NBA Summer League in Las Vegas: Day 10 Recap
Almost a month before their Summer League experiences ended on the same day, PJ Hairston heard his name called at No. 25 in the 2014 NBA Draft -- 10 spots higher than Glen Rice Jr. was selected in 2013. That made Hairston the new standard for troubled college players taking the alternative route through the NBA D-League, but Rice Jr. will always be the one that paved the way.
It was Hairston who approached Rice Jr. when his Texas Legends faced the Iowa Energy in March, with Rice Jr. on assignment during an uneventful rookie season.
"I'm trying to be just like you," Hairston said he told him, recalling their conversation at the 2014 Draft Combine. "He just said, 'It works. ... You get everyone to believe in you again.'"
In many ways, both players -- both still under 24 years old -- are still trying to convince people around the NBA. Rice Jr.'s sizzling Summer League, for which he earned MVP honors, will go a long way; Hairston is still a year behind on the learning curve.
The end of a pivotal experience for both of them headlined the semifinal round on Day 10 in Las Vegas. Here's what else went down for the NBA D-League:
Motiejunas has quietly looked like the most game-ready player in Vegas, easily handling younger competition as a third-year pro should. Most importantly, he's rounded into form as a scorer inside and is rebounding like a 7-footer -- this was his third straight double-double. Combine that with his shooting touch and the Rockets appear to have a reliable young rotation player.
Canaan didn't bring his A-game to the semifinals, but that made his leadership in Houston's win all the more impressive. After struggling to get going, the 6-1 guard drilled two threes down the stretch to push the Rockets ahead. Then he won the game with a defensive stand on the final possessions -- something he may not have been able to do as a rookie last season.
It'd be easy to chalk Hairston's 27-point outing as a result of pure volume scoring; he took plenty of questionable shots during Summer League, as he and coach Patrick Ewing both admitted. But in the semifinals, it was more a case of Hairston showing an alpha dog mentality as Charlotte's go-to guy. The post game he flashed in Vegas could be a major building block in his development.
After more basketball games than we can count (actually 66), today's top video comes off the court. Watch Vipers/Rockets teammates Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington, friends since their days playing in the Ohio Valley Conference, play NBADLeague.com's version of the Newlywed Game:
#Wizards got STEAL in last years draft with Glen Rice Jr. His game is years beyond his age.— Kim English (@Englishscope24) July 21, 2014
Happy for these guys ... We started like separated players and now we look like a team ! I'm having fun to play with them .— Donatas Motiejunas (@DonatasMot) July 20, 2014