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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Bulls’

Blogtable: New coach with the most challenging job?

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

BLOGTABLE: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOFred Hoiberg talks about the Bulls during Summer League

> Including George Karl — who joined the Kings more than halfway through last season — which of the league’s six new coaches faces the biggest challenge in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, It’s tempting to say Karl because gawkers already are buttering their popcorn and pulling up chairs to watch the pyrotechnics between the coach and DeMarcus Cousins, his most talented player. But I think Billy Donovan’s challenge in OKC is greater. He has very little wiggle room in shepherding the Thunder to championship contention, what with his stars dragging considerable injury histories while he lugs the “college guy stepping up to the pros” pressure that will lurk just below the surface all season.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Exactly who you named: George Karl. Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan face the most pressure to win big right away, and Donovan has the additional challenge of needing to make a strong connection with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant while winning big right away, Karl is the only “newcomer” who must change the culture as well as the standings. The Kings are expecting to get to respectable this season. They are also expecting to get an emotional stability. George is a linchpin to both.

Shaun Powell, Billy Donovan has the most at stake. I’ll use that as my measuring tool. OKC is primed for a title run and Kevin Durant is staring at free agency next summer. A championship will end most if not all chances of KD bolting. Therefore, Donovan’s importance is twofold. He must show enough as a coach to, at the very least, give OKC some hope and also form a bond with Durant. I’ll go with Donovan just ahead of Fred Hoiberg, who needs to teach Derrick Rose some new tricks.

John Schuhmann, The most pressure is obviously on Billy Donovan, who has to get the Thunder back to the top of the Western Conference and keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City beyond this season. But Mike Malone has the toughest task, because there’s no clear path to success on either end of the floor in Denver. Emmanuel Mudiay could eventually be a special player, but as they stand, the Nuggets don’t have much defense on their frontline or much shooting in their backcourt.

Sekou Smith, Billy Donovan and George Karl have a ton at stake in their respective situations, and no one will deal with greater expectations than Donovan will in Oklahoma City this season. But the greatest challenge belongs to Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, where an otherworldly talent (Anthony Davis) has to be nurtured and molded into a player many believe has the potential to soon be the best player in the game. That’s an entirely separate challenge in addition to winning enough games to remain in the Western Conference playoff mix. It’s a huge challenge that I think Gentry is perfectly suited for and will run wild with this season and beyond.

Ian Thomsen, Not only is Billy Donovan facing the biggest challenge, he also has the greatest likelihood for success. One reason why most NCAA coaches fail in the NBA is because their teams lack talent. Donovan’s Thunder rank among the most talented teams in the NBA – and he has the backing of his front office as well as the temperament and intelligence to succeed as efficiently as possible, even amid the complications of Kevin Durant’s comeback and free agency.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I am interested to see how things will go for Fred Hoiberg in Chicago. Most of the other new coaches (i.e. Mike Malone, Flip Saunders, Scott Skiles and Karl) have walked into situations with low expectations. If they don’t turn things around immediately, well, one could argue nobody expected anything spectacular, at least right away. Billy Donovan is going to face high expectations in OKC, certainly, but a team with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should at the very least make the postseason, which would be an improvement from last season. But the Bulls are coming off a 50-win season, and they haven’t missed the postseason since 2008. They’ve been good enough for long enough, and fans expect better than they got from the Bulls under Tom Thibodeau. Good luck with that.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 8

VIDEO: Day 3 of the FIBA EuroBasket tournament


Parker makes EuroBasket history | Report: Nets add veteran Jones | The hard times of Bulls fandom

No. 1: Parker makes EuroBasket history — As we inch ever closer to the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs are seen as one of the favorites to win it all once again. They had a great offseason, adding LaMarcus Aldridge and David West to a core that includes mainstays Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Speaking of Parker, he’s been busy in the summer himself, powering France through the EuroBasket tournament. At the start of 2015-16, Parker will have played in 1008 regular-season games and 203 playoff games. But in yesterday’s game against Poland, he became the all-time leading scorer in EuroBasket history. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:

Tony Parker became the all-time leading scorer in EuroBasket history as France held off Poland on Monday to improve to 3-0 in group play.

Parker scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half of France’s 69-66 victory to push his career EuroBasket total to 1,046. He entered Monday’s game, his 62nd in the tournament, tied with long-time record holder Nikos Galis of Greece.

Galis played in just 33 games at EuroBasket, leading Greece to the 1987 championship before retiring in 1994. His scoring average of 31.2 points will likely never be broken.

“I’ve seen Galis do things I never saw in the NBA,” three-time NBA scoring champion Bob McAdoo once said as he finished his professional career in Europe.

Parker, in contrast, has steadily amassed his total since his first appearance at EuroBasket in 2001.


No. 2: Report: Jones signs deal with Nets — Despite averaging less than 6 points and 2 rebounds in the NBA, Dahntay Jones has carved out an 11-season career thanks to his defensive skill and ability to fit in on just about any squad. He’ll get a crack at a 12th season come this fall as he has a non-guaranteed deal with the Brooklyn Nets, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Free-agent guard Dahntay Jones has agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Brooklyn Nets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Jones, 34, will have a chance to make the Nets in training camp. Brooklyn has 12 guaranteed contracts, and several players on partial guarantees, including Markel Brown, Quincy Miller and Ryan Boatright.

Jones is familiar with Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who was a Memphis assistant during Jones’ stint with the team from 2003-07.


No. 3: Being a Bulls fan isn’t always easy — By the measure of success in The Finals, the Chicago Bulls are perhaps the gold standard in the NBA considering they are 6-0 all-time on the championship stage. But the times before and since those title runs of the 1990s have been up and down for Chicago fans. One famous supporter — David Axelrod, a former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama — details his memories of the good (and not-so-good) days as a Bulls fan:

I moved to Chicago in the early ’70s to go to college, where I spent more time in the gym playing pickup games than the library, excelling in neither. The first thing I did when I got a job after graduation was buy two Bulls season tickets. After the Garden, the Chicago Stadium seemed familiar to me; another creaky, cacophonous relic where, in 1932, the Democrats first nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for President. My seats were in the second row of the first balcony, which hung right over the court and cost, if memory serves me, $6 apiece. These were the days before the need for luxury skyboxes made the old vertical, coliseums obsolete, and when working people could still afford the price of admission.

