The 2013 NBA Summer League continued its slow decline out of the national lexicon Friday, with consolation bracket contests adorning the schedule and making for a full slate of games in Las Vegas.
Seven different contests were on the schedule at the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion, getting underway in the early afternoon so the venues could hold the glut of games. The yearly gathering of NBA rookies, hopefuls and seemingly every general manager in the country will run through Sunday with the 10-day event culminating in an NCAA Tournament-like finale.
We've just now started paring down the 22-team field, and the bevy of teams getting a goodbye game leaves the eight squads remaining to wait until Saturday for their chance. Each of the 14 teams in action Friday are getting their last chance to impress general mangers and scouts, which means more to these players than anyone could ever quantify with words.
The lesson we've all been taught time and again is that the final scores of these contests matter little. Just because a team was eliminated already doesn't mean its players are bad, nor does a team's advancement come with juggernaut status.
Sure it's fun to win and there is pizza and ice cream provided to the victors (that's what people do in Vegas, right?), but it's more important for teams and fans to look at how individual players perform. For some, this has been the first extended glimpse of first-round selections, undrafted free agents and some guys merely looking for a training camp invite.
The old saying goes, Summer League doesn't tell you who can play, just who can't. But with a (relatively) decent sample, most folks know on whom their focus should lie with each team. There have been plenty of standout performances throughout the past week, and Friday was no different.
With that in mind, let's check in on everything you need to know about Friday's consolation games.
New York Knicks 91, Los Angeles Clippers 80
Apparently Jeremy Tyler was not going to allow his time in Vegas end without making one last impression on the Knicks coaching staff.
Tyler scored a team-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, adding three rebounds and two blocks to help New York coast to an easy victory. The talented big has always been looked at as a case of somewhat wasted potential, even if he's still just 22 years old. He's done a nice job of flashing those skills over the past two games, but it will be interesting to see whether Tyler's relationship with the Knicks lasts past this point.
New York utilized the red-hot hands of their bigs to take a first-half lead, pounding the ball inside and getting easy buckets against the overmatched Clippers frontcourt. New York made only one three-pointer, but they managed to keep a 52.7 field-goal percentage.
Terrence Jennings added 14 points and nine rebounds to the effort, while C.J. Leslie added 11 points.
On the Clippers side of things, all eyes continued to be on Reggie Bullock, whose impressive scoring display continued despite the loss. Bullock's game-high 22 points came on 8-of-20 shooting, and while he knocked down only three of his 11 three-pointers, the North Carolina product showed an unwavering confidence in his stroke. Los Angeles has gone out of its way to add shooting this summer, so Bullock will have to improve on his efficiency to carve out a consistent rotational position.
Samardo Samuels had the team's other performance of note, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The Clippers need help in the frontcourt, but Samuels is probably far down on a list for a team looking to compete for a title.
Los Angeles finishes its Summer League play 1-4, while New York went 2-3.
Sacramento Kings 93, Atlanta Hawks 87
Ben McLemore's major struggles from the field were one of the major stories coming out of Vegas, so the Kings have to be somewhat relieved after Friday's contest. The former Kansas standout scored a game-high 27 points and gabbed nine rebounds, leading the Kings on a third-quarter surge that helped push them to a six-point victory.
Heading into his final Summer League game, McLemore had been nothing short of a wreck. He had made just 28.1 percent of his shots through four games, averaging a concerning 13 points per contest. The 20-year-old guard scored just one point in the Kings' previous outing, shooting 0-of-8 from the field in an embarrassing defeat from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Things weren't perfect for McLemore Friday—he shot 2-of-8 from beyond the arc—but Sacramento had to be pleased with his bounce-back performance. The Kings are banking on McLemore being a part of their core going forward, so any positive will help bring comfort.
Sacramento got another solid performance from Ray McCallum, who finished with 12 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. The former Detroit standout has made a strong impression in Vegas and should find himself a part of the guard rotation next season.
