Las Vegas Summer League, Day 8; The Stars Align

The Las Vegas NBA Summer League action rolls along: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Larry Sanders are all slated to play on Friday.

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Las Vegas Summer League, Day 8: The Stars Align

With just three days of games remaining on the Las Vegas Summer League schedule, the end is in sight.  That's a shame, because Thursday's Day 7 action was exhilarating.  The high point came in a 5PM match-up between Washington and Dallas during which Harvard product Jeremy Lin put the "Lin" in "Ballin'!!!!!" as he went toe-to-toe and spin-for-spin with John Wall.  Wall, as he usually does, rose to the challenge, bringing home the win despite an inefficient shooting night from the field.  While Wall managed the offense better than his earlier games this week, his biggest strength on the night was his ability to draw fouls, as it seemed he spent half the night toeing up at the charity stripe.

Friday presents an exciting slate, as the three best rookie performers in Las Vegas -- Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Larry Sanders -- are all on tap.  Keep reading for a full rundown of the day's action.  And be sure to check out Ridiculous Upside's preview too.

4:00 p.m. EDT: Detroit Pistons vs. New York Knicks

So far in Summer League:

Detroit (2-2) wraps up its week while New York (1-2) continues to take a long look at one of the longest benches in Las Vegas.

What To Watch For:

First round pick Greg Monroe is starting to put it together for Detroit, putting up 20 points in a losing effort to Miami.  While he's been overshadowed by other bigs like DeMarcus Cousins and Larry Sanders Monroe has stood out simply by virtue of his size and speed combination. New York's guard-heavy, post-deficient roster should help Monroe go off.

6:00 p.m. EDT: Toronto Raptors vs. Sacramento Kings

So far in Summer League:

 It's a battle of unbeaten juggernauts as the athletic Raptors (3-0) take on the bruising Kings (3-0).

What To Watch For:

It's tempting to recommend that you tune into this one solely to gawk at DeMarcus Cousins, who has torched everyone in his path this week.  It's so tempting that I'm going to do that.  Watch this guy work possession after possession, as he instinctively tracks rebounds or sets up teammates. You'll be oohing and aahing just like the Cox Pavilion crowd has all week.

8:00 p.m. EDT: Washington Wizards vs. New Orleans Hornets

So far in Summer League:

It's a tale of two cities in this one.  Renaissance-revival Washington (3-0) will ride John Wall while New Orleans (0-3) has been bickering on the court in between seeing players ditch the team with various ailments.

What To Watch For:

The initial awe surrounding Wall has died down and new questions have risen in its place: How does he run the offense?  Why is he turning the ball over?  This game should serve as a great explanation.  Watch how many possessions begin with the ball in his hands (hint: just about all of them).  Watch how much attention he draws from help defenders (hint: a ton).  Watch how he makes smart plays and takes risks, trying to balance the two.  There are plenty of subtle layers to Wall's game past the highlights.

8:30 p.m. EDT: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls

So far in Summer League:

Cleveland (2-0) has looked sharp but the jury is still out on Chicago (1-0).

What To Watch For:

We've written about this earlier:  Cleveland will be asking for a lot more from J.J. Hickson now that LeBron James has fled for the comfort of Chris Bosh's embrace.  That starts with night-in and night-out consistency. On paper, Chicago's frontline wouldn't seem to pose much of a challenge.  It's up to Hickson to continue to stay motivated and produce as he has so far this week.   

10:00 p.m. EDT: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

So far in Summer League:

Memphis brought a team of professional ringers (3-0) and are expected to dominate; Minnesota (0-2) hasn't gotten much from Wesley Johnson, who was expected to be their centerpiece.

What To Watch For:

More broadcast idiocy from David Kahn.  And, hopefully, an appearance from Johnson whose hamstring injury and decision to sit out his team's game against Sacramento had some fans questioning his heart as much as his leg.  Sure, it's only Summer League but Timberwolves fans are desperate for signs of life, and I'm not talking about manna from heaven.

10:30 p.m. EDT: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat

So far in Summer League:

The talented Heat (2-1) will aim to keep the top-heavy Bucks (0-3) winless.

What To Watch For:

The Heat have been rotating lineups like crazy in an attempt to get a look at the laundry list of players they brought to Las Vegas.  For Milwaukee, it's been Larry Sanders and nobody else.  When he had a tough night against Atlanta, they got annihilated.  The Bucks roster isn't without promise, though.  Portly big man Tiny Gallon and lanky forward Deron Washington have some skill, even if they don't arrive in a finished package.