At first, I was simply a basketball-loving refugee, tacitly embracing the hometown team, but mostly just happy to see pro games. The Bulls had some scrappy teams in the early to mid ’70s: Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier, lockdown defenders who turned every encounter with opposing backcourts into something approaching a mugging; the smooth, sweet-shooting Bob Love and Chet Walker; and Tom Boerwinkle, a hulking seven-footer, who once grabbed 37 rebounds off Kareem but, improbably, could also throw gorgeous, backdoor passes from the post. And then I lived through some mostly horrendous seasons. That is, until Michael arrived.

Our 13 years with Jordan, especially the last eight, were a basketball fantasy. When Michael was on the court, with his all-world talent and an otherworldly will to win, the extraordinary became commonplace; the heroic, expected. The Bulls, with Phil Jackson as ringmaster, were perennial favorites, and their annual march through the playoffs was, for Chicagoans, a joyous, annual civic communion.

Ten years later, when the Bulls miraculously cashed in on a 2 percent chance to win the lottery, they drafted Derrick Rose, and we thought it was the beginning of the rebirth; the native son and local schoolboy hero, returning home to restore the Bulls to their rightful place atop the NBA . And two years later, when the team hired the brilliant and relentless Tom Thibodeau as coach, it seemed as if a New Bulls Era was at hand.

But the basketball Gods giveth and they taketh away. After showing messianic promise as the league’s youngest MVP, Rose blew out one knee and then another, dooming the team and a stout supporting cast to a permanent state of “respectability.” And to paraphrase the late Harry Caray, respectability is like kissing your sister — nice, but not all that satisfying.

So now the Bulls are at a crossroads. Thibodeau is gone after five winning seasons, shoved out the door by a management that tired of his sullen “my way or the highway” approach. In his place, they’ve hired the anti-Thibodeau — Fred Hoiberg, a popular ex-Bull and Iowa State coach, as genial as Thibs was dyspeptic. Hoiberg is an exponent of an uptempo game the Bulls brass believes is better suited to the league and the personnel they have today. Whether he can install his system and still maintain the withering defense that was Thibodeau’s trademark is an open question. So, too, is whether the talented group of players the Bulls have assembled can cohere as a unit.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Dwight Buycks is considering a deal with a team in China … Former UCLA standout Lazerick Jones has agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Memphis Grizzlies … Philadelphia 76ers second-rounder J.P. Tokoto has signed a one-year deal with the team

Morning shootaround — Aug. 14

VIDEO: Highlights from the Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas

LeBron: Re-signing Thompson ‘No. 1 objective’ | Positives abound for Team USA | Butler finding new motivation


No. 1: James: Re-signing Thompson ‘No. 1 objective’ for Cavs — The Cleveland Cavaliers spent their offseason doing their best to keep their Eastern Conference championship team together. The only players lost from last season’s crew are Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller and Kendrick Perkins and, given the additions of Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson in free agency, Cleveland is perhaps even stronger than it was at season’s end. Yet the Cavs have yet to reach a deal with power forward Tristan Thompson and that has star LeBron James concerned. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio News Group has more: 

LeBron James said signing Tristan Thompson to a long-term contract was the “No. 1 objective” for the Cavaliers right now, but stopped well short of blaming the team for the stalemate in negotiations with Thompson.

“He’s a huge part of our team,” James said Thursday at Cedar Point, where he unveiled a partnership with the University of Akron for inner-city children in his LeBron James Family Foundation to go to college for free.

“Short-term and long term he makes our team more dangerous,” James said of Thompson. “Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs but we need him back. He’s an important resource.”

James also said the Cavs’ “front office has done a great job. The next step is to get Tristan done.”

His words are significant because of his relationship with Thompson, a restricted free agent who is represented by James’ agent, Rich Paul.

James also spoke for the first time about his famous pool-side chat in Los Angeles with Kevin Love prior to the start of free agency.

Love had said publicly he would return to the Cavs, but after signing his new deal placed great importance on that meeting with James. The two had some awkward moments last season — their first together in Cleveland — with James calling out Love for not having more of a team attitude.

“We just talked everything out  and a lot of stuff was very honest and we came to a really good place and we agreed on a lot of things,” Love said in a video posted to the Player’s Tribune website. “So I think that was also a very big deal when, you know, you’re talking to the best player in the world.”

James said Love “wanted to have a sit down with me and talk about everything.”

“He wanted to talk about the season, what could happen with the team going forward,” James said. “I was absolutely open to it. I was one of the people that wanted him there when we made the trade last summer. The fact that he committed to us let me know the type of guy we have. I think he’s going to be great for us. I think he’ll be an All-Star this year and a much more vocal part of team this season.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 7

VIDEO: Dante Exum talks after Utah’s 2014-15 season comes to a close

Jazz won’t deviate from their plan | Rockets confident Lawson making progress | Rose’s Team USA days likely done for good


No. 1: Jazz won’t compromise future in wake of Exum injury — The Utah Jazz had a lot of optimism heading into the 2015-16 season given how strongly they finished up the 2014-15 campaign. Understandably, some of that hope has been dashed after word came down yesterday that second-year point guard Dante Exum has a torn left ACL and will likely miss all of this season. Given that the Jazz are, in some folks eyes, close to being a playoff contender, what’s the plan now? Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune has more: 

But with Exum likely out at least six months after surgery and missing the entire 2015-16 season a real possibility, the Jazz front office has a significant hole to fill on the court at point guard.

Exum averaged a rather uninspiring 4.8 points and 2.4 assists per game last season as a 19-year-old rookie, but the Aussie’s defense helped him overtake the more experienced Burke as Utah’s starting point guard. The Jazz went 24-17 with Exum as a starter and put together a 19-10 mark after the All-Star break. So while GM Dennis Lindsey has acknowledged baseline production at the position “has to improve” going forward, it was also clear to team officials that Exum was a major contributor to Utah’s success in the second half of last season and that, with his mix of size and speed, Exum had a chance to take a major step forward next season.

