Sunday, July 15
Posted by: Warriors PR
Nate Funk knocked down four three-pointers in Saturday's Summer League finale.
The undermanned Warriors concluded the 2007 NBA Summer League on Saturday by suffering a 91-87 loss against the New York Knicks at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Despite the setback, the Warriors ended their 10-day excursion to Las Vegas on the North side of .500 with a 3-2 record.
From Golden State's perspective, the list of players who did not participate in Saturday's contest due to various injuries or other factors was about as long as the list of available bodies. Four players who figure to play a role in the Warriors' 2007-08 season – Kelenna Azubuike, Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Perovic – did not play against the Knicks. Azubuike (sprained ankle) and Wright (strained hip flexor) were monitoring minor injuries, while Perovic and Belinelli were not available due to contractual reasons and travel plans, respectively. Belinelli had to return to Italy and was scheduled to leave Las Vegas at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The journey figured to be quite time-consuming for the sharpshooter, considering he had a 10-hour layover scheduled in London.
Not using the shorthanded roster as an excuse, the Warriors led the majority of the contest against the Knicks before New York pulled away by outscoring Golden State, 28-20, in the fourth quarter. The Warriors used a balanced scoring attack that featured five players in double figures, led by Toby Bailey's 16 points. Bailey ended his Summer League stint having converted 13-of-20 three-pointers, including 3-of-6 on Saturday. Nate Funk (14 points) and Corey Williams (13 points) played exceptionally well in the absence of Belinelli and Azubuike. Funk made each of his first four three-pointers and ended the night 4-of-5 from behind the arc.
THE KELENNA STORY
Azubuike, who appeared in only two games during the Summer League, was able to leave Las Vegas having accomplished two goals: solidifying his role on the team and, hopefully, impressing the Warriors' brass enough to earn a contract. He played well prior to the ankle injury (averaging 21 points) and he is very close to cementing his signature on a contract with the Warriors. It was indeed a fruitful – albeit short – Summer League for the youngster from Kentucky.
Despite playing just two games in Las Vegas, Kelenna Azubuike proved plenty during the 2007 NBA Summer League.
Last summer, Azubuike was hoping to earn an invitation to an NBA training camp and eventually secured an invite with Jeff Van Gundy and the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, he was cut by the Rockets in the preseason and started the 2006-07 campaign in the NBDL with the Ft. Worth Flyers. It did not take long, however, for the 6-foot-5 guard to establish himself as one of the best – if not the best – players in the league. He averaged a league-leading 26.0 points per game in 12 appearances, certainly proving his worth in Ft. Worth.
And, for good measure, the numbers he compiled were impressive beyond the scoring average. He shot 51.4 percent from the floor and a sizzling 48.5 percent from three-point territory. Not bad for a player who lives on the perimeter. Additionally, he demonstrated a little all-around versatility in his game, averaging 5.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.17 steals. NBA teams, many of which already had Azubuike on their radar, took notice.
The Warriors, fortunately, took action.
As is typically the case in the NBA and professional sports in general, a bad break (literally) for one player resulted in a good break for another. During the Warriors' loss at Sacramento on December 30, guard Jason Richardson, the team's leading scorer from the previous season (23.2 ppg), suffered a fractured right hand and was expected to be sidelined for approximately 12 weeks. Suddenly, the Warriors were in need of a backcourt player who could help ease the loss of Richardson and put some points on the scoreboard in the process.
Enter Azubuike. Or, as Coach Don Nelson said at the time, Sambukee. Golden State inked him to a 10-day contract on January 2 and soon thereafter, the coach – and other people around the NBA – realized that the kid with the difficult name had a pretty decent game. Approximately two weeks after his call-up from the D-League, Azubuike found himself in the starting lineup when the Warriors consummated The Big Trade on January 17 (acquiring, among others, Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson in exchange for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy).
He certainly seized the opportunity – and then some.
Joining Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Matt Barnes and Andris Biedrins in the starting lineup at the Staples Center against the Clippers on that mid-January night, Azubuike scored a career-high 28 points, highlighted by four three-pointers, and logged the entire 48 minutes. The shorthanded Warriors proved they could compete with the Clippers despite the short roster; Azubuike, meanwhile, proved that he belonged in the NBA. Eventually signed for the remainder of the season, Azubuike scored 20 or more points on three occasions last season and reached double figures 12 times in 41 appearances.
Can Toby Bailey have a story similar to that of Kelenna Azubuike? Only time will tell.
Most impressively, however, was what the London, England native was able to accomplish when he was provided an opportunity after joining the Warriors. He averaged 16.6 points in those games when he logged at least 20 minutes (12 times). Pretty impressive. In fact, very, very impressive. He also ranked 11th among all NBA rookies in points and second in three-point field goal percentage (43 percent).
