Random Notes & Quotes From Las Vegas Summer League

Photo by Freelantz Sports Media.

Since we have not formally written much about Draymond Green yet, I went to Las Vegas Summer League hoping to get people's thoughts on him.

So I'll be piecing something together about him based on interviews with Green, Charles Jenkins, and Jared Sullinger - who was probably the funniest guy I've interviewed in a while and had some interesting insight on Green from facing him in the Big Ten - early this week, hopefully tomorrow (I'm traveling back to the Bay Area today).

But in the process of going through some of the interviews I did this weekend and sifting through other notes to put together that story, I also had a lot of random thoughts and quotes that I won't use elsewhere that I thought

Random quotes from player interviews

  • New Orleans Hornets guard Austin Rivers on what he plans to work on this summer after their loss to the Warriors yesterday (in which he did not play): "Just continue to get stronger, that way I go to training camp right and just be in the best shape I can possibly be in. That way in training camp I'm already in pretty good shape. Just everything: continue on my handles, skills. I'm working on a lot of stuff that point guards do as well because I will be playing a lot of shooting guard but I'll be playing a lot of point guard mostly."
  • Charles Jenkins on his approach to the season with the prospect of Stephen Curry being healthy and Jarrett Jack - who he'll "probably be working out with a little bit before training camp starts" - coming in: "Just staying prepared. At the beginning of the year I was in the same situation. I just gotta be patient and good things will happen. You know, continue to work hard, continue to be the first guy in the gym and the last guy to leave and good things are going to happen."
  • Draymond Green on going 5-0 at summer league: "It's huge. You know, in order to win you gotta start winning habits. And it's a good start for us young fellas going into training camp. And we just gotta try to carry some of this energy over into training camp."
  • Draymond Green on what he gained from playing in summer league: "A little experience, but also you get out there playing five on five, get back used to playing - you know, you're so used to working out. But I think it was good to get out here but also learning the ins and outs and learning some of the system as well."
  • Green on being one of the increasingly rare four-year players: "It gave me a lot of experience. It got me a lot of wins too, so I don't mind. A lot of awards."
  • Milwaukee Bucks rookie John Henson on North Carolina teammate Harrison Barnes, who he watched once in person: "He's a dynamic scorer, he can do a lot of things. I think he has a great career to come and a good opportunity in Golden State to win early."
  • Jared Sullinger on rebounding: "Rebounding makes me happy."
  • Jared Sullinger on his back, looking at the two of us standing there: "Is it a problem to y'all? It's not a problem to me."

Random notes

  • First, in case you were wondering, the two courts they're playing on are in the same building, which is really nice when it's 100+ degrees outside in the desert. The Warriors' final two games - which I was present for - were in the Thomas & Mack Center Arena. Games were simultaneously going on across the concourse in Cox Pavilion.

    Img_2670_medium Img_2672_medium
    Thomas & Mack Arena (left) and Cox Pavilion (right).

  • With games going on in both places, there were a lot of choices to make and so aside from the Warriors, I generally targeted the Milwaukee Bucks (for John Henson) and the Portland Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard. The best game I saw was the Bucks vs. Boston Celtics last night, which included a third quarter in which there were four technical fouls called. Think these guys don't take summer league seriously?
  • As the GSoM community voted in our poll about most impressive players the other day, the consensus among media in attendance seemed to be that Damian Lillard was the most impressive player at summer league. When you compare what he's already capable of to the other point guards playing in summer league, he was one of the few guys there that everyone seemed to agree was a step ahead of the competition.
  • The team that seemed to generate the most buzz was the Houston Rockets, just for the way they played basketball. Unfortunately, they finished up before I even got to Vegas but they had people still talking about them days later.
  • John Henson was one non-Warriors player who really stood out to me. His combination of athleticism and wingspan should help him become an impact player on defense. But what impressed me the most was his offensive game - in addition to looking comfortable scoring from inside and out, he was a much better passer than I expected. It would not be a stretch to consider him a steal at #14, but one media member suggested that he wasn't quite as active as you might expect given his athleticism and skillset, "picking his spots" to make plays defensively instead.
  • Meyers Leonard is tough to figure out at this point. He clearly has the athleticism and physical tools to make an impact. But a discussion with one media member probably summed up my impressions of Leonard best: he's apparently a nice guy off the court and maybe a bit too polite on the court. That sentiment is only reinforced by his facial expressions and body language in the paint, which make it appear that he wants nothing to do with contact.
  • Jae Crowder is a physical specimen - we might normally expect to see an athlete with his body type on a football field somewhere. While the general sentiment about him seems positive, there's also some thinking that he'll have to work on his jumper just to become a dime-a-dozen wing. Still, that's not bad for a second round pick and it wouldn't be surprising if he ends up becoming more productive than some of the players drafted ahead of him.
  • Talking to folks who cover the Suns, Kendall Marshall is a player who I'm curious to watch. One media member put it best, in my opinion: he's a point guard and what matters is that sees the floor extremely well and you can see it in transition, but he doesn't quite seem to have the foot speed to beat anyone or play defense. Most people seem to think that basketball IQ will help him overcome some of the noted physical limitations.
  • Nobody seems to be terribly excited about Jeremy Tyler's prospects of becoming a real contributor. You hate to hear people give up on a player so young, but he apparently made a terrible impression upon people in the D-League and the feeling is that he just "doesn't get it"...perhaps much like Anthony Randolph. Even when he does show flashes of brilliance, people still seem to be having a tough time reconciling those flashes with his past decision to leave high school to go overseas and then reportedly not even showing up to practices in Israel.
  • I also heard some backstory about Tyler's adventures with Easy-E's daughter and their big dreams together. That was interesting.
  • I met a guy from KPFA who discussed the possibility of collaborating on a project profiling the work of Warriors' players in the community and sharing their thoughts on the world beyond basketball and that's something I'll definitely follow-up on as it fits my broader interests in life. He had previously worked with Adonal Foyle and we had an interesting discussion comparing the way Foyle goes about expressing his political work to Etan Thomas' approach.
  • Jessica Lantz, who contributes to SBN's women's basketball site Swish Appeal and is an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, took a bunch of photos throughout summer league (some of which I used, including the one above) and I'll probably post those whenever she gets them processed (she's returning home today as well).
  • Overall, that was by far the most fun I've had covering basketball - college or pro, men's or women's - in a while. One thing I enjoyed was the informality of it all - everyone from media to players to referees (taking pictures of one another) was just in a relaxed state and enjoying low stakes basketball and the opportunity some of these younger players are getting to fulfill a dream or at least get close enough to get a taste of the dream. That's fun.
  • But the thing I enjoyed most was by far meeting some people whose words (or tweets) I had only seen on my computer screen. Highlights were meeting Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge and Lisa Rotter of Mavs Moneyball, both of whom I've worked with previously virtually (with SBN Seattle and SBN's women's basketball site Swish Appeal) but had never met in person. But the SBN contingent stayed in a house not too far from the strip and such and just hanging out and getting to know folks more casually or at games was also fun. It was a great trip and I definitely look forward to coming back next year, time permitting.

  • Img_2673_medium
    The backyard of the SBN house where we had one of the most ridiculous conversations ever on Friday night.

As I said above, I'll be putting together some more polished final thoughts on summer league performances over the next day or so but feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. I enjoyed it and, based on some of your comments previously, glad that you enjoyed my coverage of it for GSoM this weekend.

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