July 23, 2009
The NBA Summer League is over and admit it, you're feeling kind of empty.
Remember that girlfriend you had freshman year of college who lived halfway across the country from you? When the spring semester came to a close and you had to say goodbye for the summer, you tried to get in a solid earth-shattering kiss to last you until you saw her again in the fall when school started back up.
Well, like that little freshman hottie, our precious NBA just packed up its Yaffa blocks and mini fridge and is driving away for August and September. If you missed the chance to plant a wet one on the Association during the summer league in Las Vegas last week, now's the time to remember it like you were creepily flipping through a Facebook photo album of your girlfriend's at 3 o'clock in the morning.
When Baron Davis(notes) showed up for one of the Clippers games in a Clyde Frazer-esque beard/fedora/dark-rimmed glasses combo (which was awesome enough in itself) and took a courtside seat next to Mike Dunleavy across from the Clips bench where Blake Griffin(notes) and Eric Gordon(notes) were sitting. A total, "let's stay together for the kids" moment.
Best Decision by a Veteran to Show Up
Last summer Dahntay Jones(notes) parlayed a solid showing in Vegas into a starting gig with Denver for the season that resulted in an $11 million contract with Indiana. This summer's big winner was Sean May(notes), who despite not playing any games (Charlotte didn't even field a team), was able to impress Sacramento officials enough at a private workout to secure a one-year deal despite the fact that he's only played in 82 out of a possible 328 games in his four-year career.
Worst Decision by a Veteran to Show Up
Chris Paul(notes) showed up, told long-time NBA reporter Chris Tomasson that the Hornets are so into savings mode that he wouldn't be surprised if even he was tradable and then went on to deny the conversation ever occurring on his Twitter account. Coming in a close second was Paul Pierce(notes) who wore sunglasses in the gym the whole time he watched the games. Anytime you're wearing shades indoors in Vegas, you're coming under scrutiny for trying to hide all-night Black Jack bags under your eyes. That's just how it goes.
For a supposedly shallow draft pool, the second-round talent sure ran deep. If you had to choose just one, Detroit's DaJuan Summers(notes) (18.0 points, 5.4 rebounds) is tough to argue against, but San Antonio's DeJuan Blair(notes) owned the boards (8.7 rebounds in just 25 minutes per game) and showed a soft touch belying his 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame (81 percent from the line); Milwaukee's Jodie Meeks(notes) had the nicest looking shot of anybody in the gym all week and don't forget Kevin Durant(notes) was in attendance (53 percent from three); Houston's Chase Budinger(notes) (17.8 points on 68 percent shooting) and New Orleans' Marcus Thornton(notes) (20.7 points per game) both look like they can come in immediately and provide bench scoring; Memphis' Sam Young(notes) shot 50 percent from the field, showing an improved jumper since his days at Pitt to go with his developed wing defense; and Portland's Dante Cunningham(notes), Detroit's Jonas Jerebko(notes) and Cleveland's Danny Green(notes) all showed promise of being 2009-10 contributors as well.
Best Record Broken
Anthony Randolph(notes) tying the scoring record of 42 points was stellar, and Anthony Morrow(notes) setting the new mark with 47 a few days later was stunning, but it didn't quite match up. Joey Dorsey(notes) coming even with the all-time rebounds mark with 20 offered some solace to Houston fans mourning Yao's foot injury, but it still pales in comparison. Marcus Williams obliterating the old summer league record of 11 assists in a game by dropping 17 dimes against the Thunder in the Grizzlies first game in Vegas was a sign of good things to come. Memphis started out inviting him to fill out the summer league roster and by the end of the week after he had led the Grizz to a 5-0 record and scored a game-winning layup against the Spurs in the last game, he had the team considering him for a back-up point guard position for the upcoming year. "I want him on the team if it was up to me," one Memphis team exec told me. "I'll go to bat for him."
Best Veterans on the Court
Outside of Golden State's two Anthonys, Dorsey and Williams, there were a few other seasoned players making some noise. Nick Young(notes) (23.8 points per game) was dialed in and looked ready to be the extra scorer the Wizards have lacked ever since Larry Hughes(notes) left town. Adam Morrison(notes) (20.8 points) was the Lakers No. 1 option and seems primed to give Sasha "Scoreless Machine in the Finals" Vujacic a run for his minutes next season. And Julian Wright's(notes) play (14.8 points, 4.6 rebounds), had Byron Scott talking about him taking over for Peja Stojakovic(notes) in the Hornets starting lineup next year.
Clipper Darrell ushered in the new era for his team, giving the Clippers the best crowd support of any of the teams playing all week. And he made sure to baptize several of the league's top picks including Hasheem Thabeet(notes), screaming at the top of his lungs in an otherwise quiet gym: "Hey Thabeet! Welcome to the NBA, baby! U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!"
Worst Fashion Statement
Best Collection of Talent
The rookie point guards did not disappoint. Jonny Flynn(notes) (15.0 points, 7.4 assists) impressed scouts with his vocal leadership skills, directing a team of temporary players around the court like he had been playing with them for years. Tyreke Evans(notes) showed triple-double potential and has a crossover that will take the league by storm. Stephen Curry(notes) was the crowd darling every time he took the court and played a full floor game even if he didn't shoot it that well (33 percent). Brandon Jennings(notes) got the Bucks to run and made a point of getting Joe Alexander(notes) going when he was struggling. Darren Collison(notes), Ty Lawson(notes) and Roddy Beaubois were all score-first points, but there's no shame in that if you're shooting it as well as these guys were.
Worst Collection of Talent
If the Knicks' three re-tread lottery picks weren't bad enough (Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Mouhamed Sene(notes), Yaroslav Korolev(notes)), Jordan Hill's(notes) run-of-the mill week (14.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, but on just 43.8 percent from the field) led to an 0-5 mark for the team.
Best Conversation Overheard
"You got to pick up my kid, somebody's got to pick up my kid. He can play. Come on, Nate, do me a favor." - Nuggets coach George Karl appealing to his former player in Seattle, and current Portland head coach Nate McMillan, to have him sign his son, Coby Karl(notes). Coby averaged 15 points on 62 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals in Vegas.
If you want to nitpick, you'll point to his 46 percent mark from the free throw line in Vegas, but now's not the time to doubt Blake Griffin. After putting up 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the summer league, the No. 1 pick left several impressions on those who watched, all starting with the word "wow" as in "Wow, I didn't know he can pass so well ... Wow, look how he grabs a long rebound and dribbles it up the court to start the break ... Wow, the gap between him and the rest of the rookies is as wide as the gap in the entertainment value between Simon Cowell and the rest of the American Idol judges." He's the real deal. Rejoice, Clippers fans.