Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic
Alton Clark of NBA Playbook is covering the 2012 Orlando Pro Summer League on behalf of Magic Basketball. This is Alton’s roundup of Day 1.
Magic 92, Nets 88
- Andrew Nicholson was the top story from the Magic’s first Summer League game, debuting with 24 points and 12 rebounds (both game-highs) on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor. Nicholson scored the ball effectively in all three post areas (low, mid, and high). He was a physical presence on the offensive end and he put a lot of pressure on the Brooklyn Nets’ backline defenders. Nicholson stretched the floor with his outside shooting, which opened driving and passing lanes for his teammates. He was the best player on the floor and really showed the packed crowd at Amway Center’s practice gym why he was general manager Rob Hennigan’s first-ever NBA draft pick. The only drawback of Nicholson’s first professional game was that he committed six fouls. There is a “no foul out” rule in Summer League so Nicholson was not disqualified, but this is something to keep an eye for the remainder of the week.
- Kyle O’Quinn was the low post defensive anchor for the Magic’s backline. Although the box score only credited him with two blocked shots, he altered many more and used his 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame to prevent his man from establishing ideal post position. O’Quinn was patient in the half-court and ran the floor well in transition. On one play, he forced the Nets’ 7-foot center Jeff Foote to catch the ball off the block, squared up and held his ground as Foote tried to back him down with two power dribbles, blocked both of Foote’s shot attempts, tipped the second block to his point guard Maalik Wayns, trailed the break, caught a dump-off pass from Wayns in full stride, and finished an and-one layup. That type of energy is going to be key for the Magic’s frontline and can even be contagious amongst the other bigs. O’Quinn brings a blue-collar mentality to the table and isn’t afraid to confront anyone.
- Maalik Wayns played the role of distributor today and was a master at it. He had a game-high 10 assists and was reading the Nets’ defense at an extremely high level. As an undrafted free agent, one would expect to critique Wayns’ ability to run a professional team but he was as calm and poised as any point guard today. Wayns must continue to improve his outside shot and do a better job of containing his man off the dribble. He will be tested by talented point guards the rest of the week, like Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons, so the remaining games will truly show how composed of a player he is.
- With Ryan Anderson acquired by New Orleans in a sign-and-trade, the Magic will need one of their bigs to be a consistent three-point shooting threat. Although it was only one game, Justin Harper didn’t lack confidence in his outside shot and knocked down two three-pointers with relative ease. Harper also hit a few mid-range jumpers on pick-and-pop situations. With Nicholson and O’Quinn battling in the post, it is imperative that Harper develops into a legit outside shooting threat to keep defenses honest.
- Al Thornton was really the only bright spot for Brooklyn today. In the first half, he was over-penetrating and trying to create on his own. In the second half, he let the game come to him and was reading the defense. He got out in transition for some easy buckets, which gave him confidence in his mid-range game. Given the intimate setting of the practice court, you can hear practically everything from press row and Thornton made a huge mistake that is unacceptable for being one of the few NBA veterans on the floor. On the final possession for the Nets when they were down 91-88, Nets Summer League coach Popeye Jones called a timeout and drew up an elevator screen at the top of the key for Tyshawn Taylor. Thornton was one of the screeners, but obviously did not make enough physical contact with Taylor’s man to free him up for a clean look. Taylor attempted to drive and missed a layup, which essentially ended the game. Thornton helped Taylor up off the ground and said, “I forgot the play, dawg. My bad.”
- This week, Magic fans have been hearing MarShon Brooks’ name in Dwight Howard trade talks. Thankfully, after his performance today, the latest trade rumor has Brooks going to the Los Angeles Clippers in a four-team deal instead of Orlando. To Brooks’ defense, today was his first time primarily playing the point guard position at the NBA level. But Brooks struggled at doing the one thing that he does best — creating his own shot off the dribble. Anyone that has followed Brooks’ career knows that he can score with relative ease, so today should be viewed as an anomaly.
Celtics 73, Thunder 65
- The major storyline of this game was about two players who were locks to be picked in the top 10 of the 2011 NBA Draft that fell to the 20s in the 2012 NBA Draft because of injury concerns. Both Jared Sullinger (back) and Perry Jones (knee) were set to be franchise pillars for a bottom-dwelling team last season. Now they have a chance to be solid to above-average role players on a championship contender. They both showed their talent as they faced off in the 1:00 p.m. game.
- Sullinger’s father was telling everyone who would listen that his son’s back was fine and the man known as “Satch” might be correct. His son was dominating the paint and the Thunder could do nothing about it. For a player of his size, Sullinger has great body control and expects contact on every shot attempt. Last December, the Celtics traded Glen “Big Baby” Davis to the Magic for Brandon Bass and Von Wafer. Sullinger looks to be Big Baby reincarnated without the slobber and tears.
- Jones had top five talent this year, but his troublesome knee combined with scouts questioning his desire to be great caused him to drop in the 2012 NBA Draft to No. 28 overall. This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for both Jones and the Oklahoma City Thunder. His face-up game was clicking today and the Celtics’ bigs had a hard time not biting too hard on his jab-step because of his quickness. The game seems to come easy to Jones and that gift was on display today. Jones will definitely be the focus of scouting reports for the rest of the week, so he will have to adjust to the extra attention that opposing defenses will inevitably give him.
Pistons 76, Jazz 73
- Deron Washington was the epitome of an energy guy for Utah and carried them in limited playing time. Not known as a three-point shooter at Virginia Tech (28.6 percent for his college career), Washington has developed his outside stroke since graduating in 2008. Expect former ACC foe and now Jazz Summer League coach Sidney Lowe (North Carolina State) to get Washington more than nine minutes in future games.
- Kim English had one of the most efficient games of anyone today. He did all the little things (stopped the ball in transition, back taps, dove for loose balls, echoed plays calls, made the extra pass) in addition to filling up the box score. English has always been a talent, but there’ve been questions about his maturity and attitude. The self-proclaimed Rudyard Kipling enthusiast will be one of the two-guards to watch throughout the rest of this week.
Pacers 69, Sixers 63
- Jacob Pullen was the only bright spot from either team as he continued to do what he was known for in college: making shots and being a leader. Pullen’s game can be compared to Chauncey Billups with his patience and ability to take advantage of what opportunities the defense allows. Pullen knocked down open shots today and that will need to be his calling card if he expects to have a career in the NBA.
- Summer League not only serves as a tryout for players and coaches; it serves as a tryout for referees as well. Summer League serves as step four of an arduous selection process as aspiring referees attempt to make it to the D-League and then on to the NBA. Celtics Summer League head coach Tyronn Lue was not happy with a clear path foul that was committed against one of his players and not called. Lue proceeded to jump off the bench and scream at the referees-in-training, “Yo, he can’t do that! Learn the rules!”