Summer League Diary Day Four: Rockets vs. Kings
LAS VEGAS - After taking Sunday off to practice, the Rockets return to summer league action Monday for a matchup with the Sacramento Kings.
Best sign so far: this is the Royce White we’ve been waiting to see. Early on we’ve seen him push the ball in transition to get a teammate a wide-open look at a three-pointer, go coast-to-coast for an emphatic dunk, then work as a playmaker out of the post, dishing to Donatas Motiejunas for an easy bucket in the paint. On the last point, this is exactly what Kelvin Sampson was discussing yesterday when he talked about White learning how to deal with NBA length. Throw in 7 boards and three assists for the quarter and this is without question the best White has looked in Vegas so far. And here’s another gem from Sampson: he said his grandfather used to tell him how if you chase two rabbits you won’t catch either one, before adding he thought White was chasing at least three rabbits through the first two games. The solution: he told the rookie to focus on just one rabbit today: rebounding. The message was received loud and clear apparently.
Jeremy Lamb, meanwhile, continues to shine as a scorer for Houston. He can unquestionably make plays with the ball in his hands, but where he really excels right now is as a weapon off the ball. Lamb makes great cuts, understands spacing and knows how to use screens to his advantage. 11 points in the first quarter for the UConn product.
Halftime: Houston 57 – Sacramento 46
Newcomer Gary Forbes has two years of NBA experience to his name and it certainly shows today as he gets his first taste of summer league action with the Rockets (for this summer anyway; if you’ll recall, he also played summer league ball with Houston in 2010). He’s always in the right place at the right time, and simply plays with a veteran’s savvy. The offensive numbers look good (11 points on 3-of-4 shooting), but he’s been just as impressive from a team defensive standpoint as well.
The Rockets are playing with so much more pace and aggression today. They’re pushing the ball at every opportunity (a major point of emphasis at practice yesterday), sharing the ball offensively (there was too much one-on-one play in the opening minutes, but they’ve since greatly improved in that area), and displaying a much better sense of spacing. 55.3 percent shooting, 11 assists and an eleven point at halftime bear that out. Still too many turnovers (10), but those are essentially a summer league staple. And, hey, 13-of-16 free throw shooting. After the debacle that was Saturday night, that’s a sight for sore eyes.
Meanwhile, Royce White is on triple-double watch at the break: 4 points, 10 boards and 5 assists for the former Cyclone.
Strong bounce back game for Donatas Motiejunas. As we’ve come to expect in just a short time watching him, he consistently beats his man down the floor, wreaking havoc for his man in transition. And if he doesn’t get the ball on the break, he’s doing a much better job establishing deep position down low, carving out invaluable space for either himself or his teammates. Still want to see him get stronger on the boards, but he’s already improved so much in that area that there’s absolutely no reason to believe he won’t continue to get better as his body matures. And by the way, anyone who hurls a “soft” label his way should be immediately disregarded. Motiejunas has taken a beating in Houston’s first three games here in Vegas, but never once has he backed down or asked out despite receiving more than his fair share of bumps and bruises.
Going to have to hit the thesaurus hard this season whenever writing about Jeremy Lamb’s game. The word “smooth” just keeps coming to mind again and again while watching his game.
Add Scott Machado to the list of players who have started to find their groove today after struggling through a rocky summer league start. No one ever questioned the Iona product’s passing ability coming out of college but it’s taken him awhile to make that gift manifest in Vegas. He’s discovered his mojo this afternoon, however, making several gorgeous passes in transition that have turned into easy buckets for his teammates. A lack of quickness and a broken jumper will be tough to overcome, but there’s no questioning Machado’s pure point guard instincts.
Like most, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see Royce White initiate the offense. He got the chance late in the fourth quarter and immediately abused Bob Kurz for a layup. It was essentially like watching an NBA2K master put the settings on rookie. Now let’s see what he can do when the difficulty settings get adjusted to a level more befitting his skill level.
Final: Houston 113 – Sacramento 91
Notable numbers: Jeremy Lamb: 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting; Donatas Motiejunas: 19 points and 6 rebounds; Royce White: 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists; Terrence Jones: 17 points, 8 rebounds; Scott Machado: 6 points, 10 assists