Archives For Summer Pro League

Jun. 09, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02194092 Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher during practice at TD Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 09 June 2010. The Lakers lead the series over the Boston Celtics 2-1 in a best of seven games NBA Finals.

With it being a bit of a slow news day around the Lakers, it’s time to take a look around the league and see what’s going on in the rest of the NBA world…

*The Lakers have posted their roster and schedule for the upcoming Summer League in Las Vegas.  This is a list that has been floating around for a few days, but it’s good to see this right from the horses mouth.  One name that’s notably absent is Javaris Crittenton who was reportedly going to play for the Lakers in Vegas.  That is seemingly not (or no longer) the case.  The last I heard (which was before the holiday weekend) Crittenton’s agent said that his client had yet to commit to playing Summer ball and surely had not yet chosen which team he would play for if he did suit up.  So, with that up in the air, we should get used to the idea of Critt not joining the Lakers this summer or next season.  And, for me, that’s a shame.  I was hopeful the Lakers could get Javaris back into the fold and hopefully restart his career and development process with the Lakers.  And while that’s still a possibility, I’m less hopeful if he doesn’t actually join the team this summer.  Any team that picks him up would want to see him in some game action and since he’s still such a young player, some summer action would give everyone that chance.  We’ll follow this situation and give updates when we get them, but for now, it looks like Critt won’t be wearing a Lakers jersey.

*However, there are some interesting names on that list of invitees.  Gerald Green and Rob Kurz are players with NBA experience and enough talent to play in the league.  And, they actually play positions (Green – SG/SF, Kurz – PF) that the Lakers have needs still to fill on their roster.  Plus, Lakers’ draftees Devin Ebanks and Derek Carracter are going to suit up.  I actually think it will be an interesting “competition” to see if the veteran players outperform the Lakers’ rookies as that could make an impact on roster decisions as we get deeper into the summer.  If Kurz plays a lot better than Carracter will that spell doom for the #58 pick?  If Ebanks can play as well or better than Green, doesn’t that make him a lock to make the team?  What if Green plays extremely well – will he be the extra wing player that the Lakers grab?  I don’t know the answer to these questions or if they’ll even happen but I’ll be watching closely to see.  And no, I won’t be in Vegas (so no first hand takes from the stands this year), but I will be watching online (click the link and you can too). 

*Despite the fact that summer league is getting started and there are actual NBA games on, the focus is still on free agency.  If you want a good place to follow all the agreements and the latest news as to where players are leaning, you can’t do much better than Pro Basketball Talk’s “top 25 free agent tracker” post that Kurt is updating daily (sometimes multiple times, daily).  In it, you’ll see that despite there not being a lot of movement at the top with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh still all undecided, we’ve already seen a fair amount of deals agreed to.  Pierce, Dirk, Amar’e, Rudy Gay, and Joe Johnson all look to have agreed to terms with teams (with Amar’e being the only guy that left his old team to join a new one – the Knicks).  Salmons, has also agreed to terms and a few other players are close to getting a new deal signed.

*One piece of interesting free agent news is Shaq potentially getting a contract offer from the Hawks.  I’m neither for or against this move for either side.  At this point in his career, Shaq is who he is and will help with an offensive post presence and can still defend stationary players and rebound reasonably well.  He’ll hurt his team in other ways, but at least he’s a known commodity and a team could do worse than signing the deisel as a back up Center (or starter that plays limited minutes).  But, I’m more interested in this deal because this would completely cement Shaq as one of the NBA’s best players that also happened to be a vagabond.  The Hawks would be Shaq’s 6th team.  That’s a lot of unis for one of the league’s “best ever” to have worn (and Shaq is one of the game’s best ever).  No one will ever be able to take away what Shaq’s done in this league – the championships, the MVP awards (league and Finals), and the complete dominance his showed during his peak – but to have gotten around as much as he did, I don’t know how that will impact his legacy.  Maybe it won’t at all, but I think it’s a question that will get asked 15 years from now when looking back at Shaq’s career.

