NBA Summer League: Trail Blazers 78, Hornets 63

Sunday, July 20, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Portland guard J.R. Pinnock helped spoil New Orleans' NBA Summer League finale, piling up 30 points, including four three-pointers. The Hornets finished their trip to Las Vegas with a 4-2 record, the most wins the team has compiled in summer league.

"We felt really good about this (being) the most successful summer league we've had," Hornets assistant coach Charlie Parker said. "A lot of guys improved from Day 1 (of the league) until now."

New Orleans only trailed by five points through three quarters, but Portland held a 20-10 edge in the final stanza.

Derrick Byars led the Hornets with 15 points. Bobby Brown, Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong finished with 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Other league-ending notes from Las Vegas:

• As the breakout player of Hornets summer league, Brown was praised by Parker for his outstanding week. Brown was forced to play a team-high 35.0 minutes per game after second-unit point guard Frank Williams was injured and sidelined midway through the league. “Hopefully, we’ve found at least one guy we can bring into training camp who can possibly help us during the regular season,” Parker said of Brown. “He was definitely one of the most impressive guys here. He was a surprise and played extremely well. We’re happy to have him as part of the program.” Based on his play this week, Brown has already received offers from teams overseas for the 2008-09 season, but the Cal State Fullerton product has said that his goal is to play in the NBA as soon as possible. The team will have to wait to see what decision Brown makes. Keep in mind that Brown is not under contract with the Hornets and would also be able to field offers from any other NBA team. However, Brown said mid-week that one of the reasons he chose to play for New Orleans’ summer team was the potential opportunity that may be there if, for example, Jannero Pargo leaves in free agency.

• Following Sunday’s game, Parker discussed the development of Wright and Armstrong. “We wanted to really go to those guys, and we did,” Parker said. “They came through in all phases. I think Julian needed to shoot a little bit better. Hilton grew as a rebounder during this week and a scorer. So for those two guys, it was tremendous.” Of the two players, Armstrong had the better summer league, averaging 14.0 points, highlighted by a 25-point effort vs. the Clippers. He showed flashes of an improved low-post offensive game. Meanwhile, Wright had a rough go of it shooting-wise and in his test run as a point forward. The one-year veteran shot 33 percent from the field and averaged nearly five turnovers a game.

• The Hornets finished tied for the most wins in the Las Vegas league. New Orleans would’ve technically had the best outright record had it defeated Portland and finished 5-1. Every club lost at least once.

• No doubt about it, it was a frustrating stint for 2007 second-round pick Adam Haluska. The Iowa product could not locate his shooting touch and finished 5-for-26 from the field over the six games. He started each contest and averaged the fourth-most minutes on the squad.

• Chris Paul attended the game before departing to go to a USA Basketball team meeting. Paul and his USA teammates will start their latest training camp at a Las Vegas high school on Monday.



Hornets summer league recap


A capsule overview of New Orleans’ 12-day trip to Las Vegas:

TEAM MVP
En route to being named the biggest surprise at NBA Summer League by ESPN.com, Bobby Brown was the Hornets’ most consistent player over the six games, averaging team-highs in points (15.2) and assists (6.3). He also canned game-deciding baskets in the final minute of victories over the Bobcats and Clippers. The 6-foot-2 Brown probably boosted his stock in the eyes of GMs and coaches more than anyone among the roughly 250 players who suited up in Las Vegas.

BEST COMEBACK
New Orleans trailed 60-51 through three quarters against the Clippers on July 17, but surged back to force overtime. In the extra period, the Hornets held Los Angeles to two points and posted an 80-76 triumph.

BEST SHOT
Larry Owens’ five-foot putback from the middle of the lane on Saturday beat the final buzzer by a fraction of a second, enabling New Orleans to edge Cleveland, 79-78. Hilton Armstrong had given the Hornets a 77-76 lead by throwing down a dunk with 10 seconds left, but the Cavs’ Clay Tucker answered by hitting two free throws at :04.7.

BEST DUNK
Armstrong and Julian Wright had several highlight-reel slams over the six games, but give Wright a slight nod for one his dunks vs. Cleveland. Wright pump-faked a perimeter shot, breezed past Cavs defender Romel Beck and threw down a nasty two-hander on the left baseline.

BEST COACHING DECISION
Charlie Parker often went with the starting five of Brown, Adam Haluska, Brandon Bowman, Wright and Armstrong during crunch time, but he altered the lineup late vs. Cleveland and saw excellent results. Owens had barely played through three quarters, but ended up scoring 10 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winner. Meanwhile, Ndudi Ebi tallied seven points in the final stanza, part of his 15-point showing.