LAS VEGAS — After 10 days of basketball and 60 games, Summer League action came to a close Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas with just three games and a familiar face once again stealing the show.
Adam Morrison, who earlier in the week was heckled by a few fans, got nothing but cheers – and even a short-lived “M-V-P” chant – after he took over in his finale, scoring 26 points and hitting four 3-pointers to lead L.A. to a 92-77 win over the Celtics.
“I’m used to it,” Morrison said of the heckling. “For some reason, people see me as a polarizing figure. I don’t know what it is. I’m a nice guy, I’m not rude or anything like that. Some people just like to pick on me, which I understand. It’s their right. But I guess I did OK to keep ‘em quiet for a little while.”
Morrison did more than OK in his five days here. After Sunday’s performance, Morrison boosted his average to 20.0 points and 5.0 rebounds and shot 55 percent in 33 minutes per game. The All-Summer League Team was announced — without Morrison on the list — before Sunday’s game, but Morrison is just trying to show he still belongs in the league.
“To be honest with you, it’s all about pride really,” Morrison said. “Obviously I want to make it to the NBA, but I wanted to say that I gave it my best shot. If it doesn’t work out, I can turn the page and do something else with my life.”
LAS VEGAS — Adam Morrison looked like the Adam Morrison of old Wednesday night.
And as the player of few words put it, “the shots just went in.”
Morrison scored 23 points to help the Clippers to an 86-80 win over the Spurs, going 9-for-13 from the field (2-for-3 from beyond the arc) and was aggressive in both taking the ball to the hole and hitting the step-back jumpers that drew raves since his days at Gonzaga.
“I got it going, and guys did a good job passing me the ball,” said Morrison, who played 31 minutes for the second straight game in Las Vegas.
Morrison, trying to make a return to the NBA, latched on with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando, averaging 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game. Here, though, he’s seeing more playing time and through two games is averaging 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
“I’m just trying show people I can play,” Morrison said. “Move around, show them I’m healthy. We’ll see what happens.”
Non-rookie of the day:Tobias Harris enters his second season trying to find a spot in the Bucks’ rotation. The small forward made a nice case Wednesday, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Bucks’ 78-75 loss to the Wizards. Other notables: Jimmy Butler scored 24 points with seven rebounds in the Bulls’ 96-88 loss to the Raptors, a night after putting up 25 and seven in a loss to Boston.
Rookie of the day: The nod goes to John Henson, the Bucks’ No 14 pick, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. Henson looked nice in the low post, controlling the boards and showing off some nice interior moves. Henson missed Milwaukee’s first game with the flu, so this was the NBA’s first look at the long big man out of UNC. Other notables: Houston’s Royce White had a double-double in his final game of Summer League, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds. Other Rockets stood out in their win over Chicago: Terrence Jones had 17 points and nine rebounds, Jeremy Lamb scored 16, while undrafted point guard Scott Machado had 20 points and six assists. Raptors rookie Terrence Ross scored 21 in Toronto’s win, while Atlanta’s John Jenkins scored 21 in his finale for the Hawks in their 67-61 win over Dallas.
Coming up: Two teams wrap up their Las Vegas schedules Thursday: Raptors (4 p.m. ET vs. Knicks, NBA TV) and Kings (6:30 vs. Celtics, NBA TV). Two other games will be televised on NBA TV: Clippers-Lakers at 8:30 and Bobcats-Nuggets at 10:30. Also showing on NBA TV replay: Cavs-Wolves at 3 a.m. ET.
For Michael Jordan, this is like being called for pushing off on Bryon Russell, or getting stripped by CraigEhlo, or throwing the ball to Steve Kerr and John Paxson, only to watch them miss.
In so many other instances in his playing career, Jordan has been both good and lucky. As an executive, not so much. And the crummy luck came back to haunt him once again with the NBA draft lottery, where the seven-win Bobcats suffered a bigger defeat the other 59 combined.
They’re choosing second in what’s probably a one-superstar draft. Such is life for Jordan since he traded his sneakers for a seat in the boardroom. He can’t seem to win.