Las Vegas Summer League, Day 7: John Wall Returns

The bland mediocrity of Wednesday's action was given a jolt by Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, who capped a sensational performance with a game-winning jump off in the closing seconds of a win over the Minnesota.  To add insult to injury for the Timberwolves, their top pick Wesley Johnson watched from the bench, as the player he will forever be linked to ran roughshod over, under, around and through his team's bigs.

All eyes turn back to John Wall on Thursday; Washington's two day absence from official play has felt like an eternity.  He might not face a better guard in Las Vegas than Dallas's Rodrigue Beabois, and press row is already atwitter at the thought of their match-up more than four hours before tip.

Here's a preview of today's action.  Don't miss Ridiculous Upside's preview as well.

4:00 p.m. EDT: Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs

So far in Summer League:

The Lakers (0-4) are looking to close out Summer League with their first win while San Antonio (2-0) cruises along, winning their two games by an average of 15.5 points.

What To Watch For:

San Antonio's Alonzo Gee is gaining some buzz as a do-it-all big guard, averaging an impressive 18 points and 6 boards while knocking down almost half of his field goal attempts. The Spurs continue to get more production from deeper into their bench than just about anyone here, led by five players who continue to average double figures.  The Lakers, meanwhile, are happy to forget their struggles this week because they've found a steal in big man Derrick Caracter, who may be the third most impactful rookie big man here this week after DeMarcus Cousins and Larry Sanders.

6:00 p.m. EDT: Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns

So far in Summer League:

Golden State (2-2) looks to salvage a winning record in their final game as Phoenix (1-3) aims to save face.  The Summer League can't end soon enough for either team; both have slogged through up-and-down weeks.

What To Watch For:

Phoenix continues to hope for development from athletic forward Earl Clark who's struggled with his shot and hasn't hit the boards much.  Golden State was essentially a two-man team but that's been cut to one due to an injury to Brandan Wright.  The last man standing is Reggie Williams, who has scored in bunches all week.

8:00 p.m. EDT: Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks

So far in Summer League:

The Wizards (2-0) haven't really been tested as the John Wall Experience has met little resistance.  Dallas (1-2) has loads of intriguing talent but hasn't yet put it all together.

What To Watch For:

We're set for what could be the single best match-up of the week: Wall versus Dallas's incredibly talented point man Rodrigue Beaubois, who comes as close as anyone in Las Vegas to matching Wall's physical tools and quickness.  Both should have no trouble scoring but the microscope will be focused on how they limit turnovers and defend each other.

8:30 p.m. EDT: Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks

So far in Summer League:

Either Atlanta (0-2) or Milwaukee (0-2) will get their first win of the week which sounds worse than it is because both have been competitive in their losing efforts.  

What To Watch For:

Larry Sanders has solidified himself as the best rookie big man in Vegas not named DeMarcus Cousins and his defensive presence will be needed as Atlanta's backcourt of Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford is quick, strong and looking to attack the paint.  On offense, Milwaukee hopes Sanders continues to improvefrom the field.

10:00 p.m. EDT: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

So far in Summer League:

Winless Los Angeles (0-2) is hoping not to get steamrolled by undefeated Portland (2-0).  The Clippers will settle for a more assertive performance from rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu while the Blazers will continue to give touches to point guards Patty Mills and Armon Johnson as they weigh each player's potential future with the team.

What To Watch For:

Portland has a certified Aminu-stopper in Dante Cunningham, who is in excellent shape and has played full tilt during both of Portland's wins.  How Mills and Johnson match up with first round draft pick Eric Bledsoe will also be interesting, as both slipped into the second round (Mills in 2009, Johnson in 2010).  The Blazers think they've got a steal in Johnson, who showed nicely in a Wednesday scrimmage against Wall.


Las Vegas Summer League, Day 6 Preview: Revenge Time For DeMarcus Cousins

The long, hot wait for John Wall's return continues, with the Wizards set to take the court Thursday evening.  Apparently the Wizards couldn't wait either, scheduling an informal scrimmage with the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday afternoon. Word is Wall impressed (as always).

Seven official games are on the docket again today, headlined by Demarcus Cousins's team (Sacramento) vs. the team that should have drafted him (Minnesota).  Will the summer's single most dominant big man look to send a message?

Here's the full rundown on today's action. As always, check out Ridiculous Upside's preview.

