• Mardy Collins
  • Marcus Cousin
  • Chris Daniels
  • Marcus Dove
  • Andre Emmett
  • Kenny Hayes
  • Chris Johnson
  • Leo Lyons
  • Renaldo Major
  • Juan Pattillo
  • Jerry Smith
  • Jeremy Wise

For Musselman and Emmett, A Calculated Risk Pays Off

At a time when he was supposed to be showing off for scouts, NBA D-League Select Team star Andre Emmett was sitting on the bench. A day later, he came out Friday with his best showing yet.

By Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A full day of stifled rage ended in a sigh.

“Oh man – yesterday,” said Andre Emmett, looking nowhere in particular. “Yesterday was a tough day.”

Emmett had just finished off an 18-point, 10-rebound night against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, pacing the NBA D-League Select Team to its second win at the 2012 NBA Summer League, when he stopped to remember just how different things had been just 24 hours before.

On Thursday night, Emmett – certainly the most accomplished scorer on the NBA D-League Select Team, arguably one of the most effective in all of Las Vegas and almost definitely the Select Team’s No. 1 NBA Prospect heading into Vegas – sat and watched the entire second half of the game from the bench as the Milwaukee Bucks rolled over his teammates. He hadn’t been rebounding. At all. A player who’d grabbed 5.5 boards a game in the NBA D-League this year got four in Summer League Game 1, then none in Game 2. And despite the urgings of coach Eric Musselman in Game 3, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound guard was just fine, thank you, hanging on the perimeter.

So Musselman took him out midway through the second quarter and put him on the bench. For the rest of the game. To think. To simmer. It was a gamble, but the message was clear: if you don’t rebound, you might as well sit down anyway because the NBA teams aren’t gonna have any use for you, either.

"Coach said he really wanted to get 'Dre in there but if he wasn't rebounding he wasn't going to be able to find minutes for him,” said guard Jerry Smith.

“We have trust in all of our players, and we felt he wasn’t rebounding the ball for two games,” Musselman said. “But he bounced back tonight and he was phenomenal.”

The move came, like lots of things in this town, with risk.

For the Select Team, Summer League – especially this one, after the lockout canceled last year’s version – provides a spectacularly rare chance for a few of the league’s best players to prove they can (or can’t) run with NBA players. Outsiders taking on insiders. Lifers against Lottery picks.

So for Emmett to sit, impacting the second half as much as the two guys next to him sitting out because of injuries, meant depriving him of the chance to be seen by the scouts in attendance.

But Musselman’s hope was that, ultimately, it meant saving Emmett from having the scouts see that version of him.

“We expect him to be a rebounder,” Musselman said. “We expect him to pass the ball. He’s got the ability to see the floor, he’s got the ability to rebound, and the two wins we’ve had, Andre’s had two big games – and that’s not by accident.

“I’ve coached him before,” Musselman said. “So I knew he’d come out and play [Friday]. That wasn’t even a thought. He can be mad or whatever, but I knew he was gonna come out and produce and we needed him to.”

Musselman was right. About both parts.

Emmett wasn’t happy about sitting. With his 30th birthday just a month away, the skills and explosiveness that made him the all-time leading scorer in Texas Tech history are still there, but they’re starting to accrue vacation days.

So, for him especially, every minute at Summer League matters. And on Thursday night, he spent most of them all seething.

“That’s what it’ll do any time you’re on the bench,” said forward Marcus Dove.

“I’m gonna tell you the truth: my teammates helped me a lot,” Emmett said. “They were there to take my mind off it. … [NBA D-League VP of Player Personnel] Chris Alpert was great for me. He helped me calm down, and I took what he told me and I just stayed positive.”

So instead of lashing out and shutting down, Emmett buttoned up. He vowed that he’d keep the anger under – at least until he had somebody productive to take it out on, like, say Suns guard Matt Gatens.

“I knew I had to come in and, this morning starting with shoot-around, have a positive attitude and make sure I didn’t let the other guys see what I was feeling,” he said. “I tried to be a leader, and tried to keep the guys’ spirits up.”

So he pasted on a smile at shoot-around. Cheered on his teammates as they bounded out to a 19-10 lead over Phoenix without any help from him.

Then checked in and proceeded to spend the better part of 25 minutes eviscerating the Suns.

He started slow, but he started smart. Stifled rage, remember. Realizing that Emmett signified the Select Team’s biggest threat, the Suns started rolling extra defenders his way, and Emmett answered with skip-passes to his teammates across the court.

He made his first bucket with 6:08 left in the first half – a three in the corner off a skip pass of his own from Leo Lyons. Six more points came over the next six minutes, as his scoring instincts, the part of Emmett’s game most ready for the NBA, took over.

He stuck a jumper right in 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall’s face. He got a rebound, coasted down the court, stutter-stepped and blew past the Suns’ defense. He drove to the hoop for the harm. And by the end of the first half, he had nine points and five boards and put up the exact same line in the second half, including some fourth-quarter daggers to keep the game out of reach.

“He’s important because he can score the ball and create,” Musselman said. “Anytime a player can create his own shot when the offense breaks down – that’s what Andre does – he makes the game easier for his teammates.”

And easier – of course – on his coach, too.

“I was just playing basketball,” Emmett said. “Doing what I do -- making shots, playing D and showing also that I can create for my team. Just making basketball plays. And if you let that happen everybody looks good.”