Mitch McGary has impressed as much with his ball-handling and passing at the Orlando Pro Summer League as he has with his rebounding and hustle.
It’s become one of the biggest surprises surrounding the 21st overall pick out of Michigan.
On several possessions, McGary has pulled down defensive rebounds and initiated the fast break not with an outlet pass but by pushing the ball himself in transition. On occasion, he’s kept it the entire way, penetrating the painted area and dumping off to a fellow big man or kicking it out to shooters.
There was a sequence 55 seconds into Monday’s game in which McGary had the ball at the high post, used two power dribbles toward the rim, drew a second Brooklyn defender and dumped off a pass to Marcus Lewis at the last second for a layup. It was a play that, among current Thunder big men, maybe only Nick Collison could make. Maybe.
“In high school, my coach always told me to go in the post, but I’m so danged stubborn I just would go out and start dribbling, man,” McGary explained when asked where he got his ball-handling skills. “From then on, in AAU, I just would practice my dribbling with the guards and I got a feel for the ball. It helps.”
McGary also attempted a 3-pointer in each of his first two games in Orlando. He missed both but not by much. And he surprisingly looked comfortable taking them.
“Don’t get used to it,” McGary said, laughing. “I’m sure when the other guys get back they’re going to be like, ‘Hey, Mitch, hold up, rook.’”
McGary, though, said he is comfortable out at the 3-point line.
“I’ve been working on my shot a little bit,” he said. “I never really got to prove it in college just because I just did what the coach and the team needed me to do to win the game. But here I had a little bit more freedom, and I went for it.”
DARKO INSTILLING DISCIPLINE
Thunder assistant/summer league coach Darko Rajakovic had shades of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich late in the Thunder’s win over Brooklyn.
A lapse led to a defensive breakdown that allowed Nets guard Xavier Thames to score a wide-open layup with 2:21 left to play. Although his driving basket cut the Nets’ deficit to 16, Rajakovic immediately called a timeout.
“I don’t like calling timeouts when we’re winning a game by 20 or losing a game by 20,” Rajakovic said. “But the point of those timeouts is to keep consistency. That we don’t give up, and that we don’t get loose. And at one point, our guys went away from the style of play that we want and I had to call a timeout just to remind them to have respect for the game, to have respect for the opponent, to have respect for every possession. And that’s what we want to do, try to get better on every possession.”
The Thunder had an off day from games Tuesday. The team practiced Tuesday morning in Orlando. Oklahoma City will resume play Wednesday with a 2 p.m. contest against Indiana.