4:00 p.m. EDT: Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets

So far in Summer League:

The Nuggets, stocked with NBA players, remain undefeated (4-0) and Houston sits at 2-2 and is looking to close their summer with a winning record.

What To Watch For:

Much to the surprise and delight of fans and media, Denver continues to trot out a backcourt that includes veteran J.R. Smith.  Smith has been a mostly listless presence, however. Denver's point guard Ty Lawson continues to get as many possessions as he needs with the ball in his hands.  The Rockets have been force-feeding Jordan Hill and he's responded by averaging almost 14 points per game and more than 6 rebounds per game.  Explosive guard Jermaine Taylor continues to lead the team in scoring at a 19.0 clip. 

6:00 p.m. EDT: New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors

So far in Summer League:

The Knicks (1-1) brought one of the least-talented group to Las Vegas while Toronto (2-0) is looking unstoppable thanks to a fully-loaded roster that includes dynamic guards DeMar Derozan and Sonny Weems.

What To Watch For:

The perimeter match-ups should be interesting for both sides, as Toronto's athleticism will put Knicks draft picks Andy Rautins and Landry Fields to the test.  Post man and first round draft pick Ed Davis has shined at times for Toronto, and the potential is there for a breakout game against a mediocre New York front line.

6:30 p.m. EDT: Atlanta Hawks vs. San Antonio Spurs

So far in Summer League:

An unbalanced Hawks roster - all smalls, no bigs - hung around before losing its opener to Memphis.  San Antonio's roster lacks a big name but that didn't stop them from winning their opener against Minnesota on Monday.

What To Watch For:

Atlanta's backcourt is one of the most intriguing in Las Vegas.  Jeff Teague is quick off the dribble and saw some minutes last year; Jordan Crawford, He Who Dunked On LeBron, adds the scoring punch.  Alade Aminu had an efficient shooting night against Memphis (6 for 8 from the field, for 14 points) and will look to build off that performance.  For San Antonio, it's been a remarkably balanced attack, as five players hit double figures against Minnesota, including Alonzo Gee, Garrett Temple and Curtis Jerrells.   

8:00 p.m. EDT: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Chicago Bulls

So far in Summer League:

Both teams are looking to bounce back from blowout losses in their summer league debuts.  The Bulls got ran by Denver and Los Angeles was picked apart by John Wall's Washington Wizards.

What To Watch For:

Now that the much-hyped face-off between University of Kentucky teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe is behind him, the Clippers point man will enjoy the spotlight to himself tonight.  Bledsoe had a fine night against Wall, scoring 17 points and dishing out 4 assists but he struggled to hit his shots.  He's been given a pretty loose leash and will have an opportunity to put up some big numbers tonight.

For Chicago it's unclear who, if anyone, will step  up and be The Man here in Las Vegas.  Forward James Johnson had 13 points but just 1 rebound in 31 minutes in the opener.  Perhaps scoring guard Jack McClinton will get more burn off the bench than he did against Denver, when he played just 11 minutes.

8:30 p.m. EDT: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Phoenix Suns

So far in Summer League:

Cleveland (1-0) triumphed over the D-League select team in its opener on Tuesday; Phoenix (1-2) is hoping to get back to .500.

What To Watch For:

Cleveland Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson was dominant in the opener, pouring in 18 points and pulling down 9 rebounds, and Phoenix's bigs - Gani Lawal, Taylor Griffin, and Earl Clark - will struggle to keep up.  Undrafted Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds is leading the Suns in scoring, after scoring 16 points in his only game on Monday, and will see time at the point guard position, where he'll face off against another undersized guard in Cleveland's Pooh Jeter.

10:00 p.m. EDT: Sacramento Kings vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

So far in Summer League:

Minnesota (0-1) lost its opener against San Antonio by 24 points, looking as hapless here as the team looks during the season and the management looks during free agency. Sacramento (2-0) remains undefeated thanks to a stacked roster that includes rookies DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside as well as vets Donte Green and Omri Casspi.

What To Watch For:

In a word: revenge.  No one in Las Vegas has been able to stop Cousins and look for his reign of terror to continue as he sends a message to the team that passed on him with the number four pick in this year's draft, allowing him to fall to the Kings at number five.  Minnesota will need a much more impactful night from its first round pick, Wesley Johnson, who had just 10 points, 1 rebound and 0 assists against the Spurs.  It won't be easy as the Kings have experience and size to throw at him on the wings.

