Posts Tagged ‘2014 summer league’

Summer league ends, but the topics don’t

LAS VEGAS — We came, we saw … we just kept seeing.

Eleven days, 67 games and one Kings championship later, Summer league finished with the NBA in a much different place than when it, or the Orlando portion of the July schedule that preceded desert ball, began. LeBron James moved, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh did not, Nerlens Noel played and played well, and Andrew Wiggins found that being picked No. 1 by Cleveland did not come close to answering the question of where he will play.

It was also a different summer league compared to 2013, with much better prospects in the rookie class leading to greater fan interest and, in turn, an improved atmosphere at games. Having many more electric players helped, as did the curiosity factor of the chance to see Dante Exum, surprise first-rounder Bruno Caboclo and, after a season off, Noel. Even the coaches were interesting — Steve Kerr worked a game on the Warriors bench, David Blatt went the whole way on the Cavaliers sideline and Derek Fisher likewise took over the Knicks right away.

In short, there was a lot to discuss.

* A big question on the way out of Orlando: Who is going to hit shots for the Magic? Management has loaded up on defenders/projected defenders (Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton) and rebounders, and that’s a good way to build a foundation. But that backcourt. The lack of a jumper is one of the concerns with Payton, so either Oladipo returns to his form from the final year of college, as opposed to last season as a rookie, or the Magic will be easy to defend if they play non-shooters Gordon, Payton and Oladipo together.

It was obviously one of the reasons they signed Channing Frye. But Frye can be good as a stretch four, in comparison to other bigs and not in comparison to the best 3-point marksmen in the league overall. Gordon, another power forward, said he has worked hard to improve his shooting, made 35 percent of his attempts. Oh, and 47.8 percent of his free throws. He is going to get sent to the line a lot this season. Basically, any shot within five feet is an automatic foul if the defender can get to him.


VIDEO: Elfrid Payton of the Magic talks after a Summer League victory

* A big question on the way out of Las Vegas: How far will be the Bucks go with this Giannis Antetokounmpo-as-point guard thing. They are adding Kendall Marshall at that position and reportedly are adding Jerryd Bayless as a combo guard. Those are significant moves after coach Jason Kidd made it clear he wanted a long look at Greek Freak with the ball in his hands, maybe even as the starter in the regular season. The new backcourt depth might ordinarily signal an end to that experiment, except the chance to maximize a blossoming talent like that should always take precedence over a Marshall or Bayless. (more…)

Rockets’ Johnson aims to go from second round to the top


VIDEO: Nick Johnson closes out Summer League with big performance

LAS VEGAS — Summer League is a place in transition, where you see players with shoes that don’t match their uniform, where coaching staff members can outnumber active rosters, where players have to flip their uniform waistbands over to keep their oversize shorts from falling down during play. After one game, I saw a player exit the locker room shirtless with only a backpack, because the trainer had accidentally packed away the shirts before he was finished dressing.

That player was Rockets rookie Nick Johnson. While the Rockets quickly issued Johnson a long-sleeve T-shirt to solve that problem, his path to getting an NBA jersey of his own has been a bit less direct.

“The last few months have been pretty long, pretty wild,” Johnson says. “But it’s been good.”

Last season, as a junior at Arizona, the 6-foot-3 Johnson averaged 16.3 points, earning him consensus first-team All-American honors as well as a Pac-12 Player of the Year nod. Feeling he’d proven his worth, Johnson entered the 2014 NBA Draft. Leading up the Draft, Johnson had fifteen different workouts for NBA teams. “It was a grind. I was going from city to city, going for two weeks at a time.”

Then, on the evening of the Draft, Johnson sat to wait for his name to be called. The first round — with the accompanying guaranteed contract — came and went. Eventually, the Rockets drafted Johnson in the second round, 42nd overall, and the eighth player from the Pac-12 selected.

“It was a long night,” Johnson admits. “I’ll tell you, there’s not 41 players better than me in this year’s draft. And I don’t know anywhere the player of the year has seven players in his same conference get picked before him.

