Living Las Vegas: Vegas Summer League, Vol. VAlso see: Vegas: Volume I | Vegas: Volume II | Vegas: Volume III | Vegas: Volume IV
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
No, Iím not crying over my unsuccessful stint at the blackjack table the other day. Iím crying tears of prideful joy for my boy Randy Foye, who won VSL MVP honors with another smashing performance in another Timberwolves victory.
He picked apart the Hornets with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, and four steals, finishing the VSL with averages of 24.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals. He shot 53 percent from the floor, 38 percent from deep, and 87 percent from the line in five games in the desert.
The next time we see Randy heíll be driving to the hole at will in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Italian fans, the next time they'll see Andrea Bargnani, heíll be in the NBA Ė not the FIBA World Championships which begin next month in Japan.
According to ESPN.com, the demands of his new job, which include English lessons, will preclude him from competing with his countrymen. Per the report, there is no ill will on either side, as Bargnani expects to play for the Italian National Team in the future.
That report hit the web before Fridayís game, when Bargnani suffered a minor back injury that caused him to leave for good in the second quarter.
Bargnani suffered the injury on a block attempt of Clevelandís Brandon Hunter, whose brute strength probably proved too much for Bargnaniís body to handle. (I donít know if youíve seen Hunter, but heís built like a defensive end.)
Bargnani went to the locker room following the play and returned to the bench late in the first quarter. He then started the second quarter, missing a pair of free throws and another jumper before looking good on a block. We thought he was good-to-go at that point, but he made another trip to the locker room later in the quarter. Bargnani spent the second half watching from the bench, as his VSL concluded with three points in just eight minutes.
I spoke with Raptorsí assistant general manager Maurizio Gherardini after the game and he said that Bargnaniís second-half DNP was purely precautionary and that the injury was not serious.
Suffice to say, it was an up-and-down VSL for the first European-born player taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft, as Bargnani serpentined from 20 points in the opener to 10 points in game three to 21 & 11 in game four to an injury-marred nightmare in the finale.
Bottom line: Bargnani is a team player who is just as willing to pass as he is to shoot and heís got the feistiness necessary to rebound and block some shots in our league. There are several rookies who are more NBA-ready than Bargnani Ė like Roy and Foye Ė but the Italian superstar has more upside than anyone taken in the 2006 Draft.
Hunter and Sharrod Ford posted double-doubles for the Cavaliers in their 70-65 win over the Raptors.
Hunter, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds in the last three games. He was drafted 56th overall by the Celtics in the 2003 Draft, but his NBA career hasnít gone as planned. After stints with Boston, Charlotte, Orlando, and Milwaukee, Hunter split last season between Greece and Italy.
To be brutally honest, given his lack of height (generously listed as 6-7), Hunterís best career move is probably going back overseas because heís a blocked shot waiting to happen in the NBA. In Europe, short bangers are successful because they can move the taller and thinner foreign bigs out of the way. Sadly for Hunter, and players like him, most NBA bigs are tall, thick, and quick.
Ford, on the other hand, could put his 6-9, 225-pound frame to work in the NBA if all goes well. In posting 16 points and 10 rebounds against the Raptors, Ford left a good taste in the mouths of Clevelandís execs, who had to love his averages of 15.5 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in the last two games.
The Clemson product is an active rebounder and shot blocker who can put the ball on the floor and also hit the occasional jumper. After playing three games with the Suns a season ago, he spent a month in the D-League before closing the year with Alba Berlin. Ford will be making money playing the game of basketball next season and beyond, but it remains to be seen if his game blossoms to the point where the NBA becomes his permanent home.
If you read my stuff during the regular season, you know how infatuated I am with the triple-double. Had I been alive when Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for the season, you would have needed a straight jacket to contain my enthusiasm.
Well, I was feeling the triple-double vibe today in watching Bostonís Rajon Rondo go to work against the Pistons. In addition to hitting the game-winning three from the right wing in the closing seconds, Rondo had 14 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and four steals. What a line!
Rondo got the start for Sebastian Telfair, who was given the day off along with Ryan Gomes, and the Kentucky rookie simply built on his performance in game four when he dropped 11 points and 11 assists on the Nuggets. Rondo has a ways to go, obviously, but his game takes me back to the day when Fat Lever and Alvin Robertson were threatening quadruple-doubles and frequently collecting triple-doubles.
In watching Bostonís Allan Ray score a game-high 26, I couldnít help but think back to draft night when the Villanova superstar went five hours without hearing his name.
Freaks, weíre talking about a First-Team All-Big East player who scored 2,025 points in four years at Nova. Oh well, everyone elseís loss is Bostonís gain, as they quickly inked him following the draft. Ray rewarded their confidence with 18 points per game in the last three at Vegas, and he has the look of a solid bench player in the NBA for years to come.
If youíre anything like me, you were watching the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft wondering what the Pistons were doing when they traded Maurice Evans to the Lakers for the draft rights to center Cheikh Samb (pronounced Check). Well, Iím here to say that Joe Dumars and his staff may have unearthed a legitimate player from the Senegal with the 51st overall pick.
Samb goes 7-1, 195, which is a good news-bad news scenario, but the 21-year-old with exactly one year of professional experience can play the game on both ends. Samb closed the VSL with his best game of the tourney, dropping 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks on the Celtics.
All five of Sambís field goals came on baseline jumpers, including a pretty 15-foot fadeaway and a clutch J late in the fourth quarter. Samb finished the VSL with averages of 7.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, and he opened a lot of eyes in the process.
Yes, he needs to live in an Italian restaurant for the next two years, eating nothing but pasta drenched in cream sauce, and yes, the Pistons could probably save on air fare by faxing him back to Detroit, but I saw the birth of a future shot-blocking freak at the 2006 Toshiba Vegas Summer League.
The clock on the wall says weíve had a ball, but itís time to call a cab and head to the Palms for one last night of fun in the entertainment capital of the world. So long from Vegas and peace to you and yours.
During the regular season, NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla writes a weekly column, Living the Fantasy, on NBA.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org