What's happened in Vegas?
Early buzz on top picks and more from summer league
Posted: Monday July 9, 2007 11:53AM; Updated: Monday July 9, 2007 1:27PM
LAS VEGAS -- The opening weekend of the NBA Las Vegas Summer League is in the books, and what did we learn?
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are going to need time to get adjusted to the pro game.
Yi Jianlian is almost certainly going to play in Milwaukee this season.
Marco Belinelli and Javaris Crittenton could be this year's draft steals.
And if you happen to be in Sin City in July, wear light clothes and keep lots of bottled water handy.
OK, so maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves on all but the last one. After all, we're basing these observations on only one or two games at the start of a 10-day tournament that will feature 20 NBA teams composed mostly of rookies and free agents.
But with 100-degree temperatures turning Vegas into a blast furnace, it's easy to suffer heat stroke and get carried away a little.
At the risk then of these observations turning into a mirage, here is a rundown of what occurred over Days 1-3 of the NBA's summer session in the desert.
Oden and Durant struggle early
You can tell a lot about a person by how he handles disappointment. Neither Oden nor Durant lived up to the hype in their pro debuts Friday night, but they both showed a positive attitude that should serve them well as they go through the requisite growing pains.
Oden, in particular, displayed a maturity beyond his 19 years. Though clearly disappointed with his performance -- in which he committed 10 fouls in 20 minutes -- he refused to blame the refs or the sinus infection that had been bothering him for a few days. He even found room for a little humor, joking with reporters about the summer's league 10-foul limit by saying that he usually fouls out after only five.
Oden had more foul problems in his second game Sunday, but looked more comfortable overall and finished with 13 points, five boards and four blocks in the Trail Blazers' 72-68 loss to the Mavs.
Durant also handled his somewhat disappointing first contest with grace. He admitted he was nervous before taking the floor, before settling down in the second quarter. He also shrugged off the ignominy of having his first field goal attempt swatted into the stands by Mavs 7-footer DeSagana Diop.
"Its just basketball," said Durant, who was to play his second game Monday night against the Knicks. "There's no pressure. I'm just here to play basketball [and] get better every day."
The consensus among GMs and scouts in attendance was that both Oden and Durant would be fine once they got adjusted to the faster NBA game. Several GMs and coaches recalled Greg Ostertag dominating then Spurs rookie Tim Duncan in his summer league debut many years ago. That alone should be enough to make Oden and Durant feel much much better.
Yi will keep brewing
While Yi waits for a resolution to his Milwaukee saga, he suffered his own typical rookie ups and downs as well while playing for the Chinese national team. The 7-foot forward had 24 points and four rebounds in his debut Friday night, an 86-77 loss to the Grizzlies, but committed a slew of fouls (including five in a span of about five minutes). He then shot 2-of-14 in Saturday night's 73-47 loss to the Kings before bouncing back with a big fourth quarter in Sunday's 85-84 win over the Cavs. How big? Yi scored 17 of his 20 points in the final quarter, including the game-winner on a 10-foot bank shot to beat the final horn.
Yi's performance was reminiscent of Andrea Bargnani's early showing in last year's Vegas Summer League. Bargnani, the No. 1 overall pick, didn't shoot particularly well and seemed allergic to rebounding. But the lanky Bargnani ran the floor well and showed a high level of athleticism for a big man. Sure enough, he eventually found a comfort level in the NBA and hit his stride roughly midway through the season. Yi, who has a similar body type, looks like he might be able to do the same in Milwaukee -- assuming he agrees to join the Bucks.