The Moment We Were Waiting For. ESPN, Prime Time (in the West), real commentators, lots of cameras, big crowd.
Oops. Off to ESPNU, and away we go!
The game started well, particularly for Paolo Banchero, and the old rule of Summer League quickly asserted itself. If your best player is also your primary ball handler and distributor, you have a great chance of a win in Summer League. If that player is the #1 NBA Draft pick, and getting commensurate calls, odds are great.
That said, Paolo looked really good. As did Jabari Smith Jr, but the lack of distribution, or any sort of screen, pick or other means of getting his shot untracked, really showed up.
As the game wore on, the Rockets surrendered a lot of offense rebounds to Orlando, and most seemingly lead to an open three. Three point shooting, despite the presence of Smith for the Rockets, greatly favored Orlando, who at one point were shooting 50% from three, but finished around 43% on 33 attempts in 40 minutes, and that was really the difference in the game.
Banchero looked really good, particularly off the drive, and he notched 17pts. Orlando’s other draftee Caleb Houstan, seemingly made every three he took, and scored 20, going 5 of 9 from three. 3rd year player RJ Hampton looked good, but it would be tragic if he didn’t.
For the Rockets, second year guard Josh Christopher was the main bright spot, scoring 22pts, but needed 18 shots to do it. He probably could have done better, but realized he was the main source of offense and tried to do too much. He did look appreciably better than any other guard on the court, and that’s what you want to see from a second year player.
Jabari Smith ended up with 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting, with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He looked a bit hesitant most of the time, and the Rockets offense provided him exactly zero easy looks, or even open shots. His jumper looks beautiful, but he was mostly shooting off drives, or contested catches at the perimeter.
Smith’s handle looked rudimentary, but functional, and he can at least dribble at speed. His defensive movement was great, and he contested shots very well. He passed a bit better than expected, too. My main complaint, directed at Jabari, was that he didn’t simply shoot over much shorter players running out on him. There’s no need to shot fake a small guard running out. Just shoot it.
The plan to play Smith at center didn’t go all that well. He’s a PF, maybe a SF.
Tari Eason will simply create havoc on defense, and he looked good attacking the basket. His NBA range 3pt shot looks like Early Lonzo Ball, except it doesn’t go in. He’ll probably get time on the court because he’s simply a nightmare on defense. If he can actually find a reliable shot, he’s a better version of Trevor Ariza, as his handle doesn’t seem utterly doomed, like Ariza’s.
Other Rockets were mostly notable for looking worse than useless. Both the inexplicable Anthony Lamb, and the disappointing Daishen Nix had games to forget. They combined for 6 points in 40 minutes of action, and Nix went 2-7 on free throws. Lamb’s lamentable minutes probably came about because Usman Garuba is, as usual, hurt with something or other.
The mysterious #35, also known as Aric Holman, made a few shots, and had a nice block or two, and generally looked better than Lamb, which isn’t saying much.
TyTy Washington should start over Nix at PG, if this is what we can expect from Nix. Ty Ty looked dangerous off the drive, with his floater, and possibly from deep. Nix specialized in getting right under the rim, not shooting, and then sending a grenade to teammates who were expecting a shot. The Rockets all need to think more about shooting, and finishing strong at the rim. If passing out of a look at the basket, likely to draw at least a foul, if not +1 is what the Rockets are being taught, please stop.
Two other comments.
The reffing in this game was simply an embarrassment. They blew (the whistle). And blew (the whistle). And blew (the whistle). It was one of the worst jobs I’ve seen at any level. I’m not talking about bias. It was Olympics bad.
Perhaps these refs were auditioning for a higher level? I truly hope nobody thought this was a good performance, simply because they blew the whistle a lot. Despite their constant blowing, they missed obvious infractions, while obsessing over hair-trigger delay of game calls that would never, ever, happen in the NBA.
This crew clearly believed it was them everyone came to see, not Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero. Certainly no one came to see basketball, as there barely was any run of play longer than 30 seconds, there wasn’t much basketball to see. There was a lot of reffing.
How bad was it? These refs called FIFTY ONE personal fouls (not counting technicals and delay of games) in 40 minutes of NBA Summer League. 51. They really slowed the pace of calls in the last three minutes or they might have achieved a 1.5 foul to minute ratio, which they gloriously attained for a while in the early third quarter.
Whatever they were told to do? Tell them something else. (NOTE - the Pistons Blazers game is, if anything, worse. What the hell are you doing, NBA? This is gross. Hyper active reffing, in addition to VSL players, is a bad combination.)
UPDATE - Well, my apologies, Game 1 refs. You showed admirable restraint. The Portland-Detroit refs did in fact hit that 1.5 fouls per minute mark, and a bit more, with 63 personal fouls called.
This means (it’s late, back of the envelope so help me out here) that one can expect a foul call on roughly 80% of all sequences of each team getting one possession. Or, one personal foul call every 38 seconds of basketball played.
In all seriousness, though, what possible purpose does calling Summer League games like this serve? Of the squads, no more than 3-4 players per team will see any real NBA minutes, so the pedagogical regular season value seems limited at best. If this is some referee training ground exercise, I say, find a different one. Summer League is too popular for that now. It’s part of the entertainment package, as the prime time ESPN slot and big crowds show.
This product is currently almost unwatchable.
At what point do we see some, or any, offense from Stephen Silas’ system that isn’t simply the result of a one-on-one battle from a five out spread, or a pass off a drive from said one-on-one battle? There are literally no easy baskets, or cuts, or really, anything else. There are hardly any picks, and virtually no screens. Yes, this was summer league, and rookies, but it doesn’t look appreciably different than what we’ve seen in the regular season.
Am I missing something? I hope I am. Tell me if so. I’m a big Silas defender, because he’s so personable, and has had to put up with a lot. When is this elegant offense going to happen? Just a couple of simple favorite actions don’t seem beyond a summer league team.
The Rockets have drafted potentially the most unblockable pure shooter in the NBA. Would it kill them to give Jabari a little help? One screen? A pick? I’m not asking for Golden State five layer picks, screens, elevator doors, trademark constant moving screens, and back picks. Just...something. This looks like pick up but the guys are rigidly adhering to five out.
(Maybe the plan was to let Jabari try to create on his own without any of that. If so, it was a qualified success.)
The above may sound harsher than intended. I do understand the value of letting gifted players operate, not damping their talents with a system that doesn’t get the best out of them. I know that it’s summer league, with limited practices, ramshackle rosters, etc.
The problem still arises, both now, and in the regular season, when that isn’t working, when there’s one bad, ill-advised, offensive possession after another. There’s no reliable sort of action to get the offense unstuck, to keep the players from pressing, and making things worse. Not having such a recourse, for players who in earlier times would be college sophomores, is especially problematic.
Even the generally laissez-faire Mike D’Antoni had a superb collection of SLOBs and BLOBs to get easy baskets out of timeouts and other stoppages. The problem being, he didn’t use them often enough, in my estimation.
Jabari Smith has the potential to be an ultimate sort of safety valve, to restore order and get the scoreboard moving again. A 6’11” player with perfect shooting form and a high release would seem very handy for that, if you’ll get him a clean look.
How do you feel, Jabari-wise?
This poll is closed
Jabarely hanging on.