bench to cheer their teammates on. … Sam Young is more fun to watch than Hasheem Thabeet. And, Larry Sanders? That guy is a baller and the Bucks, once again, did their homework and got themselves a steal.

Final thought: If anyone ever tells you that summer league doesn’t mean anything, ask Jeremy Lin what it means. A strong summer league campaign just earned him a deal with the Warriors. Congratulations to him. Maybe he’ll be making Wesley Matthews money in a few years.

In Las Vegas for Summer League, Marc Iavaroni confirmed that he has accepted an assistant coaching position with the Los Angeles Clippers, joining newly appointed head coach, Vinny Del Negro.

The move to LA comes after Iavaroni spent the past season on the Toronto Raptors bench, serving as an assistant to Raptors head coach, Jay Triano. Iavaroni first gained national recognition while working under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix with their high-octane, “seven seconds or less” offense. It will be interesting to see whether Iavaroni’s history of working with uptempo offenses will mesh with Del Negro’s more traditional offensive principles in Los Angeles.

Andy may be a little blurry, but the likeness is uncanny.

What’s the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year who isn’t playing in summer league wear to the gym to cheer on his team? Tyreke Evans keeps it simple with jeans and a white T-shirt. Oh yes, don’t forget the diamond jewelry piece. Seriously, this thing has got to weigh a ton.

Now, who wants to count the diamonds?

After shooting just 4-for-19 in the Wizards win against the Dallas Mavericks, John Wall was not at all pleased with his shot selection. I’ll agree with him there, but have to say that I was impressed with his shoe game. Not a fan of the shoes when I was first shown a photo, but in person, they looked pretty smooth. Almost as smooth as Wall, who still finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists, despite the off-night from the floor.

Also take note of the backpack in the lower half of the photo. LV backpack and Beats headphones. If you’re an NBA rookie, gotta have ‘em both.