By Justin Taylor
Klay Thompson's perfect stroke has been on full display
Once again Warrior fans are justifying their title as the best fans in the league whether the team deserves it or not. I’m well aware that some other fan bases may take issue with that statement but I could care less. When their teams bottom out for years at a time and their fans are still packing gyms in the desert in mid-July we’ll put their case in front of a judge. It’s almost 115 degrees outside and the stands are packed every time the Warriors take the floor; it could just be that there is just really good AC in that building that gets shut off when the Kings team is playing.
The PR department may be very happy that we’re one of the top attractions in Las Vegas right now but having half of your roster in the summer league is nothing to be proud of. It could be worse I guess, the Cavs and Bobcats have their entire starting line ups active; that is until Kyrie Irving pulled a Gus Frerotte and broke his hand punching a padded wall in practice.
The worst thing about summer league is that only the crappy teams care. Lakers and Heat fans probably don’t even know the have representatives in Vegas right now. The competition level is worse than D League basketball and more pointless then intrasquad spring training baseball games. All I can hope for is that Bay Area basketball fans can approach summer ball like the fans of other good teams do in the coming years. The fact that the Warriors dominate here every year is more embarrassing than encouraging and having standout players at this time of year is nothing to hang your hat on.
Projecting anything based on a performance during the summer unless it’s for Team USA is absolutely useless. Instead of making any bold statements or predictions based on two meaningless games I’ll post my observations from days one and two and our rookies “professional debuts.”
Klay Thompson: From what I’ve seen so far there is no over player who is more out of place in these games. He went from being a kid trying to earn his stripes against the best in the world playing for the USA Select squad to being an NBA player in a rec league game at the Y the next day. I think that second game is the last we’ll see him until training camp begins in a few months and that’s a good thing because this teams catches injuries like the flu.
Barnes has shown he's got the J so now he just needs to show us some D
Harrison Barnes: I was more impressed by his performance in the second game when he had a poor shooting night and still found ways to be effective with his defense and rebounding then I was with his game one shooting exhibition. We all knew he could shoot coming in (I’m really excited to see the ball go into the post and come back out to Curry, Thompson and Barnes…That’s a murderers row of knock down shooters). The questions are whether he can make plays for others and bring a consistent level of intensity in locking up his man and crashing the boards. That’s all I’m looking for in the last few games later this week.
Pete Myers: I’m assuming that he’s coaching this team because Mike Malone is busy getting turned down for head coaching positions left and right. Maybe I’m the only one but I found it funny that Myers pulled Thompson and Barnes out of the blowout against the Lakers after three quarters. Quick tip: You’re not coaching the score, this isn’t an NBA game here, this game was just as pointless at when it was 2-0 as it was when we were up by 40 coach. If you don’t want to take any chances getting these guys hurt just send them home (which, like I mentioned, I’m happy they did with Klay).
Charles Jenkins: What’s not to like about Mr. Mid Range? (Courtesy: Steph Curry) Even when he wasn’t doing much during the first game he was still controlling the flow (he did have a +/- of +35). He just looks like he belongs in the league and in the second game he was knocking down jumpers like he was playing Pop-A-Shot. I felt from day one that keeping him over Jeremy Lin was the right thing to do and Lin’s $25+ million contract has only made me feel better about the move.
Festus Ezeli: I have a feeling that this guy is going to be a fan favorite very soon. He lives to rebound, defend and knock people on their asses. We’ve needed that presence forever but we’ll probably have to be patient unless Andris Biedrins gets locked up for tax evasion in Latvia in the coming weeks. He may be raw but he’s already better then Patrick O’Bryant ever was; who by the way, is on the Phoenix summer league team. Just wanted to point that out since I’m sure no one will notice. Kind of like how no one will notice when he’s back playing in Eastern Europe somewhere next week. Anyway, the kid is a true center and figures to anchor the second unit defense very soon.
Chris Wright: I’m not sure if Wright has officially been cut but he did leave the team to play for the Raptors summer squad. Either way it’s not a good sign when you can’t get minutes during the summer. I hope he can latch on somewhere else but he’ll have to do more then bring energy and highlight reel dunks wherever he ends up.
Draymond Green: We have heard more about Green then we’ve seen out of him so far but that isn’t too concerning. The Matt Steinetz article on him pretty much sums up the intelligence, work ethic and skills that will help him carve out a niche in this league regardless of his height. He is going to work his ass off to take advantage of the opportunity that this next guy just might be (literally) fumbling away.
Jeremy Tyler: Maybe I’m just too hard on the kid but I feel like he has done nothing to take advantage of a golden opportunity to make a case for the spot behind David Lee. Tyler looked to be equal parts wild, lost and ineffective against the Lakers rec league team in game one and had no business being on the same floor as Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried in the Denver contest. I wasn’t a fan to begin with but he’s not helping his case with his stupid fouls, lack of rebounds, fade away jump shots and of course, his Pennzoil hands.
In a Rusty Simmons interview he said, “I came in believing that I was already all-everything. Now I know that there are a lot of guys who are better than me. Once you start respecting the skill in this league, you start getting a lot better." I stretched that out of context a little but my first reaction to the complete statement was, “Dude, you haven’t been the best player on the floor since your junior year of high school!” If you want to see him play this season I think your going to have make the trip out to Santa Cruz.
This is the best "Bench Mob" in the history of summer league
Rest of the team: It’s too bad no long shots are going to make the opening day roster because this team has a lot of candidates to fill the “chemist” role. That is Bill Simmons’ name for the guy the doles out the best high fives, waives his towel the hardest and spends the most time on his feet deliriously cheering on teammates from his 12th man spot on the bench. It’s amazing how enthusiastic the bench has been considering that they all know they’ll be searching for a job next week. Klay’s shooting clinic seems to have some of these guys thinking they might get a contract by cheering the hardest. As Bob Fitzgerald likes to point out no matter how bad the team looks or how bad their record is, “These guys genuinely like each other.” I guess being 2-0 in any league is a pretty cool thing, I just never thought we’d see this much energy from a group of people that are about to be unemployed.
Marco Bellinelli set Vegas on fire in his debut but no one would take him over Klay Thompson. Anthony Randolph set a record with 42 points a few years ago that was broken a few days later when Anthony Morrow dropped 47; Festus Ezeli might not shatter any records but he has a position and Charles Jenkins might not be able to shoot from half court but he can get his deadly mid range shot off whenever he wants. These kids aren’t just wingspans, twigs, tweeners and specialists; they’re all basketball players that can be expected to fill a role, not save the franchise.
There is no way around the fact that the level of basketball sucks in summer league but I highly recommend checking it out for yourself. Following good kids like these from their first steps as NBA players until the day the Warriors trade them unceremoniously is what makes being a fan so much fun, for me at least. I don’t think I’d be such a fan of Monta Ellis or Jason Richardson if I hadn’t followed them from quiet teenagers in the summer league all the way through to the true professionals they’ve become. I used to love going down to the Pyramid in Long Beach in the summer and being able to say, “I was there from the beginning.” As with this team, it’s what makes the end result (hopefully winning this time around) so much more meaningful.