ALL BALL NERVE CENTER —
7:02 a.m. ET — Here we go again. It’s that time of year when the stars are aligned, when the moon is in its proper season, and when, for one glorious day, we get a full day of live NBA action. That’s right, it’s the day when the Orlando Summer League and Las Vegas Summer League overlap, when we get almost 17 consecutive hours of live NBA action. Like we’ve done a few times in the past, I’ll be here live-blogging along all day. Well, almost all day.
First up! We get the final games of the Orlando Summer League, and the day’s action will build to something of a crescendo tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET with what should be a great primetime match-up of 2015 lottery picks, as D’Angelo Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers will take on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Just for the heck of it, after that game we get an NBA Finals rematch, as the Cavs’ and Warriors’ summer league teams will square off at 10:30 PM ET.
So settle in, get your popcorn ready (or your oatmeal or cereal or whatever appropriate breakfast foods you prefer) and let’s watch some basketball! I’ll be checking in throughout the day, up until tonight, when my shift ends at 5 p.m. and I’m replaced by some fresh fingers here on the live blog to carry you through the evening hours.
Leading off the morning, we have the Clippers against the Thunder at 8 a.m. ET on NBA TV, in is the battle for fifth place in Orlando. You have questions? Comments? Thoughts? Drop them in the comments below and let’s talk. Either way, we’ve got a marathon ahead of us. Let’s watch some NBA Summer League action. See ya again here in about an hour or so …
7:28 a.m. ET — So what should you be watching for when Summer League play gets rolling in Las Vegas tonight? We’re glad you asked …
VIDEO: GameTime previews Las Vegas Summer League
8:09 a.m. ET — The Summer League marathon is underway! We’re starting things off with Clippers-Thunder, but here’s everyone who is playing today in the Orlando Summer League case you forgot …
8:24 a.m. ET — It may be early but Clippers coach Doc Rivers is in the house watching the Clips’ summer leaguers go at it…
8:56 a.m. ET — Halftime in Orlando, and the Clippers are clinging to a 46-43 lead. L.A. has had nice performances from C.J. Wilcox and Diante Garrett, and their leading scorer at the half is Jordan Hamilton, who got a little run in the NBA a year ago with the Timberwolves. Maybe the best player in the game has been James Southerland, who has 15 for the Thunder. Do you know who these players are? Perhaps not, not unless you’re a hardcore NBA fan. But that’s the beauty of summer league, where names can be made.
Also worth noting, we had a #MUSCLEWATCH mention at the half from broadcast guest Darnell Mayberry, talking about how OKC’s Mitch McGary has dropped about 30 pounds. If McGary keeps going at this rate he has a real chance at shattering all previously existing #MUSCLEWATCH records.
9:21 a.m. ET — What is the key to standing out in summer league? Because to be clear, more than actually trying to win games, that’s what many of these players are attempting to do. For instance, former Duke guard Quinn Cook is playing point guard for the Thunder team, and having a nice game (13 points and 7 assists as I write this). But in reality, the numbers in OKC just may not work in Cook’s favor. At the point, for instance, the Thunder already have Russell Westbrook and DJ Augustin, as well as first round pick Cameron Payne, so there aren’t many minutes to go around for point guards. But when they get finished in Orlando, according to this article, Cook will join Cleveland’s summer league team in Las Vegas. Again, the Cavs may not have a spot for him going forward, but for Cook, these are opportunities to stand out and perhaps earn another chance somewhere else. After all, you never know who’s watching.
10:07 a.m. ET — Since the Clips just finished playing, only feel right to talk about Lawler’s Law. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a rule invented and invoked by longtime Clippers’ play-by-play man Ralph Lawler, who says the first NBA team in any given game to reach 100 points is the team most likely to win.
Well, after careful consideration, I would like to propose an amendment to the law — Lawler’s Summer Law, let’s call it: First team to 75 is most likely to win. I say that because most summer league games (which are 40 minutes to begin with) aren’t as high scoring as most NBA games. But this Clippers/Thunder game turned into a video game, and after being tied at 90 with 1:03 to play, Geron Johnson sank a halfcourt shot at the end of regulation that appeared to give the Clippers the win. For a moment, I thought Lawler’s Summer Law would hold. But upon further review, Johnson didn’t get the shot off in time, and we got free basketball in the form of a 2 minute overtime.
In OT the Thunder jumped out to a 5-point lead, but the Clippers tied it and sent it to double-OT! All before 10 AM!
Double OT in Summer League? Sudden death! The Clips almost scored off the tip, but a foul stopped play and the Clips missed a jumper. The Thunder’s Semaj Christon drove the lane, got fouled and hit a free throw to give OKC the win, 101-100.
