Summer League notes: Griffin impressive in debut with Clippers
Blake Griffin displayed combination of shooting and power in NBA debut
Clippers are in talks to acquire Allen Iverson, but no deal is imminent
Expensive buyout of Spanish contract may keep Ricky Rubio overseas
LAS VEGAS -- Outstanding performances in the NBA's annual summer leagues are usually a good indicator of ... well, nothing really. Just ask Marco Belinelli, the Warriors' guard who used a 22.8-point-per-game performance here in 2007 as a springboard to a 2.9-point rookie season. Or Jerryd Bayless, who went from 29.8 points last summer to 4.3 last season and recently declared that his summer effort was actually "the worst possible thing." Or Kedrick Brown. Or Qyntel Woods.
You get the idea.
Still, there may be one player whose July dominance will actually translate to regular-season success: Blake Griffin.
The No. 1 pick in the '09 draft made his Clippers debut Monday, and by any measure it was a screaming success. Utilizing power drives, post moves and a soft outside shooting touch, Griffin scored 27 points (on 11-of-15 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds in a 93-82 victory against the Lakers. He bounced in a layup on the Clippers' first possession, absorbed a hard bump and banked in a 12-foot fadeaway on the second, and buried a three-pointer on the third. Later, he set bone-crunching screens, drew fouls on drop-step moves and dazzled fans with a fall-out-of-your-seat spinning layup in the fourth quarter.
"That's about as good a start as you can have," Clippers coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy said. "He played very poised. For a guy like him, it's hard to have a bad game because he does so many things."
Offensively, the Clippers' approach with Griffin was simple: shoot early, shoot often. Griffin has a natural unselfishness that the team likes -- as long as it doesn't prevent him from taking advantage of his own scoring opportunities. Dunleavy even halted a recent practice to chastise Griffin for turning down an open 17-foot jump shot.
"He has a kind of free reign that most rookies don't have," said Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes, who is coaching L.A.'s summer league team. "He has carte blanche to shoot when he wants."
Defensively, the Clippers have been pleasantly surprised at how well Griffin has adapted to the NBA game. While Griffin's natural athleticism will make him a good shot-blocker in the league, he also was the most vocal Clipper on the floor on Monday and showed an ability to read offenses well. In the fourth quarter against the Lakers, Griffin sniffed out a play and slipped into position in time to take a game-clinching charge.
"That's the kind of thing I have been working on since college," Griffin said. "When I talk, I'm more aware of the game going on around me."
That's not to say Griffin's play was flawless. He got caught in bad positions a few times on high pick-and-rolls, committed five turnovers and showed a tendency to pull down rebounds and dribble out on the fast break.
"I'm not a big fan of that," Hughes said.
"There is going to be a learning curve," Dunleavy said. "But we just want him to be aggressive. That's the way we want to see him play."
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An NBA source confirmed that the Clippers have spoken to representatives for free agent guard Allen Iverson. The source said the two sides have swapped proposals but stressed that nothing is imminent. Signing Iverson would be a perplexing move for a team featuring veteran Baron Davis at point guard and trying to develop second-year shooting guard Eric Gordon, who averaged 34.3 minutes last season.
Representatives for Ricky Rubio met with Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and team president David Kahn on Monday. While the discussions were amicable, the biggest obstacle preventing Rubio from playing with the Timberwolves continues to be his complicated buyout with his Spanish club. According to sources, DKV Joventut is holding firm on $4.9 million while Rubio is only interested in paying about $3 million.
"If he had to pay [the $4.9 million]," a source close to the situation said, "it would be like he was playing his first two years [in the NBA] for free."
League rules prevent Minnesota from contributing more than $500,000 to the buyout, so all the Timberwolves can do is be supportive. However, it is looking more and more like Rubio will be playing in Europe next season, likely on a one-year contract.
"It's a big number," Kahn said. "It is a challenge. To the extent that we can be helpful and supportive, that's what we will do."
Warriors coaches have been raving about the play of Stephen Curry. The sharpshooting guard scored 23 points in Golden State's win against Detroit on Monday. In the previous game, a 98-95 victory against Sacramento, Curry finished the first half with two points on 0-of-8 shooting. But after halftime, he scored 27 points on 8-for-14 shooting. That kind of confidence is the hallmark of a great shooter.
Kings GM Geoff Petrie on why he picked Tyreke Evans over Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Curry in last month's draft: "He's got a chance to be a terrific all-around player, not just a point guard. He gets around everybody, he's a good defender and he plays without an agenda. And he's just got a real knack for breaking down people and getting to the rim."
Can we all stop getting excited about the "new and improved" Eddy Curry? Curry has lost close to 30 pounds in the last few months, but he probably needs to drop another 30 to play next season. Curry is still in horrible shape; if he wasn't, don't you think the Knicks would use the summer league as a showcase to try to find a buyer for him and his big contract?
Oklahoma City's James Harden is going to be a stud. That's what I keep hearing.
Scary moment Monday for Mavericks rookie Roddy Beaubois, who tumbled to the floor clutching his left knee in the fourth quarter of a loss to Phoenix. Beaubois, who scored 34 points in the Mavs' previous game and had 16 against the Suns before he went down, had to be helped off the floor. He was scheduled to be reevaluated Tuesday.
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