*And it wouldn’t be a free agent update without exploring what’s going on with the Lakers.  Derek Fisher is still unsigned and it looks like the parties are still a bit apart on getting a deal hammered out.  If you ask Fish (and Ramona Shelburne did- h/t to Land O’ Lakers) he’d say that there aren’t any players on the market that can provide the Lakers with what he does.  And, to a certain extent, I agree with that as Fisher is a leader in a locker room of some out-sized personalities and his experience and stature with the team are irreplaceable.  That said, putting a price tag on that value will be tricky and it’s situations like these why I try not to knock general managers too often.  They’ve got a tough gig and I don’t envy them.  Anyone can play armchair GM and assemble a roster on paper that’s a world beater, but there are players like Fisher that transcend stats and provide so much to team besides on court production.  Deciding what that’s actually worth is something that I’m glad I don’t have to do this summer.

*Lastly, I’m still planning on doing a mailbag for Forum Blue and Gold.  All you have to do is send me some questions and I’ll pick and choose some to get answered in a post for the site.  I’m happy to touch on any Lakers topics or even other questions from around the league if that’s your cup of tea.  All you have to do is email me and in the subject line write “mailbag question”.  I’ll try to do this at least once a month (or more depending on the volume of questions), so drop me a line and we’ll go from there.

Final Notes from Vegas

Kurt —  July 18, 2009

KINGS - Bucks
As the Lamar Odom saga unfolds, here is one reminder — nobody tells a reporter something without a motive. For example, the Jim Hill exclusive that Lamar Odom called Dr. Buss (which I’m sure happened), who would benefit from that being leaked? Odom would: The Lakers said Buss was angry they got no response at all to their offer, the way to counter that with PR is to not only make the call but leak that you made the call. We have no idea what actually was said on that call, by the way. Read Stein’s ESPN piece and he is clearly getting info from the Odom camp (including an inflated savings number on state income tax). Read Turner at the LA Times or Teaford at the Daily News and they are clearly plugged into the Lakers front office.

As I said before, in the end the Lakers and Odom need each other to get any kind of deal done that makes everyone happy (I still just don’t think he settles for a full MLE offer, and the Lakers don’t want him to go for nothing). They will be talking again because, at the end of the day, they have no choice.

• Rumor here in Vegas is the Lakers are going to offer Chinemelu Elonu and Tony Gaffney invites to training camp. Neither really has any chance to make the roster, but a camp invite is a good way to get noticed. I would love for the Lakers to find a way to keep Gaffney in their system; he has a world of potential athletically and has a great work ethic. He was slowed here in Vegas due to injury, but showed some flashes in the Lakers last game and people in the know are high on him. He’s the kind of guy who starts the season as the 14th man and by the end is getting regular minutes. He is going to be a fan favorite somewhere next year.

• Tyreke Evans could develop into a good NBA PG. He is long and quick for the position, and that could make him a good NBA defender. Something he showed flashes of here — he has caused problems for guys with his length changing shots and deflecting passes. He has a good first step on offense. The first few games it was if he forgot how to pass — at one point at the end of a close game he came down the court five straight possessions and never gave the ball up — but by Friday he was doing a better setting up teammates especially on penetration. Still some things to work on, like finishing among the NBA trees, but that should come.

Craftsteak at the MGM is amazing.

• The two bigs the Kings drafted, Casspi and Brockman, could turn out to be decent bench minute guys. Casspi really battles, particularly on the offensive boards. Needs some bulk but the fire is there and he has a nice outside shot.

• Jordan Hill, the Arizona product taken by the Knicks (after Curry was taken, crushing the hopes of Knicks fans) may be a good NBA power forward, or may be a bust, but we won’t know for a while. He doesn’t operate well in a crowd, but showed flashes in space. He needs to develop a jumper and a consistent passion for rebounding. Simply put, it will be two years before we really know if that was a good pick of not. That shouldn’t be a problem though, the fans in New York are renowned for their patience.

