Thoughts From Vegas Summer League – Day Two

“Beat L.A Beat L.A!”

That chant came from Clipper Darrell when he was watching the Kings turn an early 0-9 deficit into a glorious victory over the Lakers.

And while the rivalry wasn’t exactly renewed with Tuesday’s action, it was fun to watch the way the Kings’ meaningless victory happened.

Before we get into how the players played, check out my contribution to the Daily Dime on ESPN.com. Wrote about Devan Downey and how he changed the game for the Kings:

Downey’s biggest downside — his size (5-foot-9) — is also probably what allows him to be so effective in a setting like this. There’s no true zone defense to prevent him from driving to the basket. Teams can pack it in against him, but they still have to abide by man-to-man principles for the most part. Downey capitalizes by finding holes in the defense that only quick, small point guards can get into. And when he gets deep into the defense, he makes things happen for his team.

“Once you get in that paint, it’s going to suck everybody in,” Kings summer league coach Mario Elie said.” And it’s going to enable our players to get open looks.”

Click the link to check out the entire section.

- Devan Downey: Let’s talk about Devan Downey first and foremost. The Lakers were doubling Cousins instantly on the touch in the post and rotated very well to take away any flow of offense the Kings could muster. When Downey came into the game, he found ways to make things happen. The Lakers couldn’t stop him from getting into the lane. He’s simply too quick and he is able to use his size to get into places most bigger guards can’t. Downey’s vision and patience with the ball is pretty incredible too. He rarely rushed anything on offense and seemed to make the correct play every time.

Downey has a place in this league and games like this will get the narrow view of what a point guard looks like to go away. Downey is probably going to be the smallest guy on the court every game. It’s rare that he’ll have a size advantage or simply not be at a size disadvantage. But cases like him always make me thing of Earl Boykins and something he said. A reporter once asked him to describe how he’s able to be so effective despite his size. Boykins replied that he’s always been the smallest guy so it’s not an adjustment to him when he plays.

With Downey he’s not at a disadvantage because he knows how to play as the smaller guy. He can get his shot off amongst the trees because he sees the floor so well. When he gets in the paint, he sees the play developing and already knows how it will finish. On defense, being so low to the ground allows him to guard against the dribble better than anybody. He can be a smaller Lindsey Hunter or a slightly smaller Ty Lawson. There is a place for a guy like Downey who just knows how to play. I’d be shocked if he’s not on a NBA roster this season.

- DeMarcus Cousins: I got giddy pretty quick over Tyreke Evans last year because you could just tell he was better than everybody on the court. He was bigger, stronger and quick enough to get wherever he wanted on the floor. With DeMarcus Cousins, it’s the same thing all over again. He’s the best player on the floor. He’s so good and so feared that he’s being doubled immediately when he touches the ball in the post. In Summer League! This guy has every tool to be one of the best big men in the NBA. There’s no way the Kings can’t or shouldn’t start him at the center position on opening night.

Cousins posted a 19 and 12 double-double while showing skills all over the court with his passing, defensive positioning and shot blocking. He struggled from the floor with an 8/20 shooting performance. He battled Derrick Caracter early and actually was pretty frustrated with the way he played. Caracter’s defense was nice but Cousins still got a lot of shots he wanted. They just didn’t fall. Defensively, I think it’s clear that he can’t guard guys that stretch the floor. Caracter was able to get out to 20-feet and knock down the jumper and DMC looked uncomfortable out there.

Overall, DeMarcus is just better than every big man here. He’s one of those players that you can just tell is going to be a huge problem for his opponents.

– Donté Greene: Donté was nails out there against Gerald Green and the other wing players. He knocked down a couple of threes on the left side of the floor and perfectly stretched the defense off of guard penetration. The best part of his role here in Summer League though is being a coach on the court. Donté’s basketball IQ is on display here and it’s really high. He knows the right places to rotate and relays the info pretty quickly to his younger teammates. I’m not sure how much of his game here is being worked on but his leadership is definitely getting some reps.

Hassan Whiteside: Whiteside’s defense looked a lot more controlled to me in this game. He only ended up with two blocked shots but he wasn’t flying all over the place and getting himself out of position. Offensively, it’s pretty awkward. He needs a lot of work on just getting the ball up to a shooting position efficiently. Once he gets to the shooting position, his touch and spatial awareness are really poor. Offensively, he’s strictly an alley-oop or tip dunk kind of weapon. But as long as he’s protecting the basket and rebounding, it doesn’t matter.

– Omri Casspi: Omri struggled quite a bit out there. He faded unnecessarily on a couple shots and his free throw shooting was horrendous at 1/6. I’ve always thought the free throw shooting form would be fine but he really doesn’t look comfortable or confident shooting them. Good thing it’s just summer league.

– Donald Sloan: Donald Sloan is not blowing me away with the way he is playing. He’s struggling to get the offense going, his defense is just okay and he’s not a threat to really get his own basket. I don’t think he’s a player that has no place in this league because he’s clearly managing the game and trying not to commit a bunch of turnovers. But I’d like to see him turn it loose a bit. Devan Downey did more yesterday than Sloan’s done in two games.

– Sylven Landesberg: This guy knows how to score the basketball. Aside from getting to the lane really easily, his defense was also on display. He’s not a lockdown guy by any means but there aren’t a lot of weaknesses in his game. At least, he hasn’t shown any yet.

– Wayne Chism: Chism doesn’t make sense on the Kings roster because they’re so deep in the frontcourt but he’s showing a real ability to score the ball. He’s very quick and decisive when he has the ball and that’s what you need in a forward off the bench.

Extra Notes
– There was a play in the second half in which the Kings had a side-out-of-bounds inbound pass to Downey who went backcourt to take it. Unfortunately, that’s against the rules and he was called for the backcourt violation. Mario Elie screamed at him that this wasn’t college anymore and he couldn’t do that. Downey turned to John Wall who was sitting courtside and said he didn’t know it was against the rules. Rookies…

– The Maloofs were courtside for the game and in the area they were all very impressed by the newfound size and length of their young frontcourt players. At one point, someone in the area exclaimed, “Look how we play with those trees in there. This is a lot different than when Kenny Thomas was with us.” Poor K9.

– Expect Dionte Christmas to get some big run in today’s game. Sounds like it’s his time.

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