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Notes from a Summer League Thursday: Patrick Ewing talks Noah Vonleh, P.J. Hairston, Lance Stephenson

Jul 18, 2014, 1:01 AM EDT

Charlotte Hornets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Things are quieting down in Las Vