I've said all along that winning games isn't the point of Summer League, but when you have a lead late in a game, you want to see how your team responds. This Suns team didn't respond well. A combination of turnovers, poor shot selection and getting beat down the floor in transition resulted in a 1-point loss to the Raptors.
The game was sloppy, with 22 turnovers for Phoenix and 15 for Toronto, and featured Euro-style officiating that was permissive of a lot of contact on the perimeter. The clutching and grabbing hindered the Suns from getting into any kind of flow. Of course, the point guard play of Dragic didn't help, either. He was not very good controlling the team or running the offense. More on him later.
There was a scary incident in the final second of the game. The Suns were down by 1 with a couple of ticks left and Goran drove the ball hard and fast at the rim and tried to get off a floater at the buzzer.
Raptor Ekene Ibekwe flew in for the block but landed on Goran's back and ended up falling face first into the court, hitting hard on his chin and wrist. He was on the ground for about 10 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher for precautionary reasons. I heard from someone with the staff here that he was cleared for any serious injures and someone else said something about some stitches in his mouth. Hopefully that proves to be correct and there's nothing more serious.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 8:54 PM PDT ]
Phoenix Stan and I had very similar observations regarding the game. However, as it's my first time reporting from the sidelines, I'm going to subject you to a little redundancy despite my better editorial instincts. Bear with, and we'll streamline this going forward. My notes will be in italics, like these.
First off, as a press row rookie, I have to tell you it’s a whole other ball game from this vantage point. I went from nervous to excited to comfortable to jaded in all of about 7 hours. The better part of this post has been composed with the Portland–Houston tilt taking place about 20 feet from me. And I’ve barely looked up at it. Here’s my game note: Joey Dorsey is a big, big dude. One last meta note: It’s a pain in the ass to watch the game from the baseline. It’s very difficult to get an idea of the flow and spacing. I understand why Phoenix Stan booked it to the stands.
Earl Clark first impressions
Clark came out gunning and took a couple of early shots the basket before settling down and, as he said, letting the game come to him. He was impressive on the glass with 12 boards and, for a guy that mostly was playing on the perimeter, that's good to see. Of course, neither team was making a lot of shots, so there were a lot of loose balls to be had. He's active and athletic for sure and can pass the ball. Numerous times, he grabbed a rebound or outlet pass then brought the ball up court and handled pressure pretty well. Mostly.
His jump shot looked good, but he finished with 5 of 12 for 13 points, which was a team high. Coach Majerle was impressed saying, "I thought Earl played really well for his first game. He got some rebounds, hit a few shots. He's going to be a good player, so I was happy for him."
Clark was less impressed with the result, giving himself a C- for the night. "It felt good. I definitely feel I can play much better. It was my first time out there with the guys. I intend on playing better on Friday." He wasn't happy with some missed layups and his 5 turnovers. Defensively he was very active and did well on bigger guys and handled being switched on to guards well, too.
I get why people call him a unique player. He's got the potential to be a Trevor Ariza-type player, but bigger, stronger and with better passing. He can both put the ball down and drive and he didn't pass up any open shots. I look forward to seeing him again Friday.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 9:02 PM PDT ]
Earl Clark looks very good. Not great just yet, but he’s got the tools of a legitimate first rounder: great handle, capable of crashing the boards, an occasionally nice stroke. I saw a couple of questionable decisions, but he seemed engaged the entire game, which I took as a good sign since one of his weaknesses in college was a tendency to mentally check out. It’s one game, though, so we’ll see how the rest of the week pans out.
I gave Dragic a pass on the first game, thinking that he wasn't really well and then he had his little strain that kept him out of the final quarter. But this game, there's no excuse. He showed a complete lack of floor leadership and was the anti-swag (to use the vernacular of the day). In this league you've got to carry yourself like you know what you're doing and Goran simply wasn't. We've seen much better from him in some games at the end of last season and there's no reason to think he can't improve as the week progresses here.
Despite not being able to finish at the rim or hit a jump shot -- he was 1 for 6 for 2 points in 26 minutes -- he still showed his passing ability. He tallied 7 assists, mostly by getting into the lane and finding an open man. I really want this kid to succeed, but he didn't show much tonight.
Coach Dan clearly saw the same thing saying, "He puts a lot of pressure on himself and he's just trying to find his way, but I won't worry about him. He's a great kid and he works hard and he'll do a great job."
