Posts Tagged ‘Summer League’

Los Angeles Lakers: What About Tracy McGrady?

July 17th, 2010

Coming off a championship, Mitch Kupchak has quickly gotten to work to ensure the Lakers have the pieces they need to contend for another title this upcoming season.

This includes bringing back arguably the heart of the Lakers in Derek Fisher, losing Jordan Farmar to free agency but replacing him with proven veteran Steve Blake, and selecting two promising rookies in the second round of the draft.

As of right now, the Lakers have 10 guaranteed contracts on the books for next season. However, the stellar play of draft choices Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter at the Las Vegas Summer League make it very likely that both of those players will end up making the Lakers roster, taking the slots of DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell.

Assuming that both make the team, and they don't bring back restricted free-agent Adam Morrison, the Lakers then have 12 players on the roster. 

They will need to make one more move to round out their team for next season.

There seems to be a very small likelihood of the Lakers looking at making a trade to round out their roster. I'm sure that Mitch Kupchak wants to keep the core group together, even more-so after Phil Jackson announced he would be returning for one last season as the Lakers head coach. Besides, this is a team that has gone to three straight NBA Finals.

With Luke Walton's uncertain future regarding his recurring back injuries, and three years left on his deal, it makes him just about untradeable. Sasha Vujacic, entering the last year of his contract, may be a tradeable asset, but Mitch will likely keep him around as insurance.

Another name that has come up quite a bit is Lamar Odom. However, there has been no chatter at all regarding his name in trade talks, usually when a team is shopping a player around his name will get out to the media, but Lamar's name has been out of the spotlight, save for mentions of the new reality television show he is starring in with his wife Khloe Kardashian.

Therefore, it looks most likely that the Lakers are not looking to make a trade, leaving them to look at free agency to find the final piece to their puzzle. With Raja Bell signing with Utah, the Lakers will need to look elsewhere.

Shannon Brown has been rumored to be close to returning to L.A. Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports has quoted Shannon Brown's agent Mark Bartelstein of saying, “Mitch [Kupchak] and I have been talking and we’re getting there on something.”

So, it looks like Shannon may likely return to the Lakers, but until a contract is signed, nothing is official. Let us assume then that that the Lakers are still looking at free agent candidates to sign.

A rumored free agent candidate acquisition for the Lakers is small forward Tracy McGrady. T-Mac has had an injury and conflict-plagued last several seasons, but may be interested in showing the league he still is a good player, and may want to win a ring.

The fact is though, while Tracy has had a number of injuries, his attitude may be what is keeping most teams away from him. He's had a falling out in all of his stops.

He never informed the Rockets management he would be out for the year, they heard it from the media. He has also stated that the Lakers have not contacted him yet and, knowing Mitch Kupchak, if they haven't done so yet, they probably aren't looking at him at all.

The fact is, McGrady's career may turn out much like Grant Hill's, who is still playing at a high level even at age 37. Both have had injury-marred carreers, meaning that both have had less mileage on their bodies than others at their age. Neither has won a ring. One key difference though is that Grant Hill is a consummate gentleman, McGrady is considered aloof and self absorbed.

However, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant whom is good friends with Tracy, as well as Phil Jackson who has always been able to motivate players that other coaches could not. Furthermore, the Lakers give McGrady the best chance to win a ring.  He also faces less pressure than he would be facing on other teams as he would be backing up Ron Artest and/or Kobe.

Looking beyond T-Mac, the biggest hole the Lakers may need to plug is at backup center, especially given the shaky injury situation with Andrew Bynum's knees since his coming into the league.

The Lakers have several big-bodies that they can play at center in Gasol, Odom or Derrick Caracter, but each of those players are more natural fits at power forward. However, there simply isn't much quality available at the position, NBA drifters and underachievers are all the available free agents out there. All except one, Shaquille O'Neal.

Shaq is a very unlikely pickup for the Lakers, for a variety of reasons, however it is a possibility that can't be completely discounted given the need the Lakers have at backup center. It is very unlikely that he goes back to Miami given the bitter breakup he ended his time there with, especially with Pat Riley.