Without him, where will the Jazz turn?

This late in the summer, the NBA’s free agent cupboard is bare, so expect the Jazz to instead survey the trade market in search of a stopgap to provide the experience Bryce Cotton and Raul Neto lack. But if the Jazz do make a trade, the splash likely won’t be that big. Utah’s decision-makers have made it clear that they do not want to unnecessarily disrupt their young team’s chemistry and development.

So, for now at least, Burke remains Utah’s most likely starter, a role he held for his first year and a half in the NBA. The former college player of the year struggled to make shots last season, but the Jazz and head coach Quin Snyder have not given up on his development.

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Morning shootaround — August 3

VIDEO: Steve Smith shines a light on the offseason winners and losers


Noah active, energized this summer | Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come | Okafor has great expectations for Sixers

No. 1: Noah active, energized this summer — Change has been good for Joakim Noah. The Chicago Bulls’ All-Star big man has been active this summer and energized this summer, both in the community and where basketball is concerned. Noah feels good. His mind is clear and his focus is sharp. And as far as his new coach, Fred Hoiberg, is concerned, the vibes are good. K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune has more on Noah’s big summer:

Given that Joakim Noah spoke Saturday at an anti-violence community event his foundation organized, the Bulls’ big man placed last season’s personal struggles in perspective.

“Last year was a tough year for me. I feel it was very humbling,” Noah said. “We went through a lot. Right now, I’m feeling healthy both physically and mentally. I’m really excited about our upcoming opportunity. I never take anything for granted.”

Noah, who attended Saturday’s ONE CITY youth basketball tournament at the Major Adams Community Center near the United Center with his mother and sister, has been working out this offseason in California. Recently, new coach Fred Hoiberg visited.

He’s confident his summer at a sports science academy has put the health issues he experienced last season after May 2014 left knee surgery behind him.

“I feel great,” Noah said. “This is the first time I’ve taken a lot of time for myself to just focus on what I need to get done. Sometimes when you go through humbling experiences, (you) hungrier than ever. And I feel ready to prove I can help this team win big.”

Noah said he enjoyed “vibing” with Hoiberg.

“We got to break bread together,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to the coaching staff, spending time with Fred. I think it’s going to be very different.”

Asked to elaborate, Noah smiled.

“Time will tell,” he said. “But it will definitely be different. We had a lot great times with Tom Thibodeau. He’s a great coach. I learned a lot from him. I’ve experienced a lot with him. I only have good things to say about him. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my career.”

Before the tournament, Noah and his mother, Cecilia Rodhe, unveiled his Noah’s Arc Foundation’s latest public service announcement centered on its “Rock Your Drop” movement. It’s centered on peace, unity and positive change in the face of Chicago’s rampant gun violence.

Spike Lee, Bears running back Matt Forte, “Chicago Fire” actor David Eichenberg and St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger are some of the spot’s prominent cameos.

“‘Rock Your Drop’ is a movement that started with my mother. It has been part of my vision as a basketball player since I was a kid,” Noah said. “For it to be finally here and feel this love really means so much to me and to my family. To launch this PSA is huge. To be able to play for the Chicago Bulls is something other than just basketball. When I see people wearing their drops, it means the world to me and my mom.”

Rodhe, an artist, chiseled the small drop out of stone 18 years ago. Noah wore one on a necklace.

“We’re all one. We’ve all been given life,” Rodhe said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. I’m from Sweden. You may say, ‘What are you doing here, blonde lady, on the South Side of Chicago? This isn’t your problem.’ I say no. When something is as strong as gun violence and you see the pain of moms, that’s all of ours problem.”

Noah is very hands-on with his foundation. He joked about converting now-teenage kids who razzed him about Kevin Durant fans five or six years ago.

“This will be my ninth season here and I don’t take that for granted,” Noah said. “Guys move around in my profession. They get traded. To be with a team for that long is special.

“I’m working as hard as I can on the court and this is a part of what I wanted to do since I started playing basketball. This is like home. We’ve been putting in a lot of work here. This is not a gimmick. It’s for the right reasons. To be able to do all this work makes me happy.”


No. 2: Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come — Anybody wondering what kind of transition Billy Donovan will make to the NBA after years as one of the nation’s elite college coaches need only peek into his past. Donovan is as tough as they come, having honed his game and his basketball sensibilities in Queens and, later, the Big East. If Donovan’s pedigree is any indication, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the Co. are in good hands. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman explains:

After the Big East formed in 1979, basketball interest in the northeast spiked. The early ‘80s produced a golden age for high school point guards in NYC, meaning the 1983 Wheelchair event, the 10th annual, was a must-see edition.

That graduating class had Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, the playground legend and soon-to-be Syracuse star, and future NBA starters Kenny Smith and Mark Jackson.

But it was a sub 6-foot white kid from an affluent area of Long Island who stole the show in that showcase game. His name was Billy Donovan.

“Oh, Billy went off,” said his high school teammate, Frank Williams.

Donovan’s Queens team faced the Brooklyn squad led by Pearl Washington, the game’s headliner. Months earlier, Donovan battled Washington’s in a six-quarter high school scrimmage. Pearl had 82 points.

“We pressed the whole game and he just weaved in and out,” Donovan said. “I learned a lot.”

Donovan was a game-control point guard. Slick ball-handling was his greatest strength. Pearl was a wizard with the ball, his moves legendary. At the Wheelchair Classic, Donovan put his mental notes from the scrimmage to use.

“I don’t think Pearl was ready for it,” Williams laughed.

In the highlight play of his highlight day, Donovan sent Pearl sprawling on a left-handed, inside-out crossover dribble, cruising past him for a layup.

“Pearl nearly fell down,” said Billy’s childhood best friend Kevin Quigley. “The crowd went nuts. Just hooting and hollering. The little white boy just juked Pearl out of his shoes.”

Billy Donovan made a career out of willing himself to success. Too small and athletically limited to compete against premiere athletes? He molded himself into a player and led Providence to an unlikely Final Four run. Florida is a second-tier hoops program at a football school? He quickly turned them into a national powerhouse. Too inexperienced to coach in the NBA? Sam Presti just handed him the keys to the most important season in the Thunder’s brief franchise history.

But before there was Billy Donovan the iconic coach or Billy The Kid bombing 3s at Providence College there was Billy the kid, a Long Island youth addicted to basketball.

“It was almost an obsession,” Quigley said.


No. 3: Okafor has great expectations for Sixers — Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor is well aware of the struggles that have gone on prior to his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. But that has not soured him on what could be. He has great expectations for what he and the Sixers will get done in his rookie season. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details:

Okafor averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Before that, he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three summer league games in Utah.

“I was satisfied,” Okafor said of his summer performance. “I got better every game and worked on everything.”

Covington said Okafor has already made an impact.

“He has brought a whole lot of excitement to this team,” Covington said. “He is a big man who has made his presence known already.”

Another big man, Joel Embiid, will miss a second straight season because of another procedure on his foot.

“It is hard to do, but he is doing well, and he is keeping his head high,” Covington said.

Just as the focus last season was on Nerlens Noel, this season it will be on Okafor. He said he can’t wait to get settled in the Philadelphia area and is looking for a place to live.

Okafor won’t lack confidence. He expects a lot from a Sixers team coming off an 18-64 season. He knows the expectations will again be low, but he doesn’t care.

“Everybody knows we have expectations, and the fans have expectations, and that is all that matters,” he said.

Okafor will be a trendy choice for rookie of the year because he is expected to play major minutes.

“It’s definitely a possible goal,” he said about earning the award. “Definitely.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan is still the G.O.A.T., just ask Jimmy ButlerNancy Lieberman called Muhammad Ali after joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach … Got cash? You’ll need plenty of it to buy the New York penthouse of former Brooklyn star Deron Williams

Morning Shootaround — August 2

VIDEO: Team World rallies past Team Africa


Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa | Knicks to sign Vujacic | Teague making impact off-court

No. 1: Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa Yesterday’s NBA Africa 2015 exhibition game was a success by any measure, but the game’s signature moment may have come midway through the second quarter when Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo checked into the game. As our Shaun Powell writes, it was a moment that almost didn’t happen

Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo, the greatest players Africa ever produced, were asked by league organizers to come out of retirement and make a cameo in the exhibition. Olajuwon is a Hall of Famer and Mutombo will be enshrined next month. They would suit up for Team Africa, a squad of players with African blood, against Team World. Their jerseys, along with one belonging to the late Manute Bol, hung ceremoniously in the rafters above the court inside the arena.

Therefore: A simple and brilliant request, right?

Brilliant, yes. Not so simple.

Mutombo was receptive. Olajuwon said no. Olajuwon is 52, Mutumbo 49. They are fit and trim, but as basketball players, they were finished. It was not going to happen. Organizers pleaded. The answer, up to the day before tipoff, was no from Olajuwon. Truth be told? Both were afraid of being embarrassed on TV, in front of fans who knew them as legends. Neither wanted to play like chumps.

And then: Olajuwon weakened. He brought along his two pre-teenaged boys, who never saw him play, and so he agreed.

When they checked in midway through the second quarter wearing their throwbacks — Rockets for Olajuwon, multi-colored Nuggets for Mutombo — the NBA Africa game had its signature moment, its energy, its second-loudest applause of the day.

The biggest bedlam? That burst arrived when Olajuwon reeled back to 1993, executed the Dream Shake that froze Nik Vucevic, faded and shot a 15-footer that kissed the rim and fell in. Cray-zy. The crowd pounced. Players on both benches jumped.

“I made the move, I made the shot, it went in,” said Olajuwon. “I missed my first shot and was happy to make the next one. And I was really happy to participate.”

After a minute of action, Olajuwon playfully grabbed his chest, Fred Sanford-style. Gregg Popovich, who knows about coaching old players with the Spurs, did the humanitarian thing and allowed Olajuwon to wobble back to the bench and into re-retirement.

As for Mutombo? Didn’t one trademark basketball moment deserve another? As in, a blocked shot and finger wag? Popovich drew up a defensive play that you’ll never see in a Spurs game. He ordered his players to allow guard Trey Burke to reach the rim, where Mutombo awaited. The trap was set but the mouse didn’t cooperate. Burke passed the ball.

“So many of these young players don’t want to see themselves on YouTube,” said Mutombo, “so they run away.”


No. 2: Knicks to sign Vujacic The Knicks have made no secret that they’re trying to find players who fit into their “Triangle” offensive system. So who better to add to their roster than former two-time champ Sasha Vujacic, who played for Phil Jackson‘s Lakers? As Ian Begley writes, signing Vujacic should help the Knicks stretch opposing defenses

Vujacic played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2004 to 2011. He spent five of those seasons playing under Knicks president and then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, and four playing alongside Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played point guard for the Lakers.

Vujacic, 31, has played overseas for much of the past four seasons. His lone NBA stint during that stretch was in 2013-14, when he played 10 minutes over two games for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Assuming he makes the regular-season roster, Vujacic could give the Knicks a needed threat from the perimeter.

He is a career 37.1 percent 3-point shooter in the NBA. Vujacic is also familiar with the Knicks’ triangle offense thanks to his time in Los Angeles. So he could help the Knicks’ younger players adapt to the system.

The 6-foot-7 Vujacic is the latest player coached by Jackson to sign a deal with the Knicks. New York has also signed former Lakers Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga — but none of those players had long stints with the team.

With Vujacic on board, the Knicks have 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts. Counting Langston Galloway, who has a partially guaranteed deal but is expected to make the regular-season roster, they have two open spots.


No. 3: Teague making impact off-court Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague took a visit last summer to Atlanta’s Hughes Spalding Children’s Hopsital, and ended up raising thousands of dollars for the hospital throughout the season. Teague has continued the partnership, and as Chris Vivlamore writes, Teague says the association has grown into something “beautiful”…

The Hawks guard felt compelled to donate $20 for each assist he had the previous season, a sum of $11,260. He felt he could do more. Teague and the hospital set up a program where he would match the figure again this year and challenge others to do the same. Those who matched his $20 per assist total would be All-Star sponsors. Others could give $2 per assist ($1,126) as Teammate sponsors. The money benefits the Hughes Spalding Hospital, according to a hospital representative.

“I went on a visit to Children’s to try to give the kids a little inspiration,” Teague said recently. “They go through a lot. I wanted to go there, see the kids, interact with them and have them interact with me. When I got there, I was touched. I wanted to do whatever I could to help out. That’s when we came up with the program.”

The giving will culminate with Teague’s inaugural Hoops for Hughes dinner Aug. 15 at Maggiano’s Buckhead. The event will feature a dinner, question-and-answer session, photographs with Teague and more for those who gave this year.

“When I met Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks during a recent visit to Hughes Spalding, his thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion impressed me even more than him being a young basketball superstar,” said Julia Jones, vice president for operations at Hughes Spalding. “His sensitivity towards the children we care for and his concern for their needs was very genuine. He seemed truly interested in gaining a greater understanding of the important work that is being done at Hughes Spalding and committed to supporting that work in every way he can.”

Teague said the Hawks also donated to the cause.

There are plans to continue the program next year — and for years to come. Teague finished last season with 620 assists in the regular season and playoffs combined. He finished 10th in the NBA in regular-season assists with 513 and added 107 more in the postseason. His donation will be $12,400. He will ask others to match or give $1,260 at $2 per assist.

“I just wanted to give back,” Teague said. “I didn’t think it would grow into something like this. It’s a beautiful thing. At first it was just something I wanted to do from my heart. I just wanted to give back. Now, it’s grown into something beautiful and large.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Derrick Rose is reportedly undecided on playing for Team USA … Glen Davis may be willing to sign a contract overseas if he doesn’t sign an NBA deal … Pacers center Jordan Hill was charged with driving violations outside Atlanta.

Morning Shootaround — July 31

VIDEO: Steve Smith has the story of Lakers rookie Larry Nance, Jr.


Gasol knows defense is still key for Bulls | How will Rivers use the bench he’s built? | Krzyzewski done after ’16 Olympics | KG to start for Wolves in Season No. 21

No. 1: Gasol knows defense is still key for Bulls — After four straight seasons of ranking in the top five in defensive efficiency, the Chicago Bulls fell to 11th last season. Fred Hoiberg is supposed to change up the offense upon taking over for Tom Thibodeau, but Pau Gasol knows that his team can’t lose focus on the defensive end of the floor, as ESPN’s Jon Greenberg writes

Bulls center Pau Gasol doesn’t know if his role will change next year under new coach Fred Hoiberg and his uptempo offensive system. He doesn’t even know if he’ll start.

But what the NBA veteran does know is the team can’t forget about former coach Tom Thibodeau’s calling card: Defense.

Hoiberg is known for a particular brand of basketball that encourages 3-point shooting and quick decisions, but while the Bulls offense under Thibodeau had too many lulls, they still managed to score 100.8 points per game. Hoiberg hired veteran NBA assistant coach Jim Boylen to help with the defense.

“Well, I think offense wasn’t really too much of an issue last year,” Gasol said on a conference call from South Africa, where he’s taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders event, which culminates with the first-ever NBA exhibition in Africa on Aug. 1. “We have a lot of talent offensively, and I think we’ll play with better flow offensively with Fred. We’ll have more freedom to play in transition and explore our abilities as individuals and as a team. As long as we understand that defense wins championships and makes the difference, and make sure we don’t neglect that side, we should be fine.”


No. 2: How will Rivers sort out the bench he’s built? — Though he had little flexibility going into the summer, Clippers president Doc Rivers restructured his bench, adding Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, among others. The L.A. Times‘ Ben Bolch now wonders how Rivers will make all the pieces work together. He enlisted NBA TV analysts Mike Fratello and Stu Jackson to help him sort through the questions…

Stephenson comes with a history of having blown in LeBron James ear’ during a game. He’s also generated whispers about being a bad teammate, leading to more questions from Fratello.

“How is he going to fit in with the chemistry of this team and how will he handle the star factor of Chris Paul, of Blake Griffin, of Pierce’s experience and his Hall of Fame background?” Fratello asked. “How is he going to fit in with all that and does he bounce back from having a disappointing year last year? Has he grown up, has he matured, is he going to be a contributor?”

Jackson, a former coach and general manager of the Vancouver Grizzlies who is an analyst for NBA TV, said the presence of Paul, Griffin and Pierce should act as a buffer against bad behavior because they have created a culture of success and expectations.

“Teams that have veteran leadership can absorb almost any player into their culture and their environment,” Jackson said.


No. 3: Krzyzewski done after ’16 Olympics — After initially saying that he was done as the coach of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team after the 2012 Olympics, Mike Krzyzewski came back for four more years. Now, as the team prepares to gather in Las Vegas for a three-day camp, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo makes it clear, in a Q & A with Yahoo’s Marc Spears, that he’ll need a new coach after next year’s Olympics in Rio.

Q: How much longer do you want to be executive director of USA Basketball?

Colangelo: For me, it is still a passion. I’ve been asked to continue beyond ’16, which means through ’20. My attitude is: if I’m still healthy, and I’m healthy now, my passion still exists.

Q: Is there any way you can convince Mike Krzyzewski to coach past the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Colangelo: No. This time I know it’s done. I’m already working on the future. But my focus is on ’16. I have so much time on my hands that I’m already working on it.

Q: Do you already have a next coach in mind?

Colangelo: I always have a guy already in my head. Always did and always will.


No. 4: KG to start for Wolves in season No. 21Kevin Garnett played in just five games after returning to Minnesota at the trade deadline this past February. The Wolves have a crowded frontcourt, with No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns and Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica joining Garnett, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. Re-signed to a two-year deal, Garnett will join Robert Parish and Kevin Willis as the only players in NBA history to play more than 20 seasons, but won’t be coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie year. In a Q & A with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Wolves president and head coach Flip Saunders says that KG is a starter.

