Orlando Pro Summer League, Day One: Looking Back

A preview of Day One action, with recaps after each game and a nightly overview with analysis, superlatives and more from Evan Dunlap of SB Nation's Magic blog, Orlando Pinstriped Post, who's reporting live from the games.

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Orlando Pro Summer League, Day One: Three Superlatives

The first four games of the Orlando Pro Summer League are in the books. Let’s take a look back at some of today’s superlatives.

Best Individual Performance: Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets. Starting at point guard, Williams put on a show, with 23 points, 1 rebound, 7 assists, and 3 monstrous dunks. He didn’t get much help from his teammates, however, as no one else scored more than 11, and his Nets fell to the 76ers by an 84-74 final.

Breakout Performance: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. The second-round draft pick got off to a hot start against the Orlando Magic as Indiana cruised to victory, scoring a game-high 21 points with 3 assists. His ability to drive and finish wowed the spectators and made him a trending topic on Twitter. In a Summer-League game. Let’s not forget that detail.

Most Disappointing Performance: Daniel Orton, Magic. Orlando ran its offense through its rookie center in the post, but he struggled to get anything working. He shot 1-of-8 from the field in 13 minutes of play before earning an ejection for fighting Pacers big man Josh McRoberts. Orton also had 4 turnovers and 5 fouls, with just 3 rebounds. He has a lot of work to do.


76ers Best Nets, 84-74, As Fouls Mar Battle Between Williams, Holiday

In a game that didn’t live up to the main-event hype it received, the Philadelphia 76ers knocked off the New Jersey Nets, 84-74, to cap off Day One action at the Orlando Pro Summer League. Billed as a battle featuring Evan Turner and Derrick Favors, the second and third overall picks in the 2010 NBA Draft, respectively, the game instead turned into a foul-a-minute affair—there were 61 fouls in 40 minutes, to be precise—which detracted from a fantastic individual matchup between second-year point guards Jrue Holiday and Terrence Williams.

Turner shot 2-of-5 from the floor and scored 12 points, adding 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 fouls in 27 minutes. Favors also struggled with his shot and on defense, missing 6 of his 10 shots and committing 7 fouls.

Again, the point guards made the game about as worthwhile as can be, given the fouls. One gets the sense that Williams in particular could have scored 30-plus points if he were so inclined. But the Nets are converting him to point guard, so he thought pass-first this evening, with mixed results: 7 assists to 4 turnovers. He finished with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and got wherever he wanted to on the floor with relative ease.

Holiday tallied 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists of his own. Last year, he became the first player born in the 1990s to appear in the NBA. He’s younger than plenty of the players here, and even though he’s not a rookie, he deserves a lot of attention this week.

Philadelphia’s Jodie Meeks also had a solid game. He struggled after arriving in Philly following a midseason trade from Milwaukee, but scored 18 points and excelled in transition today He shows promise as a gunner off the bench at the NBA level.

We’ll be back later tonight with a final wrap of all the action from Day One.


Behind Harden And Mullens, Thunder Complete Big Comeback Over Celtics, 87-82

The first two games of the Orlando Pro Summer League featured comebacks that never amounted to anything, but the Oklahoma City Thunder broke through today against the Boston Celtics, erasing a 21-point first half deficit with some impressive work at both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter, escaping with a 87-82 win. Second-year men James Harden and Byron Mullens led the charge, scoring 37 of their 43 combined points in the second half. Harden couldn’t find the range from the outside in the first half, so he added more drives to his shot mix in the second, which paid off; a foul-drawing machine, he shot 11-of-16 from the stripe after intermission. He also recorded a clutch blocked shot, cleanly swatting JayCee Caroll’s attempt at a game-tying three-pointer with just under 15 seconds to play. An impressive turnaround for an impressive player, whose well-rounded game made him the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Boston can’t feel good about the loss, but the play of second-round draft choice Luke Harangody should be encouraging. Harangody isn’t a lock to make the final team, but his outside shot—no matter how unconventional—could make him indispensable. He shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and led Boston with 23 points, but his defense is so suspect that the Celtics were rotating him in and out of the game in late offense/defense substitutions.

