NBA

New York Knicks rookie Kevin Knox stole the show on the second day of Las Vegas Summer League

Jay Asser 8/07/2018
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Kevin Knox flies for a dunk in his first Summer League game.

The Las Vegas Summer League offers rookies a stage on which to make an eye-catching first impression, and that’s exactly what Kevin Knox did in his highlight-filled debut for the New York Knicks.

The 18-year-old, who was greeted by boos from Knicks fans when he was drafted ninth overall last month, quickly converted his detractors into believers with an impressive outing in his first game on Saturday.

Knox finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in New York’s 91-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

His 8-of-20 shooting, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, was nothing to write home about, but his stat line didn’t do complete justice to just how bright Knox shined.

What immediately stood out with the 6-foot-9 forward was his fluidity and smoothness, which amplified his athleticism.

Knox was often used as a small forward in his lone college season at Kentucky, but he looks like the perfect small-ball four in the NBA as someone who will greatly benefit from the increase in spacing at the next level.

His fluidity was especially noticeable in the open court, where Knox terrorised Atlanta with baskets in transition, including three dunks – one of which saw him go coast-to-coast after coming up with a steal.

Defensively, Knox displayed his ability to switch onto smaller players and contest shots on the perimeter before leaking out on the fast break.

Though he didn’t shoot efficiently from long range, his stroke looked as smooth as the rest of his game and showed a lot of promise.

“I thought it went really well, totally different from college, fast-paced, a lot of 3s,’’ Knox said of his first taste as a pro. “It was real fun. That’s what the coaches told me from the jump, to attack the basket and get to the free-throw line.”

Summer League isn’t always indicative of future success, but in Knox’s case he’s already passed the eye test with flying colours. It’s obviously too early to say just how good he can be, but it certainly looks like the Knicks have got themselves a player.

Wendell Carter Jr

He didn’t get the same buzz as fellow bigs Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr or Mohamed Bamba in the lead-up to the draft, but Wendell Carter Jr has the chance to be just as good as the players selected ahead of him, if not better.

Coming out of Duke, Carter was considered fairly polished and skilled across the board, but not elite in any one particular facet. In his Summer League debut, however, the 19-year-old centre showcased elite rim protection by swatting five shots in his 29 minutes.

He might not be adept or quick enough to keep smaller players in front of him after switching over, but it might not matter if Carter can recover to challenge shots at the basket like he did in the Chicago Bulls’ 86-81 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the other end, he knocked down 2-of-3 triples – both from the corners – to register 16 points. Carter shot 41.3 per cent from 3 on just 46 attempts at Duke, so it’s not as if outside shooting is foreign to him, but if he can consistently be somewhat of a threat from deep in the NBA, that will open up his offensive game even more.

“In the NBA game, the court is a lot bigger than college,” Carter said, via the Chicago Tribune. “It’s one-on-one most of the time, so I am going to be able to showcase a lot more things as I get bigger, stronger.

“It’s so that no one will be able to score on me in the post. That’s what I want to get to at some point.”

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NBA

Deandre Ayton gets first taste in Las Vegas Summer League debut

Jay Asser 7/07/2018
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Deandre Ayton had 10 points and eight rebounds in his first Summer League game.

Deandre Ayton’s Las Vegas Summer League debut didn’t end up being a must-see event, but the Phoenix Suns centre still managed to flash his skills in his first outing as a pro.

Last month’s first overall pick in the NBA draft finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, one block, three turnovers, 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting from the free throw line in the 92-85 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Though it wasn’t a loud performance, Ayton got a taste of NBA competition, which included seeing double teams early on whenever he got the ball on post-ups.

With the defence focused on limiting him, Ayton’s first points didn’t come until midway through the first quarter on an alley-oop in transition.

“I told coach, ‘Yo, they double team in the league?” Ayton said. “Everybody started laughing. They said, ‘That’s just respect. They’re showing you respect.’”

Ayton sprinkled in his jumper with three shots outside the paint, with two of them coming up short. The other one was an impressive turnaround mid-range shot after making the catch in the post.

Defensively, the big man unsurprisingly looked uneven. At times he was out of position, but also did well to hold his own on switches and swatted a shot by standing tall at the rim.

Ayton should have more opportunities to show what he can do as the Summer League goes on.

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NBA

Tony Parker's exit brings San Antonio Spurs' era of dominance closer to the end

Jay Asser 7/07/2018
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Tony Parker will join the Charlotte Hornets.

The San Antonio Spurs look less recognisable by the day.

Not only is the franchise embroiled in an messy relationship with its star player, Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio are now losing one of the pillars of their prolonged dynasty with Tony Parker agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets.

The 36-year-old Parker has spent his entire career with the Spurs, helping the team win four titles during his 17-year run.

He’s only the third player in NBA history to leave a franchise after playing at least 17 seasons, joining Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Along with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Parker has been instrumental to the Spurs’ success as a six-time All-Star and 2017 Finals MVP.

“It’s difficult to put into words how important Tony Parker has been to the Spurs franchise over the past two decades,” coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “From his first game in 2001 at age 19, TP has impressed and inspired us – day-after-day, game-after-game, season-after-season – with his passion, dedication and desire. We are grateful to Tony for 17 years of truly amazing memories.”

With Duncan now retired and Ginobili about to turn 41, the Spurs, as the NBA world has known them for the past two decades, are fading.

An era of dominance feels like it’s coming to an end and the Leonard situation hasn’t helped matters with the star that was expected to take the torch now disgruntled and wanting out.

This past season marked the first time the Spurs missed the playoffs since 1997, and if Leonard is traded away this summer, San Antonio may end up missing the postseason again while competing in a loaded Western Conference.

In Charlotte, Parker will join fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum and likely come off the bench as the back-up point guard.

Parker averaged a career-low 7.7 points in just 19.5 minutes per game this past season, while playing just 21 games.

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