2013 Summer League

Unsigned Summer League Standouts

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

There are only 450 roster spots in the NBA each season. Most of them are taken up by veterans with signed contracts, proven free agents who will soon commit and rookies with newly signed deals. For many unsigned players, the Summer League provides the best opportunity to prove their worth to NBA front offices.

There were numerous standouts this summer, but eight players clearly separated themselves from the competition to greatly increase their odds of being offered a regular-season contract.

Malcolm Thomas, Chicago Bulls:

Breakdown: The big man out of San Diego State went undrafted during the 2011 NBA Draft and has played the last two seasons in the NBA Development League, with a quick stint in Israel as well. In Las Vegas he dominated the glass, averaging 15 rebounds a game while chipping in 11 points and 1.7 blocks a game during a three-game run with the Bulls. Thomas is now 24 years old, so his thin frame has matured to the point where it appears he is ready to handle the physical grind of a full NBA season. The Bulls recently let go of his rights for salary cap reasons, but it seems unlikely he will stay unsigned for long.

Best Case Comparison: Amir Johnson

Best Team Fit: The Boston Celtics would be a great place for Thomas to develop as the team rebuilds.

Vander Blue, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies:

Breakdown: Many people questioned Blue’s decision to leave Marquette University early to enter the NBA Draft. When he went undrafted, those people seemingly were proven correct. But he played played for the Rockets in the Orlando Summer League and the Grizzlies in Las Vegas, averaging 11.5 points per game in Orlando and 11 a game in Las Vegas, including a 24-point outburst in Vegas in one game. He showed explosiveness and playmaking ability rarely seen from undrafted players. Don’t be surprised if some team takes a flyer on a player with so much potential.

Best Case Comparison: Gerald Henderson

Best Team Fit: Staying with the Grizzlies would be a great fit for Blue, who would give the team some needed depth at guard.

Dominique Jones, Milwaukee Bucks:

Breakdown: Jones is a veteran of the Summer League. It showed during his play for the  Bucks. Jones averaged 11 points, two steals and seven free-throw attempts per game to impress the scouts. He seemed stronger than most other players on the court and his ability to finish at the rim looked transferable to regular season gameplay.

Best Case Comparison: A smaller Corey Maggette

Best Team Fit: The  Bucks should not let him walk away, especially as they attempt to replace the playmaking ability of Monta Ellis.

Ian Clark, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors:

Breakdown: The Las Vegas Summer League Championship MVP quickly made a name for himself when he made seven 3-point shots and scored 33 points in the championship game. The guard out of Belmont University is known for this ability to shoot, but his limited athleticism and 6-foot-3 frame make him a tough fit at shooting guard. But he can defend, which has reportedly piqued the interest of the Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.

Best Case Comparison: Anthony Morrow

Best Team Fit: The Jazz would be a nice fit for Clark, who would fit well with rookie Jazz point guard Trey Burke.

Andrew Goudelock, Chicago Bulls:

Breakdown: It’s always surprising when Goudelock continues to appear on lists like this one. The former D-League MVP out of the College of Charleston has done plenty to interest NBA teams. This summer in Las Vegas he continued to impress, averaging 19 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Bulls. Goudelock was selected with the 46th pick of the 2011 Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Last season he received some playing time with the Lakers after Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tendon injury. It would be a shock if Gouedlock is not on an NBA roster this season.

Best Case Comparison: C.J. Watson

Best Team Fit: Goudelock could be used well on the Philadelphia 76ers as they rebuild their roster and attempt to replace Jrue Holiday.

Samardo Samuels, Los Angeles Clippers:

Breakdown: Samuels went undrafted out of the University of Louisville in 2010. He impressed during that offseason’s Summer League and signed a 3-year, $2.3 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played sporadically for the Cavaliers before they waived him early last season and now he’s back to prove himself again. In Vegas, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in only 22 minutes per game. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound center should be able to find a team for whom he could be a third big at the end of the bench.

Best Case Comparison: Carl Landry

Best Team Fit: The  Heat could use Samuels’ physical presence as an insurance policy off the bench.

Stefhon Hannah, NBA D-League Select:

Breakdown:  Hannah has spent the last three seasons bouncing between the NBA Development League and overseas after going undrafted out of the University of Missouri. This summer in Las Vegas he led the D-League Select team to a 4-1 record while averaging 13 points and 2.6 assists a game. He played solid defense throughout the tournament, but his lack of a dominant skill and small size may hurt his chances of making a roster.

Best Case Comparison: Luke Ridnour

Best Team Fit: The Lakers could use Hannah’s youth and energy off the bench and in practice, especially if Kobe Bryant isn’t healthy to start the season.  

Jack Cooley, Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets:

Breakdown: The undrafted rookie out of the University of Notre Dame was dominant for the  Grizzlies in Las Vegas as he averaged 15 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game on 52.7 (39-for-74) percent shooting. He displayed an impressive midrange jump shot and an ability to hold his ground in the paint. This combination of skills make him an interesting offensive weapon.

Best Case Comparison: Reggie Evans

Best Team Fit: The Indiana Pacers may be a good place for Coole, who could help replace some of the hustle and offensive skill lost when Tyler Hansbrough signed with the Toronto Raptors.

Vegas Chips: Kings, Cousins Rising? Goodwin A Keeper? Brown At Home?

 

LAS VEGAS – Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. OK, that does. But these don’t:

KINGS FIND ‘GOOD-LUCK CHARM?’

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The most remarkable comment I heard during Summer League came from new Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone about DeMarcus Cousins after he watched the final game from the bench with the summer Kings searching for their first win, which they got: “I told him he was our good-luck charm.”

Wow. When Cousins is suddenly deemed a good-luck charm, you know things aren’t the same old same old. This guy was like the Grim Reaper in Sac, delivering seriously bad vibes wherever he wandered. But maybe, just maybe, new ownership, a new front office and a new coaching staff is breaking through the darkness (74-156 during Cousins’ three seasons) and getting through to the immature-yet-wildly talented big man.

Throughout the game, Cousins was encouraging rookie Ben McLemore to remain confident with his shot and the former Jayhawk went on to score 27 points with nine rebounds.

“I went to Alabama and spent some time with him and his family (this summer),” Malone said. “I thanked him for coming to this game and I’ll come back up (to Las Vegas) and spend some time with him with USA basketball. But I told him he was our good-luck charm. All our other veterans came, we couldn’t win a game. DeMarcus came and we got a win, so we needed that presence on the bench.”

Nothing wrong with doting on Cousins. Malone will give The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder who turns 23 next month — yes, it’s difficult to remember how young he still is — equal parts coddling and hard coaching. Cousins, entering his fourth season, is working on his third coach for a franchise that has operated at the height of dysfunction since he was drafted fifth overall after one season at Kentucky.

Even so, Cousins, despite rampant childish behavior, ejections and fines, has put up impressive numbers thus far. His career averages? Try 16.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 0.9 bpg in 29.8 mpg. Want to do a little comparison? Here’s Dwight Howard‘s numbers after his first three seasons: 15.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg in 35.4 mpg. If you extrapolate Cousins’ numbers to per-36 minutes, his totals jump to 19.1 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 1.1 bpg.

It’s why new ownership and management believe if they can straighten out Cousins upstairs, they’ll have a foundation block and the face of the franchise they desperately want. That’s a notion that even Cousins says he can now envision. Continuing to compete with the game’s other young stars at Team USA workouts as he is this week can only benefit Cousins and the Kings.

“I believe I mature after every season,” Cousins told reporters Monday’s workout. “I believe people forget I am just 22. At the same time I’ve got a big responsibility. It’s going to take me time, and I’m still learning. But I believe I do improve every year.”

How much can the Kings improve this season? It’s not time to call them a playoff contender in a stacked Western Conference, but they finally appear to be headed in a positive direction. The Kings acquired emerging 6-foot-6 point guard Greivis Vasquez (career-highs 13.9 ppg, 9.0 apg last season) from New Orleans in the Tyreke Evans trade. Marcus Thornton will likely start at shooting guard, with rookies McLemore and Ray McCallum, who had an impressive Summer League (12.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), adding intriguing depth. Blue-collar forward Carl Landry is back in town and defensive-minded Luc Mbah a Moute joins a front line that includes Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson.

There’s also a budding camaraderie. Point guard Isaiah Thomas, Thornton, Thompson and Jimmer Fredette made appearances in Vegas and even worked out with the summer team.

“From Jason Thompson to Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer, Marcus Thornton, even DeMarcus, them coming around, sensing the change in the ownership and the commitment from ownership, our front office staff, our coaching staff, they know it’s a new day in Sacramento,” Malone said. “I think they’re all excited, looking forward to the change that’s ahead.”

It’s a welcome change for a beleaguered franchise that just months ago was on the brink of bolting for Seattle.

LATE FIRST-ROUND SLEEPER?

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One-and-done Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was advised to stay in school. His Summer League performance might have been the start of showing why he did not. A lanky 6-foot-5 with long arms, Goodwin finished third on the Suns in scoring (13.1 ppg). More impressive, he shot 50 percent from the floor (26-for-52) — significantly better than his 44 percent as a college freshman — and made eight of his 14 3-point attempts for 57.1 percent (he was 17-for-64 at Kentucky).

“I know what I’m capable of and I just wanted everybody else to know that I can be something they had question marks on,” Goodwin said.

Most impressive was Goodwin’s last game in the inaugural Summer League tournament championship game against eventual-champion Golden State. Yes, it’s only Summer League, but the stakes and pressure were at their highest in a very competitive atmosphere. Goodwin scored 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He also had games of 22 and 20 points and scored in double figures in five of the seven games.

He consistently outplayed 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall, who averaged 5.6 ppg and 4.0 apg while shooting just 38.7 percent overall, although 40 percent from beyond the arc. (As our own Scott Howard-Cooper reported, Marshall was on the trading block in Phoenix even before Summer League began.)

Goran Drajic has the starting point guard job locked down along with newly acquired shooting guard Eric Bledsoe. Shannon Brown is a veteran presence off the bench and Malcolm Lee was acquired via a Draft-day trade with Golden State that netted Goodwin.

First-year coach Jeff Hornacek, a salty combo guard in his playing days with Phoenix and Utah, coached the Suns’ summer squad and aid Goodwin’s talent and athleticism are obvious. Now it’s a matter of how much he improves and learns through training camp, Hornacek added.

“I’ve learned just about how to play the game,” Goodwin said of playing under Hornacek. “He’s taught me a lot of things. Before we came here I was with him working out. He taught me things on my shot, taught me how to read situations, when to kick the ball, when to attack, things like that. So he’s been really good for me.”

BROWN IN CLEVELAND COMFORT ZONE

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It’s a little weird for a coach to go back to the team that fired him, unless he’s Billy Martin. But, Mike Brown is doing just that, returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after being fired after the 2009-10 season and before LeBron James‘ decision to bolt. Cleveland hired Byron Scott to replace Brown and now Brown, fired last season by the Lakers after a 1-4 start, replaces Scott.

Brown, 43, is a bit older and wiser after his experiences as the only man to coach both James and Kobe Bryant. Maybe he was out of his element in post-Phil Jackson Lakerland (and who wasn’t last season?), but Brown said he wouldn’t change his approach if he had it to do all over again.

“I don’t know if there’s any one thing. I feel like I’m going to be the same coach,” Brown said. “If I was able to go through the same experience again, I’d probably do it the same way. I felt like I worked hard. I felt like I had a plan. It felt like in time the plan would have been executed in the right way, so I enjoyed my time there. But just like any other business that you’re in, when you go through trials and tribulations, whether it’s positive or negative or whatever, you grow in all types of ways. So I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I’ve matured, not only on the floor as a coach, but even off the floor, too. So a lot of positives I take from that situation.”

Brown said he and his family always loved living in Cleveland, in fact, they were moving back even before the job offer came along. And, by the way, he has a pretty nice roster to work with, including a rising star in Kyrie Irving, as Brown tries to lead the Cavs back to the playoffs for the first time since he and LeBron left town.

Blogtable: Summer League Sendoff




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Summer Loving | Free-agent Flop | Top of the East


What impressed you at Summer League? Anything not impress you?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Golden State’s Draymond Green was a man among … well, younger and less formidable men in Las Vegas. At 23, he had a clear experience edge over many, what with four years of college (Michigan State) and an NBA rookie season on his resume. Frankly, I’m stunned his first-year numbers with the Warriors (2.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 13.4 mpg) were so meager. At 6-foot-7, 230, Green gets it that the NBA post game is as much about width as length, yet he is extending his shooting range out to the arc. Looked to me like he’s ready for an 18-point, nine-rebound season. As for turnoffs, I’ll say the number of familiar faces who were forced to treat the Summer League like job fair. All the roster, coaching and front-office changes that make for such an entertaining offseason do impact real lives, and there were assistant coaches and scouts who have been part of the NBA scene for years scrambling just to find employment in a still-tough economy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The D-League Select team was quite impressive. Here’s a bunch of guys that came in with an attitude and the goal to prove that they can ball, too, particularly to the Draft picks and second-year NBA roster guys. The D-Leaguers made it to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Summer League tourney and they played with heart and, in turn, really motivated the other teams going against them. The crowds in Vegas were quite good throughout, with the highlight being a tight battle between the Lakers and Warriors that featured both fan bases coming strong and making it feel like a good old-fashioned rivalry game.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comImpressed me? You’re setting the bar pretty high for Summer League. Several rookies had good showings, which is always nice as a momentum-builder heading toward camp, but rarely is an actual sign of what will happen when the games count. There was no “turnoff,” but the disappointment was the number of top rookies who missed because of injury or national-team commitments.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI liked what I saw from a couple of young Bobcats: Jeffery Taylor and Cody Zeller. Taylor showed a more complete offensive game and produced (20.3 ppg on 47 percent shooting) like a returning sophomore should, while Zeller looked to be an efficient big man with range. Along with the addition of Al Jefferson, those two could possibly help the Bobcats climb out of the bottom eight in offensive efficiency, where they’ve resided for all nine years of their existence. Defense, of course, is a different story. And I can’t say that anything really turned me off, because I didn’t really have high expectations for too many players out there.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Cody Zeller impressed me. I was stunned during the time leading up to the Draft when people were sliding Zeller down their boards in favor of big men with much weaker credentials. But the Bobcats made a quality choice with the fourth pick. Zeller is going to be an impact player in Charlotte this season and a nice complement to Al Jefferson in that frontcourt rotation. With Jeff Taylor showing well in Vegas, too, the Bobcats come out of the summer with some positives to build on heading into training camp. The biggest turnoff for me was the apparent lack of interest of some of the second- and third-year players who had to come Vegas for summer school. Not all of them attacked the process the way Taylor and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas did. That’s not a knock on Summer League but a knock on those players who didn’t use the time wisely.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I know that Summer League is a time for teams to try new things and develop players you might not see a lot of of during the season, but I love how the Warriors actually try to win every game. They went 7-0 in Vegas and have won their last 15 in a row, dating to 2010. Does this matter at all as it relates to the regular season? Not really, although to me it does set a standard and a tone that the franchise expects excellence, at all times. Hand down, man down, guys.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 11 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Ian Clark is the essence of Summer League.

The 22-year-old out of Belmont was the Ohio Valley Conference co-player of the year. He was a two-time defensive player of the year and a four-time all-conference selection. He never shot below 40 percent in a season from behind the arc.

At the June 27 NBA Draft at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Clark’s name was never called.

Undrafted and looking for his big shot, the unheralded, and mostly unheard of Clark — not Kent Bazemore or Draymond Green, but the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Clark — carried the Golden State Warriors, with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 33 points, to a  91-77 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the inaugural Summer League tournament championship game.

In the NBA playoffs they call that kind of performance a podium game because the player would be asked to appear at the dais to meet the media. In the Summer League, well, let’s call it a contract game. It might not come from the Warriors, whose well-stocked backcourt includes the impressive Bazemore (who was also voted to the all-Summer-League team). But there’s 29 other NBA teams out there that might want Clark, and only one has to make an offer.

At least a few, according to a Warriors official, have offered Clark at least a partially guaranteed contract. The 2013 Summer League championship game MVP, the official said, also has lucrative options in Europe.

“Hopefully,” Clark said of making an NBA roster after besting his career-high at Belmont by one point. “I just wanted to come out here and play hard, and I think that’s what Summer League is for, to come out here and showcase your talents.

Before the championship game, Clark had averaged 9.0 points, scoring 54 points in the previous six games.

The Warriors capped their Vegas run with a 7-0 record and made it consecutive summers without a loss. The Phoenix Suns, led by new coach Jeff Hornacek and key roster players Marcus and Markieff Morris, along with P.J. Tucker, suffered their first loss but may have gained a pretty good player as they continue to rebuild next season.

Late first-round draft pick Archie Goodwin had an impressive run and ended it with 18 points. The lanky, 6-foot-5, one-and-done guard out of Kentucky consistently outplayed Kendall Marshall, the Suns’ lottery pick from last season. Goodwin averaged 13.1 ppg and shot 50 percent from the floor.

So that will do it for the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League. The big boys are in town now for a U.S. Men’s National Team mini-camp that started Monday and runs through Thursday, when the intra-squad scrimmage will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

2013 All-Summer League Team

MVP: Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto)

Kent Bazemore (Golden State)

Cody Zeller (Charlotte)

John Henson (Milwaukee)

Jeff Taylor (Charlotte)

Spurs’ Joseph Keeps Eye On Unsigned Neal

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LAS VEGAS — Corey Joseph left Vegas with the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League team while still keeping close watch on perhaps the team’s last bit of offseason roster business, but not for the reason you might think.

“I’m watching it pretty close,” Joseph said of teammate Gary Neal, a restricted free agent who remains unsigned. “Gary is one of my close friends on the team. Hopefully he comes back. We hope we get him. That’s all I really want because Gary is a big piece of our team.”

All that might be true, but if the combo guard who has rewarded the Spurs for giving him a shot three years ago in Vegas, does return, then Joseph will again find himself in a tight minutes competition behind Tony Parker with Neal and 2009 second-round pick Nando de Colo.

Joseph, 21, last season famously phoned San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich asking to be assigned back to the club’s D-League affiliate in nearby Austin. Joseph figured he could either sit on the pine with the big team or play and improve with the minor-league club. It paid off as Joseph starting winning backcourt minutes late in the season while playing in just 28 games.

Neal emerged as Popovich’s top reserve behind Parker in the playoffs and Neal’s six 3-pointers and 24 points pushed the Spurs to a Game 3 victory over Miami in the NBA Finals. Neal scored just 12 points in the final three games, which might prove to be his last in a Spurs uniform.

When the club signed 6-foot-5 free agent veteran shooting guard Marco Belinelli, it seemed to signal that San Antonio — which did extend a qualifying offer of $1.1 million that prevented Neal from becoming an unrestricted free agent — likely would not match another team’s offer sheet.

Earlier this month, Neal was reportedly receiving offers from teams higher than the Spurs were willing to match. With July moving to a close and teams finalizing their rosters, Neal has yet to make a move.

“I feel like I’ve come a far way, but I know there’s still far to come, so I just keep on working countless hours at the gym because I know that’s what it takes,” Joseph said. “I don’t want to feel comfortable. The backup point guard spot, in my mind, is still open. We have a lot of great point guards on our team, so I’ve still got to prove myself.”

