Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:53:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 The New NBA Schedule Totally Disrespects the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/08/the-new-nba-schedule-totally-disrespects-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/08/the-new-nba-schedule-totally-disrespects-the-wizards.html#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:09:02 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47816 [Oh John Wall, via @recordsANDradio]

[The NBA didn’t do right by John Wall. Photo via @recordsANDradio]

I hope Ted Leonsis is angry today.

Like throw-things-across-the-room, get-fined-like-Mark-Cuban, going-to-Hulk-out-level angry.

Because when I saw the NBA’s new schedule, it made me awfully mad. Which means the Wizards’ owner should be furious.

When the league annually releases its upcoming schedule, I always scan to see which teams get selected to play on national TV. Why? Getting picked for lots of national TV games is a vote of confidence—these are the teams and the players that the NBA wants to invest in. If Adam Silver were picking a squad, these are the guys he’d want to run with.

And the Wizards … well, they weren’t picked last. But they’re a hell of a long way from first.

According to Kevin Draper’s list on Deadspin, the Wizards will play five national TV games this season.

Five.

The season is six months long.

Meanwhile, the laughably awful Los Angeles Lakers got 19 national TV games. The putrid New York Knicks, mediocre Indiana Pacers and middling Boston Celtics all got seven games apiece.

And this comes after back-to-back seasons where the Wizards won a combined 102 games and proved that they are a sneaky threat to win the Eastern Conference.

“So what?” you might be thinking. “Why does it matter to get a few extra games on ESPN?”

I bet Ted Leonsis cares. I know the Wizards care. The press release the team put out on Wednesday highlights the number of national TV games on the schedule—but camouflages it by including the Wizards’ eight games on NBA TV, which is extremely generous.

(The average game on NBA TV drew less than 300,000 viewers last year; the average game on ABC drew more than 3.5 million.)

I got to thinking about something that Leonsis wrote, more than a year ago, responding to my Truth About It post lamenting the Wizards’ lack of fans in the D.C. metro area.

See: There Aren’t Many Wizards Fans – And Here’s Where They Live

“We basically lost a generation of fans and now have to create the next generation of fans,” Leonsis argued in response. “That is a part of the rebuild plan as well for our franchise.”

And national TV games are an important piece of that plan. Getting on ABC, ESPN and TNT puts John Wall and Bradley Beal in front of a bigger audience. Being the featured game of the night puts the Wizards into the national conversation.

It matters for local viewers, too. No disrespect to a regional cable station, but casual fans aren’t tuning in to hear Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier call their 500th straight game. There is something transformative about seeing the ESPN or ABC trucks come to town. You can feel a different electricity in the arena, in the press room, on the court. The players know it, and the league’s stars always raise their games in those moments.

And just getting those reps on national TV is good for the team. When the Grizzlies came to the Verizon Center in March, the game was broadcast on TNT—the first time that had happened in seven years—which meant there were many, many commercial breaks and the game dragged on for nearly three hours. When I asked Coach Wittman about it afterward, he said the number of TV timeouts was initially confusing and weird for pacing; then he realized it was part of being on national TV.

Washington needs that experience—to learn to play amid the commercial breaks, to handle the national scrutiny, to get used to being ESPN’s game of the night. Unfortunately, the league isn’t giving them the opportunity.

This isn’t a new problem, of course. The Wizards have repeatedly been exiled from national TV over the past eight seasons or so. And during the team’s half-decade of mediocrity, it was justified.

But those years are over. John Wall, Bradley Beal and their running mates are a force to be reckoned with.

And the NBA needs to start giving the Wizards the respect they deserve.

 

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First Look at the 2015-16 Washington Wizards Schedule http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/08/first-look-at-the-2015-16-washington-wizards-schedule.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/08/first-look-at-the-2015-16-washington-wizards-schedule.html#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 00:20:31 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47807 20150812_180136

(NBA TV 2015-16 Schedule Release Special, hosted by Rachel Nichols and Dennis Scott. Screenshot via NBA TV.)

August is a slow month for the NBA. Aside from the revelation of Kevin Seraphin’s next employer (New York), a rare Garret Temple trade rumor, and John Wall and Bradley Beal’s quest for Coach K’s approval on Team USA, the biggest event in August is the official release of the regular season schedule.

The 2015-16 NBA schedule was released tonight via a one-hour special on NBA TV, hosted by Rachel Nichols and Dennis Scott. Washington’s complete schedule can be seen here. Now, for some highlights of the Wizards’ 82-game slate, complete with a few dates you might want to circle on your calendar.

Circle These Dates

  • Wednesday, October 28 @ Orlando Magic. Washington opens the season on the road yet again—they’ve only opened at home twice since the 2000-01 season, both times against the Nets (2008-09 and the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season).
  • Saturday, October 31 vs. New York Knicks. The home opener against our old friend Kevin Seraphin on Halloween night. Hopefully Randy Wittman dials up a steady stream of double-teams whenever Seraphin catches it in the paint. Nothing is more frightening than watching Kevin react to a hard double.
  • Tuesday, November 10 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant makes his lone appearance at the Verizon Center. Another opportunity to unveil this:

  • Wednesday, December 2 vs. Los Angeles Lakers. Quite possibly the final game of Kobe Bryant’s career at the Verizon Center.
  • Monday, December 28 vs. Los Angeles Clippers. As Dr. Eldon Tyrell taught us, “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” Much like Roy, Paul Pierce burned so very, very brightly in D.C. Unlike many other former Wizards that have received less-than-enthusiastic greetings upon their return to the Verizon Center, December 28 will be an opportunity for the home crowd to show its appreciation for everything Pierce did in his all-too-short stint in DC.
  • Wednesday, January 6 and Sunday, February 28 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers. Any time LeBron visits the Verizon Center, it’s a big deal. It just is.
  • Wednesday, February 3 vs. Golden State Warriors. John Wall and Bradley Beal mount their annual challenge to the throne of “Best Backcourt in the NBA” against the reigning duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
  • Wednesday, March 16 vs. Chicago Bulls. Due to the NBA’s uneven schedule, Washington only has one home game versus Chicago, and fans will have to wait almost the entire season to see Wall vs. Rose.

Tough Early Stretch

Do not expect another repeat of Washington’s fast start last season. Aside from playing San Antonio and Oklahoma City in two of its first seven games, Washington has a brutal 10-game stretch to start December:

Dec. 1 @ Cavs

Dec. 2 vs. Lakers

Dec. 4 vs. Suns

Dec. 6 vs. Mavs

Dec. 7 @ Heat

Dec. 9 vs. Rockets

Dec. 11 @ Pelicans

Dec. 12 @ Mavs

Dec. 14 @ Grizzlies

Dec. 16 @ Spurs

Almost No Four-Games-in-Five-Nights

During Adam Silver’s annual address at last year’s All-Star game, he announced that the league would attempt to all-but-eliminate stretches of four games in five nights in the schedule. As Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently reported, the NBA appears to have followed through on that promise. Washington only has one stretch of four games in five nights from November 24-28.

Three and Done

Also due to the NBA’s uneven schedule, every season there are four Eastern Conference teams that Washington only plays three times (as opposed to the four times it plays all other Eastern Conference teams). This year Washington only meets Chicago, New York, Brooklyn, and Indiana on three occasions. New York and Indiana play two games in D.C., while Chicago and Brooklyn only play one.

Weekdays with Ted

Over half of Washington’s home games (22 out of 41) are on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Last season, only 19 were scheduled on those days. That will be a slight disappointment to the sales department, as weekday games are a tougher sell. On the bright side, all of the marquee home games fall on one of those three days (Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, Bulls, and Cavs (both games)), so they should be easier to sell.

Road to the Finish Line

Invariably, at some point in late March, you will look at the Wizards’ remaining schedule as they jockey for playoff positioning. You may not like what you see. Washington plays seven of its final 10 games on the road. That’s not good. On the bright side, it’s way too early to evaluate the quality of Washington’s end-of-season opponents or predict which team will be resting its star players. In fact, last season Washington played five of its last six games on the road and went 3-3 during that stretch, including wins over Memphis and Atlanta.

 

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11 Observations from Vegas Summer League Plus Daryl Morey Playing Ping-Pong http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/11-observations-from-vegas-summer-league.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/11-observations-from-vegas-summer-league.html#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 01:36:11 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47773 (It's time to say so long to the NBA at the Vegas summer league. Don't ever change. See you in the fall. Screenshot - NBA TV NBA Summer League Live)

(It’s time to say so long to the NBA at the Vegas summer league. Don’t ever change. See you in the fall. Screenshot – NBA TV NBA Summer League Live)

With apologies to Jim Nance, the NBA summer league in Vegas is a tradition unlike any other. There’s so much to see and hear it can be a little overwhelming. I’ve written extensively about the comings and goings at UNLV this past week but it was impossible to include it all. So, without further ado, here are 11 more observations about the greatest sporting event on earth (plus Daryl Morey’s annual table tennis tournament).   

1. It’s a Family Affair.

The Vegas summer league is one big networking event for front office staff, agents, media and everyone else in the NBA universe. It’s interesting to see the friendly interactions between NBA players and front office personnel. Fans tend to adopt an “us against the world” mentality when it comes to sports. However, in Vegas, you see that the NBA really is one big family—and summer league is its annual reunion.

Just like any big family, you’ve got dysfunctional in-laws. And the crazy uncle who you have to be really nice to because he could snap at any minute.

20150715_161424

(Careful Juwan, no sudden movements. Uncle Joey hasn’t been the same since Full House was cancelled. Photo – A. Rubin)

It’s also funny watching famous NBA faces introduce themselves to people who have no idea who they are: “Hi, I’m Steve Javie. Nice to meet you.”

2. Phil Jackson Doesn’t Really Need That Big Chair

(Phil Jackson watching Kristaps Porzingis' NBA summer league debut. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Phil Jackson watching Kristaps Porzingis’ NBA summer league debut. Photo – A. Rubin)

I don’t know if he’s been pulling a George Costanza to get access to the executive bathroom or what, but Phil Jackson is perfectly capable of watching an NBA game from a human-size chair. All those fans who had to sit behind him in Staples Center should file a class-action lawsuit for a refund. Or maybe his hip just eventually healed. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

3. Derek Fisher is Trying Real Hard to Take Reporter’s Questions Seriously.

The Knicks didn’t play too well at the start of summer league. They had a lot of difficulty scoring and their point guard play was sub-par. But who cares? This is summer league. The whole point is seeing if Kristaps Porzingis is a real NBA player, judging whether the Jerian Grant/Tim Hardaway trade was a mistake and watching Cleanthony Early drive wildly at the rim.

Nevertheless, reporters were hitting Derek Fisher with regular season-type questions about pace and scoring and what needs to change … like any of that matters. Fisher was a good sport, even making facial expressions that gave the impression he was seriously thinking about his answer.

(Hmmm, let me see how I can make this sound like I  give a .... Photo - A. Rubin)

(Hmmm, let me see how I can make this sound like I give a …. Photo – A. Rubin)

4. Mark Cuban is Living the Dream.

cuban

(Cuban signing autographs before the game (left); holding court with reporters after the game (middle); and exchanging laughs with fans pre-game (right). Photos – A. Rubin)

Mark Cuban loves being an NBA owner. Directly on the heels of the DeAndre Jordan disaster, Cuban was holding court at summer league. He was the first face anyone saw when they entered Cox Pavilion for the Mavs’ opener on Saturday, July 11, and he greeted fans with smiles, handshakes, autographs, and selfies. After the game he gave an impromptu interview to a gaggle of reporters who were hanging on his every word.

It’s Mark Cuban’s world and we are just living in it.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive seemed equally enamored with the cameras in Vegas. He entered the Thomas & Mack center with what appeared to be a documentary film crew following him and organized a pow-wow with Vlade Divac and George Karl, whose only purpose seemed to be creating a photo-op. The three stood together awkwardly for several minutes while dozens of photographers gathered around waiting for something to happen.

20150713_152403

(George Karl does not quite know how to react to Vlade Divac’s awkward hug attempt. Photo – A. Rubin)

5. Milwaukee’s Got Flair.

The Bucks summer league head coach, Sean Sweeney, looks like he just came from an afternoon shift at Chotchkie’s, threw on a new shirt and walked onto the sidelines.

20150710_151659

(Photos – A. Rubin; Office Space inset from http://threads.dappered.com)

6. Byron Scott’s Head is Larger than it Appears.

You know how you can block the entire sun with just your hand, well, Byron Scott’s head has the same effect on a basketball court. Can’t complain, though. The seats were free.

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(I think the Lakers were playing the Knicks but it’s hard to see. Photo – A. Rubin)

7. Draymond Keeps on Trollin’—Even in the Off-Season.

The opening day of summer league featured an NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Draymond Green, never one to shy away from celebrating, showed up wearing a “2015 NBA Champions” T-shirt to make sure that even Cleveland’s summer league team didn’t forget what happened a month earlier.

(I'm sure Draymond was really hoping Kyrie Irving would show up to summer league. Photo - A. Rubin)

(I’m sure Draymond was really hoping Kyrie Irving would show up to summer league. Photo – A. Rubin)

8. GQ for GMs.

There is a wide range of clothing styles among NBA GMs. Sam Hinkie prefers the classic blue blazer. He was wearing it every time I saw him. Maisi Ujiri prefers European slim cut pants. Ernie Grunfeld likes slacks, tucked in polo and a belt clip for his over-sized phone. Bob Meyers wears resort chic while Vlade Divac goes with standard causal summer fare with untucked shirt and Chuck Taylors. Mitch Kupchak looks like a guy who just signed up for two minutes of speaking time to voice his complaints at a local parks and planning commission hearing. Pat Riley, always stylish, goes with a crisp, clean dress shirt.

(Clockwise from top left - Bob Myers, Pat Riley, Sam Hinkie, Masai Ujiri, Mitch Kupchak, Ernie Grunfeld, and Vlade Divac. Photos - A. Rubin)

(Clockwise from top left – Bob Myers, Pat Riley, Sam Hinkie, Masai Ujiri, Mitch Kupchak, Ernie Grunfeld, and Vlade Divac. Photos – A. Rubin)

9. Satnam Singh is the Next Great Bond Villain.

The Dallas Mavericks selected 7-foot, 2-inch Satnam Singh with the No. 52 pick in the 2015 draft. He was the first NBA player drafted out of India. Singh’s father was also 7-foot-2 and his grandmother was 6-foot-9. I am sure Singh is a very nice guy, but if this basketball thing does not work out, he could scare the hell out of Daniel Craig before absent-mindedly leaving the room without confirming his death.

(Singh's hands could squeeze the life out of the basketball. (Screenshot - NBA TV Summer League Live)

(Singh’s hands could squeeze the life out of the basketball. Screenshot – NBA TV Summer League Live)

10. ESPN Needs More Clout.

There were several media outlets camped out on the Thomas & Mack concourse, including ESPN Las Vegas, SiriusXM, Bleacher Report, and The Starters. Whoever was in charge of negotiating ESPN Las Vegas’ location needs a stern talking to. They were camped directly outside the men’s room. Like, you had to squeeze past their table to get inside.

(Fans had to go out of their way not to disturb ESPN's broadcast on the way into the men's room. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Fans had to go out of their way not to disturb ESPN’s broadcast on the way into the men’s room. Photo – A. Rubin)

 11. Summer League is Getting Big.

Prior to this year, the single-day attendance record was 8,013 set on Monday, July 14, 2014. That record was exceeded every single day for the first nine days this year, with a high mark of 12,422 on the opening day.

The increased crowds were noticeable. It was frustratingly difficult exiting Cox Pavilion after the final buzzer of most games and the Thomas & Mack concourse was jammed after Lakers games. Part of the problem was the placement of kid-friendly NBA attractions in high-volume walkways. In the future it might be helpful to set up a mini-fan zone in a less trafficked area.

On the bright side, summer league stepped up its merchandise game this year with a centrally located stand that offered T-shirts people might actually want to wear. Only problem is you had to get there early; the best styles sold out in the first few days.

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(Photo – A. Rubin)

Bonus: Daryl Morey’s Annual Table Tennis Tournament.

(Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho warmup prior the the NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho warmup prior the the NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

One of the most interesting events in Vegas is the annual NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament held at Rain nightclub at the Palms. The tournament is a charity event benefiting St. Jude’s and it is headlined by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Morey, the defending champion, takes his table tennis seriously. He showed up to this year’s event wearing a custom “D. Morey USA” jersey.