At one practice Alonzo Mourning had to physically break up a confrontation between Shaq and Riley, there is no way that Pat risks poisoning the team he's building by bringing in a 38-year-old backup center. Shaq would like to win another ring as he has stated, to pass Tim Duncan, and really enjoyed his time in L.A.

If you look at the recently completed Lakers Las Vegas Summer League roster, you see a couple of interesting names. D.J. Strawberry showed stretches of good play and some gritty defense that the Lakers could use at the point guard position. He also happens to be a long guard, at 6'5'', an asset that Phil Jackson loves in his guards.

Gerald Green also showed some nice moments, he made the play of the summer with his rim-rocking slam dunk over the Kings Omri Casspi , but the fact is he needs to work on his jump shooting to make the NBA. If Gerald Green had the dedication to work hard on his jumper, there is no reason why he can't make it in the league. But no matter how athletic a player you are, you can't stay in the NBA as a guard without a jump shot.

Every other player in the summer league without a contract is essentially a free agent, however teams mostly play the players they own the rights to, it is hard for some to get more than a few minutes here and there and make enough of an impression. A couple of these include Ryan Thompson (Celtics/Kings from Rider) brother to the King's Jason Thompson, and Sherron Collins (Bobcats from Kansas) who was undrafted due to a hand injury.

All of this may be mute if the Lakers interest in re-signing Shannon Brown is true, which is likely the case as Shannon has shown moments of improved play and played a big role with the second team during the playoffs.

Personally, I'd love to see the Lakers reach out to Tracy McGrady.  I think they could use his jump shooting and penetration on the second team. A motivated, healthy McGrady is clearly the best free agent left unsigned.  His volatile history though may keep only lesser teams from considering him.

One thing is for sure, with the exciting T-Mac in a Laker jersey, the stands at the Staples Center would be full until final tick of the clock, no one would want to miss a moment of him being on the court. Either Shannon Brown, or maybe McGrady, the Lakers won't make a bad signing with either one.


Ex-King Chris Webber and T’Wolves GM David Kahn’s Interesting Exchange

July 16th, 2010

During the Summer League game featuring the Minnesota and Sacramento, announcer Chris Webber and Wolves General Mananger David Kahn got into a bit of a skirmish.

Around the second quarter, Kahn joined commentators Chris Webber and Matt Winer to discuss the plan Minnesota has set in place. The video can be viewed at the bottom of the page.

Webber made it clear he would ask in so many words what the Timberwolves' plans for the future were, as aside from the former Kings star, many other basketball minds and even fans have scratched their heads at the decisions and moves of Kahn.

The discussion eventually turned to the re-signing of Darko Milicic and the question of why he re-signed him. From that point, the conversation degrades to Kahn comparing Darko's passing ability to Vlade Divac's. 

The conversation becomes stranger when Kahn discusses Milicic's struggles in the NBA and compares it to Chris Webber "finding his way" in the league.

I never would have thought that two incredibly polar opposite careers, you know a long and illustrious one and a player who has pretty much been a scrub his career thus far, could even be compared. 

C-Webb then asked Kahn not to mention himself and Darko in the same sentence. Ever. And he concluded the interview with a very sarcastic bid of luck to the head of the Timberwolves brass, stating, "Good luck."  

Now, Kahn could very well be right about his evaluation of Darko. He could very well be correct.

I'm not doubting his intelligence and the possibility that Milicic could be a really good passer, but ease up on the comparisons to Hall of Fame players. 

Especially when the player has yet to put up numbers worth anyone discussing in a tone other than a scoff.

The guy has been a certified bust so far though, I don't know too many people that would argue that he isn't.

Except maybe David Kahn.

Back to what the original discussion was, and the response that really didn't answer anything.

It appears Kahn feels Minny is a few years out and they are attempting to stockpile the team with whatever players they see fit, even if they have two other players that play that same position with another sitting overseas. I'm referring to the signing of Luke Ridnour, which is nearly official.

The T'Wolves had been looking to unload Al Jefferson for quite a while now, and just did. But it's questionable that they could have gotten more than a trade exception and two first-round picks.

Especially when Jefferson was supposed to be the centerpiece in the trade that sent franchise player Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Perhaps Kahn really has a master plan that I just don't see. But, it would be a plan that myself and other basketball people are scratching their heads over as well.