The battle for 2013-14 minutes started began in earnest in Summer League. He and De Colo both played four of the team’s five games and they finished with near-identical stats. Joseph averaged 10.3 ppg, 4.5 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 28.3 mpg. He shot 38.9 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from 3-point range. De Colo, 26, averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 31.8 mpg. He shot 34 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc.

A native of Toronto, Joseph played one season at Texas before the Spurs drafted him with the 29th overall pick in 2011. He’s played 57 total games with San Antonio. He will earn $1.1 million in 2013-14 and the Spurs hold a team option for the 2014-15 season.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 10 recap

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LAS VEGAS –
 The Miami Heat will not double-down in Vegas. The back-to-back NBA champs were seeking a Summer League title with a team whose roster is filled with young hopefuls that will not play for the 2013-14 Heat.

The only familiar face affiliated with the summer Heat has been that of coach Erik Spoelstra, who has watched the team perform from a front row seat throughout the week. Still, this Heat team deserves a lot of credit. Coached by assistant coach Dan Craig, a former Heat video assistant, just like Spoelstra used to be, Miami entered the inaugural Summer League tournament as the No. 18 seed and landed in the semifinal round.

But they seemed no match for the No. 3-seed Phoenix Suns, who feature three rotation players in P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, plus last year’s No. 13 pick Kendall Marshall and this year’s No. 29 pick Archie Goodwin. And new head coach Jeff Hornacek has been on the bench throughout the summer league.

The Suns led 60-40 midway through the third quarter before Miami’s James Nunnally (24 points), a D-Leaguer in Bakersfield last season, James Ennis (25 points, nine rebounds), a long-shot draft pick out of Long Beach State, D.J. Kennedy (18 points, six rebounds), who logged two games with Cleveland in 2011-12, and Eric Griffin, who played in Italy last season, rallied the Heat.

Nunnally’s 3-pointer with 3:51 to go put Miami ahead 84-83 and the Suns were getting burned to the point of embarrassment. It didn’t sit well with Tucker, who quickly jacked up the intensity.

“We weren’t losing that. We got too many roster players and we working too hard to get this done,” Tucker said. “Me, Markieff, Marcus, Kendall, we got way too many roster players on this team I feel like to be losing. So for me, it was a little personal at the end to try to really get the win.”

Tucker’s two free throws and then a jumper put the Suns up 89-87 with 1:07 to go as he looked over to the Heat bench and directed a few words their way. The Suns (6-0) held on to win it 91-89 and will face the top-seeded Golden State Warriors (6-0) in Monday’s championship game (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

The Warriors, led by roster players Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore, advanced with a 75-67 win over the No. 5 Charlotte Bobcats, who elected again to not play Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and No. 4 pick Cody Zeller.

Kidd-Gilchrist will stay in Vegas for the U.S. Men’s National Team training camp that runs Monday through Thursday. Both Zeller and Biyombo did not play in the last two games.

So Monday’s matchup will be a battle of unbeatens in the first Summer League championship game with the Warriors looking to make it 14 straight Summer League victories. And if you don’t think both teams — the Suns with their roster players and the Warriors with their winning streak — are taking this seriously, think again.

“It is for real for us,” said Bazemore, a leading MVP candidate who had a tough shooting going 4-for-12 for 13 points, but also collected four assists. “We came out here and had a mini-camp where we were just working out, and we always look at each other like we work too hard to just get to a certain place and be satisfied. We always feel like we can win a game. We’re probably the best de-… well, we are the best defensive team here. Defense wins championships.”

Non-rookie of the day: Who else could it be other than the Suns’ Tucker, who finished with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, plus rebounds and two steals.

Other notables:  The Suns’ Marcus Morris contributed 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes, and Dionte Christmas had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. Golden State’s Green put up a double-double after three quarters and finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.

Rookie of the day: The Heat’s Ennis scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-17 shooting in the two-point loss to the Suns. He also grabbed nine rebounds, an impressive six on the offensive glass, and had just two turnovers in more than 34 minutes of action.

Other notables: Big man Arinze Onuaku, a D-Leaguer last season in Canton, scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had four rebounds off the bench in just 14:40. Undrafted rookie Chris Babb out of Iowa State had nine points, four boards and four assists for the Suns in 17:42 off the bench. Miami’s Nunnally went 5-for-6 from 3-point range and was 8-for-12 overall coming off the bench for 24 points. Former Syracuse guard Brandon Triche played prominently for the Bobcats with 13 points and five rebounds off the bench and teammate Troy Daniels, undrafted out of Virginia Commonwealth, had 13 points and seven rebounds. Two-year D-League vet Cameron Jones had 16 points for the Warriors. 

Coming up: The final day of the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League will see its inaugural title game pitting the Warriors against the Suns.

Summer Star Bazemore Striving For More

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LAS VEGAS – Kent Bazemore couldn’t put “499” on his jersey, so he figured he’d have it stitched in gold on the blue underside of the tongue of his Under Armour sneakers.

That, No. 499, is where Bazemore landed on ESPN’s 2012 top 500 player rankings. The 2012 undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion came in one spot below Shan Foster, who has yet to play in an NBA game since being drafted 51st in 2008, and one spot ahead of Eddy Curry, who hasn’t kept a steady gig for five years.

Bad karma? Nah, it was cool, for Kenneth Lamont Bazemore Jr., who’s used to flying under the radar, as they say, and already beating the odds. He spent five seasons at ODU — he was a redshirt freshman, and who does that anymore? — raised eyebrows a year ago in the Las Vegas Summer League and then played sparingly as a rookie with the Golden State Warriors while frequently shuttling to the club’s D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.

In fact, for the 24-year-old, No. 499 seemed fitting. He expects you to underestimate him. 

I’ve had my back against the wall my entire life,” Bazemore said. “Coming out of high school, I got a few Division I offers, but they were mid-major, a lot of D-II offers, you know, just a long, lanky kid from Kelford, North Carolina.

“But,” Bazemore continued, “I always worked. I had got my foot in the door last summer just playing defense, working with [Warriors assistant] Joe Boylan everyday and watching film.”

Now making his second tour in Vegas, Bazemore, who has always combined magnificent athletic ability and showstopping, raw talent with a bit of an on-court keystone cops routine, has emerged as a leading MVP candidate as the Warriors enter today’s semifinals of the inaugural summer league tournament undefeated at 5-0.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has scored 51 points in the last two games. He’s been running the point at times, particularly in crunch time, and using that long, lanky body to take any defender that plants himself up top off the dribble and to the rack. He burned the Lakers’ backcourt Saturday night for 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter as Golden State rallied from 10 points down to extend the team’s overall summer winning streak to 12.

“That’s what summer league is all about, developing guys and guys getting better and better in game situations against good talent,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “It’s a process, but he’s a guy we really like a lot.”

Still, Bazemore remains a relative unknown on an emerging Warriors team that boasts young star Stephen Curry and up-and-comers Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and Bazemore will almost assuredly remain a depth player for Jackson after the Warriors added veteran Andre Iguodala this summer at Bazemore’s position.

But that’s also cool with Bazemore, who wisely seems to be treating his initial NBA seasons as an education.

“Hey man, that guy’s an Olympian, he’s an All-Star,” Bazemore said of Iguodala. “It’s the perfect situation for me because I can still sit back and learn, learn from one of the best that’s done it at every level. Now, as a leader of this [summer league] team, everything is under a microscope. [Saturday] I turned the ball over (seven times) and it’s kind of like letting my teammates down because they’re like, ‘Come on’ and ‘You shouldn’t be turning the ball over.’ But in the big leagues I’m going to be out there in spot minutes, so I can just go and wreak havoc.”

Which he did for a brief, and fleeting, moment in the wild, series-altering Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Bazemore, playing in the final minute of double overtime because Thompson had fouled out, sprinted down the sideline after Tony Parker missed and Barnes pulled down the rebound, quickly feeding Curry. Forcing the pace, Curry spotted the galloping Bazemore, who took the pass, flew through the paint along the baseline and put in a tough reverse off the glass to give the Warriors a 127-126 lead with 3.9 seconds to go.

“I’m like, ‘All right, OK,’ but you’ve got a Hall of Fame coach on the other end,” Bazemore said. “They always get a great look after a timeout, so we’ve got to get a stop. That’s what Jarrett Jack was saying the whole time, ‘Got to get the stop, got to get the stop.'”

And then just as quickly as Bazemore looked to be the hero on the highlight-reel play of his brief career, he got tangled up in the paint on the Spurs’ inbounds pass, Manu Ginobili sprung free at the wing and as Bazemore tried to recover, launching his long, lanky body toward Ginobili, the 3-pointer dropped with 1.2 seconds to go.

Jackson subbed in Andrew Bogut and Bazemore took a seat.

“That was another welcome-to-the-NBA moment,” Bazemore said. “Manu Ginobili is arguably a Hall of Famer at the end of his career. [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] drew up a great play. We wanted to switch everything, but they ran a little brush screen; they didn’t really screen, so [there was] miscommunication and Ginobili was wide open.

“Just a good player making a great shot.”

Which is exactly what Bazemore, No. 499, keeps working toward. He dares you to underestimate him.

No Hard Feelings As Brown Gets To Work

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LAS VEGAS – Mike Brown was wearing a black coach’s polo shirt with the Cleveland Cavaliers logo, the “C” with the sword through it on the left breast, and it didn’t feel all that weird anymore.

“It was weird for a while,” Brown said Saturday after watching the Cavs’ Summer League team lose to Miami 82-76. “But it was a seamless transition for myself and my family. It almost, to a certain degree after we got over the initial shock of it, it almost felt like we never really left. It was almost like we went on vacation for a little bit.”

That’s certainly a pleasant way for Brown to describe his short tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers that ended after one full season and five games into last season. That’s when he was unceremoniously dumped by the Lakers following a 1-4 start. The basketball world expected Phil Jackson to come down from the mountaintop to replace him, but instead L.A. chose Mike D’Antoni. Everybody knows the roller-coaster season that followed, the infighting, the injuries, the criticism, the first-round sweep.