(Daryl Morey wearing a custom USA jersey at the NBA Summer League Table Tennis tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Daryl Morey wearing a custom USA jersey at the NBA Summer League Table Tennis tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

The tournament field is a mix of NBA general managers, coaches, league personnel, media and anyone else who pays the $100 charitable buy-in. Morey generously offered to pay the buy-in for a large portion of the field. This year’s players featured, Morey, Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, Brooklyn Nets rookies Rondae Hollis-Jeferson and Markel Brown and NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum.

(Official bracket for the summer league table tennis tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Official bracket for the summer league table tennis tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

Hollis-Jefferson had the most fun of the night. He was talking trash, psyching himself up by jumping in place and fooling around during NBA TV interviews.

(Rondae Hollis-Jefferson taking a break from playing for an NBA TV exclusive interview. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Rondae Hollis-Jefferson taking a break from playing for an NBA TV exclusive interview. Photo – A. Rubin)

You know who is surprisingly good at table tennis? Jeff Hornacek. He even played some points with his left hand.

(Jeff Hornacek plays Rich Cho (foreground); Daryl Morey warms up (background). Photo - A. Rubin)

(Jeff Hornacek plays Rich Cho (foreground); Daryl Morey warms up (background). Photo – A. Rubin)

After watching warm ups, it seemed like Cho was a lock for the finals. He was dressed to play in basketball shorts and a t-shirt and showed no mercy on his first opponent, losing only one point.

However, Cho was upset in the semifinals by Brian Shapiro, who appears to be a radio host in Vegas. I asked Cho what happened and he said Shapiro’s serve is hard to return.

Shapiro took on Morey in the finals and cruised to a relatively comfortable win. Morey showed a little frustration after losing match point but it was all in good fun and for a good cause.

(The Palms marquee announces the annual summer league tradition. Photo - A. Rubin)

(The Palms marquee announces the annual summer league tradition. Photo – A. Rubin)

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Dispatch From Vegas Summer League — A Conversation With Oleksiy Pecherov http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/dispatch-from-vegas-summer-league-a-conversation-with-oleksiy-pecherov.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/dispatch-from-vegas-summer-league-a-conversation-with-oleksiy-pecherov.html#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 20:47:50 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47759 (Oleksiy Pecherov hanging out after July 12, 2015 summer league game versus Sacramento. Photo - A.  Rubin)

(Oleksiy Pecherov hanging out after July 12, 2015, summer league game versus Sacramento. Photo – A. Rubin)

The Denver Nuggets were one of the most intriguing teams entering summer league due to the presence of No. 7 pick Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay was a top high school recruit but skipped college to play one year in China before entering the NBA Draft.

The Nuggets opened summer league play on Friday, July 10, against Atlanta, and I made a point to grab a front row seat for the game. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up from my phone and saw none other than Oleksiy Pecherov, ex-Washington Wizard, standing before me.

The Wizards selected Pecherov 18th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft and signed him the following summer. I was in Vegas for Pecherov’s summer league debut in 2007 and, after Oleksiy registered an eye-opening 26-point, 14-rebound game on 11-for-21 shooting (3-for-5 3PT), I spoke with Ernie Grunfeld about the big Ukranian. He was understandably happy with the performance.

Pecherov ended up playing two mostly uneventful seasons with Washington before being sent to Minnesota along with Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and the No. 5 pick in the fateful Mike Miller-Randy Foye trade.

After one season in Minnesota, Pecherov has been playing in Europe the last five years. In June, Sportando.com reported that Pecherov worked out with the Nuggets, but no official summer league commitment was announced. Oleksiy was not listed on the Nuggets roster that was distributed in the press room in Vegas.

Tim Connelly, the Denver Nuggets general manager who worked for Washington when Pecherov was drafted, said Pecherov looks good but does not expect him to get many minutes in Vegas. Connelly said that Pecherov understands that summer league is for the young players.

I caught up with Pecherov after one of the Nuggets’ summer league games (Q&A below), and he could not have been nicer or more complimentary about his time in Washington. Incidentally, Washington closes out the 2015 summer league tonight at 10 p.m. EDT against “Pech” and the Nuggets.

20150713_172730

(Pecherov on the Denver Nuggets bench during the 2015 NBA summer league in Vegas. Photo – A. Rubin)

Adam Rubin: How did you end up on Denver’s summer league team?

Oleksiy Pecherov: “I was just working out with Denver for probably 10 days and they want me to come for summer league. But my main focus was just to work out and get better.”

AR: Did you know [Denver General Manager] Tim Connelly from back in Washington?

OP: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know Tim for sure.”

AR: What were your memories of playing in Washington? Did you enjoy playing for the Wizards?

OP: “Of course, man. It was a very good two years for me. You know, I always had very good memories of the city. Matter of fact, I am going to come to D.C. after the summer league.”

AR: For vacation?

OP: “To just work out, we’ll see. I love the city. It’s unbelievable and the organization … all the people who were there at that time were unbelievable to me and my family, and I will always remember D.C. Right now it’s my favorite city in the United States. It’s very warm and nice to be there.”

AR: Did you get a chance to talk with Ernie Grunfeld since you’ve been here?

OP: “It’s been a while. It’s been a while because I’ve been in Europe the last five years. Right now, it’s the first time I’ve come to the States in the last five, six years. So it would be good to see him again but, if not, I still follow him. They are doing a good job, they have a really good team who is competing in the playoffs and, hopefully, they will get it done soon and make a good result because they have a … over the last two, three years they have really stepped up, and it was fun to watch them play.”

AR: Is your goal to make a comeback in the NBA?

OP: “If it’s possible, you know. We’ll see. You never say no. It was kind of tough the last two years for me because I had some family issues, but now I have a desire and I have passion to play basketball again. [I’ll] try to get some work in and see what happens.”

AR: Do you keep in touch with any of your old teammates from the Wizards?

OP: “I saw Brendan Haywood today. It’s always good to see somebody I have not seen in a long time.”

AR: Do you still use the phrase “I get buckets, son”?

OP: “You know, it happened. Just try to do my best.”

AR: You have not had a chance to play yet in summer league. Do you think later in the week you’ll get some minutes?

OP: “Maybe, it depends on coaches. We’ll see. You know, like I say, the main goal was for me to get in good shape. I’ve been spending over two weeks and I feel really good about my self shape-wise, and it was the main goal to get better, to get some work in, so I did that. And right now if there is going to be a chance to play, I will play. If not, I’m still going to be working and keep looking forward for my next chance.”

2015-07-12 19.13.39

(Pecherov and teammates waiting for their summer league game to start. Photo – A. Rubin)

AR: What do you think of [Nuggets No. 7 draft pick Emmanuel] Mudiay?

OP: “He’s good, man. He’s talented, 18 years old. Him and [Nuggets 2014 No. 41 pick] Nikola Jokic are both 18 years old and have a long way to learn, but already you can tell they both are talented and have a passion for the game. They come every day [and] try to play hard every day. They are young and have a long way to go as students of the game, especially the first year will be very important catching up with the veterans and learning how to adapt to the NBA, because it is going to be a little different for them. But I think they going to be alright, and they are going to show progress every year and hopefully they turn into very good players.”

AP: Thank you. Enjoy your time in D.C.

OP: “I appreciate it. [Give my] love to everybody.”

AR: Do you have a message you would want to give to the fans?

OP: “Like I said, D.C. is my favorite city in the United States and all of them have been warm and nice to me, and I appreciate that because, at that time, it was very hard for me to come from Europe to America, and they were very helpful, the fans and D.C. organization. It was amazing people there and I feel warm over there, and I really appreciate it.”

AR: Was that your first time coming to the United States after the draft?

OP: “Yeah, for a long time it was my first time. When they drafted me I stayed a long period here, and it was a kind of new situation for me but [the people] were very warm and nice. They supported me all the time. I appreciate them for that.”

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(Photo – A. Rubin)

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 5 — Pecked by the Birds http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-5-pecked-by-the-birds.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-5-pecked-by-the-birds.html#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 15:32:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47749
[Kelly Oubre, via @WashWizards]

[Kelly Oubre, via @WashWizards]

The 20-seed Wizards lost to the 4-seed Pelicans on Thursday night in Las Vegas, 81-97, pushing their summer league record to 2-3. The NBA’s younger Curry, Seth, took it to Washington, scoring 26 points on 21 shots (but 1-5 from 3 and 1-1 on free throws). Curry burned the Wizards by getting into the lane often and using the backboard in a variety of ways—to finish runners, jumpers, and scoop shots.

With the loss, Washington moves to the consolation side of the summer league tournament bracket and will play their sixth and final summer league game versus Oleksiy Pechrov and the Denver Nuggets tonight (Friday evening) at 10 pm ET. Let’s get into the Game 5 REAX…

Thumbs Up.

  • Khem Birch. A summer-leaguer with the Wizards last year who really piqued the interested of team brass, Birch is back on the familiar UNLV campus (where he played for three seasons after playing one season at Pittsburgh) and playing with the New Orleans Pelicans. Birch was signed by the Miami Heat before last season but never made the team and split time between the D-League and Turkey. For one, he looks a lot bigger this summer—gone is his wiry frame, and to him and his trainers goes the credit. Likely motivated against his former summer league team, Birch started at 5 for New Orleans and scored 12 points to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots in 24 minutes. He also put up a game-high plus-23 in plus/minus. The quiet-in-demeanor Birch was quite the opposite on the court, swatting Wizards one end and throwing down dunks on the other.
  • Scott Machado. The well-traveled Machado—this is his fourth summer league—was far from impressive in terms of running the team over Washington’s first couple of contests, but his best two games have come in the last two versus New Orleans and Utah. Machado’s overall assists to turnover ratio is not great (five games, 4.6 assists per, 3.2 turnovers per), and he’s shooting 16.7 percent from the 3-point line. But, the 6-foot-1 Machado has great body control on drives to the basket, can do damage at the free throw line (23-27 over five games), and is an above-average passer and defender (although, he did struggle with Seth Curry at times). Machado still doesn’t seem like an NBA-caliber point—at least not one the Wizards should consider—but if he ever improves the range on his shot, look out. (However unlikely as such may be: Machado has shot 29.3% from deep over 55 career D-League games.)

Thumbs Down.

  • Jarrid Famous. After all, he couldn’t dominate every game (he also had a down Game 4). Famous played just eight minutes, missed two shots, grabbed one rebound, and committed one turnover. From afar, I could not tell if he got injured, fatigued, or if Howard Eisley, leading the coaching duties for Game 5, simply decided to give some other guys run.
  • Damion James. It hasn’t been the best overall summer league for the 27-year-old veteran who’s seen 623 total NBA minutes since being drafted 24th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2010. Fun fact: On draft night the Hawks traded James to the Nets for Jordan Crawford (selected 27th overall in 2010) and Tibor Pleiss (selected 31st overall). Atlanta then sold the 7-foot-2 Pleiss on that same draft night to the Thunder, who sent him to Utah as part of the three-team Enes Kanter-Reggie Jackson deal this past February. Pleiss has been honing his game in Spain and was signed by the Jazz to a multi-year contract this summer.

    Back to James… He’s been active in Vegas, for sure, but he shot just 3-for-11 against the Pelicans. His 35.6 percent shooting over five summer league games is one of the worst on the team—of course, it’s better than Kelly Oubre’s 33.3 percent and Aaron White’s 34.8 percent. James has missed his only two 3-point attempts during summer league and, over all those NBA minutes, he’s just 0-for-6 total. James spent four seasons playing for the University of Texas (2006-2010). Curiously, after going 1-for-11 from deep in his freshman season, James went 102-for-272 (37.5%) over this next three seasons with the Longhorns. Not great, not bad, still a college 3. Nonetheless, being a 6-for-7 wing, you’d think that James would’ve developed more of a shot at this point.

Midrange.

  • Kelly Oubre. As had gone the general theme for the 15th-overall-pick’s summer in Vegas, Oubre showed plenty of promise while displaying a ton of inconsistency. But, hey, that’s what summer is for. Oubre continues to find his way into plays—getting back on defense, trying for blocks, picking up fouls. When his offense struggles—and it does quite often—you rarely see him hang his head and forget about the other end of the floor. He is definitely not Nick Young; Oubre actually reminds me more of Trevor Ariza, but with a more advanced on offense entering the league. In the first half Oubre pulled up in the lane for a smooth-looking runner. He missed. But you’ve got to take ‘em—get in those game reps—to eventually make ‘em (as we found out with John Wall’s elbow jumper). In the second half he got blocked at the rim two straight times, crossing nicely from right-to-left the second time but not using his body to create space for his shot. A third time was a charm, however. Soon after the rejections, Oubre changed it up, crossing left to right and finishing at the rim with this off, right hand. Given plenty of space, Oubre missed a 3-point look late in the game (0-3 versus the Pelicans, 3-25 over five summer league games). Something is often amiss with his lower body balance and footwork on long jump shots; one would assume that improves with added muscle to help him with NBA 3-point range.

Trending.

  • Three straight solid games by Shawn Jones, bowling ball power forward, is certainly a trend. Over the first two games, Jones played OK—24 total minutes, 10 points (3-6 FGs), nine rebounds, and two turnovers. Over the next three games, the Middle Tennessee State product received an uptick in run—61 total minutes, 34 points (14-25 FGs), 25 rebounds, four blocks, and four turnovers. Jones pulled down a 12-11 double-double against New Orleans. Unfortunately for Jones, however, is that without a 3-point shot, he’s just another undersized forward

Notes.

  • Bradley Beal showed up at summer league for the first time and joined the broadcast crew of Doug Gottlieb and Matt Devlin (Wale hater) during the game. Beal indicated that he hadn’t yet seen Oubre play. (Was he not watching summer league up to Game 5? Unclear.) Beal also had two interesting but totally Bradley Beal-like quotes:
    • On the biggest adjustment from college to the NBA: ‘The biggest thing is having to deal with the travel and adjusting to that lifestyle, up to that style of play, because it’s totally different. And when you’re a rookie, everything is your fault. So you have to be able to learn to deal with adversity and just learn to be coachable.”
    • On what it’s like to see some of the final contract numbers being given out this summer: “It’s a blessing.” [And then stock footage of Beal “not worrying about it” and “letting his agent deal with it” when it comes to his own contract situation.]
  • Robert Pack led the summer league coaching duties for New Orleans versus Washington. I have fond memories of Pack and his explosive game, as he was once-upon-a-time a Washington Bullet. Many moons ago (August 2008), I wrote about Pack’s career for Bullets Forever. Check it out.
  • Larry Drew III continued his nice summer-league play with 13 points (5-10 FGs), five assists, and three rebounds in 27.5 minutes. I also think his hair put on a better showing than Kelly Oubre’s.

More Vines.

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 4 – Wire-to-Wire Wizardry http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-4-wire-to-wire-wizardry.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-4-wire-to-wire-wizardry.html#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 00:01:48 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47731
John Wall in the makeshift Summer League locker room[Photo Courtesy of Adam Rubin (@ledellsplace)]

John Wall in the makeshift Summer League locker room[Photo Courtesy of Adam Rubin (@ledellsplace)]

John Wall had to be sitting on the sidelines thinking, “Hey I’ve seen this story before.” The Wizards summer league team looked eerily similar to the real Wizards team back in the doldrums of winter—they even followed the exact same blueprint.

Washington jumped out to an early lead, thanks to team defense, hot shooting and the leadership of the starting point guard (Scott Machado). And then, in the second half, the hot shooting cooled, the defense slipped a bit, and the backups played more minutes because of the lopsided game. Struggle. The starters returned without any real momentum, the opposing team’s confidence was sky-high, but, ultimately, the stars came through with big-game performances late in the game to bail out the Wizards.

Despite the near collapse at the end of the game, there are plenty of positives to be gleaned from the close victory. The Wizards shot a summer league-best 65 percent from the field, thanks to Scott Machado, who masterfully managed to both find his offense and get everyone involved (17 points, eight assists, four other players in double-figures). Starting around the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Utah began to put together cohesive, offensive possessions, both Machado and Kelly Oubre (who was inconsistent all night) wanted the ball in their hands in those clutch moments. They hit free throws, grabbed offensive rebounds, and kept their team on the right side of the final score. Embarrassment avoided.

Let’s delve deeper, shall we?

Thumbs Up.

Scott Machado
28 mins | 17 pts | 5-8 FGs, 0-2 3Ps, 7-8 FTs | 8 asts | 5 rebs

Machado may not have the speed and quickness of John Wall, but against the Jazz he demonstrated his ability to do something else that Wall has mastered: control the game. He pushed the tempo when it was clear the Wizards had numbers and he embraced the secondary break the few times the Jazz actually got back on defense. He got fancy with an over-the-shoulder pass, he was feisty and competitive when Jazz point guard Bryce Cotton scored on him, and, sadly, when Machado was not in the game, the Wizards’ offense was stagnant.

And, in the last 1:54 of the fourth quarter, which is when a point guard should grab hold of the team, Machado had three defensive rebounds and five points. The ability to “manage a game” has a negative connotation at times, but Machado’s ability to do just that was the key to the Wizards’ victory over the Jazz.

Orlando Johnson
26 mins | 16 pts | 6-9 FGs, 1-4 3Ps, 3-5 FTs | 11 rebs | 1 TO

One game after going 1-for-5 from the field, and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, Orlando Johnson bounced back with style and versatility—although he did most of his damage in the first three quarters. Johnson scored on layups, midrange jumpers, he hit one 3-point shot, and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was also his layup with five minutes left in the game that broke the Wizards’ five-minute long scoring drought and jumpstarted the offense. Perhaps the most impressive part of Johnson’s night came via the postgame interview when he snubbed his own offensive accomplishments and instead chose to praise his ability to pick up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter as the game began to slip away.

Thumbs Down.

  • Jarrid Famous After averaging 15 points and 9.6 rebounds in this first three summer league games, Famous was a non-factor against the Jazz with four points (all from the free throw line), four rebounds and four fouls—two of which came in the first minute and a half of the game. During one particularly damning stretch, Jazz forward Trey Lyles missed consecutive shots in the front of the basket and Jack Cooley grabbed both rebounds right in front of Famous. The second missed rebound attempt for Famous was followed by a foul, which put Cooley on the line (he made both free throws).

Midrange.

  • Kelly Oubre’s nickname could easily be “A Tale of Two Cities,” because he definitely gave the Wizards the best and worst of times. On defense he correctly guessed in the passing lane and he continued to demonstrate that he knows exactly how best to use his freakishly long arms to pickpocket unsuspecting ballhandlers. But he does not always get back on defense in a timely fashion and, at times, as rookies are wont to do, he gets lulled into watching the ball over his man. Offensively, Oubre’s stroke looked smooth and confident to open the game in hitting a 3-pointer or when he caught an alley-oop from Machado. That was not nearly enough to offset the airballs, the dribbles through double-teams and the lack of confidence in driving the lane.
  • Aaron White’s nickname should be “Secret Weapon” in honor of the legendary Washington Bulles forward, Charles Jones. Save for the occasional rebound or assist, White spent most of his 15 minutes being a spectator on offense, a step slow on defense and not aggressive enough of the boards. Then out of nowhere he’d run the floor and do this:

Trending

  • Kelly Oubre was clearly frustrated with this offensive performance during the first half of the game, despite making some effective plays on the defensive end of the floor. Conversely, John Wall was having a grand time in the stands, signing autographs and covering his mouth while trying to have clandestine conversations with his boys. Wall could have kept right on sitting down as the Wizards began the second half, but instead he pulled Oubre aside and gave him a few pointers. Oubre’s play did not get better (or worse for that matter) in the second half, but that’s irrelevant. John Wall’s presence in the stands and his willingness to get in Oubre’s ear right away is proof that he is taking his post-Paul Pierce leadership responsibilities quite seriously. That is refreshing and, of course, trending.
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Day 6: Sights and Sounds of Vegas Summer League — The Rookies, Wall, and Grunfeld http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-6-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-summer-league-the-rookies-wall-and-grunfeld.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-6-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-summer-league-the-rookies-wall-and-grunfeld.html#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 20:44:01 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47733
[Grandpa Wittman keeps an eye on his kids.]

[Grandpa Wittman keeps an eye on his kids.]

The Washington Wizards entered the NBA Summer League double-elimination tournament as the 20th seed—out of 24—and faced the 13-seed Utah Jazz in the first round. The Wizards caught a break, as Utah rested their two best players, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.

Washington’s summer league team has taken on the personality of its regular season big brother. The team looked awful in the first two games and squeaked out a victory against a winless Dallas squad in its third game. However, when the playoffs started, the team looked completely different. It was like night and day. The Wizards jumped on the Jazz early, taking a 33-18 lead after one quarter, and the game was never really in doubt after that … except for a very regular season Wizards-like mini-meltdown in the fourth, when Utah trimmed the deficit to single-digits before Washington pulled away late.

After the game I spoke to the Wizards’ rookies and two things were clear:

  1. Kelly Oubre, Jr. wants a summer league championship; and
  2. Aaron White is not pleased with his play.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

After the game, Randy Wittman pulled Oubre aside in the hallway for an impromptu coaching session. Wittman was demonstrably waving his arms and pointing in a manner worthy of the nickname “Koko.”

Adam Rubin: Wittman was talking to you after the game, was he talking about defensive assignments?

Kelly Oubre: No, he was talking about plays on the offensive end when teams send two guys at me, trying to make the right plays for the guy that’s wide open. There were a couple times where I tried to attack the rim and tried to go over two guys, and that’s not a smart play. I definitely need to start being the best player I can be, and making the right plays is important.

AR: Some rookies in summer league will take off a game or two throughout the week. Do you want to play in all summer league games?

KO: My hand hurts bad. I’m not going to take off a game. I want to win a championship.

AR: When did your hand start hurting?

KO: I fell on it yesterday, actually, but I’m all good.

AR: Did you get treatment for it?

KO: Most definitely. I’m good. So there’s nothing further to talk about about that.

Aaron White

Adam Rubin: Has your experience in summer league given you any indication about what you want to do after this coming year, in terms of going to the NBA or going to Europe?

Aaron White: I’m trying to get my feet wet, trying to get used to the game. With the roster and stuff, that’s an option go overseas and that’s kind of what me and my agent are looking at along with the Wizards. We talked about that pre-draft—before they drafted me—so that’s kind of what the overall plan is, depending on what shakes out. It’s not definite right now. I wouldn’t say that my play is indicating that, it’s more so the situation with the roster.

White gave a candid assessment of his play in Vegas so far: “I have not played well here” and opined that he could use some time overseas to develop:

“I would love to stay here in the NBA, but at the same time I know that for me it’s a bigger picture. If I am going to get better by playing overseas, that’s what I want to do.”

AR: What has the coaching staff told you about what they want to see, what you should focus on? Have they given you any pointers?

AW: No, they haven’t really talked about it. They want me to shoot the ball when I am open. Right now I just need to see the ball go through the hole, to be honest. I’ve gotten some good looks that haven’t dropped. I finally got to the free throw line tonight but I just haven’t really played that well. I haven’t been playing my game. But the good thing is we are starting to win so that’s what I’m happy about. I’m just trying to learn and grow and continue to get better.

John Wall Offering Support

The Wizards have not had much team support in Vegas. Garrett Temple, Drew Gooden, and Alan Anderson made cameos in Vegas, the last two for the purpose of taking physicals and signing contracts (Temple exercised his player option for next season back in June). Bradley Beal was a no-show, Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter are in Poland, and I am not going to research Instagram and/or Twitter to find out where the rest of the Wizards are.

However, one player has been very visible on UNLV’s campus: John Wall. Wall sat courtside for the past two Wizards contests and circulated with the team before and after games.

After Washington’s playoff win in the Cox Pavilion, Wall walked across the concourse to the Thomas & Mack center to watch Karl-Anthony Towns. Wizards Team Services Manager Jackie Miles was working overtime in Vegas taking care of the team and chaperoning Wall throughout the arena.

On the visitors’ side, Utah Jazz forward (and former Washington fan-favorite) Trevor Booker sat inconspicuously in the corner of the stands to watch the Wizards-Jazz game.

Ernie Grunfeld Doin’ Work

Ernie Grunfeld was circulating between the two gyms prior to the Wizards-Jazz game and caught up with Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, and those are just the two I happened to see. Vegas is a breeding ground for HoopsHype.com rumors.

There is still a lot more to come from Vegas…

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Oleksiy Pecherov, a breakdown of the 2015 NBA Summer League Table Tennis tournament to benefit St. Jude’s, and much more.

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Day 5: Sights and Sounds of Vegas Summer League — Jordan Crawford Edition http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-5-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-summer-league-jordan-crawford-edition.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-5-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-summer-league-jordan-crawford-edition.html#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 12:52:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47717
(Former member of 'The New Big 3" Jordan Crawford enters the arena. Photo - A. Rubin)

[Former member of ‘The New Big 3″ Jordan Crawford enters the arena. Photo – A. Rubin]

Washington’s game three matchup versus Jordan Crawford and the Dallas Mavericks had the potential for fireworks with Crawford matching up against Kelly Oubre, the Wizards talented but raw rookie.

For his part, Jordan dismissed any notion that he would be going for blood against his former team. On Saturday, Crawford told me he did not even know that Washington was on Dallas’ schedule, and shortly before tip-off he laughed off the idea of gunning for the NBA Summer League single-game scoring record.

Once the ball was tipped, Crawford definitely looked like he had an extra spring in his step. But in the first 2:48 of the game, he put up three total shots, air-balling a 3-pointer and committing an offensive foul on a pull-up jumper. Something tells me that if Crawford had hit his initial 3-pointer the outcome of the game would have been much different. But it wasn’t to be. Crawford finished the game 3-for-13 from the field and 0-for-7 from long range. It was Kelly Oubre’s day to shine and to the victor goes the post-game interview.

As always, for in-depth coverage of the Wizards’ performance, check out TAI’s Rapid Reax for Game 3. For an interesting conversation with Jordan Crawford, see below. After the game I talked with Crawford (and was later joined by the Washington Post’s Michael Lee), and The former Wizard shared his thoughts on a variety of topics, including Kelly Oubre’s prospects, life in China, and the NBA grind.

Adam Rubin: You said you weren’t going to have any extra motivation against Washington. It looked like you were going pretty hard at the end trying to get the comeback.

Jordan Crawford: Yeah. It was a competitive spirit, as always. But it’s just another game, young guys getting more of a feel, I am getting more of a feel.

AR: You came out firing pretty early.

JC: Yeah.

AR: More so than you were doing in the previous games.

JC: Yeah, I definitely wanted to get a couple shots, see how my shot was going. I’ve really been putting my shots to the side and making sure Justin [Anderson], Dwight [Powell] and everybody get going. So, I wanted to come out and shoot a little more today.

AR: Were you also trying to go at Kelly Oubre a little bit. Whenever you got a rookie down there you want to show him something.

JC: Yeah, but he alright. He can play. He was a great pick for the Wizards. I think he’ll see some minutes coming his way his rookie year.

AR: How did you like his defense. He’ll have to get his minutes through defense. Was he alright covering you?

JC: Yeah, he told me to keep going at him, so you can tell he is a competitor and wants to play and get better, and that’s always good.

Michael Lee: What was it like in China?

JC: The basketball was fun. I went with the team that had the most money, so I suffered some with my lifestyle, couldn’t really go outside or do nothing … that kind of was a different experience for me, but everything was a great experience, a learning experience.

ML: There was a cultural adjustment?

JC: Where I was at, I was near Russia. I was in northern China, old China. So it was real, like, they see us and they ain’t ever seen us so their eyes are wide open. So it was a different experience. It was fun. To be able to go there, all the Chinese players and coaches ask you questions, they really look up to us, so it is important to kind of give them the knowledge I knew.

AR: Did you talk to any other NBA players that had gone over there before you left?

JC: No. Not really.

ML: You played with ‘Dray [Blatche], right?

JC: Yeah.

ML: What was it like being back with him?

JC: It was cool. He was kind of doing the same thing, wanting to get better. He really did a great job out there. He embraced it well and they really look up to him.

ML: How much do you want to be back in this league.

JC: Of course, I want to be back in the NBA. I felt on the court I did a lot to prove myself that I should be there. Off the court I could have got better. I could have been a little more patient in D.C., things like that. You always want to be with the best players.

ML: Talk about the challenge of knowing you have to go this route now.

JC:  It’s a good experience. I’ve always been the type to fight for it, put it in God’s hands and just roll with the punches.

ML: I saw you wrapping with Wall at the end.

JC: I see him all the time. I see Beal, talk to him all the time. We are always talking and keeping up, I’m always watching.

M: What did you think of the Finals. The Warriors were your former team.

JC: Steve Kerr did a great job making sure everybody feels a part of it […] and Draymond carried them with the toughness. Everybody played to the best of their abilities and it really helped.

AR: What do you think of all this free agency money that’s being thrown around?

JC: What do I think about it? I want to get my hands on some. I mean, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 3 — Wizards Make Matinée Magic; No Steelo Show in Vegas http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-3-wizards-make-matinee-magic-no-steelo-show-in-vegas.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-3-wizards-make-matinee-magic-no-steelo-show-in-vegas.html#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 00:35:32 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47702
John Wall, dripping with gold, watches from his courtside seat. [Photo via instagram.com/washwizards]

John Wall, dripping with gold, watches from his courtside seat. [Photo via instagram.com/washwizards]

Two winless teams entered the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tuesday afternoon. One, the Washington Wizards, emerged victorious, now 1-2 in summer league competition.

It was a close, relatively high-scoring affair, with the Wizards and Dallas Mavericks racking up 164 points between them. This was a bit of a surprise, reflecting on the almost amateur action, given the Mavs made just one-third of their attempts from the field; the Wiz shot 47.1 percent. Worse: The two teams combined to go 5-for-44 from 3-point range. The Mavericks made the majority (3) on 31 attempts, while the Summer Wizards, now famous for eschewing the long ball, went 2-for-13.

The 85-79 final score was brought to you by the free throw line. On the Wizards side of things, it was about volume: 17-for-29 (58.6%). On the Mavs side it was about volume AND efficiency. They shot better than 81 percent from the stripe, going 26-for-32. (That means 32.9% of their point total came from the free throw line.)

But you didn’t come here for statistics tartar. You came for analysis flambé. Read on!

Thumbs Up

Jarrid Famous
20 mins | 16 pts | 7-12 FGs, 0-0 3Ps, 2-4 FTs | 9 rebs (6 off) | 1 blk

Yep. Again. His big-time point total in Washington’s second summer league game against the D-League team was mostly a product of taking a dozen free throw attempts, but it was a different story against the Mavericks. At 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, Famous had the size, strength, and touch to lead the Wizards in scoring. One knock on his performance: he needlessly left his feet to contest an under-the-basket attempt from the Mavericks’ rangy forward/center Dwight Powell, which led to a pair of free throws.

Oh. It must be mentioned that Famous shook the stanchion with a game-high three dunks, including one of Jarrid’s famous alley-oops, assisted by rookie Kelly Oubre, Jr. Enjoy this while you can.

Shawn Jones
21 mins | 12 pts | 4-8 FGs, 0-0 3Ps, 4-6 FTs | 9 rebs (5 off) | 1 stl | 2 blk | 2 TOs

Shawn Jones is built like a barrel. A 6-foot-8, DeJuan Blair-shaped barrel. And he looks more effective out there on the hardwood than the aforementioned barrel-looking Wizards big man. He followed up a strong effort in Washington’s second summer league game with an impressive outing against Dallas, especially in the first half.

Jones used a decent looking jumper to score his first points of the game, which were followed by a pair of made free throws on four attempts from the line. He ended the first quarter by gobbling up an Oubre airball from the top of the arc and kissing the ball off the glass before the end-of-quarter horn. That timely make gave the ‘Zards an eight-point lead going into the second. What Jones did next might surprise you! He sunk a wild, acrobatic reverse layup under pressure below the basket in the second quarter. And then he started blowing up point guard Maalik Wayns’ (1) spot. On another occasion, late in the game, Wayns spun into the lane (a perfect spin move, it should be noted), but Jones followed him every step of the way: layup returned to sender. He also swatted away an attempt from 6-foot-6 guard Justin Anderson. Now, the official record has Jones with two blocks, so somebody’s #BasketballMath is off and I’m, oh, 95 percent sure it isn’t mine.

He’s not a perfect prospect—a bit undersized without eye-popping athleticism, which was evident on two second-half drives, one of which resulted in an easy transition layup and the other in an and-1 for Jordan Crawford (who had a Crawful game: 3-for-13 from the field, 0-for-7 from 3). Famous is one of two big men on the Summer Wizards squad who have had the better summer league so far (Aaron White being the other), but shout-out to Shawn Jones for a good showing.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.
26 mins | 11 pts | 4-11 FGs, 1-5 3Ps, 2-6 FTs | 6 rebs (2 off) | 3 stl | 1 blk | 4 TOs

Oubre swished his first 3-pointer of the game. A smooth, straight, up-and-down attempt from the top of the arc. And I was like, YO WHEN DID JAMES HARDEN JOIN THE WIZARDS SUMMER LEAGUE TEAM?!?