Is KG going to start?

He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.

Does that include Towns, or is he a center? A hybrid? Does it matter?

It doesn’t matter. He’s a player. Good teams have guys that can play multiple positions. It makes them harder to guard. Besides, it’s not what position you play. It’s what position you can guard. Some nights, Towns will guard power forwards and KG will guard centers. Some nights, it will be the other way around.

It’s apparently Q & A day in Minnesota, because point guard Ricky Rubio also talked at length with Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver

SI: What excites you about 2015 No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns?

RR: “I like guys who can shoot the ball. Having Kevin Love really helped stretch the floor. I think Towns is a better fit [than No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor] because of that. Okafor is more like [Nikola] Pekovic, a strong guy down in the post. Towns is a guy we don’t have.”

SI: How do you see this developing core group of you, Wiggins, Towns and LaVine playing together?

RR: “We’re pretty young, first of all. We’ve got a lot to learn. We’re athletic, we’re starving, we’re hungry. That’s something that’s going to show in practice and the games. I think it’s going to be a fun team to watch. A point guard who can pass the ball to athletic wings and big guys who can do a lot of damage in the post. In the case of Towns, he can really shoot the ball and run up and down too. I think it will be fun basketball, exciting.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: It’s been too long since we got an update from the Sixers on Joel EmbiidThe Pelicans still need to get Norris Cole re-signed … The Hawks’ Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha are both making progress as they recover from season-ending injuries … Perry Jones is happy to have a fresh start in Boston … The Thunder signed 2014 first-round pick Josh Huestis after sending him to the D-League for a year … Could the Warriors get Kevin Durant next summer?

Morning shootaround — July 18

VIDEO: Sophomores delivering at Summer League


Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family | Project Durant on track in Washington | Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop | Smart to miss Africa game

No. 1: Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family — It’s too bad, when Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo writes about himself on his official blog, that he doesn’t lapse into third-person references to himself. If he did, he’d face the same challenge – spelling and typing that last name repeatedly – other scribes face. Nonetheless, the Bucks’ rising star posted Friday about the bond he feels with his team and how his sense of family extends these days to his workplace:

The Bucks and John Hammond chose me in the draft, got me in the NBA, kept me in the team with a role from my very first season and they are my basketball family. Not only that, but already at this young age, they have enough faith in me as a leader and they are doing everything in order to develop all of my potential. From my side, I feel that I want to be playing in the Bucks. I’m not talking about my next contract. The way I feel now, I want to keep playing for the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 20 years!

You never know how life turns out. Three years ago I was thinking that I might be playing for Filathlitikos forever! All of a sudden, the draft emerged, the NBA, the Bucks and everything that followed. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling and thinking in 2, 3 or more years. Right now I feel like I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever.

I’m a guy who doesn’t really care about glamour and big markets. I like to be home all day. I get up in the morning, I take a shower and I go to practice. When I’m finished, the only thing that’s on my mind is to go back home and spend time with my family. I usually feel that I prefer to hide from people.

Okay, if LeBron said to me ‘Come to my team and play with me,’ I’d think about it! (laughs) He’s the best player in the world and a member of that exclusive group of the best that have ever played the game. Still, though, the Milwaukee Bucks would come first. They will always be the team that gave me my chance and opened up the doors to paradise.


No. 2: Project Durant on track in Washington — The Washington Wizards aren’t running afoul of NBA tampering rules, but within the letter of the law, they’re not hiding the fact that they hope to be players in what most expect to be a Kevin Durant Sweeptakes next July. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post looked at the Wizards’ plan, which will be competing with approximately 28 other teams’ plans 11.5 months from now in trying to lure the NBA’s 2014 MVP away from Oklahoma City:

The Washington Wizards have meticulously prepared for the opportunity to coax Durant, born in the District and a product of Montrose Christian School, to Washington once the clock strikes midnight on July 1, 2016. But the courting of Durant, 26, will be wildly competitive: Thanks to the coming flood of money from a new television contract that will kick in next July, a bevy of franchises will have the salary cap space to offer the maximum possible contract to Durant, the 2014 league MVP. Other teams are only a couple moves away from getting in the mix. It could become a free-for-all, raising the risks of going all-in for one player.

“The one thing I know about my brother is he wants to win,” said Damion James, Durant’s best friend and a member of the Wizards’ summer league team. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up.”

“It’s difficult to imagine him leaving [the Thunder],” said a Western Conference executive, who spoke under condition of anonymity because league tampering rules bar discussing potential free agents who are still under contract with another team. “That team is loaded. If they can stay healthy, they’re championship favorites.”

Oklahoma City is one of the NBA’s smallest markets, a factor that would’ve repelled a player of Durant’s caliber just a few years ago, but technology has altered the NBA terrain. No longer does a player need to play in a metropolis to become a superstar and procure endorsement dollars. Every game is available to anyone, anywhere. Highlights are instantly accessible on the Internet. Social media is replete with NBA fandom. Durant, a Nike pillar, and [Russell] Westbrook, a fashion impresario of sorts, are two poster boys of the shift. The fact that [LaMarcus] Aldridge spurned a meeting with the Knicks and turned down the Lakers to sign this month with the San Antonio Spurs seemed to solidify the change.


No. 3: Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop — Lest anyone fret that Carmelo Anthony was being kept in the dark on the New York Knicks’ offseason maneuvers, the New York Post stepped up to report that the veteran All-Star scorer actually was in the loop on team transactions. Certainly no Knicks fan could aide Anthony not being consulted, considering how, er, well thing have gone around Madison Square Garden lately:

According to an NBA source, general manager Steve Mills has been in communication with Anthony across the free-agent process to explain the recent additions.

As president, [Phil] Jackson delegates a lot, and Mills is in charge of directly speaking with agents and other teams regarding potential trades or free-agent acquisitions. According to the source, Mills also handles reaching out to players on matters such as recent transactions.

