Sunday, July 6, 2014

NBA Nightcap: Orlando Summer League, Day 1

As much as I like the shot by Shabazz Napier, Dairis Bertāns pointlessly flying in at the end ruins this .gif for me

As always, visit the NBA Cool Dudes tumblr for more of the night in moving pictures.

Quotably Quotables:
  • "A lot of people swat it into the second row and it's unnecessary.'' —Aaron Gordon taking a shot at the previous Orlando Magic franchise big man while talking about his big block (see Sweet Rejection below).
  • "I ain't dunkin' this Summer League... No dunks." —Kentavious Caldwell-Pope creating artificial and arbitrary restrictions to his game for... some reason.
  • "I would never do it again." —Kendall Gill on the hi-top fade.

News of the Ward:
  • Pierce Jackson (PHI) left the game early with a right Achilles tendon injury that could keep him out for the entire freaking season after spending all of last season in the D-League, averaging 29/4/6 and breaking the league's single-game scoring record with 58 points;
  • James Young (BOS) did not play as a cautionary measure after suffering a strained neck in a car accident a couple weeks ago;
  • Steven Adams (OKC) left the game briefly with a bruised shin, but did return to finish with 17 minutes.

Notably Notable:
  • PG Victor Oladipo: 18/6/3 with 3 turnovers on 6-of-11. Several of Oladipo's peers also flourished in their second Summer League stints, but none on the same level. It's out of necessity for him and the Magic as he must learn to lead by example for a young team that will look to him as the regular season starts, but the team couldn't ask for much more than he delivered on Saturday on the court and in the huddle.
  • SG Jordan Adams: 22/3/3 with 4 steals on 5-of-11, 4-of-6 from three. Plenty of people will question his decision-making on offense, his effort on defense, and the Grizzlies for drafting him over Rodney Hood, but Adams set out to prove them wrong and he did for a day. It's hard to prove people wrong without admitting you've given them reason to doubt, but he did everything right on Saturday, leading the charge with a +27 in 30 minutes during the Grizzlies blowout win over the Thunder.
  • SF James Ennis: 18/8/2 with 3 steals and 4 turnovers on 5-of-11, 2-of-2 from three. His best work came in the fourth quarter as he tried to will the Heat to victory, which he won't be counted on to do when the games actually matter as long as the big three are in town, but his energy, rebounding, and improved shooting stroke all have a place on a regular season roster. The Heat are said to be looking to reload with young, athletic talent and I figured Ennis would be a part of that on the wing. More performances like that and I think we can pencil him in.
  • PF: Kelly Olynyk: 20/8/1 with 4 steals and 6 turnovers on 8-of-17. Not to downplay it, but it shouldn't come as a shock that Olynyk would look good in a game where Tyler Honeycutt is the pinnacle of athleticism. Olynyk still went out there and played like he did last summer in Orlando, moving really well without the ball and hitting the glass. He looks about the same as last season, but perhaps more aggressive. As always, it remains to be seen how any of it translate to the regular season.
  • C Nerlens Noel: 19/2/3 with 4 steals and 4 turnovers on 6-of-11. Mason Plumlee played a better game, but Nerlens Noel is the bigger story. He opened the game with a nice one-hand jam and looked better offensively then I think a lot of people expected in his debut. He's clearly worked on his game since coming to the NBA, but a year working out was never going to be all he needed so there's still plenty of work to do. Excellent debut though.

Notably Not Able: Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat.
12/4/2 with 8 turnovers on 3-of-15.
Shabazz Napier spent this game going from clueless klutz to my favorite player on the court and far too little of that was due to his actual performance, which says more about me probably since I was won over by his Brandon Roy-esque shooting form. He even has a similar gait, which might not be the biggest compliment. Obviously he's a smaller, quicker player than Roy, but I can see some of the same qualities in both that makes me appreciate Napier despite the mostly poor showing, right down to the small character defects that sort of tarnish a seemingly pristine persona.
We saw glimpses of the rookie PG battle with Marcus Smart, but for the most part Napier was matched up with Phil Pressey and, even though the second-year guard crossed him up seemingly endlessly on offense (see Fancy Feats below) and got up in his shirt on several occasions on defense, Napier should be thankful for that matchup. Smart's line wasn't much shinier than his (they combined for 0-of-12 shooting and 5 turnovers in the first half), but if Pressey does him like that, I don't imagine going against Smart for 30 minutes would have been any less grueling.
Yes, he looked absolutely horrible defensively from start to finish, but it's easy to see why people like him. He's going to be a lot of fun playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade... or Norris Cole and [insert last minute free agent signing] depending on how the next few weeks go for Pat Riley and the Heat. His shots were rimming out no matter what he did (unless he shot after a play was blown dead, which was our only chance to really appreciate his shooting stroke), but you can tell he was able to get shots he can and will make from all over the court. He also shoots the end of quarter heaves, which goes a long way towards impressing me (cough cough Norris Cole). He's going to be good; it's just going to take a while.

Dunk of the Night: Nick Johnson, Houston Rockets.

Sweet Rejection: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic.
If he is as obsessed with keeping possession after blocks as he said he was, then this should be a lot of fun.

Delicious Dish: Larry Drew II to Tyler Honeycutt, Miami Heat.
It was my favorite play of the day, but it also highlights Larry Drew II's need to hit the weight room. 

Fancy Feats: Phil Pressey, Boston Celtics.
I think the NBA is trying to suppress this footage; despite being one of the top plays of the day, it wasn't in any of the highlight packages. It's either because Phil Pressey crossed Shabazz Napier up so many times that he devalued his performance or the league is trying to protect LeBron James' favorite rookie. The truth is out there.

Moment of Zen: 
Brian Cook, 2003 first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, was the starting power forward for the Detroit Pistons 2014 Summer League team and scored 10 points in the first quarter.

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