Then came the ultimate insult in the first week of July when Dwight Howard announced he was joining the Houston Rockets.

Brown said he paid little attention to the Lakers soap opera once he left, finding a way to separate his emotions from the job he had just lost coaching Kobe Bryant, just three years after being fired by the Cavs as the franchise panicked awaiting a decision, The Decision, from LeBron James.

“I watched Mater Dei High School basketball and I enjoyed it,” Brown said. “I appreciated the opportunity the Buss family gave me and [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak. I enjoyed being around all the players and working with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and those guys. But when they made the decision I was all-in with my family.”

And so Brown really can go home again, to the city he says he and family loves, where his youngest son wanted to return and graduate from high school with his old pals, to the place the Brown family was returning before he ever received a phone call. Then his phone rang.

The rest is a Q&A with new Cavaliers coach Mike Brown:

Q: Who made the first call leading to your return to the Cavs?

A: Chris Grant (Cavaliers general manager) did. He caught me off-guard a little bit, you know, but it was a business call more than anything else.

Q: Did it take some time to process his reason for calling?

A: No, it was just the first step because it was new to me and I’m sure it was probably fairly new to them, so it was a thing that was a process. But again, we were on our way back to the area regardless because we love the area. My youngest boy wanted to graduate from high school there with his friends and my oldest boy had signed with Butler University which was about a 4 ½ drive, so it was a nice fit. When the call happened it was just a thing to process more than anything else.

Q: Were you convinced there were no bridges burned on either end after your firing in 2010?

A: I never forget, one of the guys that I hired, Bernie Bickerstaff, that was one of the first things that he taught me. … He told me, ‘Young buck, don’t ever burn any bridges in this business or in life.’ It was an easy piece of advice for me to follow because that’s how I’m built. You appreciate any opportunity you are given in life and try to make the most of it. When I was here last time I had a fantastic ride, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I was involved with.

Q: Your team has an intriguing roster led by young All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the front office made several moves to add depth. How complete do you believe this team to be?

A: We’ll see. First of all, this organization is one of the best, if not the best, top to bottom because it starts with your owner and our owner Dan Gilbert has a done a lot to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction toward a championship. And you go from him to Chris Grant and you look at the job that he’s done with little or no credit, in terms of the draft picks and the trades that he’s made in the past couple of years and you feel like with the roster and the staff that we put together, and having guys like Kyrie and Dion [Waiters] and Andrew [Bynum] and Andy [Verajao], so on and so forth, Jarrett Jack, that you feel like you have put a competitive team together and we should be able to go compete for a championship, which is my goal every year.

Q: Since returning to Cleveland, how have you found the emotional state of the fans three years after The Decision?

A: Pre-LeBron, post-LeBron, the Cleveland fans have always been terrific. Even the year that I was out [of coaching] and I was in Cleveland, we really enjoyed that area and walking around, whether it was downtown or out in Westlake where we live, and coming across fans in general because they’re very passionate. Not only about the Cavaliers, they’re passionate about the Browns, they’re passionate about the Indians and about their city, so they’re in a good mindset right now.”

Q: Do you sense the fans have renewed hope for the franchise or that a buzz has returned about the team?

A: Yeah, you feel that, and again you credit Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant for putting this thing together and trying to get us in the right direction before the actual season starts off. The buzz that is out there is a nice one right now, and hopefully it will be able to continue to stay like that through the course of the year and just progress.”

Mekel Gains, Earns Confidence In Vegas

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LAS VEGAS – Gal Mekel has plenty of support in his native Israel. After all, he’s got six brothers and sisters ranging in age from 19 to four months. All of them, well, except for the newbie, watched up close last season as the flashy 6-foot-3 point guard stormed to the Israeli Basketball Super League MVP.

That means it’s time for NBA League Pass in the Mekel household.

Signed by the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month to a three-year contract, Mekel became the second Isreali-born player to get to the NBA. The first, Omri Casspi, still the lone Israeli drafted, will  play just a few hundred miles down the road with the Houston Rockets.

“Actually a lot of Israelis are playing hoops, just not a lot in the States,” Mekel, who played two seasons at Wichita State, said following Friday’s Summer League finale, the Mavs’ fourth game in as many nights. “Basketball is big in Israel and I started when I was 5 on the court right next to my house, and actually started with a serious team when I was 6 or 7. Basketball was my first love.”

Pretty much just like every American kid who dreams of the NBA on the neighborhood pavement.

“It’s a dream of every player,” Mekel, 25, said. “You grow up, you have the posters of Michael Jordan and everybody on your wall, and it’s a dream of everybody, but last summer I came here [to the U.S.] to train with coach [David] Thorpe and I had a good workout with the Utah Jazz, and I saw that I have this chance, going to have this shot. I went back home, I had a great season.”