When he had the first overall pick, while the GM in Washington, the prize was Kwame Brown. When he had the third pick, the 2006 college player of the year was available, and Adam Morrison was taken because he was a scorer, which the Bobcats desperately needed. (In a cruel twist of fate, Jordan later traded for the fourth pick in that 2006 draft, Tyrus Thomas, giving the Bobcats the biggest busts that year.)
Then he held lower lottery picks in franchise player drafts and missed out on Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As if there wasn’t already enough drama in Sacramento, the Kings have another issue looming in the near future that has nothing to do with a new arena or squabbling between ownership and civic leaders.
Sooner or later they have to decide what to do with the former Rookie of the Year and former prized point guard Tyreke Evans, the former face of the franchise who has been replaced in the starting lineup by another promising rookie, Isaiah Thomas.
There isn’t a more dangerous gamble than giving up too soon on a lottery pick. Teams do it all the time with mixed results — sometimes that picks turns out to be Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson or Tyson Chandler and sometimes he turns out to be Devin Harris or even Adam Morrison. There is really no crystal ball that allows an organization the luxury of knowing whether they have a championship piece or All-Star, a competent starter or a complete bust.
The jury is still out on Evans, whose skills and size suggest he should be able to determine his own fate based on his performance. But he’s become something of an enigma in Sacramento, where there seems to be a fundamental debate about his best position and whether or not he has the makeup to be a leader for a struggling franchise.
SALT LAKE CITY – Just because we packed up all our goods from the hideout and headed to see the Western Conference semifinals doesn’t mean we’re ignoring what’s going on in the East.
And how could anyone miss what Rajon Rondo did to the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon in Boston?
Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was a singularly amazing performance in itself (in case you haven’t heard, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only other players that have put up numbers like that in a playoff game), but it brought up and interesting topic for a small group of us that huddled up for a later dinner after the game.
And no, we didn’t dive back into the who’s-the-best-point-guard-in-the-league discussion, because we could pick a different one for each round of these playoffs and still be right.
I remember watching Rondo go through a workout in Atlanta and everyone raving about his athleticism, defensive skills and just about everything about him, save for the often-used and totally ridiculous claim that “well, he can’t make a shot.”
Rondo still isn’t a great shooter and perhaps he never will be, but he does everything else well on both ends of the floor.
For the most part, the Celtics’ break was fueled by their defense. Their intensity on that end returned after a one-game hiatus, again keeping James out of the paint. And with the game on the line early in the fourth quarter, that vaunted Celtics defense was the deciding factor.
They held the Cavs scoreless on the first nine possessions of the fourth, turning a two-point lead into a 12-point cushion. They forced four Cleveland turnovers in that stretch, three long jumpers, and a pair of rushed drives.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Rondo extra credit for keeping the Cavs uncomfortable offensively.
“The stat that doesn’t show … was his ball pressure,” Rivers said. “I thought that was the biggest difference, because they didn’t get into their stuff as quickly as they did in Game 3.
“To me, that might have been the hardest thing he had to do tonight. And we were concerned about that robbing him of his energy. And then to go out and do the rebounding and the passing and the scoring, it was just an amazing effort.”
I just wonder if anyone will ever say similar things about Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Cedric Simmons, Shawne Williams, Oleksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby or Renaldo Balkman — who were all drafted ahead of Rondo?
I’m going to take a stab here and guess no.
And I guarantee you LeBron James won’t be concerned with trying to guard any of those guys anytime soon.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve spent weeks discussing why teams should fear Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates in the playoffs, and with good reason.
The Thunder remain one of the most dangerous teams in the league and that fear factor should rise for whichever team faces them in the first round.
But they are far from the only team that the big dogs in the Western Conference should be worried about.
There’s an outfit deep in the heart of (South) Texas that would worry us sick if we were the Nuggets or Mavericks and faced a revitalized Manu Ginobili and the Spurs in the first round.
It’s taken Gregg Popovich‘s team a while to figure each other out. Seven new faces is a bit much for any team to fold into its mix, even one as stable and soundly built as the Spurs.
Yet they continue to play with the maturity and veteran touch you’d expect of a team with Ginobili and Tim Duncan as the headliners. Few players have been as spectacular as Ginobili has been the last month or so, what with his turn-back-the-clock showings on a nightly basis.