10:30 p.m. EDT: Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat

So far in Summer League:

Detroit (2-1) isn't lacking for talent thanks to Summer League vets Austin Daye, Dajuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko.  Miami (1-1) has been powered by the scoring of guard Kenny Hasbrouck, while journeyman Shavlik Randolph has chipped in as well.

What To Watch For:

The attention during today's night cap will be focused on the big men.  Pistons first round pick Greg Monroe held his own against DeMarcus Cousins and will look to do even more against Miami's frontline, which is headlined by bulky big Dexter Pittman and the athletic Jarvis Varnado.


Las Vegas Summer League, Day 5 Recap: Tuesday's Top Performers

There was a world of difference between Monday and Tuesday here at Summer League, and it's no big mystery why: Washington Wizards point guard John Wall wasn't playing, so the attendance was cut roughly in half and the buzz was reduced in a big way.  Nevertheless, Tuesday had its share of good games, including a buzzer-beater between Memphis and Milwaukee.  

Let's take a look at the day's standout players.

Tuesday's Top Performers

JJ Hickson, Cleveland Cavaliers

There have been some NBA veterans that have had underwhelming performances in Las Vegas (OJ Mayo, for example) but Cleveland's JJ Hickson certainly wasn't one of them.  He scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 38 minutes against a well-organized D-League Select team.  His energy and impact on both ends were head and shoulders above everyone else on the court and he played like a man ready to take a big leap forward next season, when his usage rate figures to increase considerably in LeBron James's absence.  While hope might be a tough sell in Cleveland these days, Hickson is that guy.

Pooh Jeter, Cleveland Cavaliers

Hickson's teammate, point guard Pooh Jeter, also had an ideal debut, putting up 17 points, 7 assists and 2 steals without committing a single turnover.  Jeter, a multi-talented but extremely small point guard, spent much of the 2009 Summer League playing off the ball with the Portland Trail Blazers.  Tuesday, Cleveland placed the ball in his hands for most of the night and he delivered time and again, finding high-percentage pull-up shots and dishing to perimeter shooters or posting bigs alike.  Jeter continues to pursue an NBA contract, which hasn't yet materialized, but the experience he's gained overseas has done wonders for the consistency of his game, not to mention his decision-making.  He does still have a tendency to pound the rock and initiate possessions slowly but it didn't impede Cleveland's flow too much on Tuesday.  Jeter wound up in Israel last season after a stint in Spain. If the international scouts are paying attention, he should get a look back on the continent this fall. 

Derrick Caracter, Los Angeles Lakers

While DeMarcus Cousins had another monster night, going for 19 points and 12 rebounds, Caracter showed that DMC wasn't the only big with talent and upside in Sacramento's face-off against the Lakers.  The courtside reviews for Caracter were uniformly positive: his work ethic rebounding and boxing out, his five (!) blocked shots, his active help defense and 14 points on a variety of offensive looks had writers and fans alike tweeting up a storm.  His energy and physical skills would seem a perfect fit for the Lakers bench.  His froncourt mate Courtney Sims -- 13 points and 14 rebounds -- was no slouch either.

Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks

While the NBA-level polish isn't all the way there yet for Larry Sanders, there can be no questioning of his athleticism and motor.  For the second day in a row, Sanders wreaked havoc by challenging shots well off the ground and going regularly to the offensive glass against a Memphis Grizzlies frontcourt stacked with current NBA players. Sanders finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal, not to mention a ridiculous three-pointer to nearly send the game into overtime.  Fans is Las Vegas were drawn to his fearlessness and energy; the fact that he played through (and played well) with a bandaged wrist after crashing to the floor on Monday only endeared him further.

Armon Johnson, Portland Trail Blazers

Australian Patty Mills has been the headliner for Portland, due to his hot outside shooting and a few breathtaking passes through traffic, but Johnson has been as impressive as any rookie point guard not named John Wall.  During Tuesday's win over New Orleans, he used his broad shoulders and good on-ball instincts to carve out space going to the hoop.  Once there, he finished with a sweet touch or made good reads to spot-up shooters.  He's also making a point to provide max out effort on defense and avoid forcing shots in the Summer League's sloppy atmosphere.  Blazer coaches were thrilled with his efficient 15 points, 5 assists, 3 steals performance last night and his game drew comparisons to Portland's head coach, former Sonic Nate McMillan.


