Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Schroder’

Hawks’ Schroder has eye on big stage


VIDEO: Dennis Schroder leads all scorers as the Hawks take down the Warriors

LAS VEGAS – Dennis Schroder knew he was up against the clock.

“I watched until the 70-minute mark, then I went to the game,” the Atlanta Hawks’ 2013 first-round pick said.

He was in Las Vegas with the Hawks’ Summer League team and they had a game Sunday evening, taking him away from watching his countrymen in the FIFA World Cup final against Argentina.

“We watched it in the locker room a little bit,” said Schroder, who grew up playing soccer before he took up basketball. The Hawks, though, had to take the floor before the match got to the 113th minute, when Mario Goetze scored to give Germany the 1-0 lead and the championship.

“It’s always good when our nation wins a world championship or a European championship,” Schroder said.

The 20-year-old won’t get the chance to compete on the world stage later this summer as a full-fledged member of the German national team. The Germans did not qualify for the FIBA World Cup (which until now has been called simply the world championships) in Spain.

The Germans weren’t helped by the fact Dirk Nowitzki has not played for the national team since 2011 in the European championships when Germany failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Schroder, the first native German drafted in the first round since Nowitzki went No. 9 in 1998, will play for Germany in the 2015 European championships with hopes of getting his country back to the Olympics for the first time since Nowitzki led them to the 2008 Beijing Games. Schroder has hinted in recent interviews that Nowitzki could decide to play once again in an effort to get the country to Brazil in 2016.

But before all of that, the 6-foot-2 point guard is focused on his NBA career and carving out a consistent spot in second-year coach Mike Budenholzer‘s rotation. Schroder played in 49 games last season and went through long stretches of watching from the bench.

The level of competition, Schroder said, was an intense eye-opener after playing two years professional in his home country where at times he could put in cruise control, yet still be the best player on the floor.

“You have to compete every night and I think that was the biggest adjustment for me is to compete every night against the best point guards in the world,” Schroder said. “That was the toughest thing to do.”

There is opportunity for Schroder behind starting point guard Jeff Teague. The Hawks traded Lou Williams to Toronto, leaving Shelvin Mack, as his prime competition.

Schroder is a quick penetrator and a primarily pass-first point guard whose shooting need works. He can be flashy and breathtaking with a first step that darts him toward the basket. His lightning-quick first step might be the reason he showed up to Vegas with a gold stripe running through the front of his hair.

“It’s me,” Schroder said of the stripe. “Everybody knows it’s me.”

The goal is for everybody to know who he is by his play on the floor. So far in Las Vegas, he has delivered both up and down performances. He put up a highlight-reel effort with 30 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line in Sunday’s double-overtime loss. However, he also had eight turnovers in 32 minutes against a team made up exclusively of D-League players.

Through three games Schroder’s averaging 18.0 ppg and 3.3 apg. He’s shooting 44.7 percent (17-for-38), which is an improvement over his 38.3 percent last season (23.8 percent from 3). The No. 17 overall draft pick last summer is a skilled and confident player, but he also knows there is work to be done before he reports to training camp in October looking to play a much more significant role for the Hawks.

“What I’m working on is leading a team, talking to them, and try to focus on my shot a little, 3s and 2s, but the biggest thing is lead the team,” Schroder said. “I don’t worry about it [his role next season]. I worry about practicing hard and try to do the  things that I can control.”

Schroder Suspension Not A Red Flag

VIDEO: Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder is along for the ride, tangling with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins

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HANG TIME WEST – Hawks rookie Dennis Schroder was given a one-game suspension Thursday for hitting DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings in the groin two days earlier, and some front office people knowingly nodded.

There was the obvious irony of Cousins as the victim in a deserved sanction against Schroder. In the bigger picture, though, there was the unfortunate timing of Schroder not even having the courtesy to offer a complete exam by asking Cousins to turn his head and cough.

This was in the fourth quarter of Schroder’s fourth game in a pro career that began with questions about his personality. While no red flags ever became public, doubts did exist in some circles before the draft about whether he had an attitude problem or simply was 19 years old and a typical teenager.

The answers from Summer League through training camp through the opening days of 2013-14 have been resoundingly positive. Schroder definitely has an edge, but it has come across to the Hawks as a drive to be great. Coaches have not had to discipline him. Teammates on a roster filled with experience – Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver and Elton Brand, plus the injured Lou Williams, are all at least in their seventh season – have not had to get Schroder in line.

The biggest personality problem is that he thinks he can be great now, and that’s not such a bad problem, especially when balanced against Schroder accepting the reserve role behind Jeff Teague at point guard. That he has fit in well is especially noteworthy for someone who turned 20 in September and is living outside his native Germany for the first time.

“I think his personality’s good,” coach Mike Buzenholzer said. “I think the older guys, the veterans, are staying on him, making him the typical rookie. Making sure he understands he’s got to earn his stripes and all those different things. I think he’s confident kid and I think they all like him and enjoy him.”

Based on the early indications, it’s fair to call the groin shot to Cousins that will cost Schroder tonight’s game at Denver a singular regrettable moment rather than a warning of problems to come.

The No. 17 pick in the draft, and the fourth point guard taken, has a chance to be a star. He has jet speed and can also run the pick-and-roll in the halfcourt. With quick feet and long arms, Schroder can become a standout defender, and one Hawk says he can be great on that side of the ball.

Schroder needs to get stronger than the listed 168 pounds on the 6-foot-1 frame and make better decisions with the ball, but begins his career with a lot of raw tools and veteran teammates to help the transition.

“I think there’s been forward movement,” Budenholzer said. “There’s always, it seems like, a little step back and a couple forward. There’s always things we want him to continue to work on and improve, but he shows moments where he’s making progress and an understanding of what we think is important and how we want to play. His own individual improvement, you see little bits and pieces of it with each day.”

For now, Schroder is at 6.3 points, 4.3 assists and 39.3 percent from the field in 18.8 minutes. The other early progress report is equally important: While Schroder may be cocky, he is also a willing learning with a passion to play. This is a player with an attitude, not a problem.

Israeli Rookie Gal Mekel Emerges From Mavs Debut Ready For More


VIDEO: Mavs introduce Gal Mekel, other rookies to media

DALLAS – Gal Mekel woke up early on the eve of his NBA debut to do a teleconference in Hebrew with Israeli reporters. He headed to practice, followed by a bit of treatment and finally back home to relax with his dad and aunt who flew halfway across the world to witness his big night.

Before long it was time for bed.

“I went to sleep,” Mekel said. “And I slept good.”

Slept good? Who sleeps good the night before their first NBA game? Not only that, but pressure would be high for him to play well in the season-opener against the Atlanta Hawks. The re-tooled Dallas Mavericks are down veteran point guard Devin Harris and first-round draft pick Shane Larkin. Mekel, the 6-foot-3 rookie from Petah Tikva, Israel, is all Dallas has behind starters Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.

There was good reason to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling.

“I remember, after the fact, I was in Portland, I was an assistant coach there when [Arvydas] Sabonis came over,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Sabonis was as big a name out of Europe as you were going to find, and as I got to know him during the year he kind of reflected back to the first game and he said it was the most nervous he had ever been.”

For the better part of his eight minutes, 51 seconds during Dallas’ 118-109 victory, Mekel, 25, played as if he’d been here before. He’d make his first appearance with 3:05 to go in the first quarter, open the second quarter and then help to maintain the Mavs’ lead in the critical early portion of the fourth quarter. He finished with two points, two rebounds, three assists and two turnovers. He was respectable defensively, at times, having to check emerging Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague.

“Gal gave us eight great minutes,” Carlisle said. “Those minutes are really important. Otherwise, our two starting guards are walking out of here playing 38, 40 minutes and you’ve got to resuscitate them and try to have a practice [the next day].”

Mekel was a minus-2 overall, meaning the Mavs were outscored by two points when he was on the floor. Dallas never lost its lead with Mekel in charge of the offense.

“I think for a first game, the minutes I was on the court, I helped the team and from here I want to keep going, developing,” Mekel said. “I really believe I can be a good player in this league. I can really feel it. I just need to get to know everything better, get more experience. It was great to open with a win and I’m looking forward to Friday.”

Tonight, the Mavs visit the Houston Rockets (8 ET, League Pass). Most will see it as Dallas against Dwight Howard, the premiere free agent who shunned Dallas and joined rival Houston over the summer. It’s also Mekel vs. Omri Casspi, the only Isreali ever drafted in the NBA. The game will be televised live in Israel.

On Wednesday morning, Mekel arrived at the American Airlines Center for shootaround. He went home, ate lunch, took a nap and then made his back to the arena, arriving around 4:30 p.m. After some stretching inside the Mavs’ locker room, Mekel took the court for warmups.

At the other end of the floor, Hawks rookie point guard Dennis Schroder, the first first-round pick from Germany since Dirk Nowitzki, was finishing his pre-game workout. Mavs player development coach Mike Procopio pointed out to Mekel how Atlanta assistant coaches were instructing Schroder to come off screens. Assistant Mavs coach Darrell Armstrong then ran Mekel through shooting drills from various spots on the floor.

“He’s a flashy player,” Armstrong said. “One time on the plane after a preseason game I went back and counted all the behind-the-back passes he made. It’s just a natural thing for him going right to go behind-the-back. Teams will read his tendencies. You learn in this league that the simple plays are the keys to this game.”

After a session of resistance running with athletic performance director Jeremy Holsopple, Mekel headed back to the locker room, but not before granting the pleas of fans that had gathered in the front row seeking autographs and pictures. Back in the locker room, he ate a yogurt and a granola bar. Then he put on the uniform for real for the very first time.

“Of course I’m excited, it’s the first game,” Mekel said. “I’m coming with a lot of energy.”

Dallas led 26-18 when he made his first appearance. Early on he got caught in no-man’s land and lost his dribble. He directed a pass toward DeJuan Blair, but it skipped out of bounds. With time running out in the first quarter, Mekel grabbed a defensive rebound, motored up court, dipped inside the free throw line and drew a foul. With 1.7 seconds to go he made both free throws for his first NBA points, and Dallas led 33-28.

Adjusting to the speed and athleticism of his opponents is Mekel’s greatest challenge. In the second quarter, Teague made him pay with a pretty crossover for an easy basket. Soon after, Mekel would exit, but the Mavs still led 41-36.

“As a player it’s always the next play,” Mekel said. “You forget what happened and you move forward. All my life I was a good defender. I like this challenge to guard people. It’s fun for me.”

He’d return early in the fourth quarter with Dallas leading 86-79. A slick baseline bounce pass through the lane led to a Jae Crowder 3-pointer and when Mekel left the game for good with 8:10 remaining, the Mavs were still in control, 94-88. He did not attempt a behind-the-back pass.

“I’m a guy that learns pretty fast and learns from everything to get the experience,” Mekel said. “I think I can really do some corrections fast. For me, it’s just be ready to help the team. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, who’s injured, who’s out; be ready all the time, and that’s the right mentality of a player.”

Hawks Rookie Schroder Wows Countryman, Role Model Nowitzki

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DALLAS – Impressive.

The face of the German national team over the past decade-and-half didn’t hesitate to put forth the one-word assessment. Dirk Nowitzki got his first in-game introduction — a full 36-minute showcase in Wednesday’s preseason game between the Mavericks and Hawks — to 20-year-old point guard Dennis Schroder, the 6-foot-1 future of the German team.

With Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague taking the night off, the rookie got his first start of the preseason and scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with four assists and a pair of steals. For much of the game he was as billed — quick, agile with a flashy handle, a nuisance to defend and, yes, overall impressive. His game, like the tattoos that stretch the entirety of his seemingly endless arms, screams American streetball over the German professional league he was recently shredding.

“This was really my first time seeing him go up and down, and he already impressed me in the [pre-Draft] workout,” Nowitzki said. “For as young as he is, his court presence is pretty good, the way he’s talking, just his overall — swagger is a stupid word, but it’s there. He’s got a confidence about himself. He’s fast, he’s got long arms. I think he’s going to have a good career in this league.”

If it sounds like Nowitzki, 35 and entering his 16th season, might have enjoyed having his potential pick-and-roll partner in international competition (assuming Nowitzki opts to play again) on the Mavs, there could be some truth to it. The Mavericks, slated to pick 13th in the 2013 Draft and still seeking a long-term answer at point guard, scouted Schroder during a pre-Draft workout.

It was there, on the Mavs’ practice court, that Nowitzki met Schroder. He marveled at his abundance of raw talent and handed him his phone number, telling the youngster to text him any time he needed to talk.

“I text with him a lot and he gives me advice every time when I need something,” said Schroder, who left Germany at the same age that Nowitzki once did. “His career is amazing. Every German player looks up to him, and same with me.”

On Draft night, Dallas traded down to 16th with Schroder still on the board. They traded down again to 18th and selected Miami point guard Shane Larkin, whose development has been stunted by a broken ankle sustained during Summer League preparation. Schroder was gone, taken 17th by the Hawks, becoming the first native German drafted in the first round since Nowitzki went No. 9 in 1998.

Rookie shows flashes of growth

Schroder’s preseason has been a mix of blinding promise and inevitable learning curve. His eight buckets against the Mavs was one fewer than his preseason total entering the game. He’s 17-for-45 from the floor (37.8 percent), 2-for-15 from beyond the arc (13.3 percent) and just 4-for-8 from the free throw line. His seven turnovers Wednesday, a concern going back to Summer League, jumped his preseason total to 19. He’s averaging more turnovers per game (3.8) than assists (3.4).

“It’s an amazing feeling to play in the NBA right now,” the 168-pound Schroder said. “You have to get used to it because the European leagues, how they play is completely different. The preseason has helped me a lot and the Summer League, too. Every point guard here is strong and athletic, so I have to try to get stronger and try to compete every game.”

The misfires and turnovers are buffered by the skill and raging potential: the pivot at the elbow that freed him for a jumper that swished through; the crossover dribble and step-back against Shawn Marion for another mid-range jumper that dropped; the blow-by into the lane for a layup and later for a kick out; the baseline hesitation and spin past Jose Calderon that drew a foul.

“He’s made a lot of good, positive impressions on all of us, including myself,” first-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Defensively he has some natural ability to be disruptive and have an impact on the game. That’s where he’s going to earn everybody’s respect and earn his minutes. But offensively his ability to use his speed and get in the paint, his decision-making, his vision, for his age we’re excited about how he can grow.”

Hard work in Germany pays off

In soccer-absorbed Germany, only now is Schroder beginning to create something of a buzz. He is also not the typical face of German basketball. One glance tells you he is not Uwe Blab, Detlef Schrempf, Nowitzki or even Tim Ohlbrecht.

Schroder was born and raised in Braunschweig, a city of about a 250,000 people located in the northern part of Germany, some 220 miles north of Nowitzki’s much smaller hometown of Wurzburg. His mother is from Gambia, a small country on Africa’s west coast, and his father, who passed away several years ago from heart failure, was German. Schroder’s first language is German and he speaks fluent English.

At 16, when he learned of his father’s failing health, he promised to abandon the skateboard he spent many hours tooling around on to make a hard push in basketball, and to take care of his mother and siblings.

He played in the top German league, one of only a handful of black German players, rising quickly from a minimal bench role his first season and later into a star. He said he hopes he’s opened doors for a rising number of young, black basketball players behind him: “It’s not easy to play in the German leagues and you’re black. My best friend, he plays in the German League, too. It’s not easy, but I hope I opened the door for him, too, so he can make it one day in the league.”

Schroder’s 28-year-old sister and her 6-year-old daughter moved and live with him in his Atlanta home. His 25-year-old brother will join them in the coming months.

A fitting reunion with a role model

Schroder officially begins his NBA career next Wednesday in the Hawks’ season-opener in Dallas. In a coincidental, if not appropriate, twist, the paths of Germany’s top basketball exports over the last 25 years will come full circle.

“I told him that it’s actually funny, my first game in the NBA was against Schrempf, and I was the young guy, he was the old guy playing in his last couple years,” Nowitzki said. “There was a bunch of German media and this year is the same thing. I was on the road back then, too, and he’s going to start here against me and I’m obviously the older guy now and he’s the younger guy. He’s impressive. He’s only going to get better. He’s obviously got to learn to shoot off the dribble a little better, shoot the 3-ball, but everything else is there.”

Whether Nowitzki and Schroder ever play together on the German national team remains to be seen. Nowitzki opted not to play in last summer’s European championship coming off the first knee surgery of his career. Schroder passed up his first opportunity to concentrate on settling into his new city and team. At the European championships last month, the undermanned German squad failed to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and is unlikely to receive one of the final wildcard spots.

That halts the country’s international competition likely until 2015 at the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Nowitzki, who guided Germany to the 2008 Games but didn’t get back in 2012, has expressed a desire to make one last run at Olympic glory. Noting that he will be 38 in 2016, he isn’t making any promises just yet.

“I hope he plans [to play] so we can play together,” Schroder said. “Every German player wants to do that, to play with him, and that is my dream.”

NBA In Golden Age Of Point Guards

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The wait continues without any straight answers in Brooklyn, while it just got a little shorter in Oklahoma City, and everyone in Chicago hopes it is finally — finally! — over. They’ve been ready for months around Oakland and the blue-and-white sections of Los Angeles. All of which is greeted in Atlanta by sullen stare.

The storylines among point guards are everywhere with the season about to begin, from the recovering to the dangerously healthy to the rookies and many circumstances in between. So many, in fact, that some places have dual subplots.

Russell Westbrook jumped into part of Monday’s practice, his first on-court participation since arthroscopic surgery on the right knee Oct. 1. It’s an important step to eventually be followed by returning to full workouts and eventually game action. There is no timetable for him being back in uniform, but at least there is now a partial sighting.

Meanwhile, understudy Reggie Jackson is positioned to have a breakout season, whether as the OKC starter or Westbrook’s backup. He begins 2013-14 as a candidate for Most Improved Player and/or Sixth Man of the Year. He also begins it with the running start of 15.2 ppg, 6.2 apg (against 1.60 turnovers) and 52.9 percent from the field the first five exhibition games.

Derrick Rose knows all about point guards, knees and heavily scrutinized injury watches. If he is back once and for all, and if the groin injury does not put Joakim Noah on the shelf long term, the Bulls are a threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Deron Williams takes Rose’s spot under the microscope. Rose had built up good will with his MVP play, though. Williams has had too many letdown moments with the Nets, and now there is uncertainty, in the Rose role of late last season, how long Williams will be sidelined by the sprained right ankle that has so far kept him out of every exhibition game and precluded him for participating in any full practices. D-Will and rookie coach Jason Kidd are both dodging questions on when Williams will play

No such concerns, for a change, for the Warriors. Stephen Curry and his ankles are fine, coming off a breakout performance in the playoffs that turned him from being on the verge of the All-Star game to being better than an All-Star. He became the kind of player that scares defenses, a primary reason 2013-14 is being greeted with as much anticipation in Golden State as anywhere in the league.

Chris Paul is back with the Clippers. There was never much doubt he would be, but signing the new contract makes it official. With the best point guard in the league leading the way—and a former talented point guard, Doc Rivers, on board as coach — L.A. is a contender to win the West.

One for under the radar: Kemba Walker averaged 5.7 assists a game last season for Charlotte. Now he can throw the ball inside to Al Jefferson inside or long to rookie Cody Zeller outrunning most other bigs on the break. If assistant coach Mark Price, one of the great shooters of his generations, can fix the mangled jumper of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Walker will have three new offensive weapons to get the ball to in 2013-14.

Portland could have a must-watch point guard show. Damian Lillard is the reigning Rookie of the Year and lottery pick C.J. McCollum should be one of the best rookies at any position, despite not starting. The bigger question with McCollum is health. He is expected to be out six weeks with a broken foot, the same injury that prematurely ended his senior season at Lehigh. The Trail Blazers either have a growing health problem or a backcourt tandem that can play off each other for years.

Jeff Teague is running the show in Atlanta, with intriguing prospect Dennis Schroder backing him up. Schroder has a great future – physical skills, an understanding of how to run pick-and-roll for a player with limited experience in his native Germany — and also an attitude. A lot of front offices took note before the draft and now referees will too as Schroder stares in disbelief when a call doesn’t go his way. Go with Joey Crawford over Schroder, but it could be a seven-game series.

Hawks’ Rookies Find International Connection

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LAS VEGAS – For Hawks rookies Dennis Schroder and Lucas Nogueira, speaking different languages hasn’t hurt their connection on the court.

Schroder, the team’s German point guard and Nogueira, the big man out of Brazil, connected several times on alley-oops in the team’s five games, giving Hawks fans a glimpse of what could become an exciting pairing at Philips Arena.

“We had a very, very good connection,” Schroder said. “He runs the pick-and-roll very well, so every time he looks at me I know he’s ready for the pass. That’s great for me having a guy like him I can throw it to.”

That connection may have to wait, however. Schroder is signed with the Hawks and will likely see time backing up Jeff Teague this season. Nogueira’s future, though, isn’t as certain. Nogueira, the No. 16 pick who famously — and briefly — donned a Celtics cap on his afro before being traded to the Hawks on Draft night, was a last-minute addition to the Summer League squad and management was using the time here to get a feel for their 7-foot (7-foot-3 with the afro?) big man.

“It was a really good learning experience for both of them,” said Hawks assistant Quin Snyder, who ran the team in Las Vegas. “I thought Lucas got better as the week went on and Dennis had a few really good challenges that he handled really well.”

Schroder showed a patience and ability to find the open man on offense, but shined defensively, where he was constantly hounding opposing point guards.

“I think being a point guard in Summer League is harder than any other position because there’s so much you have to control,” Snyder said. “He did a really good job defensively this week. He works incredibly hard on defense and he’s so long, so he’s tough to play against.”

Schroder finished his run averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 assists (against 3.4 TOs) while struggling a bit with his shot (34 percent overall, 7-for-24 on 3s). Schroder improved with each game, though, and seemed more comfortable offensively as the week progressed. Still, all the 19-year-old German wanted to talk about was his defense.

“The first thing I do is try to play good defense,” said Schroder, who led the Hawks with eight steals in five games. “Hopefully my teammates see that and play hard defense, too.”

Nogueira said he took notice of Schroder’s defense, and had his best game defensively Friday, bringing energy and tallying five of his 12 blocks in the Hawks’ finale.

“I like my progress this week,” said Nogueira, who says he plans to be in Atlanta by August and is preparing as if he’ll be with the team in the fall even though management may choose to keep him overseas. “I started slow, but I’ll go home happy with my progress.”

Nogueira admitted he didn’t know Schroder’s game before the Hawks took him with the No. 17 pick, but said he watched “all his YouTube movies” to better prepare for Summer League.

“He’s a very good guard, makes great passes and has great vision, so that’s good for me,” Nogueira said with a laugh.

And it could be a good connection – eventually – for the Hawks.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 6 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Playing to impress strangers isn’t the same thing as playing to impress one’s coaches, and it’s easy for young guys to veer recklessly toward the former.

summer-league-logoSticking to a few strengths, by contrast, and filling a niche can go a long way toward opening eyes not just on a player’s summer team but with all the scouts from rival clubs or even global leagues.

Bob Thornton, the Memphis assistant coach working the Grizzlies’ game against Washington Wednesday, was thrilled for Jack Cooley, the undrafted rookie from Notre Dame who did the things he’s good at and mostly avoided the things he’s not. In the case of a wide-body like Cooley, Thornton said, that means “rebound, set screens, play defense and hit the shot when it’s there.”

That’s what Cooley did, with an efficient 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 12 rebounds (six offensive) in just over 30 minutes in Memphis’ 90-83 victory. Left open on the elbow on a couple of times, he boldly stuck the shots. Cooley even drained a 3-pointer when it was there, while forcing nothing. Following his lead, the Grizzlies grabbed 20 offensive boards in the 40-minute game.

Afterward, Thornton said: “He’s out here creating opportunities for himself.” Through four games, Cooley is averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 52 percent — earning him a spot on our Rookie Ladder.

Non-rookie of the day: Travis Leslie, Heat. In a little more than 23 minutes off Miami’s bench in its 113-66 blowout of New York, Leslie scored 23 points on just 13 shots. The 6-foot-4 guard from Georgia gets around -– he was a first-round pick of the Santa Cruz Warriors of the D-League before last season and averaged better than 15 points. He participated in the Orlando Summer League with Philadelphia.

Other notables: Jordan Hamilton, Nuggets. A 6-foot-7 guard from Texas, he scored 23 points in Denver’s 87-82 victory over New Orleans, hitting four of his seven 3-pointers. Thomas Robinson, Trail Blazers. He was at it again, good for 13 points and 17 rebounds in Portland’s 70-69 victory over Atlanta one day after getting 12 points and 18 boards vs. Chicago. Josh Akognon, Mavericks. The 5-foot-11 guard from Cal State-Fullerton was a sparkplug off the Dallas bench, scoring 24 points in 24:50 in a 95-89 victory over the L.A. Clippers.

Rookie of the day (after Cooley): Dennis Schroder, Hawks. He has been valued more for his defense than anything else, but the Atlanta point guard got to the line, sank 7-for-8 and wound up with 16 points despite 4-for-11 shooting from the floor (1-for-5 from the arc). He had five assists and three steals with (oops) six turnovers.

Other notables: Shabazz Muhammad. The former UCLA forward, whose selection by Minnesota at No. 14 drew some criticism, had his best day as a pro. He scored 17 points and sank three of his four 3-pointers in the Timberwolves’ 92-54 laugher over Sacramento. Muhammad had been sputtering along at 7.3 ppg on 34.6 percent shooting. (Ben McLemore, the Kings’ touted shooting guard, was back in struggle mode, missing all eight of his field-goal attempts.) C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers. The combo guard continues to put up solid numbers for Portland, his 19 points just shy of his average (21.3 ppg) coming into the victory over Atlanta.

Coming up: The byes are over, the goodbyes start soon. In the new tournament format, the 10 top-seeded teams all were idle Wednesday but will take on the day’s winners Thursday (and in a couple cases, each other), with action starting at 1 p.m. ET with No. 7 Cleveland vs. No. 10 San Antonio. Once everyone has five games completed, the single-elimination feature kicks in. Starting Friday, losers head home and winners keep going, with the championship game set for Monday