Nah. The kid’s jump shot still hasn’t turned up in Vegas. But that’s OK, at least according to John Wall, who was interviewed from his courtside seat by NBA TV’s sideline reporter Jen Hale. “I talked to him yesterday, it ain’t about proving you can make jump shots right now,” Wall said. “It’s doing what your strengths are: attacking the basket, playing defense, doing the little things.”

The good news: Oubre did those little, defensive-type things from the opening tip, proof of which will NOT be found in the box score. He used his 7-foot-2 wingspan to block Jeremy Tyler, which looked clean but was ruled a foul by the referees, and later chased down Powell for another block, which was again called a foul. Oubre smiled after the second whistle, as if to say, ‘Fine, fine, call that a foul, but you Mavericks better believe I’m out here hunting.’

And, in the final minute of a four-point game, he used his long arms to pull down a big rebound and, moments later, to deflect a Mavs inbounds pass, which was recovered by the Wiz. Defensive dagger.

Thumbs Down

  • Kelly Oubre‘s rug-burn raw offense! There’s plenty to like in his still-developing skill set, but there are two things that are apparently clear when watching him run against summer league scrubs and NBA hopefuls. He doesn’t have much of a right hand—like, he really, really doesn’t want to use it and looks awkward driving in that direction. One one play, Oubre was forced right, tripped over his own feet in between three Mavericks defenders and, fighting to keep possession on one knee, had the ball ripped from his hands. (He did set-up a few defenders with a left-right-left crossover, which was cool.) The other issue? Oubre tends to settle for this weird spin jumper when his angle to the basket gets cut off. It rarely goes in and it’s clear that the spinning J is not an intentional space-maker but a desperation move.
  • Orlando Johnson, man. The NBA TV crew described the Wizards’ starting 2-guard as a “scorer,” but there wasn’t much scoring to be seen from O.J. against the zero-win Mavericks. This UC Santa Barbara Gaucho went 1-for-5 from the field, 0-for-3 from the arc (in good company in this contest), and finished with the worst plus/minus on the team. His three assists were a nice plus, but nowhere near good enough.

Midrange

  • Scott Machado bounced back from a tough second game to score a dozen points (on eight shots), collect six assists, dish five dimes, block a shot, and pick up two steals. The Nicki Minaj-sized but(t): Machado shared the honor of committing a game-high four turnovers with Jordan Crawford (and Oubre, but he’s a rookie and a first-round pick so he gets a pass).
  • Aaron White, no stranger to this section. I was impressed by some of his close-outs, even on perimeter players. This 6-foot-9, red-haired forward is more athletic than you might think. On Tuesday afternoon, White consistently used his size and speed to create problems, whether that was in transition (where he scored a layup with what looked like but certainly wasn’t a Euro step) or on the boards, especially on the defensive end (team-high 6). He was active and often open, dashing to the hoop or cutting baseline, but the point guard play (see above) didn’t do him many favors. Still, he did get to go back to his hotel room with a game-high plus/minus of plus-11. A work in progress, overall.
  • Former first-round selection Damion James. His numbers (15 points, 4 rebounds) look better in the box score. He mostly hung around inside the arc, looking to post up, but when he didn’t receive an inbounds pass (see: Machado, Scott), he would slip into space for a midrange look. James’ defense was solid enough, but there’s just not enough there—for me—to get too excited about his NBA potential, even if he averaged nearly 20 points per game with the D-League’s Texas Legends.

Trending

  • John Wall opened up to Washington Wizards beat writers away from the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center. What he said was highly quotable. First things first: His hand is <one hunnid emoji/> and no worse for wear. Second, Wall expected Pierce to retire and, if not, to leave D.C. “I think he wanted a two-year deal or whatever so I knew it wasn’t going to work after that,” the All-Star said. Wall also predicted that Kelly Oubre will thrive as a Wizard and compared him to “Yung Simba”: “I think he’s going to be great for us. I think he’s somebody like Otto but probably more athletic and able to move.” (Yeah, he could have phrased that better; poor Otto.) Last but not least, the money quote—quite literally—that will be republished across the internet:

“Man, everybody talking about me getting $80 million and you got people getting $85 and $90 million that ain’t been an All-Star or anything like that. I guess they came in at the right time. The new [TV money] kicked in at the right time … and they’re good now. Like, Reggie Jackson gets 5 years, 80. Like, I’m getting the same amount as Reggie Jackson right now.”

Notes

  • Here’s a heartwarming something something from the Kelly Oubre coverage. This was sourced from NBA TV’s Jen Hale. After a “disappointing” Game 2, Oubre called his trainer and had a personal, private workout at around 10 p.m. on Sunday night. Hale said that Oubre is working so hard because “he’s playing for more than himself.” She went on to share that he was raised by a single father, a 9th grade special education teacher, who worked odd jobs, including a gig as an insurance salesman. Oubre is “conscious of the sacrifices his father made.” The father-son duo are close: Kelly Oubre, Sr. cried when Junior left home for the first time.

 


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The Wizards Are Hard Capped — What Now? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/the-wizards-are-hard-capped-what-now.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/the-wizards-are-hard-capped-what-now.html#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:22:57 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47695
[Ernie Grunfeld, Ted Leonsis, and the Hard Capped Wizards]

[Ernie Grunfeld, Ted Leonsis, and the Hard Capped Wizards]

The Washington Wizards may currently have a full boat with a roster of 15, but by some indications they are not done maneuvering this summer. First, let’s take a gander at the current depth chart:

1 – John Wall, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple
2 – Bradley Beal, Gary Neal, Martell Webster
3 – Otto Porter, Alan Anderson, Kelly Oubre
4 – Jared Dudley, Kris Humphries, Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair
5 – Marcin Gortat, Nene

Solid squad, much improved depth from last season, mostly dependent on the growth of John Wall and Bradley Beal (and Otto Porter).

Now… This depth chart does not necessarily reflect a pecking order, nor the ability of some players to play multiple positions. In an ideal world—one that team management overtly strives for—Nene, if on Washington’s roster next season, is the backup 5 behind Marcin Gortat. (1)

“It’s a copycat league,” said Randy Wittman, referencing Golden State’s style of play when joining the NBA TV broadcast during Washington’s second summer league game on Sunday. “I think you’re going to see a lot more smaller lineups this next year,” the coach continued, indicating that the roster moves Washington has made this offseason gives them the “affordability” to play that way. A similar sentiment arose for the Wizards’ camp at the conclusion of last season. And regarding his pairing with Nene, Marcin Gortat recently expressed this to the media from his youth basketball camp in Poland: “We’re the same kind of players. We tried to play alongside each other, but it got more and more cumbersome over time. The teams also figured out a way to play against us.”

The writing is on the wall and hopefully Nene is reading it, but this isn’t to say Nene won’t potentially start next season at the 4 spot. Nor does the above depth chart mean you should pencil in Jared Dudley as the starting stretch-4 (he’ll likely come off the bench, a role he’s better suited for). Still, counting 1-thru-15, you can easily see a roster imbalance. Too many 4s that aren’t really stretch-4s (aside from the soon-to-be 34-years-old Drew Gooden), and not enough rim protection off the bench—now one of Washington’s highest priorities. Nene will very likely be the primary backup big who sometimes plays alongside Gortat, but the Wizards cannot rely on Nene’s health for an entire season—starting or subbing. They must find some insurance.

The salary total for the 15 players currently on the roster estimates to be just over $81.1 million (give or take a couple details), but that doesn’t account for cap holds, such as those for Kevin Seraphin ($7.4 million), Rasual Butler ($947,276), and Will Bynum ($947,276). (2)

—-

As the numbers were crunched leading up to July 9 (the end of the NBA’s moratorium on making player movement official), the league announced that the salary cap for 2015-16 would be set at $70 million. This was about $3 million higher than expected, and thus the formulaic luxury tax threshold was set at $84.7 million.

The Washington Wizards, being above the salary cap but below the luxury tax line “apron”—more on that to come—had a couple exceptions at their disposal with which to pay new players.

  • Part of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE) of $5.5 million was used on Alan Anderson ($4 million, one season). The MLE can be split up amongst multiple players; the Wizards have just over $1.4 million of the MLE left.
  • The bi-annual exception (BAE) of just over $2.1 million was given to Gary Neal (for one season). Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to use the BAE every two years—the Wizards last used it to sign Eric Maynor for two seasons at just over $4.1 million in 2013.
  • Only part of the trade exception the Wizards received from Sacramento in the Andre Miller-Ramon Sessions deal was used to acquire Jared Dudley in a trade from Milwaukee. The Wizards have a trade exception of $2.2 million left.

Back to that “apron.” The apron is set at $4 million above the $84.7 million luxury tax line (so, $88.7 million for 2015-16) and was introduced as hard cap of sorts in 2011. Teams above the apron do not have access to exceptions such as the non-taxpayer MLE and the BAE. But, if a team is below the apron and uses one or more of those exceptions, or if the team executes a sign-and-trade, they are hard capped until the following June 30 (2016).

The Wizards, exhausting two of the three of the aforementioned options, are now one of those hard capped teams, joining Memphis, New Orleans, and Charlotte, according to Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42), a former front office executive with the Nets turned NBA salary guru on Twitter. Being hard capped, these teams cannot exceed the $88.7 million apron under any circumstance. The Wizards are further restricted with salary slots currently committed to 15 players.

Essentially, to better balance their roster, or to simply increase flexibility (Ernie Grunfeld has traditionally preferred to leave one, if not two, roster spots open for what may happen both leading up to and during the season), the Wizards must waive players with non-guaranteed salary, waive players with guaranteed salary using the stretch provision, trade down in salary, or make another cost-cutting move in order to add anyone else to the team. They would ideally like to create as much room as possible below the $88.7 million apron. That said, the Wizards aren’t necessarily trying to get to the apron (and be a luxury tax payer), but with the cap and tax going up next season, they shouldn’t be shy about it.

Washington, for instance, is not beyond wanting to bring back Kevin Seraphin (at the right price—safe to say the Wizards would rather have Seraphin than DeJuan Blair), but would have to maneuver just to sign him for the veteran’s minimum. Per reports, Seraphin was not interested in a minimum offer from Dallas. He and his agent, Rich Paul (who also represents LeBron James), are probably looking for the best situation in which Seraphin can thrive and find playing time while getting paid in the realm of market value (whatever that is) for one season. After that, Seraphin could test a more open and flexible market next summer.

What it means for Washington: by deductive reasoning, DeJuan Blair, Martell Webster, and Garrett Temple are candidates to be moved or maneuvered. Blair is the oddest man out. Signed as “Nene insurance” last season, Blair at the time appeared to be a nice addition of depth (and an appeasing acquisition of the second rounder that Washington missed out on in 2009). But as it turns out, Blair is no longer effective in the new NBA—not tall enough to be 5, not lateral enough to be a 4, not even the best attitude in the locker room. Blair is signed for $2 million this season and a non-guaranteed $2 million next season.

Webster just isn’t the same player anymore—back surgery, hernia surgery, and the detritus of assorted what-not. Even if he were able to rekindle his shooting stroke, his defense (which was never great in the first place) might never get back to adequate levels. He is on the books for $5.6 million in 2015-16 and a not-fully-guaranteed $5.8 million in 2016-17. Team owner Ted Leonsis did curiously give Webster a vote of confidence in a recent blog post discussing Washington’s offseason moves.

Temple is the coachable, lovable utility infielder; a spot defender; and great locker room guy whose toolbox is chock full of intangibles. The problem is that if the Wizards are looking for a certain type of depth and flexibility, Temple is simply taking up a roster spot. It would be different if Temple were a more versatile offensive player. (3) Right now, Temple is more necessary than either Blair or Webster, as he’s part of a triumvirate of combo guards—along with Ramon Session and Gary Neal—who can play point behind John Wall or be on the court next to Wall.

It’s hard to tell where the balance lies for the Wizards: the desire for a better option (in the backcourt or frontcourt), versus the security and reliability of a solid journeyman who’s played 178 regular season games with the franchise. Moving either Webster or Blair is also not as simple as it sounds.

What’s more clear is that the Wizards still have some tweaks to make this summer. At least it should be clear. Too much work and words have been put into proclaiming a change in the style of play going forward. If the team is serious about acting, they need to climb all the steps to back it up.


References:


Footnotes:

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Day 4: Sights and Sounds of Vegas Summer League — Featuring Glen Rice, Jr. and Steve Javie http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/2015-nba-summer-league-day-4-sights-sounds-glen-rice-steve-javie.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/2015-nba-summer-league-day-4-sights-sounds-glen-rice-steve-javie.html#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:59:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47679 Washington Bullets mascot "Hoops" pictured with family members. Photo - Czabe.com)

(Washington Bullets mascot “Hoops” pictured in happier times. Photo from czabe.com)

It was an off day for the Washington Wizards summer league team before they take on Jordan Crawford and the Dallas Mavericks at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, July 14. But there is always Wizards-related news to be had in Vegas. On Day 4 that news came courtesy of Glen Rice, Jr. and Steve Javie.

Glen Rice, Jr.’s Silence Speaks Volumes

Glen Rice, Jr. head to the locker room after the Houston Rockets lost to the Toronto Raptors on July 13, 2015. Photo - A.Rubin)

Glen Rice, Jr. heads to the locker room after the Houston Rockets lost to the Toronto Raptors on July 13, 2015. Photo – A.Rubin)

Rice is playing with the Houston Rockets’ summer league team in Vegas after playing with the Orlando Magic’s White Team in the Orlando summer league. Rice did not play particularly well in Orlando. In one game he attempted 14 shots in 16 minutes, hitting only three. However, in Las Vegas he has returned to form and is bullying his way to points from all over the court. Rice’s Day 4 performance was reminiscent of last year’s MVP run, as he almost single-handedly carried the Rockets to victory after being down double-digits late in the fourth quarter. Houston came up short, but Rice finished with 28 points on 7-for-18 shooting.

After the game I put in a request with Houston’s PR person to speak to Rice. The conversation did not start on the right foot. I opened by telling Rice I cover the Wizards and wanted to ask a few questions. He immediately turned his back to me and jokingly said, “Oh, no you can’t.” After an assurance of no nefarious intent, I started with a broad inquiry.

Adam Rubin: We all know you can score in this league. What is it you think you need to do to get back in the NBA? What are you trying to establish here in summer league?

Glen Rice, Jr.: I want to just play whatever role the coach wants me to play. I’m really determined to come out here and showcase that I can play a role, that I can adapt to whatever role.

AR: What do you think was the issue in Washington in terms of why it didn’t work out?

GR: [Silence.]

AR: Do you think you were given a fair chance?

GR: [Silence.]

AR: Do you have any positive memories of your time in Washington?

GR: Yeah, of course.

AR: Do you keep in touch with any of the players that were there?

GR: I talk to a lot of the guys.

AR: Which guys are you still in touch with?

GR: Beal, John Wall, Garrett Temple.

In fairness to Rice, the questions did not give him much room to respond—at least not in a positive way. Rice could have given a diplomatic non-answer or just remained silent, and he chose the latter. I think we can guess what his honest response would be.

Steve Javie: A Mascot’s Worst Enemy

Retired NBA referee Steve Javie happened to be sitting courtside next to the Houston Rockets’ make-shift locker room while I was waiting for Glen Rice, Jr. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Steve Javie is when he ejected “Hoops,” the Washington Bullets mascot, from the Capital Centre for being too demonstrative while inciting the crowd to boo the refs. Javie had just ejected Pervis Ellison and Coach Wes Unseld—and Hoops was not happy about it.

"HOOPS!" ... in pin form.

“HOOPS!” … in pin form.

I decided to broach the subject. After all, how many times do you get the chance to talk to Steve Javie?

So I asked, “Do you know that you are responsible for one of the greatest moments in Bullets history?”

Before I could even mention the name “Hoops,” Javie smiled and said he hears it all the time. I asked how the league office responded to the unorthodox ejection. Did they have to institute a new policy on mascot disqualifications?

Javie paused and I added “or did they just tell you they frowned upon it?”

Javie laughed and said, “I like that. That’s funny. I like how you put it. They told me it’s frowned upon.”

