I'm Leaving Las Vegas/Lights so bright/Palm sweat, blackjack/On a Saturday night. From Ilyas Kurbanov:
The Las Vegas Summer League has brought a lot of surprises to everyone around the NBA with players like Donovan Mitchell, Caleb Swanigan (who averages a double-double), undrafted Dylan Ennis (who just put on a show with 35 points and 8-for-11 shooting on 3s), Jordan Bell (who might be the best defensive player of the Summer League).
And, obviously, there are players like Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and players with more experience like Perry Ellis, Bryn Forbes, Marcus Paige, etc. The list of players could continue, so what does the Summer League mean to these young players and how important is it to their development as professional athletes, as well as individuals?
Good question, Ilyas. Let’s ask one: 28-year-old Jorge Gutierrez, on the Blazers’ Summer League roster.
Gutierrez has played 47 NBA games over three seasons, the last in 2015-16 for Charlotte, but spent last season playing in Turkey. He got an invite to play for Portland, a team that has a potential roster spot available for a third point guard behind Damian Lillard and Shabazz Napier.
“We as a team are playing really good,” Gutierrez said Saturday. “We were a 16 seed (in the tournament) and we’re in the Final Four. We haven’t really had that talk yet (about the future); we’re just focusing on the games ... I think I’ve played well. Winning is winning. When you win, everything is good.”
He played for Trabzonspur in northeast Turkey, in the Turkish Super League, the country’s highest league. The competition and play is pretty good there, but Trabzon is a soccer-oriented town.
“It’s a different culture,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a lot more pressure off the court. I don’t want to talk bad about other countries, but it’s always money problems, where you don’t get paid on time, or you just don’t get paid. That puts a lot of pressure on everybody. It was difficult, something I never experienced in my life. It was different. It was difficult. But it was a good experience. Every experience is a good experience.”
The Blazers wanted a veteran guard to work their younger players in Summer League, and Gutierrez says he’s happy to do it. “I like playing basketball,” he said. “It don’t matter. It don’t matter if it’s Summer League. I like playing basketball. So I’m happy to be here…winning helps. I can prove that I can manage the team, being a leader out there on the floor. I don’t think I’m a stats guy. I’m not filling out the stats like other guys. It’s a lot of talent out there. But I think I can do a lot of little things that can help win. And that’s what I do. I think I win.”
Even in the three-point happy NBA, where guards are valued first and foremost by their ability to shoot and facilitate, there’s a role for defense-first guys like Gutierrez, the 2012 Pac 12 Player of the Year who was fifth in the country in steals his junior season at California. Patrick Beverley bounced around in the Ukraine, Greece and Russia before finding a home in Houston -- and, now, with the LA Clippers.
“He’s a defensive-minded type of guy,” Gutierrez said of Beverley. “I think I can fit that role. Every team needs one of those, that likes to do the dirty job. I’m okay with that.”
Right Guard(s)? From Mehmet Cem Erden:
With Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter, Garrett Temple at the 2, how will minutes be allocated? P.S. Bogdanovic is a much better player than Hield :)
Pretty sure the Kings are committed to Hield getting the bulk of the minutes there to start the season, with newly signed Bogdan Bogdanovic playing behind him. Temple will likely handle the backup point guard role, which he’s done in other places throughout his career. Carter will be sprinkled in as needed; he’s not there to log a lot of playing time, but to be a sage for the young guys and make the occasional three.
Words matter. From Mark Veal:
Hey David ... the new Hawks GM says they are not tanking. So what exactly are they doing?
I am reminded of the episode of "M*A*S*H" when Frank Burns jumps into a tank to try and impress “Hot Lips” Houlihan, but quickly realizes he doesn’t know what he’s doing behind the wheel and wrecks the nurses’ showers. An angry Colonel Potter wants to punish Burns, but doctors Honeycutt and Pierce convince Potter that Burns actually jumped into an out-of-control tank and saved lives by beaching it.
In exchange, they want a favor from Burns.
“That’s blackmail!,” he says.
“Blackmail’s an ugly word,” Dr. Honeycutt says.
“We prefer extortion,” Dr. Pierce retorts.
So if Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk wants to call what the Hawks are doing not tanking, who am I to argue with his word choice? Tanking’s such an ugly word. Let’s say the Hawks are determined to acquire and obtain young players with upside that can grow together, as well as additional assets, without impacting their future financial flexibility. Everybody’s happy.
Tanking by any other name doesn’t smell so much.
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BY THE NUMBERS
4 -- Timeouts that will be eliminated after the league’s Board of Governors approved several rule changes last week at its annual meeting. Many of the changes are designed to help speed up the flow of games. The new rules will eliminate the now-mandatory timeouts after the first dead ball following the nine-minute mark in the second and fourth quarters, and will limit teams to seven total timeouts apiece from their current nine.
$25,200,000 -- Outlay (including potential non-guaranteed money late in the deals) Utah spent last week signing veterans Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh, who will try and help fill the void created by Gordon Hayward’s departure to the Celtics.
$10,616 -- Cost per year of a lower level seat in Milwaukee’s new arena as part of a multiple season package -- a seat which currently costs $7,327 at Bradley Center, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The paper noted one longtime season ticket holder whose lower bowl seats at Bradley Center will be converted to upper bowl seats in the new arena, yet will still cost $500 more in the new place.
I’M FEELIN’ ...
1) The Knicks, as the Kings did just a few months ago, made a quality hire in making Scott Perry their new general manager, working under newly named team president Steve Mills. You saw Perry’s impact on what became a very successful offseason in Sacramento; players that wouldn’t take meetings with the Kings or seriously consider them in the past did both this summer, as Sacramento complemented an excellent Draft with a productive free agent period, getting veterans George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter on very team-friendly deals. That the fortunes of a franchise as big as New York’s are now in the hands of two African-American men is noteworthy both for its rarity and its potential that it won’t be as rare in the future.
1A) My guess is that Mills and Perry won’t take too long once they are settled in proceeding with moving Carmelo Anthony toot sweet.
3) One of the best aspects of the Las Vegas Summer League is the enrichment/continuing education for so many that takes part during the 10-day tournament. The Players’ Association had two dozen former players in town getting up to date on the new CBA and other mechanics in order to be better candidates for future front office jobs. And I was fortunate to be part of the Sports Business Classroom, run by the great Larry Coon, for college students and recent grads looking to learn about the cap and analytics, player scouting or broadcasting.
4) Roger Federer, King of Tennis. Eight Wimbledon championships and 19 overall majors for the man who must now be the consensus pick for the greatest man to ever play the game.
4A) I was rooting for Venus Williams, at 37, to win her sixth Wimbledon title. But she was boatraced fair and square by Spain’s Garbine Muzuruga on Saturday, giving the 23-year-old her second major.
NOT FEELIN’ ...
1) Fair to ask whether the Spurs made a mistake by not paying up to keep Jonathon Simmons, who went to Orlando on Friday for a not-quite-mid-level average of just under $7 million per season on a three-year contract. In other words, hardly a budget-breaking deal, and one San Antonio could have matched or even slightly bettered without impacting long-term goals. I’d just say that the Spurs have a fairly strong, Pittsburgh Steelers-like track record of knowing exactly when to say goodbye to pretty good players who are seeking big paydays to remain.
2) Dion Waiters earned that $52 million contract from the Heat and got himself in the best shape of his career. But when Riles puts down the gantlet for next year so soon, you best be ready to get to the next level, fast.
3) Teams are well within their rights, obviously, to make whatever changes they like. But it’s never easy to see people like Ed Lacerte, the Celtics’ head athletic trainer for three decades, let go. (Boston’s conditioning coach, Bryan Doo, decided to leave of his own volition last week as well.) Lacerte was a team guy through and through and, like Doo, a good guy to boot. I hope both men can land on their feet.
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