Game 5 - Magic vs. Lakers
Here’s what I think is the ultimate truth about the Lakers/Odom negotiations: They still need each other.

Unless Odom wants to walk away for the MLE — and he doesn’t, he already turned up his nose at more money than that from the Lakers — Odom and the Lakers have to agree on whatever deal gets done.

Here are the most-likely outcomes: 1) Odom signs some kind of deal with the Lakers; 2) Odom’s agent sets up a sign-and-trade with Miami (it will not be Dallas, the Lakers will not send Odom to a potential title contender in the West). Either of those options involves the Lakers signing off on the deal. So, to borrow Tom Ziller’s line, this is really more or less that the Lakers and Odom have hit the pause button on negotiations. They are going to have to talk again. Right now it sounds as if Buss and others are almost letting this get personal, a cooling off period could be good.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking the Lakers are better off without Odom — the best proof is that last season he led the Lakers in +/-, the Lakers outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 48 minutes when he was on the floor. Second was Kobe at 12.1. The simple truth is that good things happened for the Lakers when he was on the floor. He came up big in the playoffs. His versatility cannot easily be replaced. There are some intriguing pieces on the Heat roster (Chalmers, for one) but any move the Lakers make here is not going to make a title more likely.

Can the Lakers win a title without Odom? Yes, but the margin of error is now non-existent. Bynum has to be healthy and playing at his peak. Artest has to fit in swimmingly. Bench guys like Sasha and Jordan cannot struggle for long stretches. Everything has to go right. And that’s a lot to ask.

• By the way, people keep talking about the state tax issue in Texas and Florida. That is not as big a deal as you think — the players are taxed per game at the rates in the states they play. Meaning, when the Heat come and play the Lakers, Wade et al get taxed at California rates. When the Lakers go to Dallas, they get taxed at Texas rates. Basically, to play in a state with no income tax impacts only 50% of your checks, and while there are some savings it’s not as dramatic as some lead to believe.

• Watched two Lakers Summer League games now and here’s what I’ve learned about Adam Morrison: His knee is healthy. Everything else that he has shown we already knew.

When he is given space, his shot is still pure. Part of the challenge for Morrison in Summer League is that while his role should be spot-up shooter, he is the guy expected to create offense in Vegas. He is crowded by defenders and is having to create off the dribble, which he cannot do at the NBA (or even Summer League) level. When he is just asked to shoot — Tuesday there was one inbounds play where he comes off two screens and gets a baseline 18-foot catch-and-shoot — he looks good. But when asked here to show off more dimensions to his game he struggles.

The question going forward a simple one: Come training camp can he prove he can play to his strengths 10 minutes a night? When out with the second unit and Odom/Artest/Gasol draws the double and kicks out, does he understand his role well enough to get to the open space then can he drain the open shot. Two years ago Sasha played that role well, and if he gets his shot back it could be hard for Morrison to get the minutes (Sasha is the better defender). But that is all that Morrison is going to be — a 10-minute-a-night gunner. Don’t think the scoring totals from Vegas means anything more.

• James Harden is smooth. Strong first step and made some nice plays coming off the high pick, can finish in traffic, has the great J. On several occasions he was the outlet and led the fast break. Pretty much loved everything he did, and he is going to be a great fit next to Westbrook. I think I underestimated him at Arizona State but as Ty from lakers.com pointed out, in college he was constantly tripled teamed because, well, who else did you fear on that squad?

• Toney Douglas, the Florida State guard the Lakers drafted in the first round then traded to the Knicks, impressed. He was confident and making smart decisions with the ball, had some nice drive and kicks, just ran the offense like a pro (although much slower than D’Antonio must have wanted, it was basically an “at least 7 seconds” system). He had a rough game shooting (2-11) but nobody thought that was the trend. He’s not super athletic, he’s not going to be the next Chris Paul, but he will be a serviceable, smart backup PG for years in the league.

• Another guy in that same mold is Ty Lawson, who will be backing up Billups in Denver this year. Smart choices, especially in transition. Real floor general.

• Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin make a deadly pick-and-roll combo. Often bigs coming out of college are not very good at setting picks, but Griffin is a wall. Gordon hugs tighter off the pick than most guards than explodes, and is great at keeping his defender on his hip. Blake rolls hard to the basket and has great hands. They are going to score a lot of points with that next season.

• Tweet of the day from David Thorpe (and expressed what I thought exactly): I’m not sure what Hasheem means in his native language, but I’d guess it’s not “plays with fire”.

• Maybe the two best dunks I’ve seen here came from Anthony Randolph in one game (a game where he scored 42 to tie the Vegas Summer League record). First he got the ball on the wing (left alone) and made a big one dribble-move, the help defender rotated over late and Randolph pushed him out of the way with a Dwight Howard like move and threw down the tomahawk. Later in the same game Stephen Curry is leading the break and does the off-the-backboard pass to a trailing Randolph. The guy can finish.

• By the way, the other two guys to score 42 in a Summer League game? Von Wafer and Marcus Banks. That should tell you all you need to know about the level of play in Vegas.

Notes from the Summer League

Kurt —  July 13, 2009

NBA: FEB 17 Hawks at Lakers
First, regarding the news on Odom that Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers are more pessimistic about a deal. If I were the Lakers and I went to Odom and upped my offer to $8.5 mil (the number I heard here at Summer League) and he took his sweet time making a decision, I would be a little disappointed. And I might well try a little negotiating through the media to get my point across. Simply put, Odom is not getting a better offer anywhere at this point, so if he wants to wait out the Portland/Utah thing, go ahead. I think the Lakers are done negotiating.

———————–

I spent the Lakers game sitting between David Thorpe and Mike Moreau (both of IMG and ESPN) so anything that follows and sounds vaguely smart, assume it came from them:

• The bottom line with Adam Morrison, I’m not sure he becomes the regular rotation guy some hoped.

When he just spots up and shoots from three, Morrison is deadeye. He has a very pretty little stepback shot from the baseline 10-feet out, and made that move other spots. When he plays within that role, doing those things, he was good.

When he put the ball on the floor though, it was an adventure. And he likes to drive. His decision making was spotty — he had Eric Gordon on him but consistently tried to go off the dribble and try to finish in the paint rather then use the step back to shoot over him and use his height. Morrison does not finish well off the drive. If he put on some weight, I could see him posting up some smaller threes then using the step back to shoot over them. But he is thin and could not move (the strong) Eric Gordon around.

The question is can Morrison mentally adjust and do the things he needs to at the NBA level? Can he spend a quarter and a half on the bench then come out and drain two threes in 45 seconds? Can he be a guy who can exploit specific matchups and just accept the minutes when he gets them? If he can, he will be fine as a10-minutes a night, off the bench gunner. I’m not sure he’s going to be much more than that. I’ll see him again tomorrow, maybe I will feel differently.

• The Clippers were a tough test — at one point they had a lineup of Eric Gordon and Mike Taylor in the back court, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan with just one guy you don’t know (Nik Caner-Medley, who has been playing in the Summer League since it was in Long Beach). That is a lineup they can basically run out comfortably in the season.

• Blake Griffin is the real deal. Amazingly strong and balanced in the post and in the air. He finishes strong at the rim. He drained a three and clearly has been working on his shot since the last public workout. He got a rebound, dribbled it coast-to-coast and finished with a spin move. He finished with 27 and 12 (although against suspect competition). I’d say there was no way they could screw this up if it were any other franchise.

• Chinemelu Elonu is not going to be playing for the Lakers.

• For those of you who were high on Rodrigue Beaubois — You were right. Much better in person than expected. Absolutely lighting quick off the dribble, can shoot the three, and most impressively made really smart decisions. Not just me saying that, I was standing next to a front office guy (not Lakers) who was saying “We didn’t know he could shoot like that.”