In fact, Mills has said publicly Anthony spent a lot of time in his office going over “the boards’’ regarding potential free agents they were after. One of the combinations, Mills has said, was the trifecta of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks still had enough cap space to sign 2011 draft bust Derrick Williams and re-up with Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas for more than their minimums.

Jackson raised eyebrows on Monday when he said he had yet to speak with the vacationing Anthony, sparking speculation perhaps the Knicks rehabbing superstar was displeased with the signings. The Post reported on Wednesday Anthony had been in touch with Knicks officials this week and expressed frustration he was being perceived as a malcontent, and said he still “had trust in Phil.’’

After the draft, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Anthony felt “hoodwinked’’ by Jackson’s selection of European project Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick. The Post reported Anthony was indeed disappointed on Draft night but more because his friend Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for a college prospect he barely saw play — point guard Jerian Grant. No one, other than Anthony, remains from the roster since Jackson took over 16 months ago.

Since, Anthony has been outspoken about his “love’’ for Porzingis and called him directly to tell him he wasn’t upset. Anthony watched Porzingis’ Knicks workout and multiple sources said he felt the Latvian big man would be a good pick.


No. 4: Smart to miss Africa game — The good news for Boston guard Marcus Smart and the Celtics was that the two fingers on his right hand that Smart injured Thursday in the Las Vegas Summer League won’t require surgery. The unfortunate news is that Smart will miss participating in the NBA’s exhibition game in South Africa Aug. 1. Here is some more on that situation from the Boston Globe:

Smart, guard Evan Turner, and coach Brad Stevens were to be among a contingent of NBA players and coaches taking part in the first NBA game played in Africa. But Smart will now stay in Boston as his fingers heal.

Smart has not been available to speak to reporters since suffering the injury. One source said the guard is disappointed about missing the game in Africa but relieved that his injury is not more serious.

With 6:34 left in the second quarter of Boston’s summer league game against Portland, Smart, guard Terry Rozier, and Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh all converged on a loose ball. Smart braced himself with his right hand as he fell, and his right index and middle fingers were dislocated.

A bone in Smart’s hand also punctured his skin, requiring five stitches. Those sutures could slow Smart’s recovery, as they will affect his ability to regain range of motion in his fingers. Still, the Celtics were relieved that the X-rays on Smart’s hand were negative.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry said Smart will remain with the team as long as they are in the summer league playoffs, partly because he wants to support his team, and partly because the medical staff is here. Smart will undergo further evaluation when he returns to Boston.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be adding another Russian center, this one a player whose NBA rights they’ve had for the past eight years. … Jimmy Butler said again, on yet another media platform, that his relationship with Derrick Rose is friction-free. … New Nuggets head coach Mike Malone talks with about Ty Lawson, what he learned in Sacramento and a little Boogie Cousins. … Seth Curry writes about what he hopes is the end of his D League days. … Everything old is new again, as some NBA rookies remind of certain predecessors. …

McDermott finds way around NBA campus

VIDEO: Doug McDermott gets 16 points in Bulls’ victory.

LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the NBA, the old saying goes, and it’s not meant as hospitably as it sounds. There’s a smirk inherent, in that life-in-the-big-city, better-it-happened-to-you-than-to-me way.

That’s the way Doug McDermott‘s introduction to the league went last season, a rude welcome to the kid from Omaha in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. From college basketball’s player of the year and a Sports Illustrated cover guy to a lost and struggling newbie, all in a few months time. McDermott dealt with rattled confidence, a sore knee and bench splinters for the first time in his basketball life.

“I think maybe when I was 14 years old,” McDermott said Wednesday after the Bulls’ shootaround at the Cox Pavilion, one of the Las Vegas Summer League’s two venues. “I wasn’t a top guy on my AAU team, so I wasn’t playing a lot back then.”

Going through it at 23, after arriving as the No. 11 pick in the NBA Draft, that hit harder.

“But it’s a mental thing where you’ve got to stay positive,” McDermott said. “Your time is coming. Obviously, it was the first time I’d ever been hurt, too. That was hard to get through.”

McDermott got through it – 36 appearances, a mere 8.9 minutes per, and a whole lot of sitting that included 24 games lost to surgery on a meniscus tear in his right knee – but doesn’t intend to go back there. The Bulls can’t afford him to, either, with a familiar roster relying mostly on improvement from within this season.

Already this summer, McDermott has logged long hours at Chicago’s practice facility. He has been the Bulls’ leading scorer in Vegas, averaging 16.5 points through four games, while doing so in uncharacteristic ways: McDermott’s offensive repertoire has featured a variety of floaters, step-backs and layups, coming from isolation and in transition. He walked out Wednesday night with an ice pack taped to his right wrist, the price paid for an open-court dunk in the third quarter against Cleveland’s entry.

But he missed his only 3-point attempt, leaving him – whoa! – just 1-for-11 from the arc here.

“And I saw him make 30 in row in practice,” new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, “so I’m not worried.”

Hoiberg plays a central role in McDermott’s most significant source of inspiration for his second NBA season. If predecessor Tom Thibodeau was tough on the rookie because, well, he was a rookie – and because of McDermott’s surgery layoff, defensive lapses, blown plays, missed shots and passed-up shots – Hoiberg represents a clean slate and a more McBuckets-friendly style of play.

An accomplished 3-point shooter himself (he led the NBA in three-point percentage in his last season, before a heart ailment ended his career), Hoiberg shares the shooter’s mentality, too. He’ll be sensitive to quick hooks that can mess with a guy’s confidence.

“That’s the big things for Doug, to know that he has the confidence to go out there and be a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “He’s one of the most successful college players in the history of the game, as far as scoring the ball. It’s just a matter of getting that confidence back. If he misses a few, keep shooting. That’s what the great shooters do, that’s what the great players do.”

McDermott’s frame of reference is his time at Creighton. He was a good player when he got there but he blew up as a sophomore, his feet fully wet, his body and mind acclimated to the level of play. His scoring average jumped from 14.9 ppg to 22.9, his accuracy from 52.5 percent to 60.1 percent, his 3-point success from 40.5 to 48.6.

