By Drew Packham, NBA.com
LAS VEGAS — The first seven-game day of action saw a handful of second-year players prove their worth. Markieff Morris had 21 points and nine rebounds to help the Suns to a win over New York in their first game. San Antonio swingman Kawhi Leonard showed why he’s a starter with the Spurs, scoring 23 points on 8-for-18 shooting (0-for-3 on 3s) in an 82-76 win over Atlanta. Jordan Hamilton had 18 points and seven rebounds in Denver’s 88-77 loss to the Mavs. And third-year forward Luke Babbitt closed out the day with a surprising 19-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Blazers.
Non-rookie of the day: Morris, Hamilton and Leonard had nice showings, but the nod goes to Dallas guard Dominique Jones. The combo guard entering his third season put up 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Mavs’ 88-77 win. “I have a good opportunity out here to be myself with nothing in the back of my head and just play my game,” Jones said. Jones was aggressive getting into the lane (he got to the free-throw line nine times)
Rookie of the Day: Damian Lillard, Blazers. The Blazers point guard started slow, but came on in the second half and had one of the better showings from a rookie in Las Vegas. Lillard finished with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting and ran the pick-and-roll well with fellow first-round pick Meyers Leonard, who finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in his debut. Lillard looked confident going to his left and got to the rim repeatedly in his matchup with Hornets rookie Austin Rivers. “I’ve seen what I needed to see from him,” Leonard said. “I completely expected it, but he’s just gonna take off from here. “
Coming up: Three teams make their Summer League debuts — the Clippers, Wolves and Bucks (and No. 14 pick John Henson) — on Monday in Las Vegas. The Celtics make their Las Vegas start after playing in Orlando. Four games will be televised on NBA TV, beginning at 4 p.m. ET with Hawks-Celtics, followed by Rockets-Kings at 6:30 and Lakers-Heat at 8:30. The Bucks and Hornets close out the quadruple header at 10:30 ET.