Summer League Starts

Kurt —  July 11, 2008

With all the rumors floating around — from silly to serious — thank Buddha (or the deity of your choice) that there is some on the court hoops to discuss tonight.

Granted, you can’t read too much into Summer League play, and in the case of the Lakers this is a handful of guys competing for one (maybe two depending on free agency) spot at the end of the bench, and a winter playing with the D-Fenders.

Still, it is basketball. And it is a window into how these guys play and what they have worked on (and need to work on). Plus the competition, while not often pretty in terms of teamwork, is intense because these guys are trying to get noticed by scouts, NBA and International alike. These are guys trying to get jobs, and this is a big interview. So it matters a lot to them.

The Lakers tip off tonight at 5 p.m. against the Detroit Pistons. You can catch it on NBA TV (although my guide said they are not starting until 5:30) or you can watch it on streaming video on the NBA site.

What follows is the Lakers roster (with some pregame notes):

• Coby Karl, #11, 6-5, 210, guard out of Boise State. He was the guy at the end of the Lakers bench last year. This is his chance to show how much he has improved in that year, how much he has learned. If he does not show that, he opens the door for others to take his spot.

• Joe Crawford, #12. 6-5, 207, guard out of Kentucky. The Lakers second round draft pick is going to have to show a lot, both on defense and in shooting, or at least much more promise than Coby Karl (in whom the team already has an investment).

• Davon Jefferson, #23, 6-7, 215, forward out of USC. Those of us in SoCal saw a fair amount off him this year, and he has talent and hops. But, word on the street was he showed up out of shape to the Orlando camp, turning scouts off because of work ethic concerns. Can he prove them wrong here? If he played up to his potential….

• Lorenzo Mata-Real, #31, 6-9, 245, forward out of UCLA. A fan favorite because he was a bulldog defender, he is going to have to show that translates to the next level, and that he can develop some offense, to impress any scouts. Plus, he needs to crash the boards, hard.

• Pat Calathes, #25, 6-10, 210, forward out of St. Josephs. You may say “who” but ESPN.com’s David Thorpe called him one of two undrafted guys most likely to make an NBA roster. He averaged 17 and 8, shooting 40% from three, in the Atlantic 10 last season.

• James White, #10, 6-6, 195, swingman out of Cincinnati. Had a cup of coffee the Spurs but spent time in Austin in the D-League (Austin > Dakotas). Played last year with Fenerbahçe Ülker, the champs of the Turkish League. The good thing here — we could see a spectacular dunk or two.

• Marcelus Kemp, #9, 6-5, 210, guard out of Nevada. Led the Wolfpack with 20 points per game and could shoot the college three. The scouting report is great midrange game, has trouble finishing at the rim.

• Cedric Bozeman, #1, 6-6, 220 guard out of UCLA. He played last season in Poland with Energa Czarni Slupsk. He had a cup of coffee with the Hawks two seasons ago.

• Yi Li, #22, 6-9, 210, forward out of China. Probably the skinniest guy on the roster. He is not good enough to make the Chinese national team, he’s here to game some experience. And hopefully eat a burger or two.

• Nik Caner-Medley, #15, 6-8, 240, forward out of Maryland. He played last season with CB Gran Canaria in Spain. Maybe one of our Spanish readers can help us out here with some thoughts.

• Bryant Dunston, #26, 6-9, 250, forward out of Fordham. Apparently did some nice things at the Portsmouth camp. Draft Express thinks he’ll play overseas.

• Sharrod Ford, #20, 6-9, 235, forward out of Clemson. Plays for the Italian team Virtus Bologna. Had a cup of coffee with the Suns in 2005. Led Clemson is scoring and rebounding two consecutive years, back in the day.

• Taj Gray, #21, 6-9, 230, forward out of Oaklahoma. Expected to play for Chorale de Roanne in France next season, he has played overseas the last couple of years. Unless the OKC front office people want to impress the locals….

• James Hughes, #34, 6-11, 225, center out of Northern Illinois. Athletic with a lot of “upside” but that has not translated on to the pro courts well yet.

• Dontell Jefferson, #2, 6-5, 200, guard out of Arkansas. Spent the last two seasons with the Dakota Wizards of the D-League and last season averaged 17 and 5, although the shooting percentage will not impress. By the way, is playing for the Dakota Wizards basketball purgatory?

• Thomas Kelati, #4, 6-5, 210, guard out of Washington State. Played last year for Turow in Poland, where he helped lead the team to a surprisingly good finish.

• Sean Lampley, #24, 6-8, 230, forward out of Cal. He was MVP of the NIT back in the day. Now he is playing for the Melbourne Tigers in Australia, where he is averaging 17 a game. And you have to think Melbourne is better than the Dakotas as a place to live.

• Dwayne Mitchell, #3, 6-5, 210, guard out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He averaged 20 ppg for Iowa in the D-League last year.

• Brian Roberts, #5, 6-2, 175, guard out of Dayton. No, not the Baltimore Oriels second baseman (although he is hitting .291). He apparently had a very good camp in Orlando, looking very professional. He can shoot the ball from range, 45% from three in college. Defense is the question.

• Michael Southhall, #35, 6-10, 260, center out of Louisiana-Lafayette. This guy was a big-time recruit way back when (Kentucky), but eventually declared for the draft in 2003, pulled out and spent time in prison on a parole violation.

• Quinton Thomas, #6, 6-3, 185, guard out of North Carolina. I have no idea, the only guy I can find with this name is still in high school. Any help here?

• Martin Zeno, #14, 6-5, 200, guard out of Texas Tech. Averaged 16 points per game but shot 17% from the college three.

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Clearly, not all these guys will play but that is the roster. Also, remember that in Summer League guards tend to dominate the ball, trying to get seen by shooting and making plays rather than just feeding the post. The best way to judge bigs is often effort on the boards.

Kurt

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