“Ninety minutes before tipoff of what would become the Spurs’ latest greatest victory of the season Sunday, film of a December game against Boston played on continuous loop in the locker room.
As the Celtics from three months ago took it to the Spurs from three months ago on the screen before him, Manu Ginobili cringed at what he saw in his team’s play, in its chemistry and, most of all, in its body language.
Hours later, after the Spurs had polished off a coldly brutal 94-73 victory in the rematch, and driven a sold-out crowd at TD Banknorth Garden to boos, Ginobili noticed the biggest difference in the Spurs of then and now.
“Our whole faces have changed,” Ginobili said.
So, too, has the Spurs’ season, after they survived a five-game death march against the NBA’s elite that produced three victories, punctuated by Sunday’s silver-and-black Garden party.
Ginobili once again led the Spurs (44-28) with 28 points, Richard Jefferson chipped in a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, and the Spurs’ defense — MIA for the first part of the season — squashed the Celtics (47-26) in the second half.
The result was Boston’s most lopsided defeat of the season, and for the Spurs, another confidence-swelling triumph two days after a home win over NBA-leading Cleveland.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now, thankfully,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team is 11-4 in March. “For the last three or four weeks, we’ve played teams well.”
The Nuggets and Mavericks would be wise to avoid the Spurs … but if they find a way to dodge them, they’ll run into either the Thunder or Trail Blazers.
Ha. We can’t wait for the playoffs to kick off!
A CHANGE IN CLEVELAND?
It was nice to see the warm reception Zydrunas Ilgauskas received from the home crowd Sunday in Cleveland.
And as usual, the Cavs took care of their business on the court. But there was something far more important revealed about the future in LeBronville.
“It may seem like no team in the NBA wears as many different uniforms as the Cavaliers. Well, there’s more — with completely different styles — on the way.
The Cavs are planning on slightly changing their team colors and also revamping their standard home and road uniforms for next season. The idea has been in the works for about two years, the amount of time the team must give the league before making a uniform adjustment, but the designs are not finalized.
It will not be a major change, team sources said, like seven years ago when the team brought back its current “new expression of wine and gold” and a new logo featuring crossing swords. The team’s logos will stay basically the same, but there’s going to be a brighter yellow featured.
Also, the front of the uniforms are expected to undergo a design change with a different presentation of the word “Cavaliers” on the home white and alternate blue uniforms and a different style of “Cleveland” on the wine road jerseys.
Currently, the Cavs use a pale shade of gold. That is one of the reasons why the gold has been less emphasized in recent years. There is virtually no gold used on the current floor design and very little on the standard uniforms. Blue has emerged as the team’s secondary color by default. The new gold color will be more vibrant, closer to the original gold the team used in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The team hopes to finalize and unveil its new uniforms by the end of the season.”
REDICK MAKES MAGIC IN PLACE OF CARTER
Magic guard J.J. Redick has become the poster boy for patience. Panned as a Draft bust in Orlando in his first couple of years in the league, he has since become a key contributor off the bench for the reigning Eastern Conference champions.
(We can’t use the key contributor tag for his draft classmate, Adam Morrison of the Lakers.)
Redick won’t be confused for an All-Star anytime soon, but we have to surrender on this one and acknowledge that he’s a legitimate contributor, and apparently a guy that can pinch-hit for Vince Carter when the Magic need him to.
Unexpectedly having to play almost an entire game is one thing.
Not knowing where he will play at all next season throws him off kilter.
A restricted free agent this summer, Redick doesn’t appear to be a young man weighed down by uncertainty. Called upon after Vince Carter limped off shortly after the national anthem on Sunday, Redick scored 23 points in long relief, helping the Magic defeat the Denver Nuggets 103-97 at Amway Arena.
Redick not only made 8-of-15 shots, including three 3-pointers, but showed how rounded his game has become since being drafted by Orlando in 2006. He added eight assists and seven rebounds as the Magic (52-22) won for the 13th time in the last 15 games.
If nothing else, it’s a good day to put on his resume if the Magic decide not to re-sign him.
“I won’t lie. I think about it often,” Redick said, standing alone in the hallway at Amway Arena. “I’m a planner. I think about the future.”