Las Vegas Summer League, Day 5: Chicago, Cleveland Make Their Debuts

After back-to-back days of big excitement, owing to John Wall's first two games as a Washington Wizard, the mood in Las Vegas is slightly dampened as its headline act takes a day off.  Nevertheless, seven games dot the schedule with a number of intriguing prospects dotting the schedule and two teams making their first appearances.

Don't miss Ridiculous Upside's preview.

4:00 p.m. EDT: Denver Nuggets vs. Chicago Bulls

So far in Summer League:

The Nuggets are undefeated (3-0) while Chicago is making its Summer League debut.

Best players on each team:

Second-year point guard Ty Lawson and veteran knucklehead J.R. Smith leading a Nuggets squad against a Chicago team that is composed of James Johnson and not much else, as the Bulls don't have a 2010 first round pick on their roster.

A player you might not know:

Samardo Samuels was an early entrant into the NBA draft from Louisville and admitted during the pre-draft process that he hadn't received any real advice from his college coach Rick Pitino.  Some questioned his decision to enter the draft at all and those questions proved well-founded once he went undrafted.  Nevertheless, Samuels is a talented, if slightly short, power forward prospect who is hoping to have a big week in Las Vegas.

6:00 p.m. EDT: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. D-League Select

So far in Summer League: ­

The D-League Select squad (0-1) lost its opener to Phoenix on Monday while Cleveland is making its Summer League debut.

Best players on each team:

Cleveland brings a roster stacked with intrigue headlined by hustle guy J.J. Hickson, who has seen plenty of action as a Cavalier over the last two seasons.  As Ridiculous Upside noted, the D-League got a breakout performance from guard Mike Gansey, who hung 15 points on Phoenix on Monday.

A player you might not know:

Cleveland has a bunch of talent on the wings - North Carolina's Danny Green included - but don't sleep on Manny Harris, an undrafted guard from Michigan.  Harris can score the ball in a number of ways and will be super motivated to make a big impression by filling it up.

6:30 p.m. EDT: Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors

So far in Summer League: ­

Houston (2-1) is looking to bounce back from a Sunday loss to Portland while Toronto (1-0) is cruising after demolishing Phoenix on Saturday.

Best players on each team:

With DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems, Toronto is led by a good portion of their highly-acclaimed Young Gunz.  But, really, their roster is stacked with intriguing talent: guards Bobby and Dee Brown, bruiser Joey Doresey, the posterizable but long Cheikh Samb and highly-touted rookie Ed Davis combine to make the Raptors a Summer League juggernaut.  Houston is led by pros Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill and is hoping from even more from versatile draft pick Patrick Patterson, who is probably their best bet in slowing down Toronto's attack.

A player you might not know:

Central Florida's Jermaine Taylor, an undersized scoring guard who can fill it up, put in 13 points against Portland and showed flashes that he was capable of much more if he can keep his turnovers in check.

8:00 p.m. EDT: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies

So far in Summer League: ­

The Bucks(0-1)  lost to the Mavericks 73-72 in overtime in what will likely prove to be the biggest nail-biter of the week.  The Grizzles (1-0) beat Atlanta 89-85 in their Summer League opener.

Best players on each team:

Bucks forward Larry Sanders didn't shoot very well from the field (4-15) but he was all over the court against Dallas, grabbing boards and changing plays on defense.  A hard fall on the baseline led to an injured wrist and while the injury isn't believed to be serious his status is in question.  Memphis seemingly brought half of their NBA roster, including O.J. Mayo, who put up 20 points against the Hawks.

A player you might not know:

Power forward Jeff Adrien from Connecticut went undrafted in 2009 and wound up playing in Spain last year. He's back in Vegas looking to overcome the questions about his undersized body but he's playing on a team with a crowded frontcourt.  Pros Darrell Arthur, DeMarre Carroll, Sam Young, Hamed Haddadi and Hasheem Thabeet will all take time.

8:30 p.m. EDT: Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers

So far in Summer League: ­

The Kings (1-0) won their Summer League opener in dominating fashion over Detroit thanks to a double-double from first round pick DeMarcus Cousins.  The Lakers are 0-3 and probably couldn't care less, as they didn't field much talent here in Las Vegas.

Best players on each team:

Aside from Cousins, whose battering ram style drew consistent oohs and aahs from a Cox Pavilion crowd that included his Kentucky teammate John Wall, second round steal Hassan Whiteside is the one to watch.  His activity level has been very high on both ends, his upbeat personality has been infectious and his block shots, which appear from nowhere, were devastating to Detroit.  The Lakers are led by West Virginia's Devin Ebanks, who has scored 20+ points twice already in three games.

