Summer League Diary Day Two: Rockets vs. Wizards

Live-blogging the Rockets' Summer League matchup against the Washington Wizards
by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

LAS VEGAS - Welcome to day two of the summer league live blog. Same rules as yesterday apply: keep everything in its proper perspective. One game in Vegas, heck five games in Vegas, only give us a small glimpse into a player's pro potential. So enjoy the show but try to resist urge to label players All-Stars or busts based on what you see.

Seems to be a good time to issue that reminder, too, based on the Rockets’ start so far. Marcus Morris hit an early three and Royce White scored on a sweet up-and-under move, but far too often Houston seemed to have a really tough time sustaining much in the way of rhythm on either side of the court. The Rockets turned the ball over a whopping 15 times in the opening half; many of them clearly falling in the careless category. Little surprise then that Houston finds itself trailing 48-31 at the half.

But as mentioned yesterday, summer league games typically devolve into a sort of organized chaos as players attempt to take the cram session that serves as a mini-camp and then apply that into some sort of chemistry when the games begin. Sometimes it works, but far more often than not any sort of cohesion you see arrives only in fits and spurts.

All that having been said, there were some bright spots for Houston in the first half. Jeremy Lamb continued to show his merits as a pure scorer, pouring in 11 points in 17 minutes of action. Also positive is the fact that he made his way to the line six times, knocking down each freebie (and thank goodness for that since the rest of the Rockets went just 3-of-17 from the charity stripe. Yes, you read that correctly).

The aforementioned Morris also looked much more comfortable than he did yesterday. Morris left the game after taking a hard foul late in the first half, but had accrued 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists by then.

Second Half

Ah, the joys of summer league. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is my favorite NBA event of the year. It’s a basketball junkie’s dream. Fans get an opportunity to sit just about anywhere they want in what is a very intimate setting, all while rubbing shoulders with players, coaches, scouts and executives. They also have an opportunity to have their voices heard – literally. Case in point: One fan was absolutely screaming at Houston’s summer league head coach Kelvin Sampson to put center Eli Holman in the game. Totally unphased, Sampson simply turned around and told the fan, “He’s hurt. Trust me I would if I could.”

The turnovers and missed free throws continue to be as omnipresent as the sound of slots in Vegas. On the bright side, Lamb’s scoring exploits have held up as well, as the UConn product wrapped up the third quarter with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting and 7-of-8 from the line. He’s probably taken more midrange shots and long 2s than Daryl Morey and company would prefer (given the statistically proven inefficiency of those shots), but his stroke is pure and he’s been one of the few bright spots for a club that just never found its groove tonight. (Lamb finished with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including a 3-of-8 mark from deep).

Terrence Jones, too, should be recognized for his second strong performance, finishing with 16 points and 5 boards. He and Lamb helped the Rockets rally in the fourth quarter and make the final score respectable at the final buzzer.

Ultimately, performances like these are why it’s necessary to caution everyone from attempting to draw firm conclusions from such a small sample size. Young players like Donatas Motiejunas are neither as amazing as they appear when putting up 25 and 9 on 11-of-13 shooting, nor as lost as they look when posting 1 and 4 as he did tonight. This is a training ground; an opportunity for experimentation, making mistakes and subsequently learning from them. It’s impossible to predict or project what lies ahead for the players on display here in Vegas.  The only thing we know for sure is that more ups and downs are still to come.

Final: Wizards 76 – Rockets 70