Redick said he’s only had two discussions this season with his agent, Arn Tellem, about the possibility of leaving Orlando. He said Magic General Manager Otis Smith has told him to play his game and everything will work out for the best.
“It’s a first for me [being a restricted free agent] so I don’t know what will happen,” Redick said. “It’s going to be a big summer for me, getting married and everything.”
HAWKS COOL OFF PACERS
The Hawks extended their home win streak to eight games and snapped the Pacers’ win streak at five games.
There wasn’t anything startling about one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams putting the smack down on one of its worst. What was a bit surprising was the way they did it.
For once, the Hawks played primarily through the two-headed frontcourt monster that is Josh Smith and Al Horford, with a nice assist off the bench from Sixth-Man of the Year in waiting Jamal Crawford.
Lately it seems [Hawks coach Mike Woodson] is more willing to let the bench guys play, particularly if the starters are going to be so nonchalant about things. The reserves have earned that trust. If the Hawks lose with the reserves playing big minutes but giving big effort, so be it. Better that than to watch the starters just kind of be out there.
After scoring 31 points on 12 of 21 shooting in the first quarter, the Pacers scored 52 with 21 of 60 over the final three quarters. Yeah, they had a few shots rim out but the Hawks were much more disruptive and cleaned the boards to limit second chances.
Horford went to work in the third quarter: 12 points, eight rebounds, 6 of 8 shooting. He finished with 18 and 12 for his eight straight double-double. His counterpart, massive Roy Hibbert, couldn’t stay in front of him on defense and wasn’t much of a factor on offense.
“He’s been consistent from Day One he stepped foot in Atlanta and put on a Hawks uniform,” Woody said of Al. “He’s been fantastic. He’s been on a nice roll here of late by getting the doubles-doubles and we are going to need him to continue to do that.”
That will be easier to do if the Hawks limit those stretches where they seem to forget about Al. Not so today, when the shot distribution looked nice: 18 for Josh, 14 for Al, 13 for J.J. and 15 for Jamal.
Smoove helped close out the Pacers with 11 of his 20 points in the fourth. He also had 13 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
In three games against the Pacers, he’s averaging 20 points and Horford is averaging 25.6. ““We have struggled with them all season,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said.”
Largely absent from the festivities was Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson, who tossed up back-to-back deep air balls after halftime that stunned the crowd. Even more stunning these days is seeing the Hawks work like this without a heavy dose of Johnson.
With the Lakers (in town Wednesday) and the Cavaliers (on the road Friday) on the schedule this week, the Hawks are going to need have all of their parts working.
SILVER FOXES GETTING IT DONE FOR TRAIL BLAZERS
There is no senior(s) division in the NBA, so the Trail Blazers will have to continue to let their “old guys” play with the kids.
“The franchise is still Brandon Roy. And part of the foundation still rests on LaMarcus Aldridge. And the future still includes Nicolas Batum.
But right now, during what is turning out to be a flying sprint to the regular-season finish line, the heart and soul of the Trail Blazers are the team’s three veterans: Andre Miller, Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard.
Led by their ageless and dynamic elder statesmen, the Blazers on Sunday validated their late-season push with an impressive and emphatic 92-87 win over the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder at the raucous and sold-out Ford Center.
Miller, in his 11th NBA season, sliced and diced his way to 26 points while expertly picking three steals and pinpointing four assists.
Meanwhile, Camby, in his 14th NBA season, continued to be the single-most game-changing factor for this team with another hodgepodge night of contributions: 11 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a million intangibles that make his teammates and coaching staff gush with praise.
And, of course, there was Howard, the 16-season veteran, whose impact continues to be felt even though his role has been reduced since Camby arrived in a trade last month. On Sunday, Howard had six points, but four of them came during a nip-and-tuck fourth quarter when Camby was momentarily hurt.
Probably just as important as their statistics has been the mood and example the three veterans have provided. From giving advice to leading by example with their preparation and approach to the game, the trio has subtly become the pulse of the team.
“This has been going on for a while now,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Andre, Marcus and Howard … there is more talk now among the team. They are challenging each other, holding each other accountable. And tonight, Andre was the quarterback once again and Marcus was just good again. And Juwan has been there for us all season.”