Harden stole the show, but Mullens made an impression as well. Though he has a slight build, Mullens isn’t afraid to mix it up inside under the boards. He has a solid shooting stroke for a big man, and range out to around 19 fee. What made him especially important in this game was his ability to finish in traffic, however. In the second half, he was more active on the weak side and on his rolls to the hoop, and to their credit, his teammates looked for him more actively. He appeared in just 13 games as a rookie, but could crack the rotation this year as long as he continues to bulk up and refine his work with his back to the basket.

Oliver Lafayette shot 6-of-10 from the floor and scored 14 points for Boston, while Ryan Thompson (the kid brother of Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson) poured in 13 on 9-of-9 foul shooting off the bench. Oklahoma City point guard Eric Maynor had a sneakily effective game, with 15 points, 3 boards, and 5 assists with just 1 turnover.

ESPN’s David Thorpe astutely pointed out that the Thunder’s starting five are “all roster guys.” That they fell behind to the less talented Celtics is surprising.


Lance Stephenson Leads Pacers To 86-77 Win Over Magic, Wowing Onlookers

Second-round draft pick Lance Stephenson, a point guard from Cincinnati, dazzled in his NBA debut, scoring 21 points to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 86-77 win over the helpless Orlando Magic in the second game of Orlando Pro Summer-League action. He even impressed All-Star small forward Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, in town to support his Thunder teammates participating this week, who posted this message to his Twitter account during the game:

Lance Stephenson is out here in Orlando puttin on a clinic!! He can hoop!!

Stephenson made everything look effortless, getting through Orlando's perimeter defense with ease and finishing inside. Second-rounder aren't guaranteed NBA contracts, but Stephenson's a safe bet to make it to Indiana's training camp. The Pacers' alternatives are A.J. Price and T.J. Ford, which does little to inspire confidence in their rotation. He capped off the day with a tomahawk slam after shaking Orlando's Curtis Stinson with a right-left-right crossover, putting the Pacers up 11 with 1:25 to play.

Stephenson and McRoberts looked like co-MVPs until McRoberts drew an ejection for tussling with Orlando's Daniel Orton. The first-rounder from Kentucky had the roughest day of any high-profile player so far, shooting 1-of-8 from the floor and 1-of-4 from the foul line for 3 points before his ejection. He also had 5 fouls and 4 turnovers. On his Twitter account, he called his first day "terrible" and vowed to "slow down" before tomorrow. Patrick Ewing Jr. led Orlando offensively, scoring 15 points, and his jump-shooting in the third quarter helped the Magic challenge a Pacers lead that had ballooned to 18 points in the first half.

But with Ewing earning a breather, the task of generating offense fell to the likes of Donell Taylor and Joe Crawford, and the Magic had no inside players on whom to rely. Just no way for them to get easy buckets, despite their best efforts; power forward Jeff Adrien, who stands just 6-feet-7, deserves credit for giving an honest effort inside. He scored 13 points and grabbed 10 boards as fellow big men Paul Davis and Ben McCauley preferred to launch 17-footers.

The Thunder will "host" the Boston Celtics momentarily.


Henderson, Brown Help Bobcats Hold Off Jazz's Late Rally, 85-83

The Utah Jazz made a spirited, impressive comeback after falling behind by 18 points to the Charlotte Bobcats this afternoon, but in the end, the Bobcats’ athletic perimeter combination of Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson proved too much for Utah to handle, scoring 20 points each. A driving layup by Tyrese Rice to end the third quarter brought the Jazz to within 2 points, and Thomas Gardner opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Jazz a one-point lead, their first since the first half. But the Bobcats got back to basics by getting out in transition and attacking the basket with authority.

Utah simply couldn’t keep up, but made another impressive rally at the end that also fell short, scoring 12 straight points in the final two minutes. Incredibly, they had the final possession and a chance to win, but Sundiata Gaines’ fadeaway three-pointer from the right corner went long and bounced out. Rookie Gordon Hayward had a decent enough look at a catch-and-shoot three from the left wing earlier in the possession, but deferred instead.

