Last night we got our first look at the Blazers’ draft picks in their first of five games at the Las Vegas Summer League. The match-up between two highly touted guards in Portland’s 6th pick Damian Lillard and New Orleans 10th pick Austin Rivers was what everyone seemed to be looking forward to. The Blazers won the game 85-82 after a terrible first half but the score is irrelevant.
If you’ve been on the basketball/Blazers’ internets, you’ve seen the rave reviews about Lillard’s debut. He finished with 25 points and four assists after a less-than-stellar first half. He scored 21 of his 25 in the second half and garnered about 5 comparisons to Derrick Rose during the game from Mike “The Wild One” Rice. Myers Leonard was active all night, getting a double-double with 14 and 11, while Luke Babbitt dropped 19 to go along with 10 boards. Nolan Smith looked aggressive early, scoring 10 points in the first half before succumbing to an ankle injury.
I’m glad Wesley Matthews is getting some extra run in. Wessy Wes only played 14 minutes but if he went all the way to Vegas to get run, they are wasting his time by doing this. He is only playing two games to begin with and I understand he is under contract already and doesn’t have to prove anything to get on the team. However, he still needs to work on running the fast break and any added work against real defenders couldn’t hurt his handle, which desperately need some touching up. Summer league is supposed to be about the young ones we don’t know, but if Matthews is going to be there for two games, they should actually play him. Matthews clearly could not get into any type of rhythm and frankly, very few NBA players can get into a rhythm with only 14 minutes.
One of the biggest concerns about Myers Leonard coming in was his motor and effort. Leonard did his best to change that perception in his first summer league game by relentlessly hitting the boards and diligently running the floor for his teammates. Chris Webber was gushing about Leonard throughout the NBATV broadcast. He also only took four shots and went 8/10 from the line.
I was really impressed by Will Barton’s court vision. What I knew about Barton was that he was a scorer, evidenced by his 18 points per game at Memphis, but many times, mainly in the second half he would drive into the lane and have his head on a swivel. He had a bad shooting night but was effective in the second half attacking from the wing and getting other guys open looks, even if they couldn’t finish. He finished with only three assists but his ability to create in the lane and get open looks for his teammates was certainly an encouraging side to his game that I didn’t really know existed.
All in all, it was a positive first game of summer league for most of the players involved and they won. Their next game is tomorrow night against
Chandler Parsons (out with hurt finger), Portland native Terrence Jones and the Houston Rockets at 8PM.
Some links about last night:
Ben Golliver’s report from the game over at Blazersedge was an informative read, as usual. My favorite bit from the article was Damian Lillard’s comments about his relationship with Myers Leonard:
It’s a well-told story by this point that Lillard advocated on Leonard’s behalf during the pre-Draft process and he spoke a bit on Sunday night about their developing bond. “Me and Meyers have connected a lot,” he said. ‘We’ve been in the gym a few late nights together. Just sitting around talking, messing around. Even on the court, we talk a lot. Just to loosen each other up. He’ll throw a joke at me. I missed a few shots today and he threw a joke at me, just keeping the spirits positive. As far as the pick and roll, he’s a threat to attack the rim and I’m a threat to make shots so we’ve just got to be able to work off each other.”
- James Herbert from Hardwood Paroxsym had the pleasure of sitting next to Damian Lillard’s mother during her son’s first game.
- ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz also had a great deal of praise for Damian Lillard.