If Reggie Jackson is Mr. October, maybe Kelenna Azubuike is Mr. Opportunity. Opportunities figure to come more frequently this season for Azubuike following the draft-night trade of Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats for the rights to rookie Brandan Wright. Coach Nelson is enamored with athletic players who can put the ball in the basket and have the ability to stretch the defense with three-point shooting capabilities. Kelenna certainly fits that description. Exactly what description and role he will play for the Warriors in 2007-08 is yet to be determined, but with Richardson's departure, the search for an additional 20 points a game in the backcourt will begin with the likes of Azubuike and rookie Marco Belinelli, another summer league standout.
Azubuike, who was not drafted by an NBA team after leaving the University of Kentucky after his junior year (2005), could be a terrific feel-good story next season if he continues his rapid development and quiet productivity. It also appears that Golden State's Summer League stint in Las Vegas could also lead to another feel-good story or two in 2007-08.
A couple of free agents – Toby Bailey and Pierre Pierce – played very well in Las Vegas and could merit invitations to training camp in October (in addition to others). Of course, we still have about two-and-a-half months before the start of camp in Hawaii and rosters can fluctuate drastically over the course of 10 weeks. But, as Azubuike demonstrated, fringe NBA players who are extended a chance to earn a contract in the league must capitalize on the opportunity when it is presented.
Who – if anyone – will be this year's Kelenna Azubuike, Matt Barnes or Brian Cardinal? Those questions will be answered in the next several months, but the 2007 Summer League in Las Vegas might have provided some initial indications.
Saturday, July 14
Posted by: Warriors PR
KEEPING TRACK OF KOSTA
2006 second round draft pick Kosta Perovic has had to watch the Warriors from the sideline this summer.
Several players on the Warriors' Summer League roster have been impressive in leading the team to a 3-1 record. Marco Belinelli, Kelenna Azubuike, Pierre Pierce, Josh Powell and Toby Bailey have all had their moments and caught the eyes of the numerous NBA front office personnel who are littered throughout the stands at UNLV. Bailey continued his strong play and serious bid for an invite to training camp by scoring a team-leading 17 points during Golden State's 85-74 victory over the Seattle Supersonics on Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
However, there has been another impressive player that you have not heard much about since his arrival in Las Vegas. This guy has not missed a shot in a game. He has not been beaten on defense. He has not even committed a turnover.
Heck, he's been so impressive that he felt compelled to ask a front office staff member if he could wear jersey # 13 - Wilt Chamberlain's retired number - for next season. Of course, he had no idea that one of the greatest players in NBA history once wore that number for the Warriors. He obviously understands that he's no Wilt Chamberlain. And, when you see him sink 43 consecutive free throws as he did in solo fashion on an auxiliary court away from the action at UNLV on Wednesday, you know there are very few similarities between the Big Dipper and this Big Boy.
Kosta Perovic, who the Warriors selected in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft, has been with the Summer League team in Las Vegas for the past 10 days. Unfortunately, he has not been able to participate in games or practices because of contract technicalities that should be resolved with his European team (Partizan Belgrade) in the near future. Nonetheless, when you witness his sheer size - 7'2", 240 - and his deft shooting touch in an empty gym, it is very apparent that the 22-year old belongs in the NBA. He will, presumably, get that opportunity this season when it is expected that he will be a member of the Warriors' regular season roster.
Due to his overall skill level and native country (Yugoslavia), some have compared Perovic to a Vlade Divac-type player. He is a big man who can shoot from the perimeter (15-17 feet), pass the basketball and rebound. And, at 7'2", he is always a threat to block a shot and create general havoc in the paint. As you can imagine, the Warriors and Coach Don Nelson would be absolutely thrilled if the quiet youngster resembled Divac in even the smallest of ways in the future. Divac, as you may recall, enjoyed an outstanding 16-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings, averaging 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and appearing in one All-Star Game (2001). He was a center whose shooting ability forced the defense to guard him on the perimeter and whose passing and rebounding skills were much better then average.
With Perovic and Marco Belinelli, the Warriors will add even more international flair to their team in 2007-08.
Perovic has spent the last week-plus watching from the sidelines and interacting with coaches and teammates. Since he is unable to practice with the team, he is often found shooting by himself on a secondary court, drilling jumper after jumper after jumper. He appears to be the most comfortable in the 16-foot range at the corner elbow and free throw line. The 43 consecutive free throws that he made on Wednesday were not all that surprising, but enough for teammate Toby Bailey and others to complement him on his nice stroke. Perovic, who has played professionally in Yugoslavia for the last several years, has demonstrated solid shooting from the charity stripe in Europe, shooting consistently in the 70-75% range.
