A summer of NBA fun concludes Monday, as the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns meet in the championship game of the Las Vegas league.
I’m going to miss organized basketball in the summer. Or at least, I’ll miss getting to watch it on TV. But I’m also ready to turn my attention to football for August and September. I cover the NBA for living, and couldn’t be more thrilled.
But football brings out the fan in me. I rarely have to write about it, and am allowed to just be an everyday fan. As a sportswriter, that’s pretty rare.
Still, the late summer/early fall also gives me some time to recharge for the NBA season, which begins with the opening of training camps in late September/early October.
So, I’ll miss summer basketball. But like a lot of general managers and coaches, I could use the break.
Anyway, here is the starting five of who impressed me most during the Vegas run (in no particular order):
Cody Zeller, F/C, Charlotte Bobcats: Zeller was booed heartily when the Bobcats selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in last month’s draft. I didn’t get it then, and don’t now. He displayed an ability to score and rebound with a nice mix of fundamentals and athleticism in Vegas. I say he’s a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors: Not many true centers (as in, guys who actually play with their back to the basket) remaining in the NBA. Valanciunas is one of those guys, displaying an array of Kevin McHale-like moves and loads of confidence in Vegas. Watch out for a breakout season.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Atlanta Hawks: Summer is a time for point guards to shine, as they occasionally bring the ball up the floor and let it fly, looking for their own shot and to impress via numbers. But Schroder ran the Hawks’ offense like a seasoned pro, directing traffic and finding the open man. He also displayed some pretty gritty D.
Andrew Goudelock, G, Chicago Bulls: Entering his third season, this is a huge year for Goudelock. He’s mostly an undersized shooting guard, but he found ways to get open and put the ball in the basket — a lot. If you can do that, it doesn’t matter if you’re not as tall as other shooting guards. Just ask the New Orleans Pelicans’ Eric Gordon.
Kent Bazemore, SG, Warriors: This guy did it all at both ends, and is likely to be the official summer MVP. He’s got size, athleticism and skills, and don’t be surprised if teams are calling the Warriors prior to the season to see what it’ll take to obtain him in a trade. That’s how much Bazemore impressed.
Second Team: C.J. McCollum, G, Portland Trail Blazers; Markieff Morris, F, Suns; Marcus Morris, F, Suns; Thomas Robinson, F, Trail Blazers; Malcolm Thomas, F, Bulls.
USA camp begins
Team USA mini-camp is underway in Las Vegas, with Duke University coach Mike Krzyewski again fronting the practices.
Coach K has some new assistants this time around, however — with New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau acting as assistants.
Next up for the U.S. is the FIBA World Championships in Spain next summer. After that, it’s the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. No telling who on this team will make actual roster, but you have to consider Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Paul George (Pacers) among the favorites.
Here’s the complete list of those taking part in the mini-camp:
Ryan Anderson (Pelicans), Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Ander Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz), Paul George (Pacers), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Jrue Holiday (Pelicans), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Ty Lawson (Nuggets), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Greg Monroe (Pistons), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets), Larry Sanders (Milwaukee Bucks), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Bobcats), John Wall (Wizards), Tyler Zeller (Cavaliers).
NBA TV will air a special on the camp Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, and televise an intra-squad scrimmage Thursday at 9 p.m. Tuesday’s special will include a feature on Irving.
• Sources around the league say Kings guard Jimmer Fredette is still available. Fredette is entering his third pro season. The Hawks, Cavaliers, Wizards and Jazz are said to be among the interested teams.
• The Hawks may also be among those interested in Delonte West, the former Boston Celtics and Cavaliers guard who is working on a comeback. Hawks GM Danny Ferry was the Cavs’ GM when West played in Cleveland.
• Former Ohio State center and No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden will reportedly conduct a workout in front of three teams later this week. The Pelicans, Kings and Heat are expected to be the teams in attendance. The Spurs and Mavericks are also said to be in the running.
• Finally, I should add that Spurs forward Deshaun Thomas and especially, L.A. Clippers Reggie Bullock, also impressed me with their play in Las Vegas. Both look like they could turn into NBA steals.