[Full disclosure: When I first decided to ask Javie about the infamous incident, I did a quick Google search to confirm the facts. After I read that Javie was indeed disciplined for his behavior, I had second thoughts about how well he would receive my inquiry. But I am glad I proceeded. Javie was extremely nice and very funny about the whole thing.]

Odds and Ends

As the Sacramento Kings Turn…

The biggest soap opera in the NBA—outside a 24-hour DeAndre Jordan kidnapping—is the Sacramento Kings. The plot lines are well known. Just a few weeks ago it appeared unfathomable that the entire cast could co-exist in Vegas. During Sacramento’s first summer league game, Coach George Karl and VP of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac sat together courtside but All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was nowhere in sight. In Sacramento’s second game, Cousins showed up to loud cheers and sat next to Divac, but Karl was nowhere in sight.

That division of labor may work in summer league, but you cannot split custody in the regular season. It all came to a head in Sacramento’s third game. George Karl arrived first, followed by team owner Vivek Ranadive, who reportedly hired attorneys to determine whether he could fire Karl for cause based on his treatment of Cousins. Then came Vlade Divac. All three men embraced and were surrounded by a circle of reporters and cameramen who just stared at the trio, waiting for something to happen.

Divac and Ranadive then retreated to a more private area for a serious-looking discussion.

There was still no sign of Cousins and it appeared the NBA’s version of “Real Housewives” would be extended for a few more episodes. Then, in a climax that could not have been scripted, Cousins and Karl finally embraced, and it could not have been more awkward.

New Orleans Pelicans Offense.

The Pelicans summer league team is not fooling around on offense. They push the ball on all made baskets and love to run in transition. Larry Drew, Jr. has them running on all cylinders. Unfortunately, he is one of those players who looks real good in summer league but never seems to earn a roster spot. Seth Curry has been raining 3s and scoring in bunches and Khem Birch, a Wizards summer leaguer last year, has been doing the dirty work. They are the Big 3 of Vegas and very fun to watch.

Los Angeles Lakers Take Center Stage Again.

This has been the summer of the Lakers so far. All three of Los Angeles’ games have been against a top four draft pick (Minnesota, Philadelphia and New York), and all have been scheduled for prime summer league time in the evening at the larger Thomas & Mack Center.

(A bird's eye view of the packed Thomas & Mack center for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks game. Photo - A.Rubin)

(A bird’s eye view of the packed Thomas & Mack center for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks game. Photo – A.Rubin)

The Lakers’ young stars have been remarkably consistent through three games. Most of what I wrote after game one still applied in game three. Once again, Jordan Clarkson was the best player on the court. At least a few times a game he breaks a guy’s ankles with an inside-out dribble or quick crossover and gets to the rim with ease.

D’Angelo Russell keeps showing flashes but he has not yet put it all together. He will make passes that let you know he has elite court vision, and he’ll drain a nasty step back jumper on a helpless defender, but he’ll also play lackadaisically and disappear at times.

Julius Randle remains out of control. His offensive repertoire is limited to a bull rush. That is not going to work against NBA-caliber power forwards. He’ll make a few highlight plays with ferocious dunks but on far more occasions he’ll clang contested runners off the back board, fumble it out of bounds, or commit an offensive foul.

Summer League Power Rankings.

Emmanuel Mudiay sits alone atop the rankings of summer league rookies thus far. It’s striking how much more talented he is than Willie Cauley-Stein, the player who was picked one spot ahead of Mudiay by the Sacramento Kings. Then again, it’s not like Sacramento was in desperate need of a point guard and already had one of the best centers in the league.

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Day 3: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League — Starring Hasheem Thabeet http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-3-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-nba-summer-league-starring-hasheem-thabeet.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-3-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-nba-summer-league-starring-hasheem-thabeet.html#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 05:43:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47669
(North Bethesda's own Drew Gooden arrives in Vegas. Photo - A. Rubin)

[North Bethesda’s own Drew Gooden arrives in Vegas. Photo – A. Rubin]

Let’s get the Wizards game out of the way. It was an ugly second showing for Washington’s summer league team. Then again, Washington doesn’t seem to be very good. The D-league Select team was a 3.5 point favorite against the Wizards, which should tell you something.

The highlight of the game was not even basketball-related, although it did involve a player, Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet, playing for the D-League team, was upset about a non-call and voiced his frustration in a very deep and raspy, Dikembe Mutombo-like voice. The ref quickly assessed a technical. Thabeet, undeterred, reiterated whatever he said to get the first technical. The ref paused for a second, reaching for his whistle and giving Thabeet a chance to be quiet, but he chirped again. Ejection. Thabeet raised his hand in disgust as he left the floor.

The problem is that the game was played in the Cox Pavilion, the high-school sized secondary gym at UNLV. Unlike a real NBA arena, the Cox Pavilion does not have a locker room. It’s just a make-shift area behind a curtain under the bleachers in the far corners of the gym. There’s no TV, no bathroom, no food, no trainers’ room—no nothing.

Here’s your mandatory Wizards coverage … it will be brief: click here for the rapid Game 2 reaction from TAI’s Conor Dirks. Keep reading for sights and sounds from Day 3.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Oubre was not nearly as aggressive in Game 2 as he was in his debut, although he still drove to the rim plenty. He spent large portions of possessions floating to the corner. Scotty Hopson and Oubre were getting into it a little bit (Hopson drove past Oubre and scored at the buzzer at the end of the half and gave Oubre a nasty look), but I guess that’s what happens when you like to talk. Oubre shot 5-for-17, including five missed 3-pointers, and they weren’t the good kind of missed 3-pointers like Bradley Beal a couple years ago. They didn’t look like they were going in. Amazingly, Oubre’s shooting did not lower the team’s overall shooting percentage. Washington shot 18-for-72 as a team (25 percent).

Aaron White

White told reporters after game one that he would be more aggressive. He did not lie. White attempted to establish his stretch-4 bona fides early with a couple 3-point attempts. Neither were close. On the bright side, his form is nice—or at least it shows potential for development. White ended the game 1-of-8 and 0-for-4 from downtown. Like Oubre, they weren’t the good kind of misses.

Odds and Ends.

Sacramento Kings in the House

The loudest cheer of the day in Cox Pavilion came courtesy of the rabid and well-travelled Sacramento Kings fans—and the Kings were not even playing at the time. (Worth noting, Sacramento is an 8-to-9-hour drive from Las Vegas.) The far corner of the gym erupted when none other than DeMarcus Cousins entered the gym. Cousins was greeted by Vlade Divac, Kings VP of basketball and franchise operations, and they sat next to each other in the front row.

George Karl, who sat courtside with Divac during the Kings previous game on Friday night, was nowhere to be seen. As if the Kings’ soap opera could not get any more bizarre, Mike Malone—the man whose firing was the catalyst for the Cousins’ unrest—joined Divac and Cousins for a jovial pre-game conversation. Sacramento legend Peja Stojakovic was also along for the ride.

Emmanuel Mudiay

I wrote about Mudiay’s impressive debut for Denver on Friday. He took it to another level in his second outing. Mudiay dominated in the Nuggets blowout win over Sacramento with some incredible passes. He can get into the lane with ease and, once there, looks to set up his teammates. He also has an NBA-ready body and has no difficulty bullying smaller guards on his way to the rim. That last point sets him apart from D’Angelo Russell. Russell is smooth and can weave his way into the paint but he has not yet shown the ability to bully his way there.

David Stockton

The all-time NBA assist leader’s son is playing point guard for Sacramento. If you’ll recall, Stockton the younger was signed by the Wizards for 2014 training camp but was waived several days later. On Sunday, Stockton had the unenviable task of matching up with Mudiay for long stretches of the Denver-Sacramento game. It went about as well as you would expect. It was funny watching Stockton curse at himself after throwing a pocket pass off a pick-and-roll a little too low and off the knee of his power forward. I can imagine he has been drilled on that move thousands of times in his driveway with his father.

Larry Nance, Jr.

It would be an understatement to call Larry Nance, Jr. the fan favorite of summer league so far. Lakers fans serenaded him with chants of “Lar-ry…Lar-ry…” during the Lakers-Sixers game, and every time he jumps for a put-back dunk, the arena pauses with anticipation. I cannot say it is entirely undeserved. Nance, Jr. can play. He is a bit of a tweener. His shot is not good enough to play small forward and he is a little too small to bang with power forwards. But he can jump. Boy, can he jump. He’s the Dominic McGuire of the Lakers.

Sweat shorts vs. Jean shorts … in Vegas.

The apparel of choice for newly-minted mega millionare guards appears to sweat shorts. Damian Lillard and DeMarre Carroll arrived at summer league wearing them.

(Damian Lillard arrives at summer league in casual style. Photo - A. Rubin)

[Damian Lillard arrives at summer league in casual style. Photo – A. Rubin]

Peja Stojakovic, not to be outdone, went old-school and brought out the jean shorts.

The Referees

There is no other way to say it. The referees are trying to ruin summer league. There have been an inordinate amount of fouls called this year. Virtually every shot attempt in the paint earns a whistle. Summer league play is already sloppy and disjointed enough without the referees mucking it up.

Woj-Bombs

Finally, exclusive still footage of Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski at work in his natural environment (bottom left with glasses).

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 2 — Wizards Play Dollar Menu to D-League Selects http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-2-wizards-play-dollar-menu-to-d-league-selects.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-2-wizards-play-dollar-menu-to-d-league-selects.html#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 01:09:50 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47655
[photo via @CSNWizards]

[photo via @CSNWizards]

Although the Wizards almost matched their Game 1 scoring output on Sunday afternoon against the D-League Select team, the game itself was zounds less entertaining. Even accounting for the now-depleted sheen of basketball’s return, Washington’s Game 2 loss was objectively painful fare. The Wizards, at one point, went more than an entire NBA quarter’s worth of action without a field goal, and generally couldn’t score unless it was on free throws or a putback of one of their many, many misses.

The Wizards shot 25 percent, going 18-for-72 from the field overall, 1-for-17 on 3-pointers, and 37-for-44 from the free throw line. Ultimately, the team scored the exact same number of points on field goals as they did on free throws. It was hideous, my friends. The Wizards might be the worst team in Vegas. The only reason this is a negative (bad Summer League teams can often indicate a better regular season team, though it’s hardly 1:1) is that due to the summer league format, the Wizards may only play five, rather than the maximum eight, games before being sent home.

This game was over in the second quarter, but let’s talk it out anyway.

Thumbs Up

Jarrid Famous
25 mins | 21 pts | 5-7 FGs, 0-0 3Ps, 11-12 FTs | 10 rebs (6 off) | 3 stl | 0 blk | 2 TOs

Jarrid Famous’ efforts on the boards, especially the offensive boards, melted down into whatever gooey grilled cheese the Wizards were cooking against the D-League Selects. Famous was the only Wizard to shoot over 50 percent, and it was almost entirely off of traditional center work. He played bigger than anyone else on the court and was the sole Washington beneficiary of the deluge of missed shots from his teammates. The Wizards won’t sign Famous for the regular season, but after back-to-back double-doubles, both earned the hard way, he’s been the only player not drafted by the Wizards on this summer league team that could earn a training camp invite based on his play. After Hasheem Thabeet exited the game (ejected on what appeared to be back-to-back frustration-related technicals), there wasn’t a player on the D-League Select team that could match up with Famous. Defensively, Famous bullied players out of the lane and lured them into passing or taking jump shots.

Kelly Oubre
31 mins | 18 pts | 5-17 FGs, 0-5 3Ps, 8-10 FTs | 8 rebs (2 off) | 1 stl | 3 TOs

Oubre started off the game well, scoring four points in the first four minutes, both right at the rim. Then, after turning the ball over on a baseline bump, he deflected the ball nicely with the back of his hand (and with the help of eyes seemingly on the side of his head) on a sideline pass, followed the ball as it bounced the other direction, caught up with it, took some liberty with NBA traveling rules, and cocked back for a pretty impressive, perfectly showy slam. It is Vegas, after all, and Oubre is this summer league team’s Bette Midler. Again, Oubre missed most of his outside shots, and again he compensated well by getting to the hoop. What impressed me about his (generally uneven) performance was that Oubre has a pretty good understanding of the initial perimeter lane. He’ll need to work on navigating the final steps of the promenade, but he created several openings for himself that otherwise would have devolved into yet another frustrating non-possession in the hands of Washington’s point guards.

And man … the kid didn’t stop going at the rim all afternoon. On air with the NBA TV announcers, Randy Wittman commented that Oubre has plenty of confidence, and it shows in a really impressive way. Not in the ‘even though I missed ten shots I’m going to make this fadeaway jumper from halfcourt’ way, but in the ‘there’s another way to do this if my shot’s not falling’ way. Of course, on an afternoon when the Wizards needed outside shooting more than anything else, Oubre’s jump shooting (and particularly his 0-for-5 peformance on 3-pointers) was a disappointment. But the Harden-esque, no-way-in-hell-this-works drives that end with free throws put him in a different category than some of Washington’s more passive projects.

On defense, Oubre wasn’t as good as he was in Game 1, especially after the lead started to balloon, and on one occasion he let an opposing player get past him all the way to the rim without ever properly contesting the movement or shot. His six personal fouls were partially a product of frustration, as D-League Select players flew easily around the makeshift Wizards defense. Still, on the whole, another positive outing.

Thumbs Down

  • Scott Machado should be better at this. The Wizards had six assists all game (Machado had 3 in 24 minutes), and D.C.’s starting summer league point guard looked more like Eric Maynor than the show-runner I expected. Machado had one very nice between-the-legs pass to Oubre that could have been a complete accident, but otherwise did an awful job finding guys in their spots. Instead, Machado generally swung the ball around the perimeter like he’d just thrown a guy out at first, and the Wizards too often had to force something with the shot clock running down. The summer league veteran missed all seven of his shots to boot, but did manage to get to the line for eight free throws (seven makes).
  • If Aaron White’s performance in Saturday’s game justified his selection with the 49th pick in the draft, his performance on Sunday showed why he needs a good, long year or two in Europe before being on an NBA roster. His attempt at skying for a slam was calmly, and rather mundanely, rejected by Thabeet early in the game, and White didn’t score until garbage time, on a wide open lay-in right under the rim. His four 3-point attempts were about 10,000 practice shots away from being on target (one sailed out of bounds, seemingly unconcerned with either the rules or goals of the game of basketball). On defense, White showed a little more promise, staying with opposing players well as they tried to lose him. And he crashed the offensive glass, as advertised, like a less careful Ryan Anderson. He has the frame and the athleticism to play in the NBA, but really needs to work on his range and ability to find open spots, either trailing the play or within a half court offense.

Midrange

  • Shawn Jones (of Middle Tennessee State fame) had a pretty nice game, scoring eight points and nabbing seven rebounds (four of which were offensive) in just under 14 minutes. But he also committed two bad turnovers during the same time. At 6-foot-8 with no outside shot, Jones is a limited player but plays bigger than he is.

Trending

  • Randy Wittman talked to the NBA TV crew about his Summer League team and dropped some starkly anti-Wittman sentiments (if we’re talking about the Randy Wittman you knew and loved at the outset of the 2014-15 regular season). Wittman gave propers to Golden State’s style of basketball while validating his own reasons for playing the “copycat” with his own team. He was spot on when he said that fans will see a lot of smaller lineups next season. And it won’t just be the Wizards.

Notes

  • LaQuinton Ross has joined the Wizards in Vegas after Dez Wells and Toure’ Murry were forced out of action due to injuries. Ross hit a game-winner in Ohio State’s 2013 NCAA tournament run (advancing them to the Elite Eight off of a pass by Aaron Craft), but went undrafted in the summer of 2014. He spent last season in Italy.
  • Alan Anderson officially signed with the Wizards today, per a team release.
  • Romero Osby (18 points) balled the fuck out for 20 minutes off the bench for the D-League Selects. He went 4-for-5 on 3-point attempts, rebounded well, and seemed to control the game whenever he was on the court. He most recently played in Puerto Rico, but had a shot with the Orlando Magic last summer before being cut.
  • The Wizards play the Dallas Mavericks at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Jordan Crawford, playing with the Summer Mavericks, told TAI’s Adam Rubin that he won’t have any special motivation against the men wearing his old colors, but I don’t believe him. At all!

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Day 2: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League — Porzingis, Cuban, J-Craw & Oubre http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/sights-and-sounds-of-wizards-summer-league-day-2-porzingis-cuban-jcraw-and-oubre.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/sights-and-sounds-of-wizards-summer-league-day-2-porzingis-cuban-jcraw-and-oubre.html#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 19:58:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47643 The Las Vegas Summer League is my favorite time of year and it appears I am not alone. For the second straight day, the Thomas & Mack Center was packed and it was difficult to navigate the concourse after each game.

Part of the problem may be that the Los Angeles Lakers have played an evening game on both days. Lakers fans have descended on UNLV’s campus like it’s the NBA Finals. They are like locusts. They are everywhere.

It’s actually a little depressing to see a once-proud franchise’s fan base so charged up for Vegas. As a summer league veteran I can tell you that if your summer roster is exciting your regular season team probably is not.

The day began with Jordan Crawford’s debut with the Dallas Mavericks. Crawford was a lot more passive than expected. He still got his numbers (and his shot attempts) but he did not force the issue. I was expecting more of a show from a guy trying to climb back into the league. After the game I spoke with Crawford about his Wizards days and upcoming game against his former team. [Quick aside: One of Crawford’s friends was on my flight to Las Vegas and he predicted a big game from Crawford against Washington.]

Adam Rubin: Are you aware Dallas is playing Washington on Tuesday?

Jordan Crawford: No, I didn’t’ really look ahead. I’m just out here enjoying my time. Getting to know my teammates.

AR: Your friend was trying to guess how many points you will score against Washington.

JC: [Shakes head.] No, no. I’m just here to lead the team.

AR: No extra motivation against Washington?

JC: No.

AR: Is there anything you want to tell the Washington fans about your departure? We saw the series of DNPs at the end and all of a sudden you are gone. Are there any misconceptions the fans have about what happened at the end?

JC: The one thing I definitely always wanted to … no matter how bad the organization was or the record I always wanted to play as hard as I could for them. So that’s one thing I wanted to clear up. No matter what was going on I always wanted to play hard for them and gave my full effort.

AR: Do you still keep in touch with your old teammates?

JC: Oh yeah. Blatche, Bradley, John. I talk to all of them daily.

AR: What do you think the biggest issue is in terms of getting back in the league?

JC: Just staying patient. I’m young. I’m 26. Just keep on grinding, keep building my resume and let it go from there.

Moving on…

The biggest draw at the Mavericks game was not even a player. As soon as fans walked into the Cox Pavilion, the first face they saw was a smiling Mark Cuban. He shook hands and took selfies with fans and appeared to be in a jovial mood.

After the game Cuban held an impromptu press conference that drew the largest media scrum of the summer league so far.

(MarK Cuban fields a lot of Deandre Jordan related questions in the post-game scrum. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Mark Cuban fields a lot of Deandre Jordan related questions in the post-game scrum. Photo – A. Rubin)

On to the Players.

Kristaps Porzingis.

All eyes in the Thomas & Mack Center were on Porzingis as soon as the Knicks entered the arena, including the man who selected the mystery man with the fourth overall pick.

The first thing you notice is his length. He unfolds to a legit 7-foot-2 and his wingspan when contesting jumpers is Manute Bol-esque.

The good news: Porzingis runs the floor well. He is active on offense, setting picks on the perimeter and moving to open spaces on the floor. On more than one occasion he snuck back door and pointed to the rim à la JaVale McGee, but, alas, the ball never came. Porzingis suffered from a condition that affects a lot of big men in Vegas called lack-of-point-guard-itis. He will be a lot more effective once he is playing with a ball distributor who can make an entry pass.

Now the bad news. On defense, he is always ball-watching and ends up losing track of his man. As a result, he is out of position for rebounds and doesn’t have the strength or quickness to recover. He needs to put a body on his man as soon as a shot goes up or else he will be yielding a lot of offensive put-backs. Playing alongside Robin Lopez, if that’s possible, will help mask Porzingis’ defensive rebounding issues, but a Porzingis-Carmelo or Porzingis-Derrick Williams front court will have issues.

On the bright side, he is a much better on-ball defender in the post. He uses his size really well, extending his arms straight up without reaching. Porzingis disrupted several shots with his wingspan. It remains to be seen whether he can hold his own in isolations against smaller power forwards and more mobile centers, but he will definitely collect a lot of weak-side blocks.

Jahlil Okafor.

(Jahlil Okafor is fronted by Larry Nance Jr. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Jahlil Okafor is fronted by Larry Nance Jr. Photo – A. Rubin)

Summer league headquarters did a great job with this year’s schedule. Okafor made his Vegas debut against the team that famously passed on him in the draft. Unlike most other rookies in Vegas, this was not Okafor’s first game in an NBA uniform. The Philadelphia 76ers participated in the Utah Jazz summer league, which takes place prior to the bigger Las Vegas edition.

The reviews from Utah were positive, if not overwhelming. One prominent NBA referee sitting near me remarked during the game that Okafor played better in Vegas than he did in Salt Lake City.

Okafor’s frame and movement look a little like a young Tim Duncan. He even prefers to go glass anytime his shooting angle allows it. But the results are not Duncan-like. He shoots a line-drive with a very low trajectory, but unlike Duncan, most of his jumpers caromed off the backboard and rim. 

Okafor makes his money with footwork and touch in the paint, both of which were on display in Vegas. His post play is refined and he should have no problem putting up big offensive numbers as the focal point of a bad, bad Philadelphia team.

Jahlil is a little more plodding than expected, but he uses his body on defense to take up space and isn’t afraid to mix it up for rebounds.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

For Wizards fans, Oubre’s debut was the main event of summer league. A lot has been written about his performance and it basically boils down to this: Oubre showed he has the potential to be a 3-and-D guy in the Trevor Ariza mold but he is also far from a finished product.

I am a little more bullish than most. He started the game with a lot of missed shots, but he was not passive. Oubre looked to assault the rim every time he touched it, making an early statement with a drive and emphatic dunk attempt. He missed but was fouled.

His ball handling is light years ahead of Ariza. Oubre had no problem catching and driving from beyond the 3-point line. It is not difficult to imagine Oubre catching cross-court passes from Wall with nothing but open space between himself and the rim.

After the game, Oubre talked about the biggest difference between the college and pro game: “I noticed that the floor was open. There’s more space. Sometimes I was indecisive about what I wanted to do. When I got decisive I was successful.”

I asked Oubre if he was surprised at how easily he was able to get to the rim. “I was able to get to the rim easy in college, get to the free throw line, pretty much create a shot,” he said. “It’s a new level, bigger bodies, more competition, so I just want to put an emphasis on those things and be the best that I can be.”

As has been noted elsewhere, Oubre talks—a lot. But it’s not just his ill-advised trash talking. Oubre is very communicative on the court. He calls out defensive schemes and makes sure everyone is on the same page with pick-and-roll coverage. He’s also good at making high-pitched sounds when he is open and wants the ball.

Oubre was disruptive on defense and made good use of his 7-foot-2 wingspan in passing lanes and with pressure defense on the ball. He was also active competing for loose balls and following shots on the offensive boards. Overall, he was very engaged. An Otto Porter-Kelly Oubre lineup could develop into a defensive terror on the perimeter.

Aaron White.

White played exactly as advertised. He crashed the offensive boards on every shot attempt and threw himself around the court. His athleticism was not overstated in pre-draft evaluations. White can jump.

He has a nice pump fake and can put it on the floor but he only took three jumpers so it remains to be seen whether he has the range to be a stretch 4.

White mentioned post-game that there is a learning curve going from college to NBA: “Defensively it’s a little different with the three-second [rule] in the key. Trying to go ball side, I went weak-side one time and let Phoenix get a drive.”

White also admitted after the game that he had some jitters and could have been a little more aggressive, so hopefully more of his offense will be on display in Game 2.

Other Wizards.

TAI’s Kyle Weidie was kind enough to include a comprehensive write-up on the rest of Washington’s roster in his Game 1 review. In short, the Wizards summer league team was almost un-watchable when Oubre and White were off the floor. And it’s not likely to get any better throughout the week in Vegas with Dez Wells announcing (non-verbally) that he will not play at all in Vegas. There were some positive performances from Scott Suggs and Jarrid Famous but that’s about it.

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 1 — Tucked In by the Suns http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/wizards-suns-2015-nba-summer-league-game-1.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/wizards-suns-2015-nba-summer-league-game-1.html#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 01:36:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47635
[Kelly Oubre, via @CSNWizards]

[Kelly Oubre, via @CSNWizards]

The Wizards lost their 2015 summer league debut, 77-86, to a Phoenix Suns team featuring several players looking to contribute when the real season starts—T.J. Warren, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, and 2015 draft pick Devin Booker on top. The Wiz Kids, led by 15th overall pick Kelly Oubre and 49th overall pick Aaron White, started out pretty bad, even for summer league, with a nine-point, one-assist, eight-turnover first quarter. Washington settled down in the second half, out-scoring Phoenix 47-43. Five points is the closest the Wizards would get, when Oubre hit a 3 with 6:53 left in the game (64-69) and then when Jamil Wilson followed with a nice jumper (66-71). But after that, Alex Len went on a personal 5-0 run and Luke Harangody added two points of icing for Phoenix to put the game out of reach. Let’s react…

Thumbs Up

Kelly Oubre, Jr.
27 mins | 20 pts | 8-20 FGs, 1-7 3Ps, 3-7 FTs | 10 rebs (4 off) | 2 stl | 1 blk | 0 TOs

Oubre, starting at 2 guard, began out of control on offense, soft and uncertain on wild forays to the hoop. Summer league jitters, of course. Still, he was active on defense, anxious to back up all the talking, which was called out as noticeable by the sideline television announcer. Oubre scored his first basket after several ugly misses by finishing strongly through contact from Maryland’s Alex Len. Later his aggressive defense (but smart use of his length) forced Archie Goodwin into a shot clock violation. But then soon after Oubre got blocked by Luke Harangody on a weak drive (got blocked three total times on the game). Some junk that he threw up did land Aaron White a nice putback dunk.

Oubre settled down and found body control in the second half, dueling with T.J. Warren and making a couple winding, desperate finishes late when the Wizards were trying to mount a comeback. He missed a 3, he missed a lot of 3s (1-7), but off at least one miss he got his own rebound, charged to the middle of the lane, and performed a spin drop-step for the finish. Oubre showed the promise of why the Wizards traded up to get him, but he was also was so-so enough to wonder exactly how long he’ll take to develop. The short answer is: there’s plenty of time to find out.

Aaron White
20 mins | 4 pts | 2-5 FGs, 0-2 3Ps | 4 rebs (3 off) | 1 PF | 3 TOs

White didn’t fill the stat sheet in his debut, so maybe he’s more midrange. If he would’ve hit either of his 3 attempts, both of which looked nice form-wise, there might be slightly more hype. White, however, called plenty of attention to himself with a couple booming put-back dunks (one off a junky Oubre miss). If White is ever going to be an NBA stretch 4, he must have the will to charge in for offensive rebounds on a regular basis. He wasn’t present at times—natural in a game controlled by sloppy play, mostly from guards, early—but White showed other skills. One was the ability to work with guards on hand-off action around the 3-point line (something Kris Humphries first started getting used to in Boston and which continued to a degree in Washington). White also nicely drove the right lane once, sucked in the defense, and dished the ball to Oubre wide open for 3 on the wing. The kid missed.

Thumbs Down

  • Traevon Jackson, 6-foot-2 point guard out of Wisconsin, was a disaster off the bench. He was responsible for five of Washington’s 18 turnovers, some of which were unexpectedly sloppy, even for summer league.
  • Damion James seemed to be pressing after not making the team out of Wizards training camp last season (Rasual Butler won by a nose, or three). He started at the 3 and finished 2-for-8 from the field with three rebounds. Some of his attempts to drive to the hoop seemed a step slow—he was able to get past non-attentive defenders with a first step but slowed to a crawl as he approached the rim out of position to finish. James made a handful of small, dumb mistakes, like stepping out of bounds in the corner when he was a threat to drive the baseline.

Midrange

  • Scott Machado’s numbers weren’t terrible, but he did a poor job running the team as the starting point guard (and a relative summer league veteran, this is his fourth rodeo; played summers with Houston, Golden State, and Toronto). Machado had a nice drive or two, but his shots from deep were miserable and playing catch-up on defense too many times led to five fouls. He still scored 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting with five rebounds, four assists, and two turnovers—like I said, not terrible.
  • Scott Suggs didn’t hit a 3-pointer (0-4), but went 4-for-6 on 2-pointers (that midrange game was on point) and led the bench scoring with 10 points.

Trending

  • Jarrid Famous started at 5 and threw his 6-foot-11, 240 frame around like a man amongst boys—he’s a 26-year-old semi-vet who was last seen taking on competition in the Philippines. Famous put up a double-double in 25 minutes (10 points on 3-5 FGs, 4-5 FTs; 8 defensive rebounds, 2 offensive), and took advantage of Alex Len on the offensive glass early in the first quarter.

Notes

  • Dez Wells didn’t play and shook his head no when asked by TAI’s Adam Rubin if he thought that he’d play this summer league. Sounds like that sprained thumb is pretty bad. Update: Dez is out for the entirety of summer league.
  • Toure’ Murry didn’t play because of a right groin injury that he tweaked in practice on Thursday, per the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo.
  • T.J. Warren (20 points) and Archie Goodwin (22 points) stole the show, and the game, for Phoenix. Alex Len added 17 points and eight rebounds. Warren got into a trash-talking session with Kelly Oubre; I imagine it won’t be Oubre’s last verbal duel this summer.
  • The Wizards play the D-League Select team at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday. Hasheem Thabeet, my friends, is on the D-League team.

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Day 1: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-1-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-nba-summer-league.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/day-1-sights-and-sounds-of-vegas-nba-summer-league.html#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 13:25:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47624

You know it's #NBASummerLeague in Vegas when this guy is walking through the casino. #dcRising pic.twitter.com/eQLDUTszam

— Ledell's Place (@LedellsPlace) July 10, 2015

It was an eventful first day for the Summer League in Las Vegas that drew a single-day attendance record of 12,422. The crowds arrived early, buoyed by a huge contingent of Lakers fans thirsting to see what amounts to three-fifths of Los Angeles’ projected regular season starting lineup (D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson). The matchup between the Lakers and Timberwolves did not disappoint, and that’s as good a place to start as any.

Karl-Anthony Towns.

The No. 1 pick started the game slowly—to put it kindly. On the opening possession he caught the ball beyond the 3-point line on the left elbow and for some inexplicable reason decided to shoot. It was an air-ball. Minnesota’s Towns had very little impact on the game until 3:37 remaining in the first period. That’s when the Lakers’ Tarik Black caught the ball, drove left and slammed an emphatic dunk on Towns. That seemed to wake him up. From that point on, Towns displayed a masterful jump hook and deft interior passing that are worthy of the top billing in the draft.

Towns already has an NBA-ready post-game. He is comfortable on either block and prefers spinning right into an effortless jump hook whenever he feels contact. He also swished the only midrange shot he attempted.

But most impressive was his passing. Los Angeles routinely double-teamed Towns and he never flinched. Instead, Towns seemed to bait the Lakers into sending an extra defender. Whenever he sensed a double coming, he would move away from the basket so that when the second defender committed to a double, there would be more space on the floor to find an open teammate. Towns wasn’t just pass-happy against double-teams. On several occasions he found teammates cutting to the rim for easy scores.

The one negative was his lack of rebounding. Towns has great size but he’s not quick to the ball. He always seemed to be on the outside of the scrum for gang rebounds. Overall, Towns’ first summer league game was reminiscent of Andrew Wiggins’ last season. He was not dominant, but he showed enough flashes of elite skill to let you know he is on another level.

Julius Randle.

In many regards, Randle is the polar opposite of Towns. The reports out of Los Angeles’ practices are that he has been an animal. I believe it. The problem is Randle is out of control. A typical Randle possession proceeds as follows: He catches the ball 20 feet from the rim and pauses; the crowd yells at him to drive; he puts his head down and bullies his man toward the rim, and he throws up whatever shot is available when he gets there.

If a defender can keep his body between Randle and the rim, then it’s not difficult to pick up a charge or force an ill-advised shot. If Randle is able to knock his defender off balance and open a lane to the rim, then he will bully his way to the basket for an easy score. There’s no finesse or change of direction. And his jumper does not scare anyone.

Also contrary to Towns, Randle cannot handle double-teams. After watching Randle catch and hold the ball for the umpteenth time, Minnesota finally sent a second defender at him. Randle pivoted away from the pressure and frantically lobbed a pass into the lane that was stolen, leading to a Zach LaVine highlight alley-oop.