• The other underafted (he went 56th) guy on the Mavs roster I liked was Ahmad Nivins, who had a great season at St. Joseph’s but still flew under the radar. Great hops and energy, I could see him as a bench energy four in the Ronny Turiaf mold, but with less strength and better handles.

Summer League Stats, Thoughts

Kurt —  July 20, 2008

When you look at the Lakers roster heading into next season, it is very possible that two guys from this Summer League team could end up on the Lakers this fall (depending on free agent moves, of course, but bringing back Sasha, Karl and one free agent big puts the roster at 13, leaving room for one more we saw this summer).

So how did guys do on the score sheet this summer? As is tradition here, I give you some of the advanced stats for the key Lakers guys this summer.

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate Ast. 40 Pts. P40 PPG
Karl 43.6% 37.9% 53.2% 5.5 % 2.2 18.8 13.8
Crawford 49.1% 45.5% 52.5% 6.2% 2.3 20 11.3
Caner-Medley 45.3% 25% 54.5% 15.2% 1.8 20.2 8.8
Ford 47.1% NA 50% 11.5% 0.8 16.6 8.4
Mata-Real 52.9% NA 48.5% 18.3% 1.1 10.1 4.8

Here’s a little guide to those stats for those that are new here:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
Ast. P40: Assists dished per 40 minutes of playing time.
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.
PPG: Points per game

You can only take away so much of what you learn from summer league games, it exists in a weird world about halfway between top college ball and the NBA. It’s a place you can sort players out and gain insights, not much more. Because a guy looks good in summer league doesn’t mean he will look that good the half-step up to the NBA level, but it means he has a chance. If a guy bombs out here…..

So, a few final thoughts on these guys.

Coby Karl shot lights out last summer league, but this time around he was the focus of the offense and that always means a shooting percentage drop. The shooting levels may be pedestrian, but the higher true shooting percentage shows he was getting to the line, which is a nice new wrinkle from his game. Also, he played good defense, something we had not seen a lot out of him. His game has progressed a lot in the last year, and it makes you wonder how far it can continue to grow. I think he’s proving he can play in the NBA as a solid bench guy with a little more development.

Joe Crawford played better and better as the Summer League went on. He shot about two from beyond the arc a game, and hit those at a nice rate. He can get into the lane. His decision making and defense need work, but the Lakers might keep him on the roster to see how he develops. Simply put, in two years the Lakers have some decisions to make at PG — if, as we hope, Farmar can step up and grab the starting job the Lakers will be looking for a solid (and affordable) backup to him. Crawford may be able to develop into that guy, and keeping him around and on the D-Fenders may give you a chance to make that happen.

Nik Caner-Medley was the guy fans fell in love with because he just wanted it, out worked the other guys on the floor and showed a few skills. His offensive game needs polish, but he put up 19 against Minnesota. Another guy I’d like to see how he develops in a year of playing professionally (here or maybe overseas, although his outside shooting appears to need work to play effectively in Europe). If the Lakers could get him on the D-Fenders for a year he might be a guy who can be an effective bench player in a couple years.

Sharrod Ford and Lorenzo Mata-Real round out the list. They are examples of guys who are going to get paid to play and likely will have nice careers in Europe (Ford is already doing that), but are just not quite NBA guys. There is no shame in that — getting paid to play basketball in Spain or Italy sounds pretty damn good to some of us.

Guys like Ford and Mata-Real are what make up most of the Sumer League rosters, and frankly what makes the league so much fun every year. These are good players looking for a chance. All the attention goes to the stars — Kevin Love answered some questions about his athleticism and if he can play pro ball; Mayo showed the tantalizing talent of major stardom in flashes but has a lot to learn; Jarryd Bayless may be very good, as if Portland needed more young talent — but that is just a few. It’s the “average” guy trying to prove himself that makes the Summer League. I guess for us basketball junkies, its back to the world of speculation and free agency. Well, at least for a couple weeks until the Olympics start.