Posts Tagged ‘Dionte Christmas’

New-Look Suns Getting It Done


VIDEO: Suns keep rolling, drop Pelicans

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Of the 16 players that suited up for the Phoenix Suns last season, 12 are gone.

Then there was the ultimate short-timer Caron Butler, a Suns player this summer just long enough to model the franchise’s new uniforms at a Scottsdale mall. In all, eight players are new to the roster, and straight from the feel-good department is Channing Frye returning from a scary heart condition that robbed him of the entire 2012-13 season. Frye is the Suns’ longest-tenured player, signed as a free agent way back in 2009, before current general manager Ryan McDonough had celebrated his 30th birthday.

The Suns’ starting five includes two players from last season: P.J.Tucker and Goran Dragic to go with Frye, Miles Plumlee and star-in-the-making Eric Bledsoe.

And here they are, a team that figured to lose games at a rapid rate is 5-2 and leading the Pacific Division. So how is it possible for an organization that hired a new GM, hired a new coach, cleaned house and then traded its talented starting center Marcin Gortat to Washington a week before the season started (for an injured one who might not play at all) to have already secured one-fifth of its win total from all of last season?

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Las Vegas Summer League: Day 10 recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 9 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris already has a comfortable rapport with new coach Jeff Hornacek.

“I call him Big H,” Morris said. “I enjoy playing for Big H.”

And Morris is already allowing the rookie coach to coach him up. Coming off a 3-for-9 shooting performance, including 1-for-3 from beyond the arc in Thursday’s game, Morris’ errant shots continued into the team’s Friday practice. Hornacek called him over.

“He’s a shooter and he’s definitely been helping me with my shot,” Morris said. “Just this past workout, all my shots were short. He sent me through a little workout, a mini-workout to get my shots up, and I come out and make three 3s.”

Morris, the twin brother of teammate Markieff Morris, went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s championship bracket quarterfinal victory over the Raptors. He put up a twin shooting line as his brother — 8-for-11 — and added six rebounds — three on the offensive glass — three assists and a blocked shot. And he did it in 18:31 of playing time.

If the Suns are selling hope this season as they continue a total rebuild with Hornacek in charge, the Summer League team is doing a pretty good job. Saturday’s 103-98 win moved them to 5-0 and into Sunday’s semifinal round against the Miami Heat.

Non-rookie of the day: While Marcus and Markieff (16 points, five rebounds) had big days in the win over Toronto, the Warriors’ Kent Bazemore, who is a leading candidate to be the Summer League MVP, played the point throughout the fourth quarter, took over for 10 of his 26 points and led Golden State to its fifth straight summer victory (12th overall) over the Lakers. Bazemore, 9-for-20 from the field, acknowledged that his seven turnovers are an eyesore, but he got to the free throw line nine times and carried the team down the stretch for the big win.

Other notables: The Raptors’ Quincy Acy finished with 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting, two assists and a blocked shot. The powerful forward out of Baylor is trying to prove he’s more than a dunk machine, although he did have a monster throw down late in the game.The Heat’s Jarvis Varnado, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, came up with 13 points and 12 rebounds, plus two steals in Miami’s win over Cleveland to get into the semifinals. He was 4-for-7 from the floor and 5-for-6 at the free-throw line. Cleveland’s Justin Harper (21 points, five rebounds) and Cory Higgins (17 points, four rebounds off the bench) were also standouts. Toronto’s Dionte Christmas had 15 points (6-for-11 FGs) and five rebounds.

Rookie of the day: Suns guard Archie Goodwin out of Kentucky put up a tremendous line with 20 points on 5-for-5 shooting overall, 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and 8-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Other notables: Former Marquette guard Dwight Buycks made a strong case to be the rookie of the day with 28 points on 11-for-20 shooting, plus four rebounds and four assists. He also contributed a pair of assists and two blocked shots. Charlotte point guard Abdul Gaddy out of Washington scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 5-for-5 from the free throw line in 19:28.

Coming up: The inaugural Summer League tournament really gets serious now with the final four. The day starts at 6 p.m. ET with the underdog, No. 18-seed Miami, taking on No. 3 Phoenix. The other semifinal game features No. 5 Charlotte against the top-seeded Golden State Warriors at 8 p.m. ET.

Jazz’s Burke Struggles With Start

ORLANDO, Fla. — Nothing at all that happened in a few rough days of summer league play suggests that Trey Burke won’t be the point guard of the future for the Jazz.

But a touch of the brakes were applied to the timeline when the No. 9 pick in the draft took a position on the bench rather than the starting lineup for Wednesday’s win over Brooklyn.

“It was just a case of wanting to get him a little rest and maybe a chance to watch things from a different perspective,” said Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe, the team’s summer league coach.

“He’s going to be a good player. There’s no need to worry about Trey Burke right now.”

However, in two games Burke struggled mightily with his shot, missing 21 of 27 attempts and he turned the ball over four times in Utah’s second game, a loss to the Rockets on Tuesday.

Burke took in the game from a seat next to assistant coach Brad Jones, exchanging observations and getting pointers.

“It’s funny how you can sit on the sidelines and see so much more than when you’re out there in the middle of everything,” Lowe said. “The idea was to get Trey to watch the flow of the game, try to see how everything fits together. It’s huge for him to just be able to sit back and watch.”

As the collegiate national player of the year and the guy the Jazz traded up for on draft night to be the last piece in their starting lineup puzzle with their so-called “Core Four” of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter, Burke’s every move will be under the microscope by Jazz fans.

“I told him there’s a target on him,” Lowe said. “The expectations are there off and on the court. People are gonna come after you. All you can do is play hard execute.”

While Burke has struggled, two other rookies have had their moments to shine. Rudy Gobert has been effective at the defensive end. The 7-foot-1 French center has blocked seven shots in 58 minutes of playing time, changed others and has been effective on the boards. Brazilian guard Raul Neto, drafted in the second round and acquired in a trade from the Hawks, saw his first playing time Wednesday and in an often frantic 18 1/2 minutes, hit 2-for-3 from the field, scored seven points and also had four rebounds and three assists. Dionte Christmas, a summer league star a year ago with the Celtics, is making another bid for a training camp invitation with 10 points.

But those are all subplots to Burke, who said on draft night that he expected to be in the Jazz starting lineup in October and might be pushing himself a bit too hard and too fast to be effective right now.

“I’ve told him that the highs are not as high and the lows are not as low as you think they are,” Lowe said. “The thing is, he cares. I didn’t know that about him. He’s a serious young man. He’s got that side of him where he really wants to be good. It’s good to see that he cares.”

It will be better to see that shot start to fall.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 7 Recap

By Drew Packham, NBA.com
 

 
LAS VEGAS – A rookie stole the show Thursday, taking over the scoring lead and proving his doubters wrong.

Point guard Damian Lillard, who many thought was a stretch for Portland with the No. 6 pick, scored 31 points (see more below) in the most captivating performance (and 84-78 win over Atlanta), and Kemba Walker finished off the night by leading the Bobcats to a 99-86 win over the Nuggets.

Walker scored 19 points with 10 assists and had his smile and swagger going in helping his ball-hawking Bobcats improve to 4-0 with the victory. Denver’s second-year swingman Jordan Hamilton continued his impressive play, putting up 21 points and nine rebounds in the setback.

Non-rookie of the day: Walker’s double-double was impressive, but for the second straight day Tobias Harris kept up his stellar play, notching another double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) in Milwaukee’s 88-77 win over the D-League Select team. The Bucks’ sophomore looks polished and the big game follows his 24-point, 12-rebound showing on Wednesday. Other notables: Sacramento’s Jimmer Fredette closed out his five games with 19 points on just seven shots (4-for-7, 9-for-10 on FTs), while Lakers forward Christian Eyenga had 22 points to help L.A. get a win (its first) in its finale, beating the Clippers 75-69. Minnesota’s Derrick Williams also had a big game, scoring 23 points by getting to the line 16 times (making 11) to offset a 6-for-14 shooting night in the Wolves’ 75-68 win over Cleveland.

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