On the flip side, Randle’s bull-in-a-china-shop mentality works well when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. If a defender does not place a body on Randle as soon as a shot goes up, he charges for offensive rebounds and tip-ins. Randle is the type of player who will gobble up weaker opponents with his brute force, but he lacks the refinement to outduel players his own size.

D’Angelo Russell.

Russell’s passing is the real deal. Early in the first quarter he dropped a perfect lead pass to Jordan Clarkson that had just the right amount of reverse spin to dull the trajectory of the pass and allow Clarkson to catch the ball without breaking his stride. Clarkson ended up missing the shot so the pass will not show up in the box score, but it let everyone know that Russell sees things on the court that others do not.

However, as Rajon Rondo and a young John Wall have shown, passing can only get you so far. Can he shoot? The answer appears to be yes. I say “appears” because Russell’s shot has very little rotation. He sort of pushes it yet it still looks good and it went in. We’ll have to see a larger sample before reaching a final conclusion.

Another positive note for Lakers fans: Russell and Clarkson played well together. Clarkson is big enough to play shooting guard and he can certainly score. It remains to be seen how Kobe will adjust to having to share the court with two ball-dominant guards (with shaky jumpers). And that’s before Lou Williams enters the equation.

Zach LaVine.

LaVine looked a lot more comfortable handling the ball than he did last season, and he was very confident on fade-away jumpers. He hit an unguardable 20-foot step back on the right side that got the attention of DeMar Derozan and Damian Lillard, who were sitting in the front row. He still relies a little too much on his athleticism on drives, which causes him to get caught in the air without a clear path to the basket.

Jordan Clarkson.

There’s really nothing new to say about Jordan Clarkson. He looked good last season, and he looked good against Minnesota on Day 1.

Quick Hits.

Emmanuel Mudiay. I only watched this Nuggets rookie play a quarter before switching gyms for the Lakers-Timberwolves battle, but what I saw was impressive. He got to the rim with ease and showed a lot of patience on the pick-and-roll. He never forced a drive; rather, he probed the lane and waited for his big man to pop open at the top of the key. Granted, the big man didn’t often make the shot, but at least Mudiay created the passing lane and made the right decision. Mudiay, like D’Angelo Russell, also looked to set up teammates before taking his own shot.

Oleksiy Pecherov made a surprise appearance on Denver’s summer league team. He was not listed on the Nuggets roster that was distributed in the press room but, lo and behold, there he was. Denver’s general manager, Tim Connelly, was with the Wizards front office when they drafted Pecherov. There was a report a few weeks ago that Pecherov worked out in Denver but no official summer league commitment was released.

Draymond Green went out of his way to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers by wearing a “2015 NBA Champions” T-shirt to the Cavs-Warriors summer league rematch on Day 1.

George Karl and Vlade Divac sat next to each courtside for Sacramento’s first game. There did not appear to be any tension.

On to Day 2…

 

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2015 Vegas Summer League Preview (Non-Wizards Edition) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/2015-vegas-summer-league-preview-non-wizards-edition.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/2015-vegas-summer-league-preview-non-wizards-edition.html#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 17:00:03 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47586 [TAI’s Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) is in Las Vegas covering the NBA summer league for the eighth straight year. Check out his Wizards summer league preview here. Today, he highlights several non-Wizards players and games that are worth watching.]

crawford2

[Something tells me Jordan Crawford will be well-rested when his Dallas Mavericks take on Washington on Tuesday, July 14. Photo via blogsohardsports.com]

The Las Vegas Summer league starts today. Washington may not tip off its first game until Saturday, 6 p.m. (EDT), but there is still plenty for Wizards fans to watch in LAs Vegas. Here are five players and five games you will not want to miss during this year’s summer league.

Top 5 Non-Wizards Players in Vegas.

crawford

[All bets are off on what will happen when Jordan Crawford takes the court against Washington on July 14. Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America]

Jordan Crawford, Dallas Mavericks

Don’t call it a comeback. Crawford is attempting to rekindle his NBA career after a one-year stint in China (he also spent time last season playing in the D-League for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants). Even better, Crawford faces his old Wizards team on Tuesday July 14 at 3:30 p.m. Vegas cannot set the over/under high enough on Crawford’s shot attempts. More on this game below.

rice jr

[Randy Wittman and Glen Rice, Jr. starred in a short lived revival of The Odd Couple. Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports]

Glen Rice, Jr., Houston Rockets

Rice was unanimously named Most Valuable Player of last year’s summer league as a Washington Wizard but was unceremoniously dumped by the team after appearing in only five games the following season. Talent was never an issue with Rice, but he always seemed to be in a bad mood on the court. It’s no surprise that he clashed with Wittman. It will be interesting to see whether Rice learned from his experience in Washington and improves his on-court demeanor. After getting waived by Washington last January, he played with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League.

Othyus Jeffers, Minnesota Timberwolves

The legend of Othyus Jeffers was born on March 17, 2011, when he signed the first of two 10-day contracts and played the final 16 games of the Wizards’ season. Washington was limping toward the finish line of Wall’s 21-win rookie season when Jeffers cracked the rotation and seemingly willed the team to six wins in their final ten games through sheer grit and determination. Jeffers tore his ACL in the offseason and has only played a combined 12 NBA games in the last four seasons. Minnesota general manager Flip Saunders was Washington’s head coach during Jeffers’ run with the Wizards, and he’s giving Othyus another shot this summer. Jeffers spent part of last season on Minnesota’s roster.

webberhoward

[Juwan Howard and Chris Webber in happier times in Washington. Credit – Slamonline.com]

Juwan Howard, Jr., Miami Heat

You read that correctly. It’s been 22 years since Chris Webber and Juwan Howard reunited for a memorable, but short-lived, run in Washington. Howard, Jr., coincidentally, is 22 years old. If you remember where you were on November 18, 1994, when you heard the Bullets traded for Chris Webber and signed Juwan Howard all in the same day, then you are getting old.

Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls

Portis was the consensus choice among #WizardsTwitter at pick 19 before Grunfeld traded up to select Kelly Oubre. For better or worse, Oubre and Portis will forever be measured against each other in the minds of many fans. Let’s hope it works out better than Jan Vesely vs. Kawhi Leonard.

Top 5 Must See Games in Vegas.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Friday, July 10, 8:30 p.m.

It has become a summer league tradition to schedule a Day 1 matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks. The atmosphere for last summer’s showdown between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker was electric. Due to overwhelming fan interest, they actually stopped selling general admission tickets and shut the doors to Cox Pavilion before tip-off, making it the first sell-out in summer league history.

When this year’s schedule was released in June, most people assumed this game would feature Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor. However, the Lakers threw a curve and selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick. Even without a classic big man battle, Cox Pavilion will be buzzing for this matchup, as Russell will be eager to put on a show for the always rowdy Lakers crowd. Preliminary word out of Lakers camp is that Russell’s passing is as good as advertised.

The bright lights of the center stage also gives Julius Randle, who the Lakers selected seventh in the 2014 draft but who missed almost the entire season with a broken leg, a chance to remind the NBA world of his immense talent.

And it’s not just about the Lakers’ young guns. NBA Slam Dunk champion, Zach LaVine, returns for the Timberwolves. The most electrifying moments of last summer didn’t happen during a game. It was the pre-game warmups before Minnesota outings. LaVine’s ridiculous impromptu dunks in the layup lines were the biggest draw in Vegas.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the No. 1 pick in the draft.

New York Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs

Saturday, July 11, 4:30 p.m.

The debut of Kristaps Porzingis. Nothing will be more fun than watching Phil Jackson watching Porzingis while he is surrounded by vocal Knicks fans. Unlike Madison Square Garden where Phil can observe from the safety of the owner’s box, summer league is an intimate affair. The basketball gods were kind to Phil by scheduling the Knicks’ first three game in the expansive Thomas & Mack Center, as opposed to the much cozier Cox Pavilion; nevertheless—for better or worse—Jackson will be hearing exactly what the fans think.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Saturday, July 11, 8:30 p.m.

Jahlil Okafor gets a chance to show the world (and, more specifically, Mitch Kupchak) why he should have been selected second instead of D’Angelo Russell. Okafor will have an easier time in the paint because the Lakers have already announced that Julius Randle will skip the game to avoid playing in back-to-backs. Okafor played well in the Orlando summer league, which took place this past week, and should be primed to take the court in front of the Lakers brass.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Monday, July 13, 8 p.m.

This game features two top ten picks: Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow. Denver grabbed Mudiay at No. 7 seven as a possible Ty Lawson replacement, and Miami pounced on Winslow at No. 10 after he unexpectedly slid to the back half of the lottery. Winslow has already played in the Orlando summer league and received positive reviews. Mudiay, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown. He arrives in Vegas with an air of mystery, much like Aussie Dante Exum the year before. Mudiay skipped college to play one year in China, and there are a lot of question marks surrounding the man who was a top high school recruit in 2014. This game epitomizes the excitement and intrigue of summer league. It’s the first chance to catch a glimpse of players that you have read about for weeks but have only seen play in poorly edited Youtube videos.

Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks

July 14, 3:30 p.m.

You have to believe Jordan Crawford will have some extra motivation against his old team with Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman sitting in the stands. On the one hand, the fact that Crawford could not make an NBA roster last season (he played in China and the D-League) and is forced to compete as a veteran in summer league seems to justify the front office’s decision to cut ties with him. On the other hand, I wouldn’t put a 40-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist revenge game past him.

[NOTE: I sat next to one of Crawford’s friends on the flight to Vegas. He says my prediction is way off… The points should be raised considerably and assists dropped substantially.]

summer5

[via NBA TV]

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First Stop in the Summer of Gortat: Camp with Otto in Rumia http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/first-stop-in-the-summer-of-gortat-camp-with-otto-in-rumia.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/first-stop-in-the-summer-of-gortat-camp-with-otto-in-rumia.html#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 08:56:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47595 [Ed. Note: Bartosz Bielecki is TAI’s Polish correspondent. A student in his early-20s, Bart covers all things Marcin Gortat from the mother country, including transcribing Gortat interviews with Polish media (which are classic, by the way) and, this year, covering Gortat’s basketball camp from the ground. Bart once wrote-in Paul Pierce on the Polish presidential ballot. Check out his previous work on TAI.]

Bart and Gortat

[Marcin Gortat and Bartosz Bielecki listen in on Otto Porter’s media session.]

Another Summer of Gortat has officially begun. On Thursday in Rumia, a small city in northern Poland, Gortat started his series of annual camps. As usual, he brought some guests from the States, as well as a number of Polish players, to help counsel campers and teach them some basketball. Gortat’s entourage included fellow Wizard Otto Porter, Jr. and his friend from St. Louis Bobby Hatchett; Washington Wizards Assistant Coach Pat Sullivan; hopefully the next Polish player in the NBA, Przemek Karnowski (entering his senior season at Gonzaga University); Adam Waczyński, starting forward for the Polish National Team, who spent last season in the Spanish ACB League; and Marcin Stefański and Marcin Dutkiewicz from a Polish team, Trefl Sopot. There was one more special guest at the camp in Rumia. For the first time in the history, an NBA team mascot flew to Poland: the one and only G-Wiz (along with his alter-ego, G-Man).

When I entered the small gym in Rumia to cover the event, the court was full of countless kids dribbling equally countless basketballs. But then the chaos suddenly stopped. The children took a seat around center court and at exactly 11 a.m., their idol, Marcin Gortat, made his entrance (followed by G-Wiz)…

Marcin introduced his guests—and couldn’t resist trolling Otto in the process, saying, “I hope he won’t fall asleep here. I think you saw that play… I was yelling at him. But at least he won the Shaqtin’-A-Fool MVP!”

Porter, for his part, was a good sport and all smiles once the stretching routine started, joining the children in their efforts. Gortat praised the wingman for his efforts, randomly saying  “Good job, Otto!” every now and then. But Porter refused to continue when Gortat came up with this exercise:

stretch

“He just hates this exercise, he always refuses to do it when we stretch together,” Gortat explained. “We spend a lot of time together, because I often warm up and stretch with him.”

Later, when asked by one of the kids, Gortat added that Porter is definitely one of his best friends on the team and that he is the teammate he spends the most time with. Gortat also talked about the third-year swingman signing a much more lucrative contract in the future: “Otto is an extremely talented young man, who has a great feel for the game, knows how to get offensive rebounds and plays solid defense. He is also very bright and intelligent.”

The kids who were accepted to Gortat’s camp had an opportunity to compete against the Polish Machine and other camp coaches. Marcin’s crew competed against groups of children in various shooting contests. After winning against the first three groups of children, Gortat decided to set the bar a little higher for the professionals before the final round and announced that his team will be shooting from 3-point range, while the kids remained in the midrange. The first team to make seven baskets was the winner. Here’s the competition. The video starts when the score is 1:1.

The punishment for losing the shooting contest was push-ups. Even though Porter was on the winning team, Otto decided to do some anyway. Near the end of  the camp, Porter decided to have some fun playing  against one of the kids. Unfortunately for Otto, it led to yet another “NBA Player Gets Scored On by a Little Kid” video (and it was funny enough that you can hear me laughing about it at the end of the video). Here it is:

The camp was a great opportunity for the kids to meet NBA players. But not just the kids. Every player was also available for five minutes to the media. Strangely, but fortunately for me, there wasn’t much interest in Otto Porter, and after a couple of questions from the journalists, Porter’s presser basically turned into a one-on-one conversation.

Here’s some of our Q&A:

On playing in the starting line-up, and what position he will play:

“My position is the small forward, but it’s whatever the coach puts me in, whether that’s a small forward, power forward, or a two-guard … wherever he feels comfortable. I’m just happy to play with guys like Marcin Gortat in the starting line-up.”

On Kelly Oubre Jr.:

“I haven’t really seen him play that much. I will when I get back. What I heard is he’s a good shooter to space the floor, athletic…”

On how it happened that he came to Poland:

“Actually, Marcin got traded to Washington during my rookie season, and that was like the best thing that could happen to me, having a guy like Gortat as my veteran. He took me under his wing, showed me the ways in the NBA, how everything works, and showed me hard work. I’m just honored to be here to help him with his camp. We’re getting that much closer, and it’s gonna help on the court.”

On stepping his game up last playoffs:  

“That’s the least I can do for the guys like Gortat. What they want me to do, that’s what I wanna do. I just wanna play my all. Gortat talked to me like, ‘We need you to play defense’ and that’s what I took to the heart.”


[VIDEO: Otto’s full presser.]



At the end of the camp
, I got an opportunity to do an exclusive interview with the young Wizards wing. Unfortunately, we only got to cover two questions before Otto had to join Marcin in signing player cards and basketballs for the kids. Here is what he managed to tell me:

Bartosz Bielecki: Do you still expect your minutes to grow next year, despite the Wizards having a much deeper wingman rotation?

Otto Porter: We definitely added great pieces, we added three good shooters that spot-up, that can space the floor for John, myself, and Brad … space the floor for Gortat. We can play smaller with these kind of lineups. Jared Dudley can space the floor for us, he can shoot the 3. Anderson can play shooting guard or small forward. We got guys who can play different positions, which allows us to be more flexible, stretch out the floor, and it should work out well.

BB: Wizards are left with one roster spot open. What position do you think they should go for?

OP: We don’t have a big man, so that’s the option, but I really don’t know.

[Ed. Note: the Wizards have since re-signed Drew Gooden, big man, to a one-year, $3.3 million contract.]

Obviously the camp also featured Marcin Gortat’s press conference. We got to know that Pat Sullivan, who was attending his second straight Gortat Camp, wanted to come back to Poland so badly that he kept on asking Gortat if he could come this year, too.

“I think Otto is enjoying Poland right now too,” Marcin said of Porter, who landed in the country just a day before. “He was tired yesterday, but now I think he likes it here. You can see he’s very polite, always smiling. He’s a very intelligent guy with a very bright future in the NBA. He came here because he didn’t have to play in summer league anymore, and he’s not a veteran who needs time to rest. He doesn’t have a wife or a kid.

“It’s tough to bring over a player who has a big role on our team, who has a family and kids, during the vacations. Such players won’t give up their family time to spend two weeks in Poland, so I’m grateful Otto came here, as it really isn’t easy to find a player willing to come here.”

As a camp newbie, Otto doesn’t have any rookie duties. “We’re trying to keep him happy, and make sure he has a really good time over here,” Gortat said.