Either way, Kahn is a strange man with a strange plan. Hopefully for the fans in Minnesota, it all works out.

Hey, I guess it could be worse. He could be running the Warriors. Or be Isiah Thomas.

Now that would be truly awful.

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NBA Summer League: Blazers Rally Comes Up Short In Loss To Clippers

July 16th, 2010

The third game of the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League schedule against the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t start as they would have liked. Fourteen turnovers were committed in the first two quarters, the point guards weren’t producing as they have in the past, and Jeff Pendergraph struggled offensively.

The team had just 29 points at halftime, a surprising number considering they scored 88 and 81 points in the first two Summer League games.

Portland made just 10 of 31 field goals, missed six free throws, and coupled with those aforementioned turnovers, rightfully found themselves down by fifteen at halftime. They were consistently sloppy and out of sync, but the Clippers deserved to have such an advantage.

Los Angeles was aggressive on defense, rebounded well, and hit outside jumpers with regularity. Their lead was 52-32 early in the third quarter with the Blazers completely out of sorts. After John Lucas the third torched them for 25 points last night, the guards stepped up in defending Patrick Mills and Armon Johnson. Mills had nine points at halftime on 4-7 shooting, but had four of the Blazers 14 turnovers in the opening two frames.

Johnson dished four assists, looking to pass more than score, which is his eye-catching mindset, but the team only had two other helpers at intermission. Passing lanes were blocked for the most part and shots were hurried. Twenty-one of their first 31 shots were missed. They looked dead in the water, with no chance of coming back.

But after following behind by that 52-32 score, they found new life. Shots came easier. The offense was run with more precision. And though turnovers were committed they weren’t at the first half’s rate. Because of their newfound energy, the deficit slimmed, and was whittled rather quickly.

Pendergraph, who was 2-11 in the first half, looking to assert his offense and develop his moves rather than pass the ball back out when under heavy pressure, finally took advantage of a collapsing defense and kicked the ball out to Mills, who nailed a three-pointer from the right wing.

Moments later Dante Cunningham followed by setting a ferocious pick on Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe then, with the rookie dazed and confused on the ground, sped to the hoop and made a layup off a feed from guard Mike Green. Johnson followed by racing in for a transition layup, and Luke Babbitt proceeded to nail a three-pointer from Johnson to dwindle the deficit to five, 65-60.

A Mills drive and dish to Pendergraph brought Portland all the way back to take the lead, but though they fell short in the end after a frantic finish that featured a pair of Clippers turnovers, a crucial clanged free-throw by Babbitt, and a few chances missed before the buzzer sounded, the team has to be happy with the way they fought.

Cunningham looked more and more like the small forward he is trying to become, driving in for layups, trying to get to the free-throw line, while still possessing a confident mid-range jumper. He finished with a team-high 17 points, making 5-13 field goals and 7-9 free-throws.

Pendergraph was a beast on the boards, snatching 14 to compliment his 10 points. His offense needs a considerable amount of work, as his 4-15 shooting suggests, but he is really looking to add this dimension to his game. He’s an incredibly hard worker, hustling after loose balls and being very physical inside. If he can develop a more consistent jumper, polish his post-moves, and look to pass once doubled, he could be a very valuable player for Portland this upcoming season and down the road.

I was looking forward to seeing power forward Ekene Ebekwe play, the shot-blocking specialist who swatted five shots in their first summer league contest. But he managed to log just six minutes and didn’t do much in limited time. So, once again, the battle between Johnson and Mills caught my eye. I was particularly focused on Mills, who missed four three-pointers and nine shots overall, but dished four assists.

Despite showing some unselfishness, he continues to look more and more like a shooting guard. And I don’t think that’s what Portland is looking for.

I’m confident he will catch on somewhere and impact an uptempo team in the future, but if the Blazers are looking to fill their final roster spot with a point guard as is expected, ideally one with a pass-first mentality fits the mold. Johnson is that guy. I think Mills would be a good fit if Portland didn’t already have a few tweeners on their roster already. Jerryd Bayless showed some promise as a point guard last season, but he’s pegged as an undersized scorer.

Elliot Williams has compared himself to Bayless, and from what I saw of him in college, that comparison is spot-on–a slasher with tremendous athleticism. Since these two will make the roster, and since veteran Andre Miller is entering the final year of his contract, I see the Blazers looking for someone who can drive into the lane like Bayless, but do so solely to get the defense converge and find the open man.