“But overall, it was a good process for me,” he continues, “because I went to a good organization, right now they’re going to the playoffs every year, and I think we have a lot of potential to go pretty far. I’ve always been a winner, always been about winning. So I’m happy I went to an organization that wins.”

Johnson — who is, coincidentally, the nephew of Hall of Famer Dennis Johnson — may be considered undersized at the two, but in Houston’s system he projects at either the one or the two. During Summer League, his athleticism has been a prominent asset in Johnson’s game, and he flashed it Monday during a loss in the Summer League final with a reverse alley-oop dunk en route to a team-leading 17 points. At least initially, that athletic ability should go a long way toward helping him find a place in the NBA.

“I think my game fits really well,” Johnson says. “In the NBA, I have the ability to use my athleticism a lot more than I did in college. I believe that the floor, the spacing is a lot wider with so many shooters around. I saw that a little bit in both of these summer leagues. And with my ability to make plays and get after it on the defensive end, I feel it will translate pretty well.”

“His athleticism is at an elite level, so it’s always going to allow him to compete and he’s a competitor,” says Houston’s summer league coach Chris Finch. “I think he’s right, I think he’ll find more space on the floor provided he gets out and runs, learns to play real quick off the catch where he can beat his man. His athleticism will help near the rim as long as he gets there quickly.”

Besides athleticism, Johnson excels at many of the things that don’t show up on draft previews, such as toughness and leadership. And it’s exactly that kind of hard-minded approach that will help him go from 42 into the upper echelon.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish,” Johnson says. “I’m going to make sure to work my hardest, to do my best, to finish at the top.”

Kings say they are still behind McLemore


VIDEO: Ben McLemore scored 11 points as the Kings beat the Bulls

LAS VEGAS — Here’s a statement. Two of them actually, packaged into one big picture: Ben McLemore, the shooting guard the Kings drafted in the lottery in 2013, insisted he didn’t read too much into it when the Kings used another lottery pick on another shooting guard in the 2014 draft, and team officials, naturally, say they remain committed as ever to McLemore’s future in Sacramento.

It’s all good, right? McLemore came to summer league with the proper attitude, if pressing at first, and followed that up by playing well, making 52.2 percent of his attempts and averaging 14.6 points in five games as a major part of the Kings reaching the Sunday evening semifinals of the tournament format at Thomas & Mack Center, which concludes Monday. He is doing a lot of the right things and saying all the right things.

But, look. There’s Nik Stauskas.

The Kings just drafted someone who plays the same position, a year after being overjoyed to get McLemore in 2013, complete with the emotional bends of trying hard to trade up to get him, finding no deal, and then having the Kansas product fall to their laps at No. 7.

The Kings made it a priority this offseason to add perimeter shooting, and that is Stauskas’ specialty, the primary appeal to taking him at No. 8 as part of a portfolio that also includes being able to handle the ball well enough to project as a secondary playmaker and the experience in pressure situations of one run to the national-title game at Michigan and another to the Elite Eight.

In the singular moment, with Stauskas surrounded in positives, the Kings had a good 2014 draft. It’s just that it may also become a new perspective on the direction of their 2013 draft. That is the other statement.

“I told him,” coach Michael Malone said of McLemore, ” ‘Listen, we drafted Nik Stauskas. That’s not any slight on you. We still believe in you. You’re still our guy and we still expect great things from you from Year 1 to Year 2.’ I think he came out to Summer League after one year in the NBA thinking he had to score 20 points a game. It’s not about that. It’s playing the right way as we try to instill more ball movement.”

Playing the first couple games like someone hearing footsteps, although saying he didn’t have a problem with the Stauskas pick, McLemore responded by scoring 18, 22 and 11 points the next three outings while shooting 64.3 percent and adding six rebounds on two occasions. Stauskas has also had a good summer, at 48.6 percent from the field in five outings, 57.1 percent from behind the arc, and 10.4 points.

Their play has been a key factor in the Kings reaching the semifinals against the Wizards. The winner of that game faces the winner of Hornets-Rockets on Monday night for the title.