Gortat also spoke his mind about the Wizards’ offseason. He said that the Wizards will shoot more 3-pointers, which will provide more space for him in the post. He stressed, though, that it’s not the end of the Wizards’ offseason moves: “I hope it’s not.”

Gortat also touched upon his chemistry with Nene:

“We’re the same kind of players, we tried to play alongside each other, but it got more and more cumbersome over time. The teams also figured out a way to play against us.”

At the end of the camp, it was time for young entrants of basketball to ask questions. The first question asked was about Gortat’s height. The second was about his salary. The Polish Machine also gave the youngsters a piece of advice. He said that the first step to the NBA is to work hard every day: “Get up at six in the morning and go work out. Work out when there is no publicity, when nobody knows about it. Be determined to work hard when all your friends spend their days at home, playing video games.”

Gortat’s speech resulted in a huge cheer from the parents in the stands. His mention of video games led to a question whether he plays NBA video games from time to time. The answer?

“I never play with myself, because they’re cheating me there. I hate NBA video games, I prefer to play some shooting and action games.”

Makes sense, keeping in mind Gortat’s love of all things military-related. He also stated that if he weren’t a basketball player, he would be a professional soldier. The final question to Marcin was about his favorite NBA player. Turns out it’s Kevin Garnett.

“He yells at you all the time during the game, he hits you in a way the referees don’t always see, but after the game he is very nice and respectful,” Gortat justified.

Porter was also asked some questions by the kids. The kids wanted to know who his favorite WNBA player was (Maya Moore), how long will he play in the NBA (“As long as I can.”), and why Paul Pierce left the Wizards. As for the last one, Otto explained that such was his option in the contract, and that “The Truth” really wanted to go home at the end of his career.

And that was it. With the first camp behind us, there are several stops left in Gortat’s tour around Poland. The finale of Gortat Camp 2015 is set to take place in Kraków (like last year), where the celebrity game will be played. After this, there will be nothing but work for Gortat, as he promised to join the Polish National Team in the preparations to the EuroBasket 2015 and the tournament itself, which will be held in France this September.

I leave you with some pixels from the festivities.

The Crew

Otto-Kids

Otto Karn MG

G-MAN

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Vegas Babies: Wizards 2015 Summer League Preview http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/vegas-babies-wizards-2015-summer-league-preview.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/vegas-babies-wizards-2015-summer-league-preview.html#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 22:59:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47567
[Otto P. to the bench for rest -- photo: K. Weidie]

[Otto Porter has graduated from the summer league after a strong playoff performance last season. — photo: K. Weidie]

The Las Vegas Summer League—otherwise known as Christmas in July for die-hard NBA fans—is finally upon us. There is nothing quite like summer in Vegas. For ten glorious days, UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center is transformed into the epicenter of the NBA, with virtually every front office, coaching staff, and NBA media member circulating among this year’s draft picks, young up-and-coming players, retired legends, and everyone else in the known NBA universe.

This will be my eighth straight pilgrimage to Las Vegas for summer league. Starting Friday, July 10, I  will be providing updates on all Wizards news that’s fit to tweet (@LedellsPlace) or publish on this very blog. Before the action kicks off, here’s a quick Wizards summer league preview.

Tournament Format.

Every team plays three games during the first five days of summer league. Based on record after those first three games, the teams are seeded for a double-elimination tournament. The tournament begins on Wednesday, July 15, and ends with the championship game on July 20. Each team is guaranteed to play at least five games and as many as eight, depending on performance in the tournament. Last summer Washington made quite a splash in Vegas with Glen Rice, Jr. unanimously named Most Valuable Player and Otto Porter joining him on the All-NBA Summer League First Team. As a team, Washington boasted a 5-1 record and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament.

Washington’s Opening Round Schedule (all times Eastern)

Saturday, July 11, Cox Pavilion, 6 p.m. – Phoenix Suns

Sunday, July 12, Cox Pavilion, 4 p.m. – D-League Select Team

Tuesday, July 14, Thomas & Mack, 3:30 p.m. – Dallas Mavericks

Roster.

For the first time ever in Vegas, Washington will not have any players from the previous season’s roster on its summer league team. Washington has long stood out in Vegas for the sheer number of “repeat offenders” on its summer league teams. From Andray Blatche and Nick Young to Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely, the Wizards’ summer league roster has always featured castoffs from the varsity team.

This summer is different. Washington had no rookies on the 2014-15 team and the two holdovers from last year’s summer league squad—Otto Porter and Glen Rice, Jr.—are both absent. Otto due to his playoff emergence, and Rice due to his early season banishment last year. Porter is currently in Poland helping out at Marcin Gortat’s camp, while Rice has been cutting more summer league teeth with the Magic in the Orlando summer league; Rice is also slated to play on Houston’s team in Las Vegas.

Even without familiar faces, there’s plenty to see on the Wizards’ roster:

Oubre declared himself a steal on draft night. It's finally time to see what Washington swiped.

Oubre declared himself a steal on draft night. It’s finally time to see what Washington swiped. [photo via C. Dirks]

Kelly Oubre, F/G, Kansas, Pick 15
A lot has been written in the past few weeks about Oubre’s potential (and his shoes). Now is the time to see what he’s got, and CSNWashington’s Ben Standig reports that Oubre is ready to ‘show out’ in Vegas. Oubre will likely log minutes at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward and have a flashing green light on offense. Oubre should also get a chance to show off his quick hands against the traditionally shaky summer league ball handling.

Aaron White, PF, Iowa, Pick 49
There is speculation White will be stashed overseas for at least a year. Regardless of his destination, White has an early opportunity to prove that he can play stretch-4 in the NBA. That means extending his range to the 3-point line and displaying enough mobility to switch onto wings on the perimeter. Lucky for White, summer league is the perfect venue for wannabe stretch-4s to launch 3-pointers with abandon—just ask Anthony Bennett and Austin Daye.

Dez Wells, SG, Maryland, Undrafted
Washington quickly extended a summer league invite to the offensively gifted former Maryland Terrapin guard, and there was some early chatter that Wells could earn a roster spot. However, that possibility took a major hit after Jared Dudley, Gary Neal and Alan Anderson joined the team.

Wells has already stated that he does not want to play overseas, so his time in Vegas is really an audition for the other 29 NBA teams. Dez has a chance to succeed because his game seems tailor-made for the up-and-down, pick-up style play in summer league. Wells’ ability to score in transition and absorb contact at the rim is reminiscent of Glen Rice, Jr. and P.J. Hairston—two guys who bullied their way to success last year in Vegas. Dez is the early favorite to lead the team in scoring. Per the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Wells sprained his thumb in practice on Thursday but will still travel with the team to Nevada and is expected to play.

Toure’ Murry, SG, Wichita State, 2 years pro
Murry signed a couple 10-day contracts with Washington last season after Garrett Temple suffered a serious hamstring injury. He saw very little playing time and eventually lost his roster spot after an ankle injury. Toure’ is playing for a spot in Ernie Grunfeld’s rolodex of late season D-League call-ups.

Damion James, SF, Texas, 4 years pro
James earned a training camp and preseason invite last season but eventually lost out to Rasual Butler for the final roster spot. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Damion in training camp again, but with Washington’s free agent perimeter acquisitions, James might want to look elsewhere for an NBA opportunity.

Scott Machado, PG, Iona, 1 year
Machado is a veteran of the Las Vegas summer league, having played on three different teams (Houston, Golden State, and Toronto) over the past three years. Machado is a solid D-League talent who should have no problem running Washington’s sets. He won’t make the roster but having an experienced point guard is a luxury in Vegas where so many games are plagued by turnovers.

Traevon Jackson, PG, Wisconsin, Undrafted
Traevon is the former starting point guard on the 2015 NCAA Finalist Wisconsin Badgers. Friends who watch a lot more Wisconsin basketball than me are not excited about Jackson’s prospects. I’ll defer to them.

The remainder of the roster consists of guys you likely never heard of who are fighting for a spot in the D-League or overseas. (Note: Ousmane Drame, C, Quinnipiac; Halil Kanacevic, F, Saint Joseph’s; and LaQuinton Ross, F, Ohio State participated in the Wizards summer mini-camp but did not make the final summer league roster.)

  • Jarrid Famous, C, South Florida, Undrafted
  • Orlando Johnson, G, UC Santa Barbara, 2 years pro.
  • Shawn Jones, F, Middle Tennessee State, Undrafted
  • Jaleel Roberts, C, UNC-Asheville, Undrafted
  • Scott Suggs, G, Washington, Undrafted
  • Jamil Wilson, F, Marquette, Undrafted

Let the games begin…

tip

(Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

 

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Eyes on Gary Neal and Local Water from Deep http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/wizards-sign-free-agent-gary-neal.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/07/wizards-sign-free-agent-gary-neal.html#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:01:59 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47556
[Image via USA Today Sports; 2013 NBA Finals]

[Image via USA Today Sports; 2013 NBA Finals]

The Wizards have had their eye on Gary Neal ever since he left the Spurs in 2013 after three successful seasons. Undrafted in 2007, the Baltimore native who split time in college between La Salle University and Towson (an hour’s drive north of the Verizon Center), cut his professional basketball teeth overseas in Turkey, Spain, and Italy over three seasons before joining San Antonio in 2010. The Spurs have always had an eye for talent playing overseas, and Neal used his ability to hit shots in their system of ball movement to curate a career in the NBA—as a journeyman. The Wizards will be his fourth team in the past three seasons.

During his time with the Spurs, Neal shot 39.8 percent from 3-point land, ranked 11th-best in the NBA over those three seasons (amongst players with 250 or more makes, per Basketball-Reference.com). Jared Dudley’s 3-point percentage (39.7%) ranked 12th-best in the NBA from 2010 to 2013. Washington, now with Neal and Dudley on the roster, hopes to deliver dialed-in deep threats in any rotation, as both shooters could be featured alongside John Wall in 2015-16. (1)

Neal is the consummate role player à la the utility infielder that Randy Wittman likes to call Garrett Temple. Except Neal packs more of an offensive punch and can more reliably shoot the ball—always key—as well as guard positions 1-thru-3. His career 12.8 Assist Percentage (percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while on the court) ranks just above the likes of Temple (11.0), Paul Pierce (11.9), and Nene (12.0) for the Wizards last season. That is, he’s a scorer off the bench, but not the obscene chucker-type that has previously caught the eye of Wizards management (Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, etc.). Neal isn’t a defensive stopper at 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, but he won’t get you beat on every play. He’s not as wiry as Temple, certainly much, much better than Martell Webster, and more stout than Ramon Sessions. Neal is along the lines of Wizards guards not named John Wall or Bradley Beal who can play multiple position, a tactic by design of team management.

Neal’s hot shooting in the 2013 NBA Finals (which resulted in a temporarily devastating Spurs loss to the Miami Heat, despite Neal’s 14-for-30 from deep), is what initially intrigued Milwaukee the following offseason. San Antonio withdrew their $1.1 million qualifying offer to Neal after instead signing Marco Belinelli for two-years and $6 million that summer, also thinking that Neal would be too expensive for their salary cap-conscious ways. Matthew Tynan of Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell, in assessing Neal versus Belinelli, relayed below-the-surface concerns that San Antoino also might have had:

“Yet there was a tangible disconnect at times between [Neal] and Gregg Popovich. His sometimes undisciplined style and below-average defensive acumen drew the ire of the coaching staff and fans alike, especially during last season’s shooting slump. Behind the scenes, Neal was hurt. Most of his nights following a game during the 2012-13 season were spent wrapped in ice, yet he continued to play through most of the injuries.”

Neal signed for the same amount as Belinelli to play in Milwaukee, but his time with the Bucks was short-lived and a bad memory. He spent 158 minutes playing with Brandon Knight to the tune of minus-17.9 per 48 minutes, 143 minutes with O.J. Mayo (minus-32.8), 141 minutes with Luke Ridnour (minus-15.6), and 255 minutes with Nate Wolters (minus-2.5). Not backcourt combinations that would be featured on a pairing menu.

Neal also clashed in early-January 2014 with then-Bucks star Larry Sanders (who’d signed a four-year, $44 million contract before that season). After a loss in Phoenix, Neal was overheard by the media yelling at Sanders, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?” About a year later, Sanders was waived and bought out of the remainder of his contract; he is now out of the NBA. Sanders’ mental state aside, he wasn’t a good teammate. It’s a positive that Neal wasn’t afraid to speak up, even if the public nature of the confrontation could have involved more tact. The situation in Washington should be different, one would suspect. The Bucks thus became desperate to trade Neal just short of seven months after signing him. Neal lasted 30 games in Milwaukee before being sent, along with the very trade-able Luke Ridnour, to Charlotte in exchange for moving deck chairs Jeff Adrien and, you guessed it, Ramon Sessions.

Neal increased his 36 percent 3-point shooting with the Bucks to 40.6 percent over 22 games with Charlotte. The Bobcats, fueled by two shooters in Neal and Ridnour over one perimeter player in Sessions, finished 18-9 after the trade, securing the 7-seed in the playoffs and a first-round date with the Miami Heat. Charlotte put up a fight in their second playoff appearance in 10 seasons but was swept 4-0 by Miami. Neal shot 4-for-18 (22.2%) in the 2014 playoffs and started the next season shooting poorly from deep as well—29.3 percent over 43 games with Charlotte in 2014-15.

That subpar play combined with an injury to Kemba Walker last season put Neal on the move again. Charlotte sought more point guard help and acquired Mo Williams, along with Troy Daniels, via trade with the Timberwolves in exchange for Neal and a 2019 second round pick. It was initially suspected that Flip Saunders would waive Neal after that February 10, 2015, trade, and the Wizards at that juncture were ready to pounce. But that’s not the direction Washington’s ex-coach, now coach and team president of Minnesota, went. He saw Neal as a veteran rental helping the Timberpups grow. Neal averaged a career-high 23.8 minutes over 11 games with Flip’s team and brought his long distance shooting back up to 35.5 percent. Neal’s 15.1 PER during that small sample size in Minny was also a career-high. Having lost out on the ability to pick up Neal, the Wizards instead traded for Sessions just over a week later. Now they have both long-time guard targets.

The Wizards this summer are filling gaps with veterans, shooting veterans, and there’s hardly a complaint. It’s cheap to kick the tires on Neal, who will turn 31 in October, for one season and the bi-annual exception of $2.1 million. Team owner Ted Leonsis has also long been tickled by the idea of connecting with the community via players who have local ties. Neal checks that non-basketball-related box. Basketball-wise, it’s all about rekindling the consistent system of ball movement that Neal thrived under in San Antonio. Check out the pre- and post-Spurs differences in his shooting from key areas on the floor:

San Antonio (2010-13)

Field Goal Percentage (Percentage of All FGAs):

  • Corner 3-Pointers – 42.9% (9.4%)
  • Above the Break 3s – 39.1% (34.6%)
  • Midrange – 44.9% (31.2%)

Milwaukee, Charlotte, Minnesota (2013-15)

Field Goal Percentage (Percentage of All FGAs):

  • Corner 3-Pointers – 32.6% (4.7%)
  • Above the Break 3s – 34.6% (30.6%)
  • Midrange – 41.1% (40.5%)

Not only did Neal’s shooting percentages go down across the board after leaving San Antoino, but his rate of 2-point attempts from midrange went up (by 9.3%!), while he took less 3-pointers overall from both spots. Sure, the Wizards also love the midrange, but that area is normally reserved for the in-game decision-making of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Those other, non-Spurs teams more relied on Neal’s ability to work off the dribble, which he can do on occasion but that’s not his expertise. Neal shot 38.2 percent on pull-up attempts last season, per NBA.com (2), and 38.5 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts. With the Wizards, Neal should thrive as a spot-up shooter first—The John Wall Effect—and be a threat on offense in other ways second.

Chalk Neal up as another “Going Home” NBA free agent signing—if LaMarcus Aldridge can go home to Dallas via San Antonio, then Neal can certainly get to Baltimore via D.C. (and maybe Kevin Durant to Seat Pleasant one day). Neal gets a chance to revitalize his own career by buying local and drinking from the Fountain of Wall. He also gets to be part of a much-anticipated behavioral transformative state of the Wizards. Packaged with the acquisitions of Dudley and the latest, Alan Anderson, the Wizards are deeper at the swing-wing position than ever, showing a true, roster construction commitment to surrounding Wall with the right type of players, and forming a squad primed to play the way of the new NBA.


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