As a New Orleans Hornets' fan, I have never been so excited for the NBA Summer League to get underway as I am in 2012. Although the Hornets' first pick in the NBA Draft is off helping Team USA in the Summer Olympics preparations, New Orleans' other first round pick made his debut Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now that the New Orleans Hornets have traded Jarrett Jack and matched Eric Gordon's contract, it's clear that Austin Rivers will play point guard. Playing point guard is difficult for any NBA rookie, but especially for someone who didn't play the point in college. So I won't be surprised if things don't go smoothly for Austin Rivers in Summer League play.
In the Hornets' first Summer League game versus the Trail Blazers, Austin Rivers got a lot of playing time at point guard. Rivers struggled with his outside shot for most of the game and seemed to have trouble establishing an offensive rhythm for New Orleans. But I was impressed with Rivers' tenacity and dribble penetration for the Hornets.
Although he was only 3-13 from the field, Austin Rivers drew lots of fouls. In fact, Rivers shot 7-10 on free throw attempts for New Orleans. Given his limited knowledge of the Hornets' offense and his inexperience at point guard, I am not concerned that Austin Rivers only had two assists for New Orleans in his first Summer League game.
I was very impressed (and a bit concerned) with Rivers flying (and falling) around the floor in a Summer League game. If Austin Rivers gives this kind of effort in a Summer League game, I can't wait to see how hard he plays for the Hornets in the regular season. But I was holding my breath when Rivers began wincing and limping around.
Although I was focused on Austin Rivers and the New Orleans Hornets in this Summer League game, I would be remiss if I did not mention the phenomenal play of the Portland Trail Blazers' rookie point guard. Damian Lillard is the player I wanted the Hornets to draft with the 10th pick but he was no longer available when New Orleans selected.
Lillard proved with his outstanding play and leadership that despite playing at Weber State, he is ready for the bright lights of the NBA. Lillard hit an incredible three-point shot late in the game to ice the Trail Blazers' 85-82 win over the New Orleans Hornets in Summer League action.
Congratulations to the New Orleans Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers for a successful 2012 NBA Draft and a spirited start to the NBA Summer League. I look forward to seeing both teams play in the Summer League and the regular season.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Hornets. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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