So the Bobcats came away on top, and have to be happy with Brown, Henderson, Pargo, and Sherron Collins (his on-ball defense at point guard impressed me, as well as many of the scouts nearby). Yet they can’t feel good about nearly coughing up an 18-point lead to a Jazz team that looked overmatched for long stretches of the first half. And although you have to credit the Jazz for battling back, they did their damage with putbacks and baskets off broken plays; it’s not like their execution was confounding the Bobcats.

For Utah, it was veteran big man James Augustine (20 points on 9-of-10 shooting, 3 boards) and Rice leading the way in the third quarter. Rice pushed the pace and found the open man, while Augustine hit the boards and did the little things that more summer-league teams need. Like calling out plays and sets on both ends of the floor, discussing some mistakes with his teammates during breaks in play. If there’s a such thing as summer-league leadership, he has it.

Hayward scored 8 points on 2-of-2 shooting and 4-of-4 from the foul line, so you can’t argue with his efficiency. But he used only 4 shooting possessions in 26 minutes, and didn’t figure much into the Jazz’s attack.

The Magic and the Pacers take the court next.


Orlando Pro Summer League, Day One

The Las Vegas Summer League may have more teams, games, and even allows fans in the stands, but the Orlando Pro Summer League--which starts today--is every bit as important. Teams looking for a strictly basketball experience for their summer squads seek out the Orlando Magic's no-nonsense league, which they host in their practice facility. This year, the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and Utah Jazz will all attend.

I'm Evan Dunlap, known as Ben Q. Rock at Orlando Pinstriped Post, SB Nation's Magic blog, and I'll be there to cover all 20 games this week for SB Nation.com. Here's what's on tap tonight. For a fee, you can watch the action streaming on NBA.com. Check back in this StoryStream for updates after every game.

Game 1: Bobcats at Jazz, 1 PM - Contrasting approaches face off here. The Jazz had the Knicks' first-round pick this year, and used it to select NCAA Tournament darling Gordon Hayward. Today's his first game against NBA-caliber competition. How will he fare? Meanwhile, the Bobcats didn't have a single draft pick, and their summer-league roster notables include Alexis Ajinca, Derrick Brown, and Gerald Henderson. Last year, they didn't even field a team, and simply put Brown on the Jazz's squad. Now, they've decided to invest into putting a team together. Let's see how they do.

Game 2: Pacers at Magic, 3 PM - Indiana's roster includes draft selections Paul George and Magnum Rolle, as well as Richard Hendrix and Russell Robinson, who played quite well for the Magic's side last year. Orlando's looking to see how Daniel Orton and Stanley Robinson, its own draftees, manage. Orton, a center prospect, averaged only 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in his lone season at Kentucky, so there are questions about his ability. We'll see if he can anchor the paint on both sides of the floor this week.

Game 3: Celtics at Thunder, 5 PM - OKC might have the most stacked roster this year, with James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and the surprisingly useful Byron Mullens--don't laugh, the skinny center held his own last year--suiting up. Their biggest problem is that their top draft choice, Cole Aldrich, can't suit up for them just yet because he still belongs to the Hornets, who can't officially trade him to the Thunder as arranged on draft night until July 8th. They'd love to be able to see this guy in action, but it'll have to wait. On their side, the Celtics trot out Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, Tony Gaffney, and Oliver Lafayette. They also have the league's most hilarious practice uniforms, not for their design but rather for their uniform numbers. Numbers 46, 47, 48, 49, 56, and 60 are among those the Celtics have assigned this week.

Game 4: Nets at 76ers, 7 PM - The game of the day, and perhaps of the entire camp, features this year's second and third overall draft choices. Evan Turner takes the floor for Philly and faces questions about his perimeter shooting and a potential skill-set redundancy with Andre Iguodala. He can establish himself as a top dog, of sorts, here. Second-year point guard Jrue Holiday and third-year big man Marreese Speights are among those who will join him this week. The Nets' prized pick, Derrick Favors, will line up across from Speights and may make the defensively challenged big man sweat at that end. New Jersey's intriguing team also includes second-year forward Terrence Williams, a Swiss Army Knife of a player whom David Thorpe compared to Boris Diaw last year, as well as undrafted center Brian Zoubek, the former Duke Blue Devil who could carve out a roster spot behind Brook Lopez with strong play this week.

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