Wizards in Vegas — Quick Hits from Game 2 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards in Vegas — Quick Hits from Game 2

Updated: July 11, 2017

Washington Wizards summer league head coach Chad Iske gave the team its marching orders after a lackluster Game 1 performance: “The big thing from our practice yesterday was ‘Be physical.’ We thought we got out-physicaled a little bit against Memphis.”

The team may have taken Iske a little too seriously. Washington certainly was the aggressor against the Grizzlies and the result was some very ugly basketball. The teams combined for 17 fouls in the first quarters and Miami shot a ridiculous 1-for-11 FG (0.91%) with 15 free throw attempts.

The game opened up in the second half as both teams found an offensive rhythm and the Wizards found themselves in another tight game. Much like Game 1, Washington could not execute down the stretch and fell to Miami 91-87.

But, as always the case in summer league, the outcome of the game is not as important as the individual performances of the players.

Quick Hits

Sheldon Mac

[Sheldon Mac talks after Game 2. Photo: A. Rubin]

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a bounce-back game, but Mac played considerably better than he did in his first outing. He still has not shown a consistent outside touch (0-1 3PT) but he got to the rim more frequently and finished strong at the hoop. He also bullied his way to 11 free throw attempts – though he only made six of them.

Still, Mac has yet to put together a stretch that makes you say, “That guy’s an NBA player.” He is at his best when he drives aggressively to the rim, but his success in that department can be misleading in summer league where poor defensive spacing often yields easy scoring opportunities. It remains to be seen whether Mac can actually create his own offense when the real games start in the fall.

Mac said after the game he appreciated John Wall showing up to support the team. The two got real up close and personal during a scramble for the ball in the first half. Mac sped toward the baseline seats for a loose ball and jumped over an empty seat in the front row next to Wall.  Wall – always cool – barely flinched as Mac sailed by, while Wall’s bodyguard caught Mac and broke his fall.

Mac is dealing with a stubborn ankle injury so any evaluation of his summer league play should be made with an asterisk. He said after the game that his ankle is still sore but he will continue fighting through the discomfort.

Chris McCullough

The jury is still out on McCullough. He played slightly better in Game 2 but he is still a work in progress – which is not a good place to be entering your third season in the NBA. McCullough is aggressive, I’ll give him that, but he lacks finesse around the rim.

If you catch him at the right moment, like when he hits a smooth jumper or a floater in the lane, you can talk yourself into his potential. But when you see him fumble the ball out of bounds on uncontested layup attempts, you start to wonder.

Two plays late in the game are instructive. With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Washington trailed 83-80. McCullough grabbed the ball on the left side and drove hard at the rim. Unfortunately, there was a defender between him and the rim. McCullough made little attempt to avoid him and crashed into him for a charge. It was the kind of play that Kelly Oubre, Jr. has made famous in his first two seasons.

Shortly thereafter, with Miami leading 87-82 and 27.7 seconds remaining, Jared Cunningham missed a jumper. McCullough fought for inside position – which was a good thing – but he couldn’t quite corral the rebound.

In a vacuum, that play is no big deal. But there have been several plays this summer where McCullough has fumbled the ball out of bounds or not been able to secure rebounds in his vicinity. If you are a glass half-full person, you could say that just shows how active McCullough is, he is always around the ball.

But it could as be true that McCullough is a descendant of the the Jan Vesely-Yi Jianlin-Kwame Brown basketball tree.

Marcus Keene

On a summer league roster with very little star power, Marcus Keene provided a noticeable spark. Keene pushed the pace on every possession and looked to create offense every time he touched the ball. I had not seen Keene play before and — based solely on the fact that he led the NCAA in scoring last season – I assumed he’d be a classic summer league chucker. Far from it.

Keene only shot two times in his eleven plus minutes on the court and he seemed more than comfortable running the offense. On several occasions, he leapt in the air for a jumper then changed his mind mid-air and passed to a teammate under the basket for an easy score.

The one shot Keene did make was a smooth step-back jumper. You can tell his stroke is pure and he could drain uncontested jumpers all day. However, he did have some issues creating separation due to his lack of size.

He is listed at 5-foot-9, which will be a bit of a defensive problem in the NBA, but it did not hold him back in summer league. He was aggressive on defense and not afraid to mix it up inside. On one play, Keene yelled “Gimme that, gimme that” while he was still in the process of stripping a Heat player down low.

The Wizards summer league team would be a lot more fun to watch if more of Cunningham’s minutes were given to Keene.

Daniel Ochefu

Ochefu played much better in Game 2. He showed some nice shooting touch and good defensive instincts. He also made a real nice back door pass to a cutting Sheldon Mac early in the game. Ochefu took his defensive responsibilities seriously and aggressively contested most shots in his range. On the other hand, he picked up nine fouls (summer league allows 10 fouls before disqualification).

In short, Ochefu flashed the skill and effort that intrigued the coaching staff last summer. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s summer league coach Chad Iske after the game:

“I think he was pretty active and did a better job protecting the basket tonight than he did in game one. He knows what we’ve been asking him. Set a lot of screens, roll to the rim, try to be a better rebound and protect the basket on defense and quarterback defensively with pick and rolls and I think he did a good job in all those areas.”

Michael Young

It was more of the same for the undrafted forward in the Wizards second summer league game. He seems like he has the potential to be good but he did not to do anything particularly well. So far, he seems like a bit of a tweener or a slightly bigger version of Paul Millsap, but without the polished game.

Young can get to the rim but his post moves aren’t pretty and his shot is not smooth. Although the coaching staff has made a point to play Young at small forward in Vegas, he has given absolutely no reason to believe he could play that position in the NBA. He is a reluctant ball-handler on the perimeter and appears to lack the burst to beat defenders off the dribble from the wing.

Young signed a two-way contract with the Wizards, meaning he can spend up to 45 days on the Wizards’ roster during the season. If Young is going to use any of those 45 days, it will be based on his defensive play. Young plays strong down low and does not get pushed around. He’s not quite the next Charles Oakley, but it’s nice to have a guy who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work down low.

Devin Robinson

See Game 1 Quick Hits. If you are too lazy to click, here’s the short version: He’s still bouncy and still long.

Jared Cunningham

Cunningham is in Vegas for one reason – and one reason only: to get buckets. Cunningham put up 16 points in 19 minutes on nine field goal attempts and nine free throw attempts. He even racked up an assist, which is one more than he had in Game 1.

Kris Jenkins

Jenkins can shoot, but he does not appear to be in game shape, to put it kindly.

Bullets/Wizards Royalty in the Building

It was a veritable who’s who of Bullets/Wizards alumnus on UNLV’s campus on Day 4 of summer league.

Three players and a coach from Washington’s historic 1997 playoff team were in the house: Rod Strickland, Juwan Howard, Tracy Murray and Bernie Bickerstaff. I suggested they would make a nice BIG3 team, but Murray, as per his tweet below, appears to be officially retired


Current Wizards John Wall and Tim Frazier were sitting courtside for Washington’s matchup. Former Wizards centers Brendan Haywood and Calvin Booth were roaming around the arena as well and former Washington Bullets first round draft pick Mitch Kupchak was seated next to Ernie Grunfeld for much of the game.

There was also a rumor of an Eddie Jordan sighting, although my efforts to track him down were unsuccessful.

Even the half-court shooting contest winner was decked out in Wizards gold.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.