Many basketball observers are quick to characterize Summer League as a dumpster fire of basketball talent, and, to some extent, they have a point: the cumulative lot of players here is not nearly as skilled as those in the NBA and they doesn't have a lot of time to jell.
There are a lot of bad turnovers and errant jumpers that fire badly off the side of the rim. It isn't, and it never will be, good NBA basketball. But those who are quick to judge miss the underlying theme of Summer League: there are dozens of human beings fighting for their very livelihood, their ability to feed their families, and they are trying to carve out a path in life.
That's something we so often forget. If some of these guys don't make at least an impact on one of the many scouts or executives in the league, then they will most likely be in the D-League or playing in another country next season. And there is a huge difference between playing in the D-League and earning an NBA minimum contract. Of these group of outcasts, only a few will actually earn that coveted contract.
So that means that for all the miscues and poor play, these dudes are playing extremely hard. They dive for loose balls, attack on rebounds and contest almost every shot. That's something that is lost watching from television: They may miss a rotation on the back end, but it isn't for lack of effort. These dudes are putting forth effort and as a spectator, it is much appreciated. On to the stories of the day:
Elfrid Payton settles in and leads the way
The Louisiana-Lafayette product didn't necessarily play poorly on Saturday, but he didn't do much to impress, either. On Monday, he was impressive, serving confidently as the Orlando Magic's lead guard and finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.
But after the game, Payton was more apt to speak about his flaws. "I had three quick turnovers to start the game," Payton said. "But I was able to settle in and limit that for the rest of the game." He said he thought he did a good job of getting into the paint, but credited his teammates for creating "angles" for him to do so.
He also said he thinks he needs to do a better job of staying aggressive, when the situation calls for it.
The Magic, though, can live with Payton's performance. He turned the ball over four times, but he led the team on both ends of the floor. He looked comfortable navigating in pick-and-rolls and did a nice job of using a quick first step to get into the paint. His most impressive play came in the second quarter, when he exploded past his defender for a two handed jam:
"I thought he played beautiful," Magic Summer League coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "He's got to learn to control the tempo a little better when teams try to speed us up. But overall he handled the pressure, got us organized and got us decent looks."
Aaron Gordon nets a smooth pull-up jumper
It seems egregious to point out one shot as an entire subheading, but Gordon's pull-up jumper in the first half was smooth, confident, and looked natural. He took one dribble to his left and netted the shot. From media row, it appeared it was a shot he had been hitting all his life.
"I've put in a lot of work," Gordon said. "So now instead of just pulling up in front of somebody, I need to make a move to get by him or attack the rim. Then maybe I can create a little more space, so I can actually show how much I've worked on my jumper."
It bears noting that the jumper is still a work in progress, and Gordon is quick to do so. He missed both attempts from behind the arc and shot just 1-of-5 at the line. But what Gordon has really flashed is his ballhandling ability; the guy can really dribble the ball, well enough that he can play small forward for long stretches at a time.
Orlando has used him in these first two games in a variety of ways: as the ball handler in side pick-and-roll situations, off dribble handoffs, and out in space. The issue now is that Gordon is prone to overdribbling. Coaches never want the ball to stick in one player's hand through the shot clock, but that is something that Gordon is still learning.
"They (Payton and Gordon) have settled in a little," Unseld Jr. said. "I think it's still a thing of rhythm and timing. So it's going to be a while, but I love to see them work through it now so come fall they feel comfortable in their role."
Coach Oladipo gets to work
No one in the Amway Center practice gym was louder or more vocal than Victor Oladipo, whom some media members dubbed after the game "Coach Oladipo." He yelled defensive assignments, screamed for foul calls and cheered on his young teammates, while also mentoring them through their mistakes.
Payton laughed when he was asked about Coach Oladipo. "He's great, man, he's great," Payton said. "Like I said, he doesn't have any ego. He's been through this one year so he's got a lot to give to us. He knows a lot; it's just a big help having someone who's been through it before."
Unseld Jr. got a good chuckle when he was asked about Oladipo's sideline antics. "I love his enthusiasm," he said, "I'll leave it at that."
Other notes around the league
- Devyn Marble seems like an interesting name around these parts. He didn't shoot as well from the floor in his second game but still put up nine points by getting to the free throw line. He looks like a guy who could really challenge for a roster spot. So I asked Unseld Jr. about him. His response: "He's a player. He understands the subtle nuances and for a good players, he's got a great feel."
- Funny story from yesterday: Former North Texas star and current Detroit Pistons forward Tony Mitchell made an athletic play at the rim, but couldn't finish. One scout went to write down something in his note pad and another grabbed him on the shoulder and said, "Don't waste your ink." Take that as you will.
- Shaquille O`Neal attended Monday and he is absolutely enormous. He could eat three of me and still come back for more.
- Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has shot poorly from the field and really struggled on the offensive end, but he is a hoss on defense. He runs around screens as hard as he possibly can, sometimes running right through them. Today he ran right through a 6-foot-10, 265-pound man and picked up a foul for his trouble. It was terrifying.
- No one on press row paid attention to the second half of the Magic game, after the news that Orlando agreed to terms with Channing Frye broke. The media greeted it with mixed reactions, but if I had to guess I'd say that most were positive.