It will be interesting to see how the Warriors' center rotation develops as we enter the 2007-08 season. What kind of an impact, if any, will Perovic have on the team? Andris Biedrins, obviously, is the incumbent at center and will be the team's starter at that position. Who will be his backup, however, remains a mystery. Last year, Coach Nelson had Biedrins log a lot of minutes and, when he did rest his 21-year old stud, the majority of the minutes were divided in no particular order between Al Harrington, Adonal Foyle and, on occasion, Patrick O'Bryant. Non-centers such as Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson also manned the paint on occasion in Nellie's unique system. It would appear that the Warriors will have more of a traditional roster during the 2007-08 campaign, but that certainly does not mean that the NBA's second-winningest coach will implement anything that resembles traditional. Why start now, with over 1,200 regular season victories on your resume?
It does appear, however, that the Warriors will have at least two young Europeans anchoring the center spot next season. The players offer a little bit of a contrast, too. Biedrins is more of a runner who rebounds and scores the majority of his points off of putbacks, short floaters and dunks. Perovic, meanwhile, will offer a nice alternative with his perimeter shooting ability. He should also benefit from playing with better players, such as a Baron Davis and a Stephen Jackson. The attention that Davis, Jackson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington and even Marco Belinelli will command on defense could potentially result in many open looks at the basket for Perovic. He would seem to be a perfect candidate to run a pick and pop with Davis or Ellis, where he could utilize his shooting ability.
Toby Bailey has played well enough this summer to possibly earn an invite to training camp.
Perovic plans to return to Europe following the Summer League and will eventually journey to Oakland in August to begin preparing for his initial NBA season. Hopefully, he will have chosen a new number by that time, one that is not reserved for the man who once scored 100 points in an NBA game.
Another member of the Summer League squad who might have to consider reserving a number - at least for training camp - is the former UCLA star, Bailey. As noted, he paced the Warriors in scoring during their victory over Seattle on Friday night with 17 points. He once again shot the ball well from behind the three-point line, converting 3-of-5 attempts. Through four games, Bailey has now sank a sizzling 10-of-14 shots from behind the arch. At this rate, the 6'6" forward will have a difficult decision on his hands should the Warriors invite him to training camp in October. The reason? Most European teams prefer to have their rosters set by September, prior to the start of NBA training camps. If Bailey receives and accepts an offer to attend Golden State's training camp, he will effectively ruin his chances to play oversees should his attempt to make the Warriors' roster end abruptly. Otherwise, he'd most likely have to wait for a team in Europe to suffer a key injury and place a call to him in the U.S. Of course, when you have a mortgage to pay and a new wife (he's getting married in August), those decision can be agonizing.
The Warriors will conclude the 2007 Summer League on Saturday when they battle the New York Knicks at 7:00 p.m. in Las Vegas. The game will be broadcast live, both on NBA TV and NBA.com.
Thursday, July 12
Posted by: warriors.com
SUMMER LEAGUE LINKS
We're six days into the NBA Summer League and the Warriors have often been the talk of the town. First round draft pick Marco Belinelli has done nothing but impress coaches, scouts, media members and fans after averaging 25.0 points over his first three contests. Kelenna Azubuike, Pierre Pierce and Toby Bailey have turned a lot of heads with their solid play. Baron Davis, Don Nelson and Chris Mullin have attended games and walked away very impressed with what they've seen. And the list goes on....
Marco Belinelli has been getting plenty of attention in Vegas...and for good reason.
With so much going on, we thought we'd provide you with a compilation of everything Warriors-related. From interviews to feature stories to highlights, everything you need is linked below:
Check out the exclusive warriors.com interviews with Coach Keith Smart and Kelenna Azubuike, plus Q&A's with Don Nelson, Marco Belinelli and Toby Bailey:
Keith Smart (7/12)
Kelenna Azubuike (7/11)
Keith Smart (7/10)
Keith Smart (7/9)
Keith Smart (7/6)
Kelenna Azubuike on KNBR (7/12)
Toby Bailey on KBNR (7/11)
Don Nelson on NBA TV (7/9)
Marco Belinelli on NBA TV (7/9)
By now, you probably know that all Summer League games can be seen live on NBA.com. The games are also archived and able to be watched at your convenience. For links to videos, box scores and photo galleries for every game, view the 'Schedule' portion of our Summer League Central page.
Bailey making most of opportunity, Geoff Lepper, Contra Costa Times
Summer League has been getting more and more attention from the media, and the Warriors have definitely given them something to write about.
Warriors deal with summer of love, Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
Patience golden for rookie, Steve Carp, Las Vegas Review Journal
Halfway through, time for our Vegas awards show, Marc Stein, ESPN.com
Guard gets yet another chance, Janny Hu, San Francisco Chronicle
Player with a past, Henry Abbot, ESPN.com
Nellie buzz on Belinelli: 'I think he's been sensational', Marc Stein, ESPN.com
Azubuike eager to stick around, Janny Hu, San Francisco Chronicle
Warriors' top pick, Belinelli, makes a quick impression, Janny Hu, San Francisco Chronicle
Child’s Play: Belinelli Makes It Look Easy, Maurice Brooks, NBA.com
Taking our attention away from Summer League for just a bit, we have to congratulate the 2006-07 Warriors one more time. The Warriors' historic series victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the First Round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs was named Best Upset at Wednesday night’s 15th Annual ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Baron Davis was on-hand at the Kodak Theater to accept the award on behalf of the organization. Read the full press release.
For even more coverage on NBA Summer League and other league developments, check out the links below:
Warriors Team Stats
Warriors Summer League Central
NBA Summer League Home
NBA Player Movement 2007
Wednesday, July 11
Posted by: Warriors PR
GAME 3 RECAP
Josh Powell is making his case to make the 2007-08 Warriors by averaging 8.7 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game.
Box Score | Photo Gallery
The dreams of an undefeated Summer League ended on Tuesday as the Warriors succumbed to the San Antonio Spurs, 90-80, at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center. But while the aspirations of a perfect summer league ledger have ceased, there are still plenty of dreams remaining for the 15 players on Golden State's Summer League roster.
Four members of the squad – Patrick O'Bryant, Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Kelenna Azubuike – are virtually assured of being around when the Warriors tip off the 2007-08 regular season. The rest of them? They're dreaming. They're hoping. They're anxious. They're nervous.
Josh Powell, who scored 14 points and grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds on Tuesday, is one of those players. Powell, as you may recall, was acquired by the Warriors in the blockbuster midseason trade last January with the Indiana Pacers. No, he was not one of the key elements to the deal; that status was reserved for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. However, the 6-9 power forward made his presence felt and, most importantly, made a favorable impression with the team and Coach Don Nelson. He did not log long minutes and certainly earned his fair share of DNP/CD's, but he did show up at practice every day, worked hard, had a positive attitude and showed the signs of a player who has the tools to play in the NBA. He registered a career-high 13 points on Jan. 27 against Charlotte and grabbed a season-best eight rebounds against Milwaukee on Feb. 27.
During Monday's Summer League victory over Philadelphia, Powell controlled the boards, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds in only 27 minutes. He has proven to be a more-then-adequate rebounder during his stint with the Warriors, but it is another element to his game – shooting – that has some people intrigued. He has the ability the knock down a jump shot from 15 to18 feet, which is an attribute that could serve him well and earn him a spot on the roster. Nellie loves big guys who can shoot (no, he's not Manute Bol) and Golden State's offensive structure could result in a ton of open shots for a player such as Powell. He has nice form and rotation on his jumper and seems to be extremely accurate from the top of the key and elbow. And, of course, his ability to rebound would certainly help a team that struggled in that department last season.
Powell, who became familiar with Nellie during his rookie NBA season in Dallas in 2005-06 (when Nellie was a consultant), is currently a restricted free agent. The Warriors will have the ability to match any offer he receives from another NBA team. Players can now sign free agent contracts, now that the NBA's moratorium has concluded and the salary cap for the 2007-08 season is finalized (the salary cap for the 2007-08 season will be $55.630 million; the luxury tax threshold will be $67.865 million).
The Warriors' depth chart at power forward includes Al Harrington, Brandan Wright and second-round pick, Stephane Lasme. Of course, in Nellie's system, several other players (including Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on occasion last season) could potentially find minutes at the four position. Powell may be the most conventional power forward of that group. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the summer plays out for the Warriors and Powell.
Toby Bailey's all-around hustle has caught the attention of the Warriors brass.
The rest of the summer should be interesting for Toby Bailey, too. The 6-6 shooting guard/small forward is getting married in a few weeks and will also look to get a commitment from an NBA team at some point before training camp begins in October. Bailey has played well for the Warriors in Summer League, providing long distance shooting and hustle. Following Tuesday's 2-for-3 performance from behind the arc against the Spurs, Bailey has made 7-of-9 three-pointers in three games in Las Vegas and has demonstrated that same shooting touch in the team's practices.
The former UCLA star, who was a member of the Bruins' 1995 NCAA Championship team, has not played in the NBA since the 1999-2000 season. He appeared in 46 games with the Phoenix Suns that season and played in a total of 73 games with Phoenix over two seasons, but unlike this summer, he did not distinguish himself as a prolific three-point shooter during his stint in The Valley of the Sun (3-of-15).
Bailey concluded his four-year career at UCLA ranked fourth on the Bruins' all-time scoring list. And, he is in good company, trailing only Don MacLean, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Reggie Miller. He scored 26 points in the NCAA title game against Arkansas in 1995 and was an All-Pac 10 member each of his last three seasons on the Westwood campus. Bailey has spent the last several years playing professionally in Europe and will turn 32 on November 19.
One of Bailey's collegiate teammates, Baron Davis, stopped by the team's breakfast on Tuesday morning in Las Vegas. Bailey and Davis sat together and reminisced about their one season together at UCLA (1997-98, when Davis was a Freshmen and Bailey was a senior). Davis, who is extremely personable, made his way around the entire room and introduced himself to every member of the Summer League squad. Later in the afternoon, Davis continued his off-season workout regimen, playing pick-up basketball with the likes of Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond at a local Las Vegas high school.
He then watched the first half of Golden State's summer league game at the Thomas & Mack Center before boarding a flight to Los Angeles, where he will attend the ESPY's tonight. Both Davis (best shot) and the Warriors (biggest upset) have been nominated for an ESPY award.
Kelenna Azubuike did not play in Tuesday's game against San Antonio (sprained ankle) and rookie Brandan Wright (strained hip flexor) missed his third consecutive game. Azubuike's injury does not appear to be severe and he is questionable for the team's next game on Friday.
Summer League Head Coach Keith Smart will give the players a day off today, their first such day since summer league practice started on July 4. The Warriors, who will conclude the Summer League with games against Seattle and New York on Friday and Saturday, respectively, will play a scrimmage against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The scrimmage is not a part of the official Summer League schedule, but will provide the team an extra game to evaluate players.
Tuesday, July 10
Posted by: Warriors PR
GAME 2 RECAP
Pierre Pierce has averaged 21.5 points in his first two games of Summer League.
Box Score | Photo Gallery
Watch Game | Keith Smart Interview
Don Nelson Interview | Marco Belinelli Interview
21 ... That's the magic number in Las Vegas, especially for Pierre Pierce.
The 6'4" guard should head straight for the Blackjack tables in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He should skip the slot machines, run past the roulette tables and put the kibosh on keno.
Because, through two games of the Las Vegas Summer League, Pierce has been a model of consistency, averaging 21(.5) points per game, including 22 during Monday's 94-87 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. The win improved the Warriors' record to 2-0 in the Summer League and in the process reconfirmed - at least to some - that Golden State might have another nice, talented guard on its hands (you can never have too many of those, right?). We say "at least to some" because there have been more then a few people in Oakland and other NBA cities who have touted the ability of Pierce in recent years. That ability could result in him winning an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii in October for Training Camp. He is certainly an NBA-caliber player and his two-game stint in The World's Warmest City has done nothing to cool that prospect (yes, it was a mild 111 in Vegas on Monday).
Pierce, who played college basketball at Iowa under Steve Alford, can play multiple positions. Is he a one (point guard)? Possibly. Is he a two (shooting guard)? Maybe. Is he a basketball player? Definitely. Heck, when was the last time Nellie actually played somebody at the position their height or weight indicated they should play?
Baron Davis dropped in to check out the Warriors Summer League team on Monday, and he liked what he saw.
During the first two games of Summer League, Pierce has demonstrated his vast array of talents, drilling jump shots from the perimeter, driving the ball to the basket and handling point guard responsibilities. He attempted six free throws during Monday's contest and has stepped to the charity stripe a total of 15 times in two games (7.5 FTA per game), converting 12 of those attempts (80%). Of course, at that percentage, he'd be considered for the Hall of Fame among Golden State players in recent years. His toughness and ability to get to the free throw line - and make free throws - is certainly an aspect of his game that is a positive in the eyes of the team's brass.
A native of Westmont, Illinois, Pierce figures to get his timing and rhythm back as he continues to take to the hardwood in the Summer League and throughout the months of August and September. As a junior at Iowa, he averaged 17.8 points per game for the Hawkeyes, highlighted by a career-high 31-point performance vs. Ohio State. He seems to be a natural scorer and has a quick release (although not as quick as the Rifleman, Marco Belinelli). And, the fact that he shoots a pretty decent percentage from the floor (48% as a junior at Iowa) is a positive sign for his future (he is shooting higher than 50% in the Summer League; 15-of-28 FGs). Some NBA scouts who are intrigued by Pierre's ability indicated that he could have been a top 15-18 selection in this year's draft.
His solid play in Summer League thus far has not gone unnoticed. Several media outlets - including the San Francisco Chronicle and ESPN.com - have already written features on the 24-year-old, who has been engaging and pleasant during his business trip to Vegas. If he continues to play well over the next week, he will become a topic of discussion, because unlike the past, the Summer League is now filled with many national NBA writers (more than 25 beat writers from around the league have traveled to Las Vegas for this year's summer session).
With the addition of Pierce, the Warriors Summer League squad has resembled their varsity team ---- spurred by small ball, quickness and perimeter shooting. Pierce, Marco Belinelli and Kelenna Azubuike combined for 58 of Golden State's 94 points on Monday.
Belinelli, who has quickly turned into a crowd favorite in Vegas, drilled 5-of-8 three-pointers against the Sixers and has now made 10-of-15 from behind the arc through two games. His release is certainly something to behold and does, indeed, bring back memories of the initial Rifleman, Chuck Person. He only needs a split second of daylight to get off a shot and even his misses appear to be right on target. It will be fun to see how well the Warriors can space the floor next season when Belinelli is running the wings.
Baron Davis, who was in attendance at Monday's game in Las Vegas, just might dethrone Steve Nash as the NBA's leader in assists. Of course, we have no idea what impact the young Italian will have on the Warriors next season, but he has certainly opened up some eyes thus far, including those of NBA TV personnel, who requested Marco for his first live post-game NBA interview after Monday's contest (his English is improving, although the questions, at this point in time, must not be too complex).
Warriors Executive VP of Basketball Operations Chris Mullin took in the game from behind the Warriors bench.
Al Harrington, who guarded Yao Ming at center on occasion last season, and Stephen Jackson, who guarded Dirk Nowitzki and played some power forward during the Dallas playoff series, can vouch for that inquisitive question. If Pierce makes the team, he might just square off against Shaq when the Miami Heat visit ORACLE Arena next season.
Following the NBA TV interview, he signed autographs on the concourse of Cox Pavilion for about 20 minutes. And, on Tuesday, he will sit down with Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review Journal for a feature story that is scheduled to run locally on Wednesday or Thursday. Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote a story on Marco today. To read the feature story NBA.com wrote on him on Sunday, click here.
The fact that Belinelli, who is only 21 years old, has also played in more than 150 games as a professional in Italy, serves him well. He does not appear the least bit nervous or anxious on the court at Summer League, which might also be aided by the fact that he torched Team USA for 25 points in 2006 at the FIBA World Championships. His experience could prove invaluable next season to the Warriors, who could potentially have six players 22 years of age or younger - Belinelli (21), Brandan Wright (19), Monta Ellis (22), Andris Biedrins (21), Patrick O'Bryant (21) and Kosta Perovic (22) - play a role during the 2007-08 season. Interestingly enough, Belinelli (March 25, 1986) and Biedrins (April 2, 1986) were born a week apart in 1986. Wright will not turn 20 until the fourth day of training camp (October 5).
Speaking of important and interesting days, Wednesday marks the first day that free agents can officially be signed as the NBA moratorium ends and the salary cap for the 2007-08 season is determined. Five members of the Warriors - Kelenna Azubuike (restricted), Matt Barnes (unrestricted), Zarko Cabarkapa (unrestricted), Mickael Pietrus (restricted) and Josh Powell (restricted) - are free agents.
The Warriors will have an 11 a.m. team breakfast on Tuesday at their team hotel and battle the San Antonio Spurs at 5:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center. For those non-baseball All-Star Game fans, the game can be seen live on NBA.com.
Saturday, July 7
Posted by: Warriors PR
GAME 1 RECAP - WOW
Marco Belinelli turned a lot of heads with his performance on Saturday.
Box Score | Photo Gallery
Watch Game | Keith Smart Interview
DISCLAIMER: It was one game. In Summer League…..
Now that we’ve officially got that out of the way…WOW is all you can say. All you can say about Marco Belinelli’s NBA debut.
Here are the raw numbers. 40 minutes. 37 points. 14-20 FG. 5-7 3FG.
Raw numbers, however, do not do this performance justice. Let’s break it down.
40 minutes: Summer League games are only 40 minutes long. Belinelli played all 40 minutes in this game. Less than 48 hours removed from a 20-hour transcontinental journey to arrive in Las Vegas, Marco played all 40 minutes. That, in itself, is impressive.
37 points: The folks running the Summer League later informed Belinelli that this effort was one-point shy of the Summer League scoring record of 38 points scored by Keith Bogans.
14-20 FG: Belinelli missed his first shot…..then rattled off nine straight makes. During his hot streak, the crowd would ooooh and ahhhh every time he rose up for a shot.
5-7 3FG: Those numbers from deep are great no matter the circumstances. One of his misses rimmed out. One of his makes was from AT LEAST 29 feet. Maybe further. And it was a set shot…on a break off a made basket.
He was so hot in the first half that he had 24 points in the first 17 minutes. In the first half, he was 9-11 from the field and 4-5 from looooooooong range. After halftime, the Hornets took to face-guarding him and denying him the ball all over the court.
In his first game in a Warriors uniform, Belinelli showed a lot. He showed that he can create all types of shots for himself. He showed that he can work off screens. He showed that he can get to the rim. He showed that he can create contact. He showed that he can get out on the break. He showed he can play off the ball. He showed A LOT.
He also showed that he is not a selfish gunner. Several times he passed up seemingly open shots to feed an open teammate who had a better look. He made several “crafty” passes that you could tell not many players would have seen that opening.
Kelenna Azubuike poured in 29 points in helping the Warriors to victory.
The disclaimer above still stands. But this was a WOW performance. Welcome to the Warriors Marco Belinelli.
OH YEAH, THE GAME
The Warriors opened their Summer League docket with a 110-102 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. It was a very good game and a very entertaining game. Not two things you can say about too many Summer League contests.
Golden State certainly played like the “regular” Warriors, pushing the tempo and shooting 3’s (11-20 3FG).
Along with the Belinelli Show, there were several other impressive performances.
Kelenna Azubuike tallied 29 points and six rebounds, a performance that had it not been for Marco’s effort, would have had everyone talking. Kelenna played 31 minutes and scored both inside and outside, going 10-20 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range.
Pierre Pierce, who started at point guard for Keith Smart’s team, finished with 21 points in his professional debut. Pierce went 7-15 from the field and also showed a knack for getting into the lane and creating contact, going 7-9 from the free throw line.
Patrick O’Bryant had just three points on 1-4 shooting as the Warriors played this game mostly from the perimeter, but Patrick pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds and blocked two shots (although there may also have been a couple more). O’Bryant was very active in the fourth quarter, tallying five rebounds and two blocks in his eight minutes of action during the period. Josh Powell also pulled down seven boards as the Warriors outrebounded the Hornets 41-26.
Don Nelson had to have liked what he saw out of the Warriors in their first Summer League game.
Toby Bailey finished with 11 points (4-6 FG, 3-3 3FG), including eight points (3-3 FG, 2-2 3FG) in the decisive final minutes of the fourth quarter when the Warriors picked up the tempo and took control.
It was a Warriors/Nellieball type game. Golden State put up 110 points while several teams yesterday struggled to score 80 or even 70 points. As Don Nelson sat high in the stands in the corner of the gym, he must have liked what he saw. He certainly recognized it.
Victories are far from the most important thing in Summer League, but winning always beats losing. Either way, it was a good day for the Golden State Warriors in many respects.
The team will practice again tomorrow before playing their second game on Monday evening against Philadelphia.
Friday, July 6
Posted by: Warriors PR
Marco Belinelli made a wonderful first impression. Both with his attitude AND his playing abilities. Belinelli left Italy early on Thursday morning, making a nearly 20-hour journey that included two stopovers before finally landing in Las Vegas at 4:45 p.m. Less than three hours later, Belinelli was in the gym at Durango High School and ready to play at the Warriors’ Thursday evening practice session.
Several of the coaches told Marco to take it easy if he was too tired to participate. His reply to each was the same: “I’m OK. I’m a Warrior now,” he said while pointing to the WARRIORS printed across the front of his No. 18 practice jersey.
Marco Belinelli showed no ill effects from a transcontinental flight during Thursday's practice.
Belinelli is in the NBA now, and he was not going to let a transcontinental journey keep him out of his first practice … even it was in the summer league.
Once on the court, Belinelli made several plays that had the staff on hand, including Don Nelson and Mitch Richmond, smiling.
As reported, he can shoot. Belinelli has a knack for flying off screens and releasing his jump shot with lightning quickness. As reported, he is athletic. On a couple of occasions, he stepped in the passing lane to deflect a pass and take it down for a dunk and even finished one with an impressive leaning left-hander.
What has not been so widely reported is his passing ability. Marco made several needle-threading passes to teammates for layups. He also showed that he could drive deep into the lane and kick a no-look pass back out to the top of the key for a wide-open three-pointer.
It was only one practice, and it was only in a high school gym in Las Vegas, but Belinelli showed that he can play. He made a great first impression.
ONE MORE DAY OF DOUBLE-DAYS
The Warriors returned to the gym for the first practice of their final set of double-days this morning. The early part of practice was spent on defensive rotations, as Keith Smart and the coaching staff stressed activity and communications. The players complied and it was a lively session.
Returning vets Kelenna Azubuike and Josh Powell were both given the morning session off by Keith Smart. The duo spent most of the morning shooting on their own in the adjoining practice gym.
Warriors Summer League head coach Keith Smart stressed activity and communications on defense during this morning''s practice.
Patrick O’Bryant, the Warriors third returning player on the summer league team, was not so fortunate, as he continued his week-long match-up against fellow 7-footer Brian Cusworth. Cusworth, a Harvard product, has a big strong body and has put up a good fight against Patrick. O’Bryant had one of the better plays in today’s practice, leaping high to swat a shot attempt that led to a fast-break dunk for his team.
One thing that has been missing thus far at summer league has been Brandan Wright, the eighth overall pick in last week’s Draft that the Warriors acquired from Charlotte in a draft-day trade. Wright is feeling the effects of a strained right hip flexor that he suffered during his workouts leading up to the NBA Draft.
Since he is not yet 100 percent healthy, the organization has decided to keep him out of action for precautionary reasons. The hope is to have him back on the court at some point before leaving Las Vegas, but the team is being cautious with him at this point.
Even though Wright is not able to play, that doesn’t mean he isn’t learning while down here. He sat alongside Coach Nelson for the entirety of Thursday night’s practice session and the rookie was able to discuss everything that was going on with Nellie.
The team will meet once more tonight for a light practice and then kick off the summer league schedule tomorrow with a matinee contest against the Hornets, which you can watch live on NBA.com. After five practices already in two-plus days, the team is ready to start game action.
Coach Smart Interview
Following this morning’s practice, summer league head coach Keith Smart discussed the first three days of practice with Warriors broadcaster Tim Roye. LISTEN HERE
Wright Signs Contract
In more Brandan Wright-related news, the Warriors have signed the 8th overall pick in the 2007 Draft to a contract. For the full press release, click here.
Thursday, July 5
Posted by: Warriors PR
CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY…SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE.
While the country celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the Golden State Warriors summer league squad was hard at work. After assembling for a team dinner and introduction session on Tuesday night, the Warriors summer league team went through their first double-day session on Wednesday.
Under the direction of Keith Smart, who is serving as head coach of the Warriors summer league squad, the morning session at Durango High School was all about getting the rust off. While the play may have been sloppy at times due to the long layoff that many of the players were experiencing, the energy level was very high.
Kelenna Azubuike made sure that all his new teammates knew his name by the end of Day 1.
Warrior “veteran” Kelenna Azubuike stood out in the early session, playing as if the season just ended a couple days ago. Azubuike attacked the basket on one end and was a defensive terror on the other, blocking several shots and sending a message to the rookies that this trip to Vegas was not a relaxing vacation.
Josh Powell, another returning Warrior, was also impressive, controlling the boards on both ends.
As coach Smart and his staff installed a few basic plays, the team tried its best to understand and adjust to the Warriors up-tempo style. Several times during the morning scrimmage session, Coach Smart blew his whistle and reminded his players to RUN. The hope is to have the Warriors summer league team mirror the break-neck style that Don Nelson had the Warriors playing at last season, and for many of the players on the summer league squad that is a real challenge. As much as every basketball player SAYS they want to run, most of them are not accustomed to it and most of them don’t know how to do it consistently. As Coach Smart commented at one point, “You all saw us on TV in the playoffs…it looks easy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not easy.”
One of the summer leaguers who adjusted quickly to the Warriors style was Toby Bailey. A well-known name from his UCLA days, Bailey knocked down nearly every shot he took in the morning session. He was also very active on the defensive end, getting a hand on several passes and causing general havoc.
While the play wasn’t great during the morning session, it was a good start to summer league. The weather is unbearable in Vegas this week, 118 was the forecasted high on Tuesday. It felt hotter. The Durango High School gym, which is a very nice facility, was VERY hot for the morning session, as the air conditioning had not been turned on. The team’s support staff had to make a run to the store for extra water and Gatorade during the middle of practice as the players fought to stay hydrated. Welcome to Las Vegas, boys.
UCLA product Toby Bailey (#20) was one of the first players to impress Coach Keith Smart at practice.
The team returned to their hotel headquarters and had a few hours to unwind/sleep/get treatment before returning to Durango High at 6 p.m. for the second session of double-days. When the team walked into the spacious gym for the night run, it was like walking into a desert oasis as the air conditioning had been kicked into high gear. The more comfortable setting led to a much better practice session.
Newly acquired Stephane (STEF-on) Lasme (LAZ-me) was one of several players who upped their level in the second session. Lasme was extremely active on both ends during the scrimmage session, showing the ability to block shots and get a hand on nearly every rebound in his area.
As the team boarded the bus and returned to the hotel, fireworks were already bursting in the sky over Las Vegas as night began to fall. For many players, this was their first taste of professional basketball. For some others, it was the first day of what may be their last chance to realize their dream. For everyone, it was a good first day of Summer League.
Assistant Athletic Trainer Frank Bernard opened the training room at 8:15 a.m. this morning, getting players taped up for Day 2 of Summer League 2007. It was only 24 hours later, but the morning session was much better than the previous morning’s session. The anxiety that many of the players seemed to be experiencing on Thursday morning was gone and the guys were simply playing basketball.
The intensity level for the morning session was very high. Coach Smart added a few more plays and variations that the players worked on before taking part in a lengthy scrimmage session.
After practice, it was back to the hotel again, where the players will rest up for tonight's second session.