Exum adjusting to level of competition


VIDEO: Dante Exum shows off the speed for the steal and throwdown

LAS VEGAS — Summer league was just a stopover. World tours are like that.

Home in Australia for the final season of the equivalent of high school play, ending with a national championship in December. Los Angeles in February for months of workouts to prepare for the NBA. New York in June for the Draft and being picked fifth by the Jazz. Vegas in July for Summer League. Australia on Tuesday for the start of training camp for the national team in advance of the World Cup. Spain in late August for the re-named world championships, as part of a team that could include Cameron Bairstow of the Bulls, Aron Baynes of the Spurs, Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavaliers and the country’s next basketball prodigy, Ben Simmons. Salt Lake City again, finally, in mid-September.

Dante Exum is attempting the biggest competition jump of anybody in the rookie class and he can’t even get his feet set for takeoff. Before Summer League, he mostly went against high school teams. Australian high school teams. There was the star turn at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., in April 2013 against a United States squad that included Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle, but that was one game. There was another boost to his draft stock later that summer in the under-19 world championships in Prague, but, again, briefly.

Unlike the majority of every draft class that steels itself with years of AAU circuits and college play or leagues in Europe with older professionals, Exum not only has to make the transition at age 19 but with very little in his basketball background to prepare for the NBA. He has never been seriously challenged for weeks at a time, let the months waiting for him with the Jazz schedule as a rookie.

“The last games I played was high school games and I’m one of the bigger guys out there that can push guys around,” he said. “Here, I get into the paint and I’m getting knocked over.”

Literally and figuratively. Exum faced NBA competition for the first time and shot 30.8 percent in five games, ending with Friday’s victory over the Trail Blazers at Thomas & Mack Center, while averaging 7.2 points and piling up more turnovers (15) than assists (14). He had good moments, but nothing close to a good game, with making four of 10 shots and three assists against one turnover in the opener against Philadelphia probably holding up as the best.

“It’s been a big couple weeks for him,” said Brad Jones, the Jazz assistant coach who ran the team in the Summer-League games. “He’s got a lot going on. He’s had some ups and downs through this, but it’s also why we play Summer League, for him to go through the ups and downs. The little challenge, we talked to him at halftime about, we wanted to see him finish on a strong note. I thought he tried to play through and luckily made a great play and hit that little floater to kind of seal that game for us.

“Now he can go back and regroup a little bit. I know he’s going to his national team, but hopefully now he has a level of understanding of what he has to do every day to be successful. There were some times he showed some brilliant, brilliant things this last week. Then again, there’s been some times where he’s been kicked in the rear end a little bit. Hopefully he’ll take this, process it and come back in the fall ready to go and to help because we think he’s got a bright future.”

Exum considers himself a point guard, leaving new coach Quin Snyder with the decision early in his tenure of whether Exum and incumbent Trey Burke play together or have a position battle that is tracked on two continents. And there is the matter of how fresh Exum will be for training camp after the busy summer and a pretty quick turnaround from the end of the World Cup to the start of training camp, though Exum said he has been promised schedule breaks by the Australian national team. Almost everything, in other words, remains to be determined.

The five games in Las Vegas were a glimpse, for the Jazz trying to get him into the system and just as much for Exum facing major competition on a regular basis for the first time. That’s the perspective right there: Summer League counts as major competition. That’s how big of a canyon jump Exum is attempting.

Injury costs Len another Summer League


VIDEO: Alex Len made an impression in limited action at the 2014 Summer League

LAS VEGAS — He thought the right pinky was jammed or, at worst, dislocated. No big deal. Alex Len simply grabbed it with his left hand, popped the finger back in place and kept playing.

When they took X-rays on site at UNLV to make sure, though, the Suns found Len had actually fractured the finger. One game, and then no more Summer League. No more Summer League for the second year in a row, actually.

Big deal.

It’s only July, leaving enough time to be ready for the start of camp, and it’s only a pinky, when anything is better than another ankle problem, but the No. 5 pick in the 2013 draft losing important teaching moments in back-to-back summers is still a blow to his development.

“It was disappointing,” Len said. “I was excited about summer league, to get some playing time, get back playing. To get injured in the first game, it’s not the best news.”

He was hurt when the finger got tangled in a Warriors’ jersey as Len was reaching for the ball in the third quarter Saturday night at Cox Pavilion. Len had played all of 25 minutes.

“This summer league was big for him,” said Mike Longabardi, the Suns assistant running the team here. “We wanted to get him those reps. The only good thing is this was like a freak injury. He should be fine. He’s worked really hard. I think he’ll be OK.”

A year ago, surgery on both ankles cost Len the chance to work out for teams before the draft, then Summer League, and then kept him to limited activities in training camp and slowed the start of his regular season. Len eventually made 42 appearances at just 8.6 minutes per as starting center Miles Plumlee capitalized on the trade from Indiana to Phoenix and the chance to play a lot, turning in a very encouraging 2013-14 of 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 51.7 percent from the field.

“I look at it as a positive,” Len said of the latest injury setback. “I’ll be able to work on my lower play — on my base, work on my legs — and still I can improve my left hand. I’ve just got to take advantage of that.”

Point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo?


VIDEO: Sekou Smith interviews rising star Antetokounmpo

LAS VEGAS — Bucks coach Jason Kidd was asked about the point forward.

“The what?” Kidd responded, hearing the question just fine about Giannis Antetokounmpo handling the ball a lot more but not liking the position description.

OK. The point guard.

“Thank you,” Kidd said.

The Bucks and their new coach are not hiding it. They are not disguising the long look of Antetokounmpo initiating the offense as some test drive in the safety of summer league, not downplaying the Greek Freak with the ball in his hands,  some in the first game and a lot in the second, Monday night in Thomas & Mack Center against the Jazz, as Kidd experimenting to learn more about his players.

Milwaukee is serious about this for the regular season, maybe even as the starter at the point. Antetokounmpo is serious about this.

At the very least, even if the idea goes bad in 2014-15 and the Bucks stick with Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters as conventional decisions, it just became a long-term subplot in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo, having measured at 6-9 and 190 pounds last September and 6-10 ½ and 217 pounds at the end of the season, growing into a starting point guard, possibly and maybe even likely 6-11 by then. That doesn’t even get into imagining the day of the 7-foot point guard.

“We’ve seen it in practice, and so when you see a player’s comfort level with the ball no matter what size, we want to see it in game action and we slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offense,” said Kidd, bound for the Hall of Fame as a point guard.

“With the group we have right now, with B-Knight and Giannis, we have additional playmakers and when we have that on the floor, it makes the game easy. We’ll see how the roster shakes out, but we’re not afraid to play him at the point, as you see.”

That was Monday night, after Antetokounmpo played a large portion of his 32 minutes at the point, registering five assists against four turnovers along with 15 points on six-of-16 shooting, and some with Wolters on the court. This is now officially an audition.

“Handling the ball, as time goes on, I feel more comfortable,” Antetokounmpo said.

He will get more time, here and almost certainly into training camp. The Bucks see the possibilities, from putting opponents in matchup hell to creating more versatility so the second-year player from Greece fits with Jabari Parker, the second pick in the draft who some teams think can be a small forward, Antetokounmpo’s primary position last season, or power forward.

Antetokounmpo at point guard and Knight at shooting guard would be a strain because neither have great range, but would work because Knight could defend the point guards and Antetokounmpo the bigger opponent in the backcourt. Then it could be Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders in the front court.

“Whatever coach wants me to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “If he tells me to do that, I’m going to do that. If he tells me to be on the wing and to be aggressive on the wing, I’ll be aggressive there.”

Perfect. Because the Bucks are thinking about an aggressive move at point guard.

Isaiah Austin: ‘I know I’m going to lead a happy life’


VIDEO: Isaiah Austin chats with NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow about his future

LAS VEGAS — People who recognized him, even sitting, without Isaiah Austin uncoiled at 7-foot-1, stopped to ask if they could take a picture with him or get an autograph. One lady simply offered a smile and a reassuring arm squeeze.

He is still in a basketball setting, the way it has always been, except that it’s never been like this. Summer League games are being played, he was supposed to be playing somewhere, here or Orlando last week, as a rookie from Baylor, and on top of that, his hometown team, the Mavericks, are playing the Raptors.

Watching from the front row is as close as Austin will get, though. On June 21, five days before the Draft, the projected second-round pick announced through the school that he would be forced to retire after it was learned he had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that had gone undetected the first 20 years of his life. He had an increased risk of a potentially fatal heart episode on the court without ever knowing.

His career was over in an instant. He was brought to the Draft by the league anyway and given a unique salute when commissioner Adam Silver announced from the podium that the NBA was drafting Isaiah Austin. The crowd at Barclays Center responded with a standing ovation.

Baylor said his scholarship will remain in place and that Austin has an offer to join the coaching staff. As he weighs whether to accept that, though clearly leaning toward it, he came to Las Vegas to work behind the scenes for NBA TV.

Question: When you first got the news, was your reaction as a basketball player about what it means for your career or were you thinking more as a human being and what it could mean for your life?

Answer: Definitely my life. Basketball’s a wonderful game and all, but it’s not worth taking my life and risking it all, playing the game to risk my life for it. That was the first thing that came in my mind. I had been playing for I don’t know how long and my life has been in danger the whole time without knowing.

Q: How much does that scare you now as you think about that?

A: It didn’t really scare me because I have a strong faith and I knew that if my time was going to come then God was going to take me home. But at the same time, I was confused that nobody else caught it at the time.

Q: Do you ever look back now to any moment that you were playing that you may have felt a symptom or a problem coming on and just sort of set it aside as a quick moment?

A: No. I’ve never had any symptom. They told me some of the symptoms of Marfan syndrome are shortness of breath or chest pains, lower back pains. I’ve never had any of those pains while I’ve been playing in my career.

Q: How long did it take you to come to grips with the reality that you’re done with basketball?

A: It happened the first night. It’s reality. It’s not something you play with, something of this stature, messing with your heart. So I knew that right away that my career would end, but at the same time I knew that I can make this into a positive.

Q: Was it that easy to put it behind you? You’re just able to close one door and open another, or have there been days that it’s been difficult?

A: There’s still days that it’s difficult. Even watching these games, watching all these guys compete, I miss it. I miss being out there. I miss competing. I miss all the hustle and all that type of stuff. But at the same time, I’m focused on just staying positive and not trying to sulk in all this.

Q: Is it hard to sit here and watch these games?

A: Not really.

Q: Do you put yourself in position of “I could be out there, I should be out there”?

A: Sometimes I do. I definitely could be out there. I should have been out there. But it wasn’t God’s plan for me to be out there to play, so I’m definitely thankful that it was found out when it was because it did save my life.

Q: Did you give any thought to saying, “I’m going to play anyway”?

A: At first I did. But then I came to reality and I was like I would hate to see one of my fans or one of my family members see me collapse out there on the court.

Q: How long did you think about it and how seriously?

A: A couple days. I was pretty serious. They said I could sign a waiver and still play. But it’s not worth my life. It’s a great game and it teaches you many life lessons, but it’s not worth taking a life for.

Q: Have you had any teams talk to you and say, “If you ever reach a point that medically you feel you’re able to do this, please let us know”? Has there been any communication with any teams about playing one day?

A: No. I haven’t had any communication with any team. The only communication I’ve had with teams were them reaching out to me to give me their condolences. They were telling me they’re sorry that it happened but they were supporting me.

Q: What have you heard from them?

A: They just tell me that I’m a great guy and I’m a genuine dude and they’re supporting me in whatever I choose to do. They all tell me that I’m still a part of the NBA family. I’m thankful.

Q: Have there been one or two calls or letters that have stood out to you and meant the most.

A: Probably the one that meant the most was when commissioner Adam Silver whispered in my ear on stage that I’m always a part of the NBA family.

Q: What did that mean to you at that moment?

A: Everything. It’s always been my dream to become a part of this organization, to be part of the NBA, and he’s making it happen for me.

Q: There was a lot of attention and positive energy that night when they brought you up on stage. When they first approached you with the idea, were you all for it or were you thinking, “I can’t get that close to the NBA and not actually touch it. I just can’t do that”?

A: I was all for it. I’m all about being around the game that I love.

Q: It wasn’t too hard to get so close and not to be able to reach the goal?

A: It’s hard, of course, because I’ve worked my whole life for it. But at the same time, as long as I can be a part of the game in some way or form, I think I’ll be satisfied.

Q: Did the reaction of the crowd that night, and around the country, we assume, based on the reaction from Twitter and some other areas, did it surprise you at all?

A: Definitely. I had no idea that I would have this much support from around the world.

Q: What did that mean to you in a difficult time?

A: Everything. It’s tough to go through something like that, but it makes it that much easier when a lot of people are behind you and supporting you.

Q: When that night is over, you’re back in your hotel room, what’s going through your mind?

A: Man. I was just thankful. I just remember praying that night after I got back to the hotel room. I just remember calling my mom and thanking her and my family for being with me on this journey. I told them that it’s not over and we’re just beginning. It’s a new chapter in my life.

Q: You’re here doing some work for NBA TV. I know Baylor said that it was interested in having you come back to work on the coaching staff. Have you decided what’s next?

A: I am going to go back this fall to finish my degree, and while I’m there I’m thinking about taking the coaching job so I can still be
around basketball.

Q: Haven’t decided yet?

A: Haven’t decided yet.

Q: Is it something that you envisioned yourself getting into one day after your NBA career or you never really thought of coaching before so you need to take some time and decide if it’s what you want to do?

A: I never really thought of coaching but I always knew that I still wanted to be a part of the game somehow or some way, whether it was creating a foundation for the young kids and still being around the game or even having my own basketball camp one day. I am taking this into consideration because it is going to be a great opportunity for me. My brother’s still at Baylor and to still be a part of a great program.

Q: When do you think you’ll decide?

A: In the next week or so.

Q: Do you have a leaning right now? What does your gut tell you?

A: My gut’s telling me to take it because I love the game of basketball and I love teaching.

Q: I get a sense you want to do it.

A: I do want to do it. But at the same time I have to think if I’m going to have enough because I do want to graduate (with a projected 2016 finish) and do as best as I can in my classes.

Q: If there’s no NBA as a player, what do you want to do?

A: Get into public speaking. I want to share my story with as many people as I can and just try to inspire them to push through the obstacles in their lives.

Q: You’re going to bring a lot of attention to awareness and treatment of Marfan. That’s obviously something that is more than a job to you at this point. What message would you like to send to people?

A: Just to stay positive and if you have signs of Marfan to get tested early because it is a life-threatening syndrome and we would hate for anybody to have a fatality because they didn’t get checked out and they continued to play sports.

Q: You’re sounding incredibly positive in what must be a difficult time in a lot of ways because you came so close to one of your goals. Are you positive that you’re going to be as much of a success in another field as you once thought you would be in basketball?

A: Yeah, definitely. I have all the confidence in the world in myself and I know I have the right people around me to be able to become a successful businessman one day.

Q: How does this story turn out?

A: I don’t know. But I know I’m going to live a happy life.

Now Hairston finding basketball trouble


VIDEO: Coach Steve Clifford discusses playoff berth, future of Hornets

LAS VEGAS — Sunday afternoon, it was missing 14 of 20 shots in 27 minutes and, thanks to the forgiving rules of Summer League, committing seven fouls, which came after the first game, which came after the car swap, which came after the fight with a high school kid. All of which, of course, came after everything else.

P.J. Hairston of the Hornets dropped to No. 26 in the Draft — six or eight spots lower than others with the same talent would have gone, according to some teams — amid concerns with off-court issues. He was suspended by the NCAA before last season at North Carolina as part of an investigation into allegations he received impermissible benefits and an association with a local felon, beyond previous legal issues, before school officials announced in December they would not seek reinstatement. The evidence against him was too strong.

Hairston played last season with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League, waiting for the Draft in June and insisting at every opportunity there was no reason for concern, then got the new start he wanted when he joined the NBA, officially picked by the Heat but quickly traded to Charlotte. And then he couldn’t even make it to the first summer-league game before trouble tracked him down again.

There was a fight in a pickup game at a Durham, N.C., YMCA … with a 17-year-old high school student. That resulted in Hairston being charged with assault and given an Aug. 8 court date. Then there was what he said was a chance meeting with Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns at a Raleigh, N.C., grocery store that led to the two deciding to swap cars for a day, only to have the Pro Bowl receiver later get arrested while driving impaired in Hairston’s 2015 Cadillac Escalade.

“What I told him the other day is ‘We need to start having more meetings about his defense and shot selection and less about what he’s got to do to be a dependable player,’ ” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said a few days ago.

Once Hairston finally got to play — not against high schoolers, though — he took 16 shots against the Warriors on Friday and made two. A versatile offensive threat in college and the D-League who could score from the perimeter or be aggressive and use strength to get to the rim, he launched 10 3-pointers and made one. Maybe there would be a meeting about his shot selection, after all.

So Sunday in the 72-65 loss to the Kings at Cox Pavilion was just the latest. Hairston going 6-for-20 from the field prompted Hornets assistant Patrick Ewing, running the bench during summer league, to note, “P.J. played better today.” Talk about perspective.

“He has the ability to be a rotational player in the NBA,” Ewing said. “Right now, it’s a work in progress. He has abilities. The mistakes that he’s making right now, he’s not going to be able to make them when the season starts because if he does, he won’t play. That’s part of growing. He has to put forth the effort to do those things.”

Hairston concedes he briefly thought, after hearing he would be a Hornet, that it might be best to get a fresh start away from his North Carolina past. But he grew up in Greensboro, has family in Charlotte and saw the chance for home-cooked meals and a support system as too valuable. He called the draft pick/trade one of the biggest accomplishments of his life.

The recent troubles?

“It’s just stuff I have overcome and look past and keep moving forward,” Hairston said.

He understands he fell in the draft because of the off-court concerns — “I guess. I don’t know. But I’m assuming that probably is the case. Like I said, I’m working on moving forward instead of moving backward.” He understands the need to play better for a team that needs the scoring to build on the playoff appearance of 2014. Now to do something about it.

“I’m confident that he’ll get to that,” Clifford said. “He’s a good person. I like him, I like the way he works. Everybody knows he’s made mistakes. He knows it, he’s owned up to it. It’s part of his maturation process. I think he understands at this level it’s all on him. We have to help him. He’s a talented enough guy to have a good NBA career, but here, the way we do things, if he can be dependable he’ll get off to a great start.

“The guys who do the right things off the floor give themselves the chance to do the right things on the floor. That just makes sense. It all fits together. … I told him I’ll commit to him — I like so much about him — but the commitment comes with the trust, the understanding, that he’s got to be a dependable, professional player who’s accountable to himself, his teammates and our franchise every day.”

Glen Robinson III fighting his college reputation

No. 40 pick Glen Robinson III looks to disprove doubters who say he coasts on the court.

No. 40 pick Glen Robinson III looks to disprove doubters who say he is too passive on the court.

LAS VEGAS — He should start a fight.

It doesn’t matter who it’s with, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. A cheap shot under the basket. The temperature on the team bus to the arena. Who should be first in line at the breakfast buffet. Anything.

Just start a fight.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Glenn Robinson III said through a smile, getting the point but disagreeing with it. “It might happen in practice or something. I need to keep my head, keep my cool.”

He needs to show a fire. Robinson fell to the Timberwolves at No. 40 in the draft on June 26 because a lot of teams saw him as too passive in a 2013-14 at Michigan that was set up for success with the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. but ended with questions about GRIII lacking intensity. They were frustrated that he didn’t seem more frustrated.

This summer league and the rookie season in Minnesota that follows is about proving he won’t cruise through games, that his attitude will match his billing as a small forward with the talent to be in the lottery conversation six or eight months ago. That talk faded, obviously, but the skill set did not, so Robinson begins the transition to the NBA needing to take on an image as well as every human opponent.

“Something that really helps me is just talking on the court, whether that’s smack talking or joking around,” he said. “It’s talking and keeping that motor up.”

It’s trash talking more than before.

“Oh, yeah,” Robinson said. “Definitely…. Whoever’s guarding me. Everybody talks out there. That’s something that’s a little trick that I’ve found to keep my motor up.”

The son of Big Dog Glenn Robinson, a two-time All-Star with the Bucks in the early-2000s as part of an 11-year career with four teams, is that conscious of wanting to appear locked in. Last season, he re-watched a lot of games the same night, sometimes with Michigan coaches and sometimes when he got home or back to the hotel room, not agreeing with the assessment that he was cruising but that there were “a couple possessions maybe I could sprint my lane a little faster or maybe try to grab some offensive rebounds.”  Also, that “a lot of people tell me the game seems to come easy to me. I think that’s more what it is. I have the same facial expression or am relaxed all the time.”

Wanting to be much more than a what-could-have-been, GRIII is using the same level of self-analysis at the start of his NBA career. Because not agreeing with the assessment is different than not taking the comments to heart as a way to get better.

“I never felt like I was drifting or I never felt like I wasn’t playing 100 percent,” he said. “But if it’s there, you have to make adjustments. You have to change that.”

So, he trash talks. He jokes on the court. Anything to get a reaction. No fights, though.

Even if he should.

Caboclo gets another new experience


VIDEO: Brazilian Bruno Caboclo scores 12 points in his Summer League debut

LAS VEGAS — The big surprise is giving way to the little moments.

Bruno Caboclo spent another 90 minutes with an English tutor at the team hotel on Friday, just as the Brazilian has been doing regularly for about three weeks, even before the Raptors pulled the shock of this and many other drafts by taking Caboclo at No. 20. The same Caboclo who was not in the top 60 on the draft board in a lot of war rooms. The same Caboclo who was as stunned as anyone when he got a call while riding in the back seat of a taxi in New York that, yes, he actually had just become an NBA first-round pick.

He spent much of last week in Los Angeles, working out with new teammates DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and others, trying to accelerate the growing pains and get ready for 2014-15 in Toronto, not another season in Brazil. The Raptors wanted him to learn about life on the road in North America, and basketball too.

“He saw a lot of stuff,” general manager Masai Ujiri said. “It hit him in the face a little bit. It’s a learning process.”

Friday afternoon, Caboclo played for the Raptors for the first time. Another little thing. It was only Summer League, only the opening day of Summer League at that, but something of an unveiling, a name and a face almost no NBA fan would have recognized before the night of June 26 facing the Lakers at Cox Pavilion.

He logged 24 minutes, made five of seven shots, contributed 12 points and two rebounds to the 88-78 victory as part of the transition that will surely include stints, and possibly long stints, in the D-League. As with the other progress reports, the experience matters to the Raptors more than what happened in the moment.

There are more games here and the fresh milestone of interpreter Eduardo Resende returning home to Brazil on Sunday, a big step for an 18 year old seeing a lot of new places before he has a chance to get settled in Toronto. Some veteran Raptors have been more than glad to help him pick up a few words and phrases in particular, of course.

“They teach me all kind of things,” Caboclo said through Resende.

People around them laughed, getting the point in any language.

“He’s learning pretty quick, that part,” the translator said.

Those helpful teammates.

“He’s a young player, he’s going to grow,” Ujiri said. “He’s a very young player. We just want him to experience the NBA practices, the NBA game itself when we can, the D-League, get stronger. All that stuff. He’s going to go through the process.”

He’s going to go through all the little things.