I can't believe that I was so bummed out after a summer league game. But hey, I know what to expect: it's the Clippers, after all. Still, it's just summer league, and things are going to be sloppy and a little wacky, and it's just one game. I do think, however, that we learned a fair amount about some semi-important new players last night, even though the jury only heard the opening arguments and a got a few pieces of evidence.
But the main thing is that it seemed like the Clips had a nicely rounded roster, with a promising player at every position, especially by summer league standards. And I was hoping to see some surprising talent and get some excitement. In short, I was hoping that the result for the Clippers would look something like the result that the Wizards walked away with. I was hoping that the Clips would give the announcers and pundits a lot to talk about, and take the focus away from John Wall and the Wizards and generate some excitement about the youngsters and the Clippers.
Didn't happen. It's the Clippers. Even in summer league. For now.
There were just a couple of positives. So let's start with those.
Bledsoe was quick and strong and fast and athletic and he has the beginnings of being a playmaker. It's critical to mention that he was going up against John Wall throughout the game, and Wall is touted, and seems to be, an elite player in the making, just behind Derrick Rose who is just behind Deron Williams and Chris Paul who are just behind Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant. Wall looked good and he looked like he's going to get better, but Bledsoe put in a highly credible performance against him, and matched him bucket for bucket a number of times during the game. It needs to be mentioned that as this was happening Wall was getting points from McGee and Nick Young and the Wizards were building a lead, and Wall's effort ends up what you would expect from a #1 pick: a dominating summer league victory. Bledsoe obviously knows Wall and is a former teammate, and their familiarity showed, but Bledsoe was still impressive in the matchup. Wall played well but he helped and got help from other players, and he didn't really dominate Bledsoe. So I liked Bledsoe quite a bit and I think he's not a Mike Taylor, although he's got a ton to learn and he's very young.
NCM was solid and seems like a strong potential contributor at a major position of need for the Clips. His look and size were very different from what I remember from last year's summer league, but that's just me. He was bigger and stronger than I remember, and he seemed more like a PF than a SF, and he was in fact playing PF through much of the game. This was an unexpected twist in some ways, as Jordan and Sofo were never on the court together until the 4th quarter. After watching the game, I would think that Sofo could get the touches on the block and do more with them than DJordan can, letting Jordan try to make plays on putbacks and in the middle. It'd be good to see how they play together. Instead we got to see a lot of NCM playing alongside AFA, with Jordan struggling in the post, and it wasn't pretty. NCM was solid, but I'd rather see him as an SF off then bench than as a starting PF.
That was pretty much it for the positives.
AFA isn't a scorer, but we knew that. He was tentative. I'd like to see him focus on being a defensive stopper and rebounding, and he could find points as they come. But I didn't see any extraordinary motor or focus on defense, and the Wizard wings were generally effective. Hard to say how much of a role AFA played in that without looking more carefully, but it certainly wasn't a great effort. First game though, so we'll see. But I'm worried that there's such a lack of scoring and offense in this summer league lineup that AFA is going to try to force his offense and show that he can hit shots and score points. That's not so bad I guess, but I'm not sure he's ready to do it, and it's not the role he needs to play.
Was hoping that DJordan would have progressed, but he's pretty much the same guy. Just hitting a couple of more free throws would have been nice. We've seen before how he fails to finish at times, and there was no improvement there. He had a tough matchup going against McGee, and the result was sadly unequal. McGee looked strong and fast and promising, and Jordan never got going and wasn't a factor in the game, and it was disapointing. Of course there was no passing and easy plays like the kind he got from Griffin last year and BDavis at times during the season, but he should have been able to stake out some turf, and he struggled. It was interesting how McHale noted that McGee stands tall and plays big and runs too (though McGee certainly still has a ways to go), while Jordan is compressed and seems smaller than his height and reach by comparison. The only positive here was McHale extolling the virtues of Kaman and what a contrast he is to Jordan and Sofo.
Sofo's mojo was even worse than Jordan's. Again, I think they should have both started, to see what would have happened with them playing together. Instead Sofo got limited minutes and he never got rolling, although his rebounding and defense and mobility looked pretty good. But there were hardly any pick and roll plays with him outside, which is where he crushed the US. Instead it was old simple MDSr stuff on the block and he didn't show any decisiveness or special moves and he didn't handle the double team well.
That's a start, and the team will move on. But the seemingly solid roster doesn't have much in the way of shooters and scorers and they could have a hard time and play to their darker instincts, rather than improving on small things that will help the larger cause. But it's just the first game, and it's just summer league. Small sigh.