Nobody in the NBA thinks much of college imagery, but in McDermott’s mind at least, he’s physically and mentally ready for his sophomore year.

“Everyone is so much more athletic, everyone is so much stronger than you’re used to,” McDermott said of last year’s transition. “Everyone that’s on the floor is essentially, probably, the best player on his college team. So there’s a reason everyone’s here. It’s just a matter of being able to prove yourself.”

Going from 26.7 ppg as a senior to 3.0 as a rookie wouldn’t be anyone’s idea of fun. McDermott just hopes it’s his idea of done.

“Being a rookie with my rep, everyone wanted to come at me. It’s part of the deal,” he said. “But I’m a competitor – I like that stuff. So I’m not going to back down.”

Blogtable: Some Summer League musings

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

BLOGTABLE: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League

VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns reflects on achieving his NBA dream

> Las Vegas Summer League is just days away. Which rookie are you most excited to see perform on the big stage? Which veteran will most benefit from Summer League play? And, which player in Summer League in Orlando and/or Utah has most impressed you?

Steve Aschburner, Among the rookies in Las Vegas, I’m going straight chalk. I want an up-close look at Karl-Anthony Towns simply because he is that rarest of species this side of the Tasmanian tiger: A Timberwolves No. 1 overall Draft pick. We’ve never had one before, but most insiders believe the Wolves got it right, so I want to see more than a glimmer of potential in Vegas. … Among returning players, it’s important for Chicago’s Doug McDermott to play as well as or better than he did last summer (and he was very good). McDermott’s rookie season was washed out by injury and bench splinters, but he has a new coach (Fred Hoiberg) friendly to his style of play and he has vowed the sort of dramatic, freshman-to-sophomore improvement that wowed ’em at Creighton. … As for Orlando/Salt Lake City, Indiana’s Myles Turner has opened some eyes, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while hitting 14-of-22 shots in his first two games. With Roy Hibbert gone, and only Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen ahead of him on the depth chart, Turner – while needing to tighten up defensively – might grab some “stretch-5” opportunities in coach Frank Vogel‘s promised quicker attack.

Fran Blinebury, This could be the start of a decade or more of comparing Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. At a time when people are saying it’s a “small ball” league, I want to see the big dogs hunt. Before he went down with an ankle injury, I was looking forward to seeing Dante Exum’s progress from year 1 to 2. Last year’s first round Thunder pick Mitch McGary is coming back from a fractured foot, a virtually lost rookie season and has now lost nearly 30 pounds and looking like the player OKC drafted. Have to like what Okafor showed, especially in the second half, of his first game in Utah. Along with the totally changed body of McGary, the Magic’s Aaron Gordon has come back for Year 2 with a shot, an energy level that could be contagious and an intensity that’s fun to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I am most interested to see Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay in Las Vegas. Karl-Anthony Towns goes somewhere high on the list as well because there’s always the added excitement of seeing the No. 1 pick, but Mudiay has faced very little competition the last year. Porzingis has been challenged, but this will be a big step in a big spotlight. The veteran who will benefit most from summer league? The one that doesn’t get hurt and plays his way into a contract somewhere. As far as Orlando and Utah, Aaron Gordon has jumped out in early play. Not exactly a veteran, but not a rookie either.

Shaun Powell, In Vegas, I’d love to see how D’Angelo Russell handles himself and how he can elevate a roster full of dreamers by making them better. It’ll be the first step in proving the Lakers did right by passing up Jahlil Okafor, or not. As for the “veteran” I suspect the Jazz would love to receive some reassurance from Dante Exum in Vegas. In Utah, Okafor had the kind of debut you’d expect from the No. 2 overall pick, especially with his soft touch around the rim. The Sixers are feeling better already. In Orlando, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson clearly stood out. Gordon is flush with confidence after a so-so rookie season and Johnson is clearly a feisty baller, although a ‘tweener.

John Schuhmann, I’m curious to see D’Angelo Russell, because he’ll be handed the keys in L.A. right away. Noah Vonleh is a top-10 pick from last year who got injured in training camp, never got a chance to play with the Hornets, and could have a real opportunity in Portland. So these couple of weeks could be big for him. So far, I’ve been most impressed by Myles Turner, a skilled big who could make Pacers fans forget about Roy Hibbert pretty quickly.

Sekou Smith, It will be all eyes on D’Angelo Russell in Vegas, and rightfully so. The Lakers put that on him when they passed on Jahlil Okafor. The veteran who will benefit most from summer school is Mitch McGary of Oklahoma City. He reshaped his body and is healthy and showed that his relentless motor is his greatest tool. The Thunder will be loaded with a healthy roster to start the season. I always think Summer League is a better place for second-year guys to show off the improvement in their game than it is an indicator of what’s to come from any rookie, even the ones who dazzle in summer league. Great first impressions from Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner in the early stages of summer have highlighted things for me. They all look like instant impact contributors for their respective teams, based solely on what we’ve seen thus far.

Ian Thomsen, I want to see Kristaps Porzingis run the floor, defend and shoot from distance for the Knicks, who are desperate for young talent. Summer league is easy to dismiss but Porzingis’s blend of skills, length and agility should speak for itself – for better or for worse. I was going to cite Dante Exum as a veteran with the most to gain; but now that he has suffered a sprained ankle, I want to see whether James Young has matured defensively and off the ball for the Celtics. The breakout player so far has been Aaron Gordon, who has developed a jump shot to go with his driving athleticism.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Let’s see what Karl Anthony Towns can bring at this next level. Is he just a defender, as has been purported, or can he be a two-way player with stretch-5 range? And his teammate, Zach LaVine, was one of the most exciting players I saw a year ago in Vegas, so I’m looking forward to seeing his evolution. LaVine’s incredible explosiveness really lends itself to the pace of Summer League. One guy has stood out to me so far has been Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky. He can shoot from the outside, but also can pump fake and get to the rim and finish. He already looks ahead of their previous lottery forward, the since departed Noah Vonleh.