A player you might not know:

Sacramento's 6'1" point guard Tyrese Rice is almost always the smallest player on the court but few can match his electricity.  While he hasn't necessarily shown an ability to lead a team or run an offense, he dropped 15 points in 18 minutes and left defenders in his dust multiple times.

10:00 p.m. EDT: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Hornets

So far in Summer League: ­

Portland (1-0) dealt the Houston Rockets their first Summer League defeat in convincing fashion while New Orleans (0-2) is still looking for its first win.

Best players on each team:

The Blazers enjoyed a breakout performance from speedy guard Patty Mills on Sunday afternoon.  Mills, an unrestricted free agent who is ostensibly auditioning his talents to all 30 NBA teams, was on pace for a triple-double before he was pulled from the game with the Blazers up by more than 20.  The Hornets have lost both starting guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton to injury.  The best of the rest of their roster are 2010 draft picks Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins.

A player you might not know:

Brackins was a relatively under-hyped power forward prospect out of Iowa State but his stock enjoyed a late surge in the weeks leading up to the draft. Seen as a hard-working, versatile four that can step out and shoot it, he likens his game to Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge. He should get plenty of touches with New Orleans's starting backcourt out.  Dante Cunningham should give him a good defensive test.

10:30 p.m. EDT: Golden State Warriors vs. Miami Heat

So far in Summer League: ­

With first round pick Ekpe Udoh down for months with a wrist injury that required surgery, Golden State is led by forwards Reggie Williams, who has led the Warriors (1-2) in scoring in all three games. Miami (1-0) snuck past New Orleans thanks to an exciting backcourt pair in Kenny Hasbrouck and Patrick Beverley.

Best players on each team:

Williams may continue to be a one-man show and that's ok with him, as he dumped in 34 in a variety of ways against Wall's Wizards.  The Heat have the largest roster in Las Vegas and will be giving a full look to Jon Scheyer and Shavlik Randolph, two potentially cheap options to round out their relatively empty bench

A player you might not know:

Randolph is synonymous with fringe player, having bounced around the end of the bench in Philadelphia, Portland and Miami. His underrated and polished offensive game is a great fit in Vegas, where he can get his shot and display his range against mediocre competition.  A former Dukie, he has a decent shot to stick with the Heat again this season.


Las Vegas Summer League Day 3 Round Up

There were four games played today but really all anyone cared about was the debut of number 1 pick John Wall. Having sat baseline for this momentous occasion I can truly say, he's worth the hype.

The most impressive thing, beyond his amazing speed and basketball skill, was his floor leadership. Some guys just run the show when they are on the court. Chris Paul is like that. So is Kobe Bryant. John Wall has that as well. I could clearly hear him directing his teammates including the Wizards JaVale McGee who is two years his NBA senior.

Mike Prada was on-site and filed this report for Wizards blog Bullets Forever.

It took a while for John Wall to calm the obvious nerves he had entering tonight's game against the Warriors.  His very first play ended in a turnover.  His first jump shot bricked high off the backboard and ricocheted out to the three-point line.  Not exactly the most impressive first four minutes by any stretch.

Sam Cassell noticed the nerves too.  The Wizards' assistant coach didn't lie, basically admitting to reporters that Wall was a bit overwhelmed at the start.  In response, Cassell kept checking in with Wall at nearly every dead ball, staying in his ear and just making sure Wall was calm.

"[I told him to] relax," Cassell said. "In the second quarter, he relaxed and just played basketball.  He understood that the game doesn't change.  The competition gets better, but the game doesn't really change."

Wall eventually did relax, and once he did, his game arrived.  He scored 24 points and had eight assists, showcasing both his spectacular athleticism in the open floor and his much-improved mid-range jump shot.  He also was a constant pest defensively and was able to set up many of his teammates - most notably JaVale McGee - for some easy shots.

As for the other three games, visit Ridiculous Upside for more in-depth analysis and for the box scores.


Las Vegas Summer League Day 2: Round Up

If you watch enough basketball in Las Vegas odd things are bound to happen. Maybe it's the National Anthem being performed by a former Vegas show girl being accompanied by a drummer or maybe it's an referee dressed as Elvis Presley.

One of those things actually happened today. Use your imagination.

Another thing that happened today, about 15 feet in front of where I was sitting at the baseline media table, was of the more gruesome variety.

Denver Nuggets center Brian Butch went up for a possible tip-in when his left knee simple gave out. There was no contact on the play which you can see here at about the 50 second mark (warning: Not Safe For Weak Stomach). Butch immediately started writhing on the ground and yelling in pain which in the small and silent gym was not a pleasant experience. From my vantage, which was far too close for comfort, his knee had a very visible dent where the knee cap should be.

He was eventually taken off by stretcher and gave the crowd a fist pump on his way out. It was later reported that Butch suffered (and in this case that word is an understatement) a dislocated patella tendon. After being evaluated at a local hospital he will return to Denver for additional treatment.

If that was the dark side of the day, this next anecdote should cheer you up a bit.

Playing for the Dallas Mavericks this summer is 7 foot 4 inch Moussa Seck. I'd never heard of Seck before but at soon as he stepped on the court he was hard to miss. The dwarfed the otherwise large men and comically enough his giant body is topped by a very small head.

He only played six minutes where he seemed to move fairly well, grabbing 3 rebounds, but he teammates and coach clearly aren't sold on his very raw talent. At one point an opposing guard was switched on to him in the post and despite having a 14-inch height advantage his teammates didn't even look to pass him the ball.

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the comedy of the moment. Maybe the earlier Butch incident simply made the sight of a very tall man with a small head seem more amusing than it really was.


Game 1: Toronto 103 - Phoenix 69

The score differential doesn't fully explain how completely dominant the Raptors where in this game. Their roster is stacked with NBA caliber player along with plenty of really big big men and solid guards to handle the ball. The Raptors biggest advantage however, is the wing duo of Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan.

The Suns had no chance of stopping those two dynamic players with the likes of Matt Janning and Taylor Griffin.

The 2009 lottery pick for the Suns, Earl Clark, had yet another disappointing performance which elicited this warning from his coach as reported by SB Nation Arizona:

"I don't really care about him making shots right now. I just want him to play hard and make other people better," Suns coach Dan Majerle told SB Nation Arizona after the game before issuing this warning, "He's not doing that right now, but he's got to figure it out or he'll find himself riding the pine again."


Game 2: Denver 92 - Los Angeles Lakers 74

The quality combo of Coby Karl and Ty Lawson combined for 30 points and did a fantastic job controlling the game. Denver is now 2-0 in Vegas.

The surprise player of the game was Laker center Derrick Caracter. A powerful and active post player, Caracter displayed energy and toughness in the paint as evidenced by his 12 rebounds and 17 points. Caracter was drafted 58th by the Lakers.


Game 3: Detroit 89 - Golden State 69

A fairly forgettable game, the Pistons were lead by second year small man Austin Daye. What Daye lacks in muscle and size he makes up for in skill. With 20 points he was the class of the team. Sorry Pistons and Georgetown fans, Greg Monroe did nothing to write home (or here) about.

The Warriors got solid production from Reggie Williams who had 16 points but only connected on 4 of his 14 attempts.

Game 4: Houston 87 - Dallas 78

The Rockets weren't able to get a repeat performance from Patrick Patterson who was very sharp in his first game but much less so today. They did get another fantastic showing from one of the early candidates for Summer League MVP, Jermaine Taylor.

Taylor is a powerful shooting guard with silky smooth touch. 21 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists for him.

Dallas young flashy stud Roddy Beaubois really put on a show with his speed and long arms which he somehow has combined into a deadly combination of scoring perfection. 28 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds for this up-and-coming point guard from France.

SB Nation's Mavericks blog Mavs Money Ball had this to say about Beaubois:

Coach Carlisle was commenting on what's expected of Roddy in the Summer League and going forward.  Rick said the emphasis is getting more experience at the point guard position and focusing on facilitating and building his leadership abilities.  He also commented that Roddy needs to stay aggressive and force the second defender to commit and make the right decision. Roddy responded, it was a night and day performance for Beaubois in game 2.  He made the right decisions and played with much better poise.  His court vision was excellent and if he was playing with NBA-caliber talent, he would have had a lot more assists.  It was good to see that he continued to shoot with confidence after a sluggish game one, he showed excellent diversity with shooting versus attacking the lane.  It was a great game for Beaubois.


