Blazers 82, Rockets 87 Summer League Re-Thoughts

Today showed us why, rather than making snap judgments based on a game or two, we must all do like Amar’e Stoudemire and be like Sun Tzu. Be patient. What Game One tells you, Game Two will probably disprove, while Games Three and Four will find the gray line that spells the word “TRUTH”.

So, it was just another game and another loss for the Blazers in the Vegas Summer League. Fortunately, they mean about as much as handcuffs in a prison full of ninjas. Blazer fans should just be happy to get another chance to see their three guys go to work.

Jerryd Bayless (30 minutes, 13 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds, 5-for-10 shooting, 6 turnovers): Very similar type of play from Bayless as in Game 1. At the beginning of the first game I had a feeling that perhaps Summer League wouldn’t be the best venue to judge Bayless’ PG skills. Nights like tonight prove that kind of thinking right. Just as against Toronto, Bayless was clearly looking to set other people up and let his offense come to him. It seems as if Bayless is trying to find that line between the PG he needs to become and the monster he unleashed in Vegas last summer. I guess personally I expected him to look for others and then eventually look for his own shot, but he’s absolutely committed to the team game. Not to say he hasn’t had his moments offensively but he’s definitely attempting to grow as a player. Tonight was not one of his best games. I’m sure a lot of people will point to 6 TO’s and 2 assists and go “Bayless can’t play PG” or whatever those types like to say. I won’t quite go there, because while he had his struggles there was never a moment where I felt ‘man this guy really can’t play’ or ‘this absolutely can’t work’. Watching Patrick O’Bryant before, I had those feelings. All. The. Time. Ditto for Sene or a host of others.

Coup’s Interlude: One distinction I wanted to add between Games 1 and 2 was that Bayless was much more of a passive passer today. In Game 1 he was consistently in attack mode, finding the thin seams and then being patient enough to work the mid-range space as passing lanes developed. Today he worked around the perimeter a little more than I would’ve liked, and while plays were being called to get Jeter the ball on the wing off down screens, Bayless was left with little to make his own.
Interlude End.

One thing I was intrigued by tonight was seeing Portland put Jerryd in different positions on the floor and having him play with different personnel. To start the game he was catching the ball in the mid-post and looking to operate from there with his back to the basket. Why? I’m not sure. My speculation would be to see how he can handle it. Who knows?  With time he’ll gain more comfort in his role. He’s clearly a better player off the ball already as he made adjustments and moved much better than he has before. I’m not sure you could have put last year’s Bayless with offensive players like Pooh Jeter and Thomas Gardner and had the same results.

The one thing I can point to that improved was his defense. Yesterday it was very much on the iffy side. There were moments where he communicated strongly and was engaged, but for the majority of the game he was uninspired. Tonight was a different story. As Coup put it  during the game on our Twitter, he was ‘more footsy, lets armsy’. The talking was a little down from Game 1 but that’s neither here nor there. Another strong point of his game was his continued growth in the leadership area. His visuals consistently scream ‘RAWRRRRRR’ but he’s consistently been supportive. When Cunningham botched the inbound play to throw him a lob late, Bayless clapped his hands and said he was alright. Instead of….ya know, eating him. That was one of the bigger things I wanted to see was how Bayless handled his supporting cast seeing as how a lot of his success would be determined by them. So far, so good.

Jeff Pendergraph (29 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5-for-7 shooting, 8 fouls): Pendergraph had a mixed bag type game for me. Some good things, some iffy things, all in all another solid performance. After two games, it’s clear that he’s NBA-ready. He’s not Superman or anything, but he can and will contribute. Tonight he showed off his shooting touch, with a variety of mid-range jumpers. He also showed the offensive efficiency he was known for at Arizona State by making 5 of his 7 shot attempts. Two areas where he struggled: defense and rebounding. At the beginning of the game I was intrigued to see how Pendergraph would handle the matchup with Joey ‘I really should be playing football’ Dorsey. The difference in physicality between Paul Davis/Patrick O’Bryant and Joey Dorsey is stupid. For the most part he handled the matchup with Joey Dorsey very well. Despite the size disadvantage, you never felt like he was a complete liability. As a matter of fact, Pendergraph never once backed down from Dorsey and continued to bring it. That kind of competitive nature is something you have to like as a Blazer fan. The 8 fouls may raise a flag to some. I for one am not so concerned with it. It’s part of the learning experience if you ask me. It’s not as if his fouls were Oden-esque aka being a step slow on a rotation or what not. For a guy whose going to have to make a living on the boards, 5 isn’t as much as you’d like to see but you have to like what Pendergraph brings to the table.

Dante Cunningham (33 minutes, 22 points, 5 rebounds, 8-for-20 shooting, 8 fouls): What impressed me the most about Cunningham’s game tonight? His ability to work in the post. To be honest it feels like Cunningham is an onion who just keeps revealing layers of his game as we go on. In both games he’s impressed me by bringing more to the table than I expected. I like that a lot. I still would like to see a lot more before I jump on the ‘TRADE TRAVIS’ bandwagon. However, you have to like what you’re seeing from Mr. Cunningham. The ability to hit the midrange jumper will obviously be his calling card, but everything else so far has been an added bonus.

The other guys? Pooh Jeter hit some big shots which earned him this sentence.

Other observations:

  • David Moss and Thomas Gardner went a combined 3-for-17 tonight. That’s 17 times I wanted to scream as loud as possible but thought better of it due to being in a public venue. Also, watching this squad when Bayless, Pendergraph and Cunningham are all out….yikes. Painful. This team needs the Mountain Man or some sort of fan favorite we can all rally around. Come on Freije!!
  • My personal favorite moment of this Summer League has to be going to the Thomas and Mack Center and seeing an amazing exchange between former Blazer head coach Mike Dunleavy and former Blazer assistant GM Mark Warkentien. Dunleavy was talking to George Karl while Warkentien looked on with a face that screamed ‘Seriously, I know it’s been 9 years but I can’t believe you blew that 15 point lead. I mean seriously, I could have a ring right now.’ Priceless. I wish more people could have seen this.
  • The swagger associated with this Summer League is unreal. And it’s all on the rookies. Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Jonny Flynn have STUPID swag. Like if they hung out with Soulja Boy and his swag was turned on, even HE would turn into a dork. Although to be honest, I lost a ton of respect for Mr. Curry after seeing the caliber of female he was talking too. No thank you. He’s also easily mistaken for one of the middle schoolers the NBA gives tickets to for free. What this all enforces is that these guys aren’t becoming stars when they get drafted — they’ve been stars all their lives because of AAU ball. College and then the Pros is just an extension of what came before, so once they get to Summer League, they just get real, get swag and act like themselves.

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