The Vegas NBA Summer League got off to an electric start in its first weekend with top 3 picks Lonzo Ball and Jason Tatum facing off. The result was the first advance sellout of about 18,000 in the history of the Vegas Summer League, the majority of fans there to see the start of Lonzo Ball’s MVP summer league performance.
While Lonzo may have stolen the show over the 11-day event, a number of Canadians suited up for various teams with far less hype and the common goal of parlaying a good showing into a training camp invite. The one exception to that group was Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies 2nd round pick. Frequently referred to as a “tweener” during his college years, his athleticism stood out in Vegas and was rewarded with a three-year rookie contract. Brooks’ defence though is one area that will need to be improved in order to receive meaningful minutes in the NBA. The opportunistic Brooks averaged 1.5 steals per game in addition to his 12.2 points in Vegas, but on at least a couple of occasions he gambled for steals late in close games where the unsuccessful attempts resulted in open shots.
The surprise among the group was Naz Mitrou-Long. Seemingly buried behind lottery pick De’Aaron Fox and last year’s winner of the NCAA’s most outstanding player award, Frank Mason, Mitrou-Long caught a break with Mason getting hurt and Fox resting. Although he was rarely the primary ball handler in his college days, Naz didn’t look out of place
and seemed to improve with each opportunity.
Although his team was knocked out of the tournament by a Dallas team featuring tested NBA talent and lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr, Naz held his own with the likes of Yogi Ferrell and Nicolas Brussino who shot a combined 0-14. Over his 4 games, he averaged a respectable 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2 assists. At the very least, the undrafted guard went from off the radar among NBA candidates to one who will at least get further chances if not at a training camp this fall.
Kevin Pangos was back for a third chance in summer league. He has shown great progress since his first chance in 2015 left even his dad, former York Lions women’s basketball coach Bill Pangos, disappointed with his play. Pangos came out of the gate very strong, in contests that went down to the end with Memphis and Miami. Against the Grizzlies, Kevin tied thegame with 19 seconds left in a well-rounded performance that included 8 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds and largely outshined Memphis’ NBA-experienced point guard Wade Baldwin. Although his numbers weren’t as impressive against the Heat, he was again a key figure down the stretch with 3 rebounds in the last 3+ minutes. His seven turnovers in
the game can be in part credited though to the lack of familiarity within the team.
While Mitrou-Long had the benefit of playing with the Kings young frontcourt of Labissiere and Papagiannis that received rather significant minutes late last season, Pangos played with a roster largely of journeymen and fringe prospects yet to crack an NBA rotation. After his solid performance, Pangos received praise from Washington’s senior VP of basketball ops Tommy Sheppard who said that he “expects him to be in the NBA, if not next season, soon”.
Other Canadians to suit up in the Vegas summer league included Spurs property Olivier Hanlan, Mychael Mulder for the Raptors, Kyle Wiltjer for the Clippers (acquired in the Chris Paul deal), Dylan Ennis and Brady Heslip.
Ennis had the “heat check” game of the tournament, connecting on 8-of-11 3-pointers (which was a Vegas league record) among his 35 points against the Clippers. His 20 points in the second quarter was one short of his entire output for the five games prior with the Warriors.
Wiltjer on the other hand received rather limited minutes throughout and was waived soon after. Mulder looked very tentative in his (very) limited minutes. Hanlan was solid in Pangos-like fashion and still has his rights held by the Spurs. Heslip had little opportunity to show that he’s more than a 3-point shooter with the Bulls summer league team.
All in all, while this group likely has no future NBA stars among them it is yet more proof that Canada has an abundance of depth for future international tournaments, especially at the guard position unlike in past years. The experience these players continue to gain at events like this will only help their case when they are considered for spots with the Canadian national team.
Checkmate. D’Angelo Russell Eliminates The King’s Lakers
“I’m glad it’s you”, Hollywood icon Paul Newman told acting legend Tom Hanks in San Mendes’ gangster epic ‘Road To Perdition’ before Tom, Tommy Gun shot him down in the rain.
And here in Hollywood as Laker fans who are just glad it’s over, we’re glad it was by his hand. We’re glad it was D-Lo who delivered the final blow.
If you didn’t know that with the ‘Luke Cage’ like Notorious B.I.G. red portrait, new SLAM magazine classic cover with the crown that in Brooklyn, D’Angelo Russell was the new King of New York, now you know. And last night his crown with a gauntlet gem of infinity stones took the L.A. King, checkmate, endgame. Showing this games chess not checkers.
You passed your ‘Training Day’ kid.
You want to talk about karma Lake Show? Because this is more than a lesson learned, this is a fitting end to this courts chapter wrote by the Basketball Gods under the heading line, “what goes around, comes around”!
Revenge is a dime dish best served ice in his veins cold.
And now you’re season is done as the jello is jiggling in the refrigerator Chick.
But as D’Angelo had 21 points to go along with 13 double/double dishes as he set the table for what we thought would be his West logo 44 career-high smash, everyone ate as the Nets had a balanced diet and attack of the twine as they coasted the Lake Show 111-106 in a close game, albeit one that always looked like theirs. Another former Laker in big man Ed Davis got his with 14 and 15. Whilst sparky Spencer Dinwiddie got 19 and 3, DeMarregards Carroll 15 and 6 and big Jarrett Allen 13 and 11 as all the Nets went harder than his ‘fro. But the high man was Joey Buckets with 26 points. Including 6 for 8 from downtown New York as for some reason L.A. thought leaving Joe Harris-this year’s three point shootout winner at the All Star in Charlotte-as open as stores on the Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 shift wasn’t going to leave them crying like ‘Jolene’.
But now the Nets have taken their man it’s nothing but tears. With all due respect to George Gervin, D’Angelo Russell is the next generation iceman. As finger to lips he silenced STAPLES. The most passionately driven guard since Iverson. And he just stepped over the Lakers again, eliminating from the playoffs as Luke Walton watched his job go to Lue from the sidelines. Magic said this kid couldn’t lead as he gave the Ball to Lonzo. But now everyone is getting played by this big baller, as this number one leads his cutting Nets to the playoffs as an All-Star and Team LeBron end up being all for show. As number 23 will not be raised to the brackets for the first time since 2005. Let alone the finals for the last decade gone.
With all the jumbotron tributes from teams to past players right now (Isaiah *cough* Thomas, LeBron), the Lakers should play one of D’Angelo’s ice clutch shot the day after his grandmother’s death that won the game for the Lakers (unlike the castles bricks here tonight) as he fell into his family’s arms uptop the stands. And just end it with one word that says more than thank you…
I feel like Brad Pitt’s war wounded character with my ‘Fury’ for the team I love here. But like he says, “I’m trying to teach you something”. LeBron and the Lakers needed this. A season that started in bloom in the sunshine of California has turned to the Autumn leaves that have fallen to a crisp. Injuries were the problem, but then the reason came with the added insult of the Davis drama. And now this reality show is in disarray and it all came from Magic, not LaVar Ball. Imagine seeing that one in a crystal ball last Summer. The Zubac, Bryant (Thomas), Nance Jr, Clarkson, Russell and Randle-less Lakers need to learn from this and realize their formidable future of Lonzo, Kuz, Hart, Brandon Ingram (who is still two years younger than Lo) and maybe even Moe is not worth one man. Whether that’s Anthony or LeBron. Even a team-less Carmelo was out off joining this assembly line that has meme-d its way through good guys like Mike Beasley. This team could still be something (I mean this season like last nights City Edition threads has been ugly but somehow still appealing), ‘Stranger Things’ have happened, but right now it’s in the upside down with no sign of Winona Ryder’s Christmas lights. Not even a decoration for a declaration.
Kobe in a ‘Get Up’ interview for ESPN promoting his new ‘Wizenard’ book series said that this game was about more than stats and about feeling, energy. For decades they’ve said this game is like jazz. And just like that form of music, the notes are all there, but it’s what you do with improvising them that counts. And the only number and note from the Lake Show you need to know last night (apart from our energy high guy of the season McGee’s Kareem like 33 with the hook. A career best along with one in rebounds with 20 off the shot rim and glass) is that with his 8th turnover the King toppled to the ground as his crown slipped on a crucial possession. It’s kind of symbolic of how his Hollywood season has aged and played out. But one of the best players in the league, if not the best will be back on his throne in the hills and he’ll have plenty more Kawhi or Kyrie knights with him and these young princes.
But last night the one that hey exiled showed he could make a king bleed from the borough to the big city. D Loading just needed President Johnson to please wait. But with his own Magic cast last night, Russell showed he was fully charged now and ready to go like the Lakers never should have told him to. Because the only place in this postseason they’re going now is home.
Ice. In. His. Postseason.
Green & Gold. I.T. Was A Special Moment With Isaiah Thomas Back In Boston
Bill Russell, Larry Bird.
Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce.
Rajon Rondo. Kevin Garnett. Say what you will but Ray Allen too from three.
Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum. IF they can get it together and turn what looks good on paper into what’s engraved wrote read in history books for the most storied franchise in NBA history.
Boston Celtic legends. The pride of New England.
From the last cigar to the golden era, Isaiah Thomas belongs there like his spelt differently namesake Detroit Piston being a Bad Boy to all that Magic and Bird in the Showtime of the 80’s.
And last night in the Garden perfect parquet court was held for the return of the fourth quarter king. Since Beantown, the microwave juggernaut, spark plug off the bench has bounced around the league like drinking too much coffee. From LeBron’s Cavalier land to the Los Angeles Lakers. Always providing that brief spark off the pine of what could be and what he had here, despite being Nygma green riddled by injury and franchise business disloyalty. But last night decked out in green and gold like Lianne La Havas, special edition Kobe’s for the night that even a Laker would love (forget that never wear green meme), as he took to the floor none of that mattered.
Sat back on the scorers table as cool as Celtic green cucumber in his warm-ups, I.T. took in a fitting tribute on the jumbotron for a team that knows too that they shouldn’t have traded him (he postgame not so quipped that if they never dealt him they could be dealing with another championship in those league leading rafters right now where surely his number 4 jersey held up by fans behind him will one day reside in pride of place). Beaming with that same Celtic pride through all the pain, you’ve never seen the slow grind smile like his since he was putting in work here in Massachusetts. The big screen video took us through his fourth quarter heroics, big shots and the moment he’s overcame it all to play in the wake of his sister’s tragic death and lead his team to epic, emotional glory.
And once the ovation stood up for a call game, more than a minute of time and moment of Paul Pierce like truth tribute, there wasn’t a butt on a bleacher or dry eye in the house.
Especially Isaiah, who couldn’t contain his pride and joy. Wiping away tears and wordlessly mouthing thank yous to everyone in attendance who clapped until their hands were red and cheered until hoarse. Celtic fans are real NBA fans who recognize that green collar hard work and know a Boston boy when they see one, no matter the uniform.
Thomas on limited minutes as the golden Nuggets make that postseason push to conference contention behind the state of those dynasty reigning Warriors, only sealed seven minutes in the actual game and he didn’t make a basket for more Boston bravado cheers. But that didn’t matter in this instance. Neither did the W his new team took away on the road with a 114-105 pruning in the Garden, as the Joker and all the Mile-High basketball cards clinched a playoff berth outside Colorado.
What mattered was this beautiful reunion between team and one of its favourite players. Sure this current Celtics outfitted for the banners and Hall looks so much better on dry erase like their storied LeBron Laker rivals with the King in throne tow. But look at the Magic of Hollywood right now. With a guy like Isaiah, Boston basketball was that little bit more inspired with the iconic little man. There was a little more hoop dream hope there too. And for both city and son it hasn’t been as sweet the same since.
Like I.T. says with the last word from last night.
“This feels like home”.
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