The quick, savvy point guard, with wide-open court awareness and an ability to dish with unpredictability, has some comparing him to Ricky Rubio. Mekel averaged 13.3 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.6 rpg and 1.4 steals last season for Maccabi Bazan Haifa in Israel.

“I love the point guards that involve everyone and getting all the other guys better, controlling the team with tempo,” Mekel said, “[like] Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, a long list, that’s the style of game I like to play.”

Mekel drew some of the more curious observers to six Summer League games to gain a bit of perspective as to how his game would transfer at a higher level. He didn’t quite create the stir of Jeremy Lin a few years ago when he barnstormed Vegas as part of the Mavs’ team.

But Mekel did perform well, averaging 9.7 ppg on 45.1 percent shooting and 5.0 apg. He vaulted into the starting lineup after first-round draft pick Shane Larkin fractured his ankle requiring surgery in the team’s final practice before departing for Las Vegas. Without Larkin, Mekel played nearly 28 mpg, which eventually caught up to him as the Mavs played their final four of six games on consecutive days.

“I was dead in the end,” Mekel said. “We really tried hard to bring energy and it’s not easy. But for me I think it was a great week, first time getting to know the NBA game. I think I played pretty good for the first time. That’s it. I’ll work on my game, stuff that I saw to work on this week and I’ll be ready for training camp.”

The big question is where will Mekel get most of his minutes next season, with the Mavs or perhaps their D-League affiliate just north of Dallas, the Texas Legends? Dallas completely reshaped its backcourt, signing veteran point guards Jose Calderon and Devin Harris, plus high-scoring combo guard Monta Ellis and shooting guard Wayne Ellington. Then there’s also Larkin, who is expected to return some time around the middle of training camp.

“He did a really good job early and maybe had some times where he sputtered because again, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, that’s a lot of work, and without Shane as a backup,” Mavs assistant and Summer League coach Monte Mathis said. “I think the wear and tear caught up to him a little bit, but he’s a tough kid. He fought through everything and he keeps coming and coming. He’ll get better and better.”

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 8 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Friday was moving day, as in moving on out for the 14 teams that filled out the consolation bracket of the first-ever Summer League tournament. The day featured seven games in two arenas spanning more than eight hours of basketball.

Eight teams will get back to action in Saturday’s quarterfinals in the Championship bracket with the semifinals on Sunday and the inaugural championship game on Monday night (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Here’s a look at who did what in their final appearance of the summer.

Non-rookie of the day: Austin Rivers, the 10th overall pick a year ago by New Orleans and who now must wonder where his playing time will come in a backcourt that includes Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans left coach Monty Williams with something to remember, scoring 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, plus three assists in 32:29.

Other notables: Atlanta’s Mike Scott, the 43rd pick a year ago who played in 40 games last season for the Hawks, had a huge day with 25 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. He made all 12 of his free-throw attempts. Denver’s Luke Harangody had 17 points, and Memphis’ Donte Green scored 16 points. Mavs point guard Justin Dentmon, who has toiled overseas and in the D-League with a few 10-day NBA contracts sprinkled in, lit it up late in a loss to Chicago for 23 points while hitting. Trail Blazers guard Terrel Harris finished strong with 25 points on 11-for-19 shooting and six rebounds.

Rookie of the day: We have a tie in this category. Sacramento’s Ben McLemore put on a show with a spectacular 19-point third quarter that helped the Kings get their lone win of the summer over the Hawks. He was 10-for-21 from the floor and had nine rebounds. Spurs forward Hollis Thompson, who played in the  D-League last season coming out of Georgetown, pushed San Antonio to a final-day, 90-80 victory over Milwaukee with a box-score-stuffing stat line: 21 points (8-12 FG, 2-2 3FG, 3-3 FT), four rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in just 28 minutes.

Other notables: McLemore’s teammate Ray McCallum, a second-round pick, continues to impress with his quickness and smarts. He delivered 12 points and 11 assists (we also must mention Kings forward David Lighty going 8-for-9 from the field for 16 points). Bucks point guard Nate Wolters scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added five rebounds and three assists in the 90-80 loss to the Spurs. The Knicks got a huge lift from their bench in a 91-80 win over the Clippers. Terrence Jennings, who has played overseas and in the D-League, had 14 points and nine rebounds while D-League rookie of the year Tony Mitchell out of Alabama had 15 points and four rebounds. Bulls second-round pick Erik Murphy, who suffered a broken nose earlier in the week, paced Chicago past Dallas with 19 points (7-for-10 shooting, 3-for-5 on 3s) and 13 rebounds. Teammate Tony Snell, the 20th pick out of New Mexico, had 20 points, seven boards and three dimes.

Coming Up: The quarterfinals of the championship bracket gets started at 4 p.m. ET when the 18th-seeded Heat take on the seventh-seeded Cavaliers. Then it’s No. 3 Phoenix taking on  No. 6 Toronto, the No. 4 D-League Select team against No. 5 Charlotte and finally No. 1 Golden State against No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers.