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NBA Summer League Day One Recap - It's A Grind

Alright, I'm back in the saddle. It's 9:00 Saturday morning. I have had my run, swim, shower, shave, and coffee. I almost feel human again. The long road trip caught up with me last night and I wasn't able to do the Day One Recap on time. Here it is now.

Summer League - What's It Like?

It's something else. The first day of games was played in Cox Pavilion. This is a smaller gym attached to the Thomas & Mack Center. The atmosphere is relaxed which put me in a strange position as somebody with press credentials for the first time. The weirdness was that the protocols were not apparent. Where could I go? Where couldn't I go? Who could I talk to? When could I talk to them? Who was in charge? All these things were a bit paralyzing for me. So, I just hung out in my spot on the baseline at the media table and watched the games. I didn't talk to any representatives from any of the teams. I chatted some with of the other media guys and took notes. And observed.

The strange thing about me, even though I am an outgoing person, is that I like to know what I am doing and I like to know whether I SHOULD be doing it. I can't just wander around and wait for somebody to tell me I can't do something. I'm a rule follower. I can't help it. It's not exactly the best trait to have in an environment this informal.

The Nature Of Play

The first thing that jumped out at me in the Rockets - Warriors game was how physical the play was. I didn't know if it was being so close to the action under the basket or if it was because Joey Dorsey was playing. After watching the rest of the games the answer became apparent. This is how the game is played. They flat-out beat the crap out of each other. I mean, there was a ton of hard contact that was not called as a foul. Tons. The most physical players, guys like Joey Dorsey, didn't even blink at the hard fouls they dished out and received. They didn't get angry. They didn't scowl. They just whacked the holy bejeezus out of each other and then helped the other guy up, asked him if he was ok, and patted him on the rump.

On one play, Dorsey went up for the dunk and Anthony Randolph came over hard for the block. Randolph got some ball, a lot of Dorsey's chest and arms, and kicked him square in the testicles. Dorsey kneeled down, Randolph came over and gave him a hand and asked him if he was Ok. Joey just shook his head like "Yeah, I'm fine. No problem". I would have been in the hospital if I had been on the receiving end of such a collision.

Somebody commented in the live thread about the number of fouls. I can only say that they didn't seem to call many cheap ones from what I could tell. My impression is that getting fouls is a matter of positioning. If you move your feet and stay in position, then they won't call a foul on you. If you get out of position, you either have to give up or you will get a foul if you continue to be physical with a guy.

In the Mavericks game, the Dallas coaching staff seemed to make a point of having Aaron Miles play physical pressure defense against Brandon Jennings. Jennings also returned the favor on the other end. It seemed like those guys were in a UFC match the way they were bodying up. I'm surprised Miles only ended 8 fouls.

Game One - Warriors vs Rockets

I already recapped this one. So I won't have much to say about the game itself. Just some impressions about the players.

Joey Dorsey - The guy was impressive. Not only was he physical,as I mentioned, but he only picked up 4 fouls even though he was involved in numerous collisions. He did a good job of moving his feet to get in position on help defense when he was responsible for containing the penetrator. He blocked shots coming from the weak side. He was just very solid. He doesn't have much of an offensive game though. He could really use a 8-10 foot game. Unfortunately for him, he's on a team that has two guys in front of him who do what he does in Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry.

James White - As I mentioned in the recap, I thought James was putting off a prima donna attitude. I got the vibe mostly in the first half. It's hard to describe exactly what gave me this impression. I can't point to one thing definitively that says, "Man, I can't believe he's acting like that". It was more a sum of the parts. The attitude toward the officials, the way he interacted with a coach, etc. Just some little things. In his defense, he seemed to put that behind him in the second half and just play. He was also very supportive of his teammates from the bench.

Chase Budinger - He didn't seem like he was able to handle the physical part of the game and got pushed around. The knock on him at Arizona was that he wasn't assertive or aggressive. Those traits will get you killed in the NBA and they got him killed here. He got trapped with a physical double team and turned it over. Later in the game, his man was attacking him and going right through him to the basket. He didn't seem quite quick enough to get position and not strong enough to hold his position. It seems like you need to be able to do one or the other.

Stephen Curry - Curry was the big name in this game. He seemed just a bit uncomfortable. Not overwhelmed like he didn't belong. Just uncomfortable. He spent a lot of time at the point for the Warriors in the first half. He was very competent handling the ball. He was able to initiate the offense without problem. On the other hand, I think the play making duties, when they fell to him, kept him from getting comfortable with his shot. I don't recall him getting any spot up opportunities off of other players. Everything he got was off the pick and roll, and him breaking down his man. He forced a couple shots and even airballed an 18-footer after a step-back move. I think he'll be a good one, especially when he is able to play off other guys.