I asked Goran about this idea of putting pressure on himself and he didn't see it that way, "Everybody say about this pressure, but I don't know. Last season, I never play with a smile on my face. I'm serious. Maybe because of my face everybody say this. I'm loose today. I miss a couple of layups, a couple of shots, but I think I do a good job involve the whole team."
I also asked Dragic about his tendency to only drive left, which he admitted was more comfortable for him. Late in the game the defense forced him right and he had a fairly clear look at the rim but instead kicked it out to a teammate for a jump shot.
Let's see how he does on Friday before we completely bury the kid.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 9:04 PM PDT ]
Goran Dragic is a complicated dude. He’s got a pretty fine skill set. Like I said in the comments, he’s got great court vision and can make some nifty passes. He’s just very unpolished. And out of control. And it is written all over his face. It actually reminds me of Barbosa’s first couple of seasons where he would get rattled and wide-eyed until Dan D’Antoni gave him a hug and a sedative. Except whereas Leandro only got the look once in a while, Dragic seems constantly caught in the headlights. Of all the tools he needs to work on, I think his game face might be the most pressing.
It is interesting to note that on Gambo's blog he reported that the Suns are considering using the final roster spot on another point guard and are looking at Summer League player Zabian Dowdell. Zabian certainly has been more consistent with his shot, but I haven't been all that impressed by him overall. I will pay a little more attention to him next game. I have to think there could be better options for a 3rd point guard out there.
The Suns did play Zabian and Goran together at times so that they could push the ball more. It didn't work in this game and the Suns weren't happy about that at all.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 9:06 PM PDT ]
Zabian Dowdell: He’s kind of the anti-Goran. All kinds of cool, all kinds of polished, but without the raw talent that Dragic possesses. (And whatever hate you may have for the Dragon or his contract, it’s hard to deny his ability to see the court.)
He could end up somewhere as a back-up, but it won’t be the Suns.
Robin followed up his huge Vegas debut with a fairly average 11 points and 3 rebounds. He was matched up against Patrick O'Bryant most of the game and wasn't able to get as many easy boards as he did in the last match.
He did play with good energy and was definitely a presence in the paint. It's worth noting that the Suns held the Raptors to 36% shooting, so that's good, right?
Late in the game when buckets were crucial, they gave Robin the ball on the low post, but well outside the paint. He faced up Patty O and drove hard towards the rim and then spun back to his left before getting hacked and sent to the line. It was a very nice offensive move.
Robin played about 10 fewer minutes in this game than in the last and his stints were shorter so I wouldn't worry too much about his numbers. He looked fine.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 9:07 PM PDT ]
Robin Lopez looks like typical summer league RoLo. Aggressive on both ends and intense as well. Seeing him in person for the first time since he was in college, his physical gifts are much more readily apparent than they are on television. The thing is, he needs to show this type of confidence and decision-making against NBA level competition.
The box score shows 6 guys had between 6 and 8 points with only Robin and Earl scoring in double figures. That reflects a funky game without any flow or rhythm. The rotations were a little odd, as a lot more guys were used and the stretches were limited. Between the way the game was officiated, the unimpressive point guard play and the rotations, it is no wonder this one was so ugly.
Taylor Griffin has that fly around the court and look busy kind of thing going on and he also showed some range, going 4 for 5.
Hubalek did his thing hitting from range and Berzins got some easy put backs but didn't show any kind of offensive game and had limited athletic ability. He's a 7 footer that seems to struggle dunking the ball.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 07/15/09 9:08 PM PDT ]
Taylor Griffin had a pretty ineffectual 24 minutes. I saw flashes of Mark Madsen like tenacity, but nothing consistent. Of course, as Phoenix Stan may have already noted, this was an ugly game and in order to overcome the ugliness of this game, players needed to look pretty damn good.
Kaspars Berzins struck me with his notable lack of athleticism. For a 7-footer, he seemed to struggle to get above the rim for put-back dunks. I am not a fan.
For the Raptors...
DeMar DeRozan is legit. He is not just smooth. He’s frictionless. He’s got amazing body control and just makes the game look easy. He made a couple of poor decisions today, but he’s going to be a nice addition this Raptors squad. I’m officially a fan (or at least a follower).
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 07/15/09 9:17 PM MST ]
I did confirm today that the Suns have talked to Von Wafer, but there's nothing happening right now and nothing close to a decision.
Personally, I don't get it. I don't see how Wafer fits on this team and I can't imagine him taking what the Suns can afford to pay him.
Post game audio from Coach, Clark and Dragic follows: