Wow, the NBA Summer League experience in Las Vegas was surreal and more exciting than I could imagine! You walk in and are immediately surrounded by people you only see on TV or follow on Twitter. One moment you walk by Jerry West and the very next, you say, “Wow! There’s Nick from basketball breakdown!” There’s only one place where you can take a picture with JR Smith’s family and everyone around you is asking, “why the hell is that Knick fan taking a picture with them?” It’s because, I’m a Knick fan, damnit! Any ways, I was star struck… Doc Rivers, Mike D’antoni, Byron Scott, Allan Houston, Mike Woodson, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, Jason Collins, Alan Hahn, hell, even Jared Zwerling and Berman of the Post were right there! Anyways, I came away feeling that it’s an experience every real NBA fan should take advantage of, if given the opportunity.
So, on to basketball! As I said before, the Knicks actually have some talented players on this roster. I can now say I’ve seen Tim Hardaway’s inconsistency in full force. He has real polish and maturity in how he carries himself off and on the court. He talks a lot, calls out screens and is very aware of what he should be doing off the ball. I got to sit right behind the Knicks’ bench and as the first team made their way back on the court midway through the second quarter, Hardaway was the guy to jump up and yell, “C’mon, let’s get em!” This was a second quarter summer league game and Hardaway was competitive. You have to love that and I did.
Eventually, though, Hardaway forced some tough long jump shots and I totally understood the JR Smith comparisons. He struggled containing Austin Rivers and he seemed to get overly frustrated about missing some open shots, including a three late that would have cut the Pelicans lead to one. Through the first half, the thought went through my head, could Hardaway actually start at the 2, moving Shump to the three? Those thoughts went away as I watched him in the second half. Consistency will be his issue and I can’t wait to see what he brings on Sunday. I believe in Mike Woodson to reel him and get him to become more consistent.
CJ Leslie, the Knicks’ undrafted rookie from NC State, has the reputation for having a quick first step and for being very athletic… everyone was right. He was great in the open court and one on one made two very quick moves to the hoop, getting to the line with ease. He is one of those players that looks like he isn’t giving very much effort and that can be very disconcerting. He didn’t really look like he was trying to impress and seemed to lack the determination and focus of some of the other players.
One of those players was Toure Murry. Murry played in just 12 minutes, but he scored 11 points, had 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He played like a man possessed and in person you can see he is every bit of the 6-5, 210 pounds he is on paper. He looks like a NBA shooting guard. He ran the point very well, much better than Shumpert. He hit Terrence Jennings for two wide open pick and pop jump shots which Jennings drained. He played skin tight full court defense, at times overly aggressive, but the skill and intensity was there. I thought to myself, imagine Murry and Prigioni practicing full court defensive drills. Murry has a legit shot to make the roster. At one point, after he picked up his third foul, Jim Todd was on the bench, patting his back with his hand, no words were being said, but it was an encouraging sign that he made an impression. Can’t wait to see more of him on Sunday.
Jeremy Tyler started off the game looking like he should not be playing in the league. He looked clumsy and easily frustrated. He calmed down in the second half, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes. The Knicks hope to bring in a young talented big man for the future and Tyler possesses the raw physical skills to grow into a monster at 6-10, 260 pounds. I am convinced that Tyler and Murry are the two players to watch moving forward.
Iman Shumpert ran the point for the majority of the 27 minutes that he was on the floor and he struggled. Besides a nice allyoop to Tim Hardaway early on, Shump had just 4 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Some turnovers were unforced and he clearly looked uncomfortable running the team. His only two points came from the free throw line. There were rumblings afterwards that he won’t play again on Sunday as he is going to Africa with the NBA on Monday. The good news from that will be that we will get to see more more of Toure Murry running the point…I know ,I’m a big fan!
Honorable mention to former Kentucky forward, Eloy Vargas, for showcasing his nice shooting stroke from the outside. Vargas had 9 points, including a three, but his defense needs some work. Liam McMurrow is a huge center with NBA size, though, production wise, he didn’t bring much. Terrence Jennings, in person, has the same body type of Amar’e Stoudmire. Jennings had 6 points and 6 rebounds in 12 minutes. He was very productive and played mistake free basketball.
In my eyes, Chris Smith improved tremendously compared to last year’s summer league tryout, but he is still not an NBA player. In person, he is very small and he made one nice move to the hoop, but the rest of the time, he looked awkward and out of control when driving to the rim.
Since the Knicks have been short of recent draft picks, this year’s summer league is becoming a very exciting opportunity for the Glen Grunwald to add three and maybe even four young players to this aging Knicks roster. It’s pretty much assured Hardaway and Leslie will make the team, but the Knicks might be able to fit Tyler and Murry in, if so, Grunwald and Knick fans can say, who cares about draft picks, right?!!? Just Kidding!