Johnson still has a lot to learn, but he clearly knows how to run an offense. I don’t think Mills does at this stage.

Mills can make some nice passes inside, and get the defense to converge, but these don’t seem to be his main priorities. He’s more suited for a Phoenix Suns style of play where he can roam free, score, and gamble in the passing game. The Blazers halfcourt offense is certainly not for him. It is for Johnson. And that’s why I think eventually Portland will pick the guard out of Nevada as their 15th man instead of the very popular and lightning-quick Australian.

The duo did what they could against stiff pressure from the likes of Bledsoe and Willie Warren, combining for 22 points and nine assists. Others strutted their stuff as well, most notably Cunningham. But though Cunningham may have stolen the show with his energy and offensive skills, all eyes were on the guard duo. And their battle will continue to be the biggest story of the Summer League–a tuneup that is showcasing all of the talent these young Blazers and roster hopefuls have to offer.

Cartier Martin and John Wall Continue to Dazzle as Wizards Win

July 16th, 2010

Although beginning the game on a 15-0 run, the Washington Wizards managed to turn Thursday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks into a bit of a nail-biter. 

The Wizards eventually moved to 3-0 in Summer League action after playing decent defense, and sinking crucial free throws down the stretch. 

John Wall had arguably his best game yet as a professional, scoring 21 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists.

And the added bonus for Wall? Only three turnovers. 

Many were concerned with Wall's high turnover rate in the team's first two Summer League games. Wall silenced those critics in a game where he appeared to be displaying his sensational dribbling abilities. 

Second-year player Cartier Martin continued to make his case for a roster spot tonight. The former Kansas State Wildcat finished with a team-high 23 points and five rebounds. 

Martin has a great NBA body at 6'7, 220 pounds, and he has shown the ability to play both the shooting guard and small forward position.

Martin could be seen in flashes during tonight's win, whether it be with his quick and solid jumper or his defensive help. 

JaVale McGee finished the game with 18 points and four rebounds, once again showing his agility all over the court. 

John Wall connected with JaVale McGee on more than one alley-oop slam tonight, and McGee made the most of his put-back opportunities, slamming them home. 

In a solid attempt to keep my mouth shut, I can't help but to be excited about this Washington Wizards team.

The guys are playing together, they're playing entertaining ball, and most of all, they're playing defense. 

Trevor Booker: Washington’s Overlooked Newcomer

July 16th, 2010

If you’re a fan of the Washington Wizards, then you are familiar with rookie hopeful Trevor Booker.

Not necessarily because he was acquired by the Wizards on draft night back in June, but because Booker terrorized our beloved Maryland Terrapins for years in ACC hoops action.

Often considered “undersized” and not a position-specific player, the 6'7, 240 pound Clemson alum is now making those critics eat their words with his current Summer League play.

As we’ve always said, Booker’s commitment, intensity, and physical play will keep him in the league for a long time.

He is a hard-working individual with great size that would appear to become a fan, and coach’s, favorite. And to prove it, the Wizards’ scouts have already given the young forward a nickname, “Grown-Ass Man”.

“I guess because I’m just so tough out there on the court,” said Booker. “Especially since I came to college, everybody’s been telling me I’m so tough and aggressive. Maybe I get it from my dad; he’s aggressive.”

During predraft workouts in Chicago, Booker came into the drills with the idea of dominating.

He bench-pressed 185 pounds an impressive 22 times, behind only one other player (Harangody).

His 3.10-second three-quarters court dash was best amongst the combine, even beating out John Wall’s 3.14 time.

Booker also posted a vertical leap of 36 inches (tied for ninth at the combine) and his performance in the agility drill, which tied for ninth as well.

Dan Steinberg, author of DC Sports Bog, reported, “The San Antonio Spurs told Booker that in their overall athletic calculation coming out of the combine, he ranked first.”

In a time when the future looks so bright for the Washington Wizards franchise, we have to be sure not to overlook this young man. Or Grown-Ass Man…

The electrifying performance of John Wall and the improved play of JaVale McGee usually steals headlines, but Trevor Booker is just as deserving.


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