Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s 89-75 win over Utah in summer league play.
- It’s going to be hard for me to leave Orlando without heightened expectations for Reggie Jackson. He was that good out here. He played with so much poise, so much confidence, so much assertiveness that I’ll naturally want to believe it will translate to the real season. But that’s when I have to remind myself that this is only summer league. Even though he’s coming off his rookie season, Jackson was one of the most experienced players in Orlando this week. He should have dominated. So if I ever write something from now until next season getting ahead of myself, please, remind me to chill.
- Jackson’s poster on Jeremy Evans, my goodness. Jackson had a few nasty dunks this week, but that was by far the best.
- Thunder coach Mark Bryant on Jackson’s highlight flush: “That’s what he’s capable of doing.”
- More from Bryant on Jackson: “He got better as the week went on, and he’s going to grow also. This is going to help him with his confidence.”
- Latavious Williams is a terror on the glass. I had no idea until this week. But he led the Thunder with 27 rebounds, good for a 6.8 average since he played in just four of the five games. It’s clearly his best skill at this stage in his carer.
- A staggering 18 of Williams’ rebounds came on the offensive end. That’s a 4.5 average. Now, there’s a lot of missed shots in summer league, as teams struggle most of the time to shoot 40 percent. But rebounding often is the one trait that translates to any level, and Williams has that trait.
- Bryant on Williams: “He has a good nose for the ball, and he knows his strengths and he plays hard to it. He’s given himself a chance, the way he played in this summer league.”
- Cole Aldrich was disappointing. There’s no other way of putting it. You can check out my piece on his ups and downs in Sunday’s paper. But in Aldrich’s defense, the summer league setting really isn’t made for him. He needs structure. He needs familiarity. He needs a system. Summer league is a bunch of guys thrown together and forced to make it work with limited plays or schemes on either end. As I’ve said in recent days, I wouldn’t read too much into his performance this week.
- I’m going to keep my eye on Dwight Buycks. He quickly became a player I’m rooting for. I love his game. Smart, crafty and tough, tough player.
- For Saturday’s paper, I wrote about five things we learned in Orlando. One of those things was that Lazar Hayward has some skills. Many wonder what his purpose on the team is, but he showed some nice things this week. He led the team in scoring with a 15.8-point average, albeit on 35.8 percent shooting. But he’s never going to be a featured part of the offense so his volume shooting this week should be ignored. The question is can he score in limited opportunities? If so, you can see how he can help. He showed an ability to get to the basket and work his way to the free throw line. And his defense, rebounding, toughness and leadership are all underrated qualities. Given the opportunity, Hayward could help if needed next season.
- Wish we got to see more of Perry Jones.
- Just so Thunder heads know, Jones told me nobody calls him PJ. He prefers Perry, but he also said you can call him PJ3.
- It’s also worth noting that PJ3 is an awfully nice young man. He’s humble, laid back and just down-to-earth and cool. I know fans will love his demeanor and personality when they get a chance to be around him.
- I never saw Kent Bazemore. (Although it’s worth noting that if I did I wouldn’t know it was him.) I don’t think he was with the team.
- John Holland narrowly avoided every player’s worst nightmare: a major injury. Late in the game he planted awkwardly while going up for a fast break layup and his left knee buckled. It looked terrible at first but he was able to shake it off and remain in the game. Thank God. Holland has a nice mix of skills, and the last thing he needed was a major knee injury in the last few minutes of the last game of summer league. He’s got a chance to make some good money overseas.
- Today feels like the last day of school. The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas got started today, but the Thunder is not in it. So for Oklahoma City’s purposes, this is pretty much it until October. There’s the Olympics, of course, but even with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden playing for Team USA (and Serge Ibaka competing for Spain) those imminent blowouts will only be so interesting, even in Oklahoma City. So this is it. The next 2 1/2 months could be brutal. Basketball as we know it around here is gone. It very well could have a lockout feel. That’s how quiet things could be at Thunder headquarters until October.
- There are rampant rumblings in Orlando about this possibly being the last year of summer league here. I spoke with a Magic official who shot down that rumor. But it’s growing a pretty good head of steam, and if the NBA takes over there’s not much Orlando can do about it. The way I understand it the league wants the Magic to open the doors to fans. The Magic don’t want to. Orlando believes it’s got a good thing going, an alternative to the spectacle out in Vegas. Teams that participate in Orlando love the setup. But the league sees things differently. Why does any of this matter? The Thunder might soon have a new summer league home. It’s all up in the air right now, and nobody knows what will happen. But it’s something to watch going forward.