The Hawks, meanwhile, were led by their usual Summer League suspects. Mike Scott scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed 10 boards, while John Jenkins added 19 and Dennis Schroeder chipped in another 15.
Schroeder, billed as a raw, shoot-first guard, has been a revelation for Atlanta this summer. He's worked far better out of pick-and-rolls than anyone could have expected, and ranks second in Vegas in assists per game.
Fellow first-round selection Lucas Noguiera's strong play also continued, though he was limited to just under 12 minutes because of hamstring tightness. The Brazilian center made the most of that time, though, blocking a game-high five shots.
Both the Hawks and Kings finished 1-4.
Washington Wizards 78, New Orleans Pelicans 77
Spurred by a trio of double-figure scorers, the Wizards closed out their Summer League play by holding off a charging Pelicans squad for a one-point win.
Sundiata Gaines was Washington's leading scorer, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Second-round pick Glen Rice Jr. (14 points) and Chris Singleton (11 points) were the other two players in double figures.
Rice is the only one of those players with a chance at making a long-term impact. The former Georgia Tech standout turned D-League Finals MVP fell out of the first round due to character concerns, but there has never been much doubt about his playing ability. He'll slot in behind John Wall and Bradley Beal in the rotation but could wind up as the third or fourth guard next year.
First-rounder Otto Porter, who struggled a bit in Vegas, sat out for the second time.
As they've been wont to do this summer, the Pelicans were led by Austin Rivers. The former Duke standout and major 2012-13 disappointment scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While Rivers stands fourth in the guard rotation after New Orleans traded for Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, Pelicans brass has to feel good about their glut of talent in the backcourt.
It will just be interesting to see whether Rivers can keep it up, or if this is merely a desert mirage.
Darius Miller (15 points) and Brian Roberts (13 points) were the team's other double-figure scorers. Second-round picks Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson both had inconsequential outings and both could have a lot to prove heading into camp.
The Pelicans and Wizards both finished 2-3 this summer.
San Antonio Spurs 90, Milwaukee Bucks 80
The Spurs are well past the point of caring about their Summer League results. Their core players are to the point they probably barely remember their embryonic stages playing before a skeptical crowd in Las Vegas.
Beyond as a developmental avenue, to which the team uses Summer League like any other, Gregg Popovich and Co. have the correct attitude toward this stuff. I'd almost love to see a reporter ask Popovich about how Summer League correlates to the regular season, just to see the response.
But even acknowledging that, it's impressive to see San Antonio come away with a winning record—even if it's meaningless. The Spurs used two strong runs in the mid quarters as the driving force behind their 10-point win, getting an especially strong performance from guard Hollis Thompson.
The former Georgetown standout scored a game-high 21 points, knocking down 8-of-12 shots and both of his attempts from deep in the win. Thompson spent last season in the D-League and is likely headed there next season, but someone will at least give him an outside shot at an end-of-bench role during training camp.
Ryan Richards, a 2010 draftee who has played overseas the past few seasons, also impressed with 18 points. It's unclear whether San Antonio plans on bringing him over long-term—Richards played in Summer League last season as well before heading to Europe—but his 18 points were at least a good parting present if not.
On the losing side, the Bucks finally caught a glimpse of what made so many call Nate Wolters a sleeper in this year's draft. The shoot-first point guard poured in a team-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Wolters had been all over the place with his shot during Milwaukee's first four contests, shooting 32.3 percent and only scoring 6.3 points per contest.
John Shurna continued his solid play, knocking down three long-range bombs en route to a 14-point outing. Shurna has a really good shot at catching on with the Bucks and will definitely get a training camp invite from at least one team.
San Antonio finished 3-2, while Milwaukee finished 2-3.
Memphis Grizzlies 91, Denver Nuggets 84
It's not too often you think of Summer League as a team effort. These guys are playing on one or two practices together as a cohesive unit for the post part, with only a select few with even a snowball's chance of making it to the senior club.
But far be it from me to ever question the Memphis Grizzlies' teamwork. In perhaps one of the finest displays of distributed scoring you'll see this summer, the Grizzlies were carried to a seven-point win on the back of six double-figure scorers.
Donte Greene and Gerald Robinson buoyed the effort with 16 points apiece, the latter adding in five assists and five rebounds for a solid all-around performance. Matt Howard added a double-double with 12 points and as many rebounds, while Jack Cooley (13 points) and Laurence Bowers (12 points) rounded out the double-digit effort.
Memphis came from behind after a slow first quarter and pulled away after the score was tied through three. The Grizzlies finish their summer league effort with a 2-4 record.
The Nuggets were also without any major individual performances other than Luke Harangody's 17-point effort. The former Notre Dame standout didn't catch on with a team last season, instead maneuvering his way through the D-League waiting for a call that never came. He probably won't be getting anything except a camp invite this year, either, but Harangody had a nice outing that should stick in scouts' minds a bit.
Second-round pick Erick Green and C.J. Harris were Denver's other double-digit scorers, as the team fell to 1-5 in Vegas. Last year's first-round pick Evan Fournier went scoreless in eight minutes of action.
Chicago Bulls 94, Dallas Mavericks 87
Considering the way their offseason has gone, the Los Angeles Lakers might want to make a quick call to Andrew Goudelock's representation before Chicago scoops him up for the end of its bench.
The former Lakers guard scored a team-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting Friday, working well off the ball and as the Bulls' primary ball-handler in the 94-87 victory. Goudelock has been a revelation in Vegas, finishing his five-game effort scoring 19 points per game and leading Chicago to a 4-1 record. While his team didn't make it far enough for him to win MVP, Goudelock certainly would have gotten consideration with one or two more wins.
Chicago also got its first truly promising effort from first-round pick Tony Snell, who scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including an impressive 5-of-8 performance from deep. Snell had struggled with his stroke for most of the week, so it's good on him to go out on a strong note.
Second-rounder Erik Murphy added in 19 points and 13 rebounds, another performance that makes him a near-lock for the Bulls bench next season. Murphy should add nice dimension as a stretch 4 who can go beyond the three-point line.
Dallas' Summer League was essentially ruined the moment Shane Larkin went down with an injury, so it's unsurprising to see the team finish 2-4. Justin Dentmon had another fine performance with 23 points, continuing a trend that has prevailed throughout the proceedings. He doesn't have much of an NBA shot barring a Chris Copeland situation—Dentmon is 27—but maybe he'll get a nice contract overseas and his story will have a happy ending.
Josh Akognon had a strong performance as well, scoring 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Backcourt-mate and 2013-14 sleeper candidate Gal Mekel wasn't as impressive in his four-point, seven-assist effort, but his excellence this week bodes well for the future.
Minnesota Timberwolves 72, Portland Trail Blazers 66
This wasn't exactly what one would call the most aesthetically pleasing end to your Friday night. The Blazers sent what amounted to their D-League Summer League team out there—a depth of basketball hell I did not know was possible until now—while Minnesota ran through the motions and pulled away in the fourth to win.
Eliminated from competition, Portland sat just about every player of consequence and trotted out a struggling lineup of scorers. Allen Crabbe and Terrel Harris were the only two players on the floor with a remote chance of making the Blazers' roster next season, with only the latter chipping in and taking advantage of his situation.
Harris scored a game-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while Crabbe plodded his way through a struggle-filled nine-point effort. There isn't much nuance to be taken away from here, just that the Blazers finished 1-5 in Summer League.
Minnesota seemed to pump the brakes the moment it saw the lineup Portland was putting out. No Timberwolves scorer went above second-rounder Lorenzo Brown's 13 points, as the team won despite committing 23 turnovers. First-round selection Shabazz Muhammad flailed his way to six points on 2-of-8 shooting, while fellow collegiate star Gorgui Dieng had a 10-point, two-rebound effort.
The Timberwolves finished their Summer League slate 3-3.
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