The NBA's first Summer League action in Orlando wrapped up its festivities with placing games on Friday, which could leave fans despondent if the Las Vegas event wasn't getting kicked off at the exact same time.
Friday's opening festivities saw a smaller slate of games—four, compared to the usual six or seven—as teams are still trickling into Nevada. Some players and even some teams are bringing themselves straight from Orlando to Vegas, giving fans a mini two-week run of NBA-lite basketball before the offseason doldrums finally set in.
Vegas is generally considered the better of the two Summer League experiences. There are 22 teams compared to just 10 in Orlando, meaning that there are an extra 12 or more coaches and league executives in attendance. The event is something of an NBA family reunion, with notable members of the league's media all hobnobbing it in the same place.
And even if you aren't able to take time off work to get to Las Vegas, the NBA has a nice Summer League Pass setup that allows you to watch each game.
The final scores of these games are all but meaningless. Sure, winning is nice. But teams use these contests as barometers to gauge how their young players are progressing. Breakout stars are rarely made during the summer, and these contests are better at showing you who can't play rather than who can. Utah Jazz fans are likely fretting over Trey Burke's progress as we speak, while Boston Celtics fans are taking comfort in Kelly Olynyk being exactly who we thought he was.
Those feelings will definitely be coming forth in droves over the next week-plus in Vegas. Here is a quick recap of how Friday went down.
New Orleans Pelicans 77, New York Knicks 72
Apparently Austin Rivers got the memo that he's standing fourth in the Pelicans' guard rotation right now, and he decided to do something about it. Rivers was the star of the show in the Las Vegas opener, scoring a game-high 24 points and leading New Orleans to a hard-fought win.
Working as the team's primary ball-handler for much of the time he was on the floor, Rivers did a nice job at getting to the rack, drawing defenders for kick-out passes and getting to the line. He finished with six assists and got to the line 11 times, making seven, as Rivers looked far and away like the best player on the floor.
Considering how miserable of a rookie season Rivers had, he should have been happy with his effort. Rivers didn't look nearly as timid (read: deer-in-the-headlights scared) as he did on an NBA floor last season, where he had by all accounts one of the worst rookie campaigns in league history.
Sure, we're talking about a second-year lottery pick dominating a group of guys who would be happy to make the D-League next season. So we'll avoid getting overly excited. But New Orleans is looking for any sign of promise from Rivers this offseason, and this could be the start of Doc's son gaining some confidence.
The remainder of New Orleans' Summer League squad lacks intrigue. Brian Roberts was there and had 10 points, but he's going to have real trouble finding his way off the bench in 2013-14, barring injury. Neither second-round pick—Kansas center Jeff Withey and Baylor guard Pierre Jackson—was with the team, so it's pretty hard to have takeaways there.
The Knicks' first-round selection, Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr., did suit up, but the results were mixed. He led New York with 13 points and grabbed five rebounds, but he knocked down just 4-of-12 shots and made one of six attempts from beyond the three-point arc. The best thing Hardaway did was finish a nifty alley-oop from Iman Shumpert; the Knicks will be looking for more in their next contest.
Speaking of Shumpert—yikes. New York brought the third-year guard to Las Vegas ostensibly to get more work as a primary ball-handler, and the results weren't pretty. Shumpert missed all five of his shots, scored only two points and could not find a rhythm shooting off the dribble. He added four assists and six rebounds, but coughed the ball up at an equal rate to his dimes and was a strange non-factor on the defensive end.
The Knicks also got a lackluster effort from undrafted free agent C.J. Leslie, who finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
New York and New Orleans are both off on Saturday.
Los Angeles Clippers 90, Atlanta Hawks 83
Like most of their moves this summer, the verdict is all roses on first-round selection Reggie Bullock through one game. The North Carolina product looked relaxed in his first Summer League game, scoring a team-high 18 points and leading the Clippers to an opening victory.
Working mostly as a 2-guard, Bullock knocked down eight of his 15 shots, including a 2-of-6 mark from distance. He didn't fill up the other primary stat categories—he had only three rebounds and one assist—but Bullock was surprisingly active on the defensive end. Last season Bullock had just one multi-block game and averaged 0.3 per game, making the three he had against Atlanta an amusing little Summer League note.
Don't expect that to continue going forward.
Also contributing to Los Angeles' winning effort were DaJuan Summers and Samardo Samuels, both of whom had 15 points. Samuels, who played 18 games for the Cavaliers last season, also added nine rebounds and looked good on the low block. He might want to work on knocking down his free throws, though, because 1-of-6 isn't going to cut it.
The Hawks, meanwhile, got their first glimpse of their influx of international flavor on Friday. First-round picks Lucas Nogueira and Dennis Schroeder made their debuts, with the former having the more impressive day.
Nogueira scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and had eight rebounds, but committed four fouls and had mental lapses on rotations and was in the wrong place a couple times on offense. These are minor criticisms, though. Overall the Hawks had to be pleased with what they saw from the Brazilian big man, especially considering he was billed as being two or three years away from contributing.
Schroeder more or less lived up to his raw reputation. He had seven points and seven assists, but shot just 2-of-9 from the field. The most positive takeaway for Shroeder was he looked far more adept at distributing than he was billed.
During the draft process most scouts had the German guard pegged as a Russell Westbrook-type attacker, with passing proficiency being something he'd learn over time. But Schroeder seemed at least relatively comfortable slashing to the hole and finding open teammates.
The star of the party—and frequent receiver of Shroeder passes—was John Jenkins. The second-year guard scored a game-high 24 points and thrived while being the focal point of Atlanta's offense.
The Hawks and Clippers are both off on Friday.
Cleveland Cavaliers 70, Los Angeles Lakers 63
Tyler Zeller must read the news. In his first opportunity to impress Cleveland brass after the team's signing of Andrew Bynum—a move that essentially placed Zeller fourth (at best) in the Cavs' big man rotation—the former North Carolina star did just that.
Zeller, working both at the 4 and the 5, scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Cleveland to victory. In a contest that was filled with glaring inefficiencies on the offensive end—the teams combined for just 49 points in the first half—Zeller was solid inside and showed some proficiency from longer range.
Jermaine Taylor led the way for the Cavs with a game-high 17 points. Cleveland also got a solid performance from second-round pick Carrick Felix, who surprisingly looked comfortable beyond the NBA three-point line and had 14 points.
Dion Waiters, on the other hand, not so much. The second-year guard, who will have a ton of responsibilities weighting on his shoulders next season, had a miserable first Summer League outing. He made only one of his 11 field-goal attempts, floundering as both the team's primary ball-handler and biggest volume shooter. The Cavs brought Waiters to Las Vegas to get him some more reps with the coaching staff and have a chance to run an "NBA" offense. They'll be expecting more next time out.
The Lakers didn't bring anyone of substance on the short drive from L.A., so this will probably be par for the course. Second-round selection Ryan Kelly is still recovering from a foot injury, so this roster is essentially a group of second-chancers—and Robert Sacre.
D-League All-Star and three-point gunner Marcus Landry was the Lakers' leading scorer with 14 points. Among players you actually should pay attention to, former Florida State star Michael Snaer had 12 points and was Los Angeles' best player on the floor for much of the contest. Considering the Lakers still have to fill out their bench, Snaer could have a shot at sticking.
Either way, this bunch will be high-fiving if it makes it to 80 points once in Vegas.
Cleveland and Los Angeles are both off on Friday.
San Antonio Spurs 69, Charlotte Bobcats 67
Cory Joseph must have learned a thing or two about clutch excellence in the NBA Finals. The Spurs guard knocked down a two-point jumper with four second remaining Friday night, putting San Antonio ahead for good and allowing he crowd on-hand to leave with an endorphin rush.
Those final two points gave Joseph a team-high 19 on 7-of-14 shooting. San Antonio knows who the third-year guard is and what he can do at this point, so Joseph's excellence in Vegas shouldn't be much of a surprise. He's getting critical experience running the primary ball-handler role and acquitted himself well, dishing out five assists. There's no telling how much more extensive playing time Joseph will get during Summer League play, but he'll be borderline great in the minutes he gets.
Second-round pick Deshaun Thomas also had a nice outing, scoring 18 points. The former Ohio State forward has a lot of interesting facets to his game and could be another late-draft steal if he keeps this up. The Spurs need another wing in their rotation, and while Thomas has an uphill battle to earning that spot, he's at least making R.C. Buford look smart for now.
The Bobcats, as they're wont to do, looked rather concerning. They brought three players—Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo—who are guaranteed significant playing time next season, and each left with their host of concerns.
Kidd-Gilchrist fared by far the best. He scored 12 points, made half of his 12 shots and even knocked down a jumper. His form was still abhorrent, but hey, it went in. So there's that. But Kidd-Gilchrist only got to the line once and still looked like he needed a healthy dose of basketball IQ. He's still really young. He won't turn 20 until September. There are just enough concerning things about his offensive development that you can't be over the moon about a 12-point Summer League outing where Kidd-Gilchrist didn't take care of his physical advantages.
Biyombo was seemingly having an awful contest with Aron Baynes. The third-year forward scored only three points on 1-of-3 shooting and made one of his four free throws. The boards were kind to Biyombo, as he grabbed 11 off the glass, but that's a little less impressive after you take a look at Charlotte's big man supply. Someone had to grab them. Biyombo is entering a critical stage in his development, and we're getting to the point where it's fair to wonder if he'll ever become anything other than a slightly below replacement-level big.
Zeller I'm less concerned about because he's still workshopping his game, but he wasn't much better. Charlotte's No. 4 overall pick finished with eight points and five boards on 4-of-9 shooting. He was also a foul-happy fella, having five whistles be called on him.
Jeffrey Taylor was the Bobcats' one positive shining light, scoring a game-high 24.
Charlotte and San Antonio are off on Friday.
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