Fun game, better ending, even if you don’t quite know all the players on the court. Next up, Detroit against Miami. Let’s go!
Oh, and the first team to 75? The Clippers. So much for Lawler’s Summer Law…
10:29 a.m. ET — This happened last night in the Utah Summer League, not Orlando, but it’s worth including but this was awesome…
11:01 a.m. ET — It’s not the humidity, it’s the Heat! Through the first 20 minutes in Orlando, the Miami Heat are playing great, while the Pistons, well…let’s just say they don’t look so great. At halftime the Heat lead 41-24. Miami’s backcourt of Josh Richardson and Tyler Kalinoski have combined for 17 points, while Zoran Dragic (bro of Goran) has 5 points.
One of the few bright spots for the Pistons has been Stanley Johnson, not just today but all week. The Pistons plucked Johnson eighth overall out of Arizona in the 2015 Draft, and thus far in Summer League action Johnson is averaging 17.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg. But more than his scoring, I really like Johnson’s strength and size, which looks ready-made to contribute in the NBA, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
11:22 a.m. ET — Let’s talk for a moment about Joshua Smith. No, not Josh Smith, the longtime NBA power forward. In this case, a couple of letters make all the difference. Joshua Smith is a 6-10 center who keen basketball watchers may recall. As a high schooler on the West Coast, Smith was supposed to be a big thing on the collegiate level. But once he enrolled at UCLA, he struggled with his weight and ended up transferring to Georgetown, where he did drop some pounds and ended up having a nice career. Talent was never his issue — it was being in shape and staying in shape. Right now, playing for Miami’s summer league team, the Heat have Smith listed as 360 pounds, which seems about accurate to the eye test.
Anyway, I’m thinking about Smith in the context of another Heat player, Udonis Haslem. You may think of Haslem as a long, lean post player, but he wasn’t always that way. After playing college ball at Florida, Haslem couldn’t find a home in the NBA, largely because of his weight. He went and played in France, lost 70 pounds, came back and has had a model NBA career.
Here’s hoping Smith finds a similar path to a life in the NBA.
11:58 a.m. ET — You’re still there, right? OF COURSE YOU ARE! We’re still just getting started.
Two games in the book, and the Heat took it to the Pistons, winning 91-68. Richardson and Kalinoski ended up combining for 33 to lead the Heat. Also of note? Juwan Howard Jr. contributed 10 off the bench for the Heat. Spencer Dinwiddie led the Pistons with 11 points. Somehow the Heat finished the Orlando Summer League with a 5-0 record but didn’t make the championship game. I think because summer league.
Coming up next is the Orlando Summer League title game, with the Memphis Grizzlies against Orlando White (the Magic have two teams; the other is Orlando Blue). Big things at stake!
12:40 p.m. ET — I was worried, I have to be honest with you, after the way this title game started. After one quarter, the Grizz were up 20-6, and they pushed that lead to 24-8. I thought we were going to have a bummer of a Summer League championship game on our hands, but the Magic weren’t done, and pulled a few tricks to cut it to a 26-19 game as I write this. The Grizzlies are being led by Michael Holyfield, who desperately needs to be nicknamed “Real Deal” if he isn’t already.
1:06 p.m. ET –Last summer, my Hang Time Podcast cohosts (Sekou Smith and Rick Fox) and I had the chance to announce some games at the Las Vegas Summer League, and one of the games we called involved the New Orleans Pelicans, who had former Louisvile star Russ Smith on their roster.
I was thinking about Smith again this morning, because he’s playing for the Memphis Grizzlies today in the Orlando Summer League title game. As a college player, Smith did about all you can do, playing four years, while averaging an impressive 18 ppg his junior and senior seasons. But thus far that talent hasn’t really translated to the NBA — he’s played a dozen games in the NBA and scored a total of 30 points.
Is it because he’s a score-first point guard? Is it because at 6-feet he’s too short? Does he need to become a better defender? Or maybe he needs to become an even better scorer?
Or maybe it’s that he just hasn’t found the right place and time. So much of being successful in the NBA is being in the right system, playing for the right coach, with the right teammates around you. As a player, you do all that you can do to be be great.
But some things are just out of your control.
2:06 p.m. ET — Well, the Grizz started fast but finished slow, and the Magic were able to tie the game and sent it to overtime. The second overtimes game of the day! And I have to say, I really enjoy the two-minute overtime session, which feels frenetic and quick and substantial, all at the same time. There were also several replay review stoppages down the stretch, which slowed the game down, as well.
After a series of turnovers with the game tied at 73, we went to Double-OT, which of course in Summer League means SUDDEN DEATH!
Let’s go play-by-play…
— Memphis wins jump ball
— Russ Smith scores on a lefty running floater
— Memphis wins Orlando Summer League title
Chris Singleton had a nice game for Orlando, finishing with 16 points and contributing no-look passes, scoring inside and outside, blocking shots, grabbing boards. Keith Benson was also big, with 16 points, 12 boards and 5 blocks. But the man we talked about earlier, Russ Smith, was Russ-diculous, finishing with 15 points. I don’t know if can get a look with the Grizz, but for a team that can use scoring, Smith seems like he might be a nice fit off the bench.
Anyway, the championship game is over, but the league ain’t done! The Indiana Pacers against Orlando Blue up next!
2:12 p.m. ET — You win the title, you can dress however you like for the postgame interview…
2:29 p.m. ET — Don’t forget, big match-up coming up in just a few hours…
2:50 p.m. ET — Because we are nearing the end of the Orlando Summer League, teams have been resting some of their players to avoid injury. So this Indiana/Orlando game is missing a few players of note, including Aaron Gordon, Myles Turner and Mario Hezonja. The Pacers are actually using a seven man rotation today, so if you’re dressed, you’re definitely getting in the game and playing major minutes.
One player you may not be familiar with is Indiana’s Joseph Young, a.k.a. “Mighty” Joe Young, Indiana’s second-round pick out of Oregon who is averaging 20 ppg thus far. He’s got 9 as I write this, but the Pacers are down 17 halfway through the second quarter. Might be a long afternoon for the Pacers.
3:10 p.m. ET — Also worth noting…
3:37 p.m. ET — Three quarters are done in Orlando, and the Magic are just too strong for Indiana’s thin roster. Our guy Joe Young has gone for 25 points in 27 minutes, but the Magic are up 15, 75-60. Lawler’s Summer Law may hold true this afternoon.
3:59 p.m. ET — Lawler’s Summer Law indeed — the Magic cruise to a big win, 98-74. Jordan Sibert leads the Magic with 18 off the bench, and Jabril Trawick adds 16. Mighty Joe Young had 28 for the Pacers. For whatever it’s worth, I think the Magic are going sneak into the Playoffs this season — I really like their young core, and I love Tobias Harris, and I think new coach Scott Skiles will have them getting after it defensively. They can still improve their bench and maybe need a veteran to add some locker room leadership, but they’ve done a really nice job rebuilding and creating a solid foundation moving forward.
Next up, Brooklyn takes on Charlotte in the final game from Orlando Summer League.
4:14 p.m. ET — Frank Kaminsky is playing for Charlotte, which makes me think of this…
4:32 p.m. ET — Wow, so the Nets only have six players. Even so, they’re in this game and actually lead by 1, 18-17, after the first quarter.
Patrick Ewing is coaching the Hornets team in Orlando, and seeing him on the sideline reminded me of a funny story from Summer League in Las Vegas year: It was one of the final days of Summer League and the Hornets were playing the Houston Rockets. I was sitting at the press table along the baseline and was working on an article about the game.
When the game ended and Houston won, the two teams formed casual lines and started slowly walking past each other to shake hands. I got up from the table and grabbed my little tape recorder and started to walk down to the other end of the arena to the locker rooms, so I could interview some people for my story. Because it’s Summer League, things are pretty casual, and the quickest way for me to get to the other end of the arena was to just go straight across the court.
I went about ten feet and got stuck behind the line of Rockets players and coaches, and because I was wearing a red shirt, the next thing I knew I was being congratulated by each member of the Hornets, who apparently thought I was a member of the Rockets staff. It happened too quickly for me to stop it, so I just kinda stood there shaking hands. And at the end of the line, Patrick Ewing gave me a high five and said, “Nice win.”
4:55 p.m. ET — Halftime in Orlando, and the short-handed Nets are behind to the Hornets, trailing 46-35 at the half. Nice play from Charlotte’s P.J. Hairston, who has 13 points on 3-6 from three-point land, as well as 4 boards and 4 assists.
There’s still two quarters left in Orlando, but the clock is up for me. So after 9 hours, one large cup of coffee, a ham and cheese sandwich, a sleeve of mixed nuts, two bottles of water, two Advil, five Summer League games and almost 3,000 words, I’m handing off the baton.
There’s still plenty of hoops to come. Catch you guys later…
VIDEO: Video: Masai Ujiri talks Raptors
VIDEO: Video: George Karl Discusses the Kings’ Offseason