NBA Summer League: Hornets 100, Timberwolves 96

Saturday, July 18, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Throughout the Hornets’ trip to Las Vegas, 2009 draft picks Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison have commanded most of the attention. Both have excelled during their first week of professional basketball, looking like two of the most NBA-ready draftees. By the third quarter of today’s game, however, neither was on the floor for New Orleans. Thornton missed the game with an ankle strain, while Collison exited late in the first half with an ankle injury of his own.

With the rookies unavailable, lesser-known summer Hornets such as Anthony Tolliver (20 points), Jaycee Carroll (16 points) and Luke Nevill (12 points) took advantage of their opportunity for more minutes and shots, sparking New Orleans (1-3) to its first win in Vegas.

Prior to his departure, Collison was locked in an entertaining duel with fellow first-round pick and rookie point guard Jonny Flynn. Collison poured in 18 points in only 16 minutes of action, repeatedly getting into the lane against the Timberwolves. He was 7-for-7 from the foul line and earned another trip to the stripe on the play in which he sustained the left ankle sprain, but the Hornets elected to take him out as a precaution. The 6-footer would’ve stayed in the game if it were a regular season contest, but with it being a summer-league game, the Hornets opted to take him to the locker room.

“My ankle’s fine,” Collison said after the game. Collison and Thornton are both listed as questionable to play in Sunday's summer league finale vs. Denver (7:30 p.m. Central).

“I’ve been trying to be aggressive all summer league,” he added, referring to his drives to the basket. “At my size, you don’t see a lot of guys doing that, but the guys who do it well are very successful.”

Flynn finished with 24 points in 26 minutes of action. The stocky Syracuse product is known for using his muscle and athleticism to score, but today he displayed an effective perimeter game, going 4-for-5 from three-point range.

New Orleans trailed 50-43 at halftime but scored 34 points in the third quarter and 57 in the second half. Tolliver netted 18 points after intermission, while Carroll had 14. Julian Wright, in probably his best game so far this week, dropped in 12 second-half points and totaled 19 for the game. Wright’s resounding dunk with 6.8 seconds remaining made it 100-96 and virtually sealed the win.

“I think the rest of the guys played really well,” Hornets assistant coach Charlie Parker said. “Anthony Tolliver does a lot of things you might not notice. Luke (Nevill) played well and this was his best game. He can hit the mid-range jump shot. He can make left- and right-handed shots around the rim, which is important for a big guy. He’s more athletic than you would think for a guy who is 7-foot-2. And he can run the floor, block shots and has great timing.”

Wright was an efficient 9-for-12 from the field and had his best stretch of summer league during the second half. Although his 12.5 scoring average may seem underwhelming, especially for a player with two full years of NBA experience, Parker said the coaching staff isn’t focused on Wright’s offense.

“What we’ve liked so far about Julian is not so much whether he scores, but it’s the control factor,” Parker said. “We want him to be more under control. We want him to be able to eliminate his turnovers, which he has done a tremendous job of so far. We want him to cut out some of the ‘fat’ in his game. When I say fat, I mean excess dribbling and excess movement that really doesn’t account for much. That’s what we’ve been impressed with. It’s not whether he scores 20 or eight, but if he can play the game in a way that is indicative of being in control, we’re pleased with that.”