Vegas Summer League Day 1 Round Up

If you are looking for beautiful team basketball, played with precision timing and execution than Vegas Summer League isn't for you. These teams have had just a few days to practice together as a unit and they are comprised mostly of players who are on the fringes of NBA talent. Add to that the 10-foul rule which encourages hacking in the paint and you basically have a jumbled mess.

And yet we watch this mess because it is our first chance to see big-name rookies in action and check on the progress of second and third year players. Forget Mike Tyson's tiger, this is what Las Vegas is really about.

Day 1 of the Las Vegas Summer League featured four games:

Game 1: Denver 88 - Dallas 70

Dallas came into this game with one of the more exciting young players in the league, Roddy Beubois. The speedy French point guard was extremely impressive during his inconsistent court time for the Mavericks last season but today against the stingy defense of Ty Lawson and Coby Karl he was held to 12 points on only 3 of 16 shooting.

SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside blog picked four "Monstars" from today's games, two were Nuggets:

Coby Karl, SG, Denver Nuggets - Karl got the start alongside Ty Lawson, though he brought the ball up a fair amount. He didn't have the best shooting night, 3-8, though he got to the free-throw line and finished with 16 points along with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.  During the game, IMG Basketball Academy and ESPN's David Thorpe tweeted "I sound like a broken record, but I'm always mystified that Coby Karl has to fight for an NBA job every year." Karl looked pretty comfortable on the court and amply demonstrated his versatility (he also played decent defense, and like Thorpe I'll be pretty mystified if he doesn't get a serious NBA look this year.

Shane Edwards, SF, Denver Nuggets - Summer League is full of guys like Edwards, a quick, athletic leaper (or slasher, or both) who played out of position in college and trying to transition to something closer to what the NBA is looking for.  Edwards has been working hard for over a year to improve his skills, and if day 1 was any indication it's paying off.  Edwards attacked the basket relentlessly, making five of his six field goals on the way to 15 points in a little over 21 minutes.  He also used his quickness on defense, picking up three steals and three rebounds.

Game 2: Houston 100 - Phoenix 82

This game was actually pretty close until the fourth quarter when the Rockets superior size and muscle took it's toll on the Suns. The Rockets featured three second-year NBA players (Jermaine Taylor, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger) along with rookie Patrick Patterson.

Hill and Budinger both played well, but the real stars for Houston were Patterson, who showed surprising range for a big man, and Jermaine Taylor who lead his team in scoring (25) and rebounds (7) from the shooting guard position.

Rockets blog The Dream Shake was duly impressed:

...if you weren't excited about Patterson before you should be now. In twenty minutes of play, he was 8/9 with 18 points and two rebounds. He also showed off his range by sinking both of his three point attempts. Yes, this guy is a much better perimeter shooter than I personally knew about. And from the comments in the game thread, many others were quite surprised as well.

Jermaine Taylor obviously had the green light to shoot tonight. Because I don't think the work "pass" is in his vocabulary. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. He ended the night with 25 points on 10/19 shooting with a highlight reel flush... Rick Adelman is high on the kid and I understand why. There is still plenty of room for growth for Taylor, but he already looked worlds better tonight than in his rookie campaign.

The Suns were hoping to see similar progress from Earl Clark who saw very little court time during his rookie season. Unfortunately, he reverted back to form and settled for too many jump shots as described by Bright Side of the Sun.

Game 3: Detroit 89 - Lakers 84

This was the best game of the day thanks to a couple of evenly matched teams.

Last season's number 15 pick, Austin Daye, eventually showed his sophomore surge as he lead his team with 22 points with 10 coming in the fourth quarter. The Pistons also got the kind of solid performance we've come to expect from Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers.

Newly drafted Greg Monroe looked tentative and couldn't find any kind of touch on his shot. For a big guy, he seemed much to willing to settle for mid-range attempts.

Game 4:  Golden State 77 -  New Orleans 76

The Hornets featured two of the more surprising and dynamic rookies from last season, Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton. Thorton picked up right where he left off, shooting from long range and showing a surprising ability to get to the rim despite sub-par athleticism.

Except both Thorton and Collison were missing at an unsustainable rate. They combined for a .352 shooting percentage.

For the Warriors, it was just good to see the frequently injured Brandan Wright on the court. He looked a bit stronger than in years past and played a solid all around game.

SB Nation talked to Wright after the game. He said his shoulder was feeling good and he had full extension and just needs to get his timing and feel back.

"It's going to be huge. They brought in David Lee but I really think they are expecting a lot of things out of me this year," Wright said about his role this coming season with the Warriors.

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