A Night at the Summer League in Sacramento

Last night, I headed over to Capital Christian Center for the Sacramento Professional Developmental League. I heard from Sam Amick via the Twitter machine that Jason Thompson, Matt Barnes and Donte Greene were rumored to show up and play so I headed on down to the old CCC gymnasium to catch a glimpse into the summertime development of two of the young Kings’ building pieces.

I got to the gym right as Jason Thompson was walking in. In fact, I was on the phone and mentioned that I was going to some game to watch him play right as we got within 10 feet of each other. I’m pretty sure he heard me say his name, which created some awkward milliseconds before he realized that he was a professional basketball player and I was insignificant to his existence. And I don’t mean that in a jerkish way. I completely understand it. He probably hears his name everywhere and is able to tune it out fairly easily.

So I walked in right behind him, missed the pay table to the left of the entrance because he blocked my view and went straight to the stands. I feel like a cheat because either Jason Thompson or I owe the SPDL $7.

NBA Kings vs. Pistons NOV 11

Donte Greene was already on the court, messing around in warm-ups and showing off his personality. He easily commanded the attention of the entire gym, which probably housed roughly 30 people when I got there and held about 45 people when the game finally started. Jason Thompson disappeared to change into uniform and emerged right as Matt Barnes walked in. The star power was now in full force for the evening and the game started.

I wasn’t expecting to see good basketball by any means (after all, it’s summer league). Matt Barnes entire warm-up routine consisted of putting on his uniform, stepping onto the court, and making sure his shoes were tied. I was mainly looking to see what moves Jason Thompson was adding to his repertoire and how Donte Greene was progressing with his ability to move towards the basket efficiently. And I was pleasantly surprised for the most part.

Jason Thompson looked really good handling the ball in the open court and running the floor. His post moves were solid and he showed great touch in the lane. He tried a couple of jumpers from outside (but not threes…yet…) but none of them looked great. I was impressed with his defense on a pretty big guy (looked like he was going against a guy that ran 6’8”, 260lbs). He moved well side to side and challenged a lot of shots. Whenever a small guy came into the lane, he looked to feast on a blocked shot. It was a solid outing for him to prove that he was still in shape and working on scoring the ball more efficiently.

For Donte Greene, he drew the assignment of guarding Matt Barnes for much of the game. Matt had a nice game against Donte as he shot the ball well from outside and had a flurry of scoring late in the game to make it close. Donte didn’t try to do too much defensively against Barnes. He funneled him into the help defense as much as he could and went under most screens, daring him to shoot the ball.

As for his offense, it showed a lot of the same questions that he left in his rookie season. He settled for a lot of jumpers early. And most of those jumpers were hovering around the three-point line. But at a certain point in the game, he was whistled for an offensive foul while fighting for position in the post and argued the call vehemently. In fact, he said some words about the ref in a quiet, small gym that resulted in him receiving a summer league technical foul. I didn’t even know that they gave out techs in summer league. But the T was a good thing for Donte.

After that moment, Donte became extremely aggressive on the offensive end. He attacked the basket with much more efficient moves to the hole and did a good job of getting into the paint. He used screens well and took only a couple of jumpers. He threw down a lot of dunks and had some vicious tomahawk rips. It was good to see that side of him, in which the fun-loving personality was put on hold so some ferocity, could bubble towards the top. If he can harness those types of moments in the NBA next season, you’ll see a huge improvement in the way he scores. But if he can’t get upset and more motivated, there will be a lot of minutes on the pine for all of those settled jumpers from the outside.

With 0.2 seconds left in the game, Matt Barnes’ team cut the lead to two on a three-point basket. The JT, DG led team inbounded the ball to Thompson and threw up a shot from about 85 feet. He nailed it with a simple swish of the net.

There was no way that he got it off in time but they counted it anyway because it’s summer league. It’s a showcase of some pro talent and their development. And after last night, I’m convinced that Jason Thompson has developed his full-court heave to perfection.

I definitely got my money’s worth.


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