Joe Ingles - One of two men from down under in the game. He has a nice feel for the game. He sees the floor well and he is pretty long. His stroke seemed very erratic and, as a guess, will probably be the thing that determines whether or not he makes it into the league. His first 3 was an airball and his second barely drew rim. They were both wide-open in-the-flow shots. Not forced at all. He drained his third 3-ball.

Anthony Randolph - The stat sheet stuffer almost recorded a triple-double. 20 points, 10 rebounds, 9 fouls. Randolph is a thin player, but he didn't shy away from contact in this game at all, which was impressive to me. He has a great ability to score in the paint on the move and was almost impossible for the Rockets to defend. He had 12 first quarter points on 8 shots, then seemed content to work on his outside game. I'm not saying he necessarily drifted. I think the Warriors weren't running sets for him to receive the ball on the move. I think they were wanting to get looks at other guys. That's my guess. I'd need game film to really know.

Game Two - Pistons vs Kings

Another physical game with 61 total fouls. Remember, NBA games are 20% longer as we are only playing 40 minute games out here in the desert. The Pistons, much to my surprise, whipped up on the Kings. The Kings feature several "name" players. 2008 first round draft pick and second year man -- and a player many around here wanted instead of George Hill -- Donte Green. Another 2008 first round draft pick and second year man, Jason Thompson. This year's #4 pick Tyreke Evans and #23 pick Omri Casspi. The Pistons, on the other hand, feature mid-first round pick Austin Daye and pair of second rounders in DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko -- teammate of James Gist at Angelico Biella.

DaJuan Summers - He had to have been the most impressive player of the day. He had 24 points and 7 rebounds, on 9 of 15 shooting, and completely dominated Jason Thompson. He had a nice jumper, he banged his way inside for points, he's rough and tough, he got to the line, and he owned this game. You should keep an eye on this guy. It didn't look like anything he was doing was a fluke.

Austin Daye - He showed both why he was drafted and what he has to work on. He's an offensively gifted version of Tayshaun Prince. However, he needs to get a little stronger to handle the contact and to work on his defense. If you are a Pistons front office guy, you have to like what you saw from him on day one.

Jonas Jerebko - He wasn't making his shots -- 1 for 6 in 13 minutes -- but he might be able to make it. He's a tough guy who isn't afraid to mix it up. He's not a "soft Euro".

Michael Bramos - While bones may be familiar with this former Miami, Ohio player, I sure wasn't. He's a 6'5" guard, and he was very impressive. He scored 13 points in 15 minutes and he did it by attacking the rim AND hitting the outside shot. I doubt he will make the team, but he probably opened some eyes in Europe.

Jason Thompson - He was in a war with Summers and he got the worst of it. He only had 3 rebounds and was completely unable to contain Summers. I'll be interested to see how he does in the next couple games.

Donte Greene - Donte is known for his shooting, including a monstrous 40-point debut in last year's Summer League, but he only went 3 for 9 in this game and missed both his 3-ball attempts. The big knock on Donte last year was his defense, or that thereof, so I found it humorous that on numerous occasions he was telling the guys on the team how to position their bodies and where to be. The best part, is that he was dead on.

Tyreke Evans - I was very impressed with Evans. He's a very big and strong point guard. He probably needs to work on the passing part of the game, but he seemed Ok in every other way. He's big enough to be aggressive going to the rim and draw fouls -- he went to the line 10 times, he was immune to be bodied by the opposing point guard bringing the ball up, and showed great athleticism.

Game Three - Raptors vs Lakers

While this was the closest game of the day, it was also the least impressive. These teams would have been crushed, almost literally, by the previous four teams. The game was far less physical. In addition, there were not many players of interest. The Lakers' team features Adam Morrison -- who was sporting a Rage t-shirt so he has gone way up on my list of guys I like (very coveted list to be on, I know) -- and that is it. The Raptors have #9 pick DeMar DeRozan and point guard Roko Ukic who you may remember from the torching he gave the Spurs this year in Toronto.

The Lakers won this back and forth game 85-84. The best part is that with 5:00 left and a tie game I called the game winner. Meet Ben McCauley from North Carolina State.

Ben McCauley - Ben scored the Lakers first 6 points and, along with Morrison, carried the team. McCauley finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. He hit the game winner with 14 seconds left, just as I said he would. Other than the fact that the guy seemed to never miss, I don't know how good he is.

Adam Morrison - He played a team-high 33 minutes and also scored 24 points. For a guy known as a shooter, he seems to have the most off-balanced looking shot. He hit big shots for them down the stretch though. He had an interesting match up with DeMar DeRozan as they went head-to-head on both ends. DeRozan is a better athlete, but not as good a shooter and not as experienced. On on one drive to the hoop, Morrison blocked the crap out of DeRozan's shot.

David Monds - 17 points in 14 minutes. He had a great stroke from 18 feet. Thick guys who can shoot from that range have a knack for sticking around.

DeMar DeRozan - He played decent defense against Morrison in the first half, but was invisible offensively. In the second half, he was a bit more aggressive with the ball and showed some flashes. He can also jump and liked to attack the offensive glass coming up with very nice put back slam, but also had a missed put back slam.

Roko Ukic - He ran the point. Maybe a couple 3's, didn't miss free throws. Unspectacular, but solid.

Smush Parker - Yeah, that Smush Parker. He made some of the nicest passes of the day on the pick and roll leading to dunks by Patrick O'Bryant. He hit 1 of his 2 threes. Missed a bunch of free throws. Had 6 assists. Only 2 turnovers. He's an enigma for me.

Patrick O'Bryant - He's a very long man at 7 feet with very long arms. He's not a big thick guy, but he's not too thin as he comes in at 250 pounds. He showed the ability to finish against the Lakers under-sized front line. He made 7 of this 9 shots on a variety of dunks and nice moves in the post.

Brent Petway - Try to find video of his dunk to end the first half. He tried to throw down over somebody and wasn't able to get all the way to the rim and ended up THROWING IT IN from about 2 feet away.

Game Four - Bucks vs Mavericks

This game promised the most interest and turned out to be horribly painful to watch. The Bucks have a lot of big names participating in Summer League with Brandon Jennings, Joe Alexander, Amir Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jodie Meeks, Chris Richard, and Salim Stoudamire. The Mavericks have Rodrigue Beaubois -- Spurnando's teammate from Cholet -- and Ahmad Nivins, a second round pick from St Joseph's.

This was a hideous brick fest with tons of fouls and sloppy ball handling. Alexander went 4-18 from the field and Jennings got hot late to go 3-12. The teams combined for 65 fouls and 46 turnovers. Both teams erupted in the fourth quarter, 21 for the Bucks and 20 for the Mavs, to push the scoring all the way up to 65-59 in the Bucks victory.

Joe Alexander - A superb athlete. He just couldn't make a shot. He was the focal point of the Bucks offense and received many isolation opportunities. He routinely got by his man but wasn't able to finish over the help defender near the basket. He was a fiend on the offensive glass and made his free throws.

Amir Johnson - He fouled a lot and turned the ball over a lot. He blocked a couple shots, but his 4 rebounds in 21 minutes is disconcerting.

Luc Mbah a Moute - He can still play some defense.

Brandon Jennings - He didn't blow me away but he was quietly effective. That's what I thought at least. He shot a poor percentage, but he handled the pressure defense I mentioned earlier, drew a lot of fouls -- Miles and Beaubois combined for 16 fouls -- and only had 2 turnovers. He's electric quick but doesn't seem able to use it to get his teammates open as evidenced by his 3 assists in 25 minutes.

Jodie Meeks - The dude has a sweet stroke. When he shot it, you knew it was going in. I don't know what else he has to give them, but he'll knock down shots if people leave him open.

Salim Stoudamire - An unspectacular 13 minutes with 6 points, 5 fouls, and 3 turnovers

Rodrigue Beaubois - Easily the most disappointing player of the day. He turned the ball over on the first 2 possessions and only his teammate's hustle kept him from the first three possessions. He was passive defensively in the first quarter to the point that Darrell Armstrong, who is coaching the Mavs team, was yelling at him (from the bench to the court to be heard, not to chastise) to play attacking defense. He showed poor shot selection and not a good ability to finish around the rim. He finished with 6 turnovers, and while he over penetrated the way Tony does some, he did show decent court vision.

Ahmad Nivins - He looked like a serious player. He was just a notch below DaJuan Summers for most impressive. He was 8 of 10 from the field. He had some nice put back dunks and showed a really nice jumper from 17-18 feet. He'll probably step right into Brandon Bass' role. He screams keeper.

Random Observations

In each game, there was one female referee. Never zero, never two. Always one.

Acie Law IV hit his head so hard on a quarter-ending play I could hear it at the other end of the court with a loud WHUMP (some onomatopoeia for you, I know you guys have been into it lately).

In the very last play of the last game, I wasn't watching, the guy next to me says, "Did Jennings just give him a late elbow?" Luke Jackson was bent over holding his face. It looked to me like a broken nose. It will be interesting to find out if there is anything to it.

The crowd was more or less tame, and by the last game the gym was pretty empty. A group of about 6-8 guys were harassing Jennings loudly in the last seconds of the game. One hollered, "Jennings, you aren't even the best #3 on the court" -- Beaubois and Jennings are both #3. Jennings looked up and laughed. I'm thinking if you are going to taunt somebody like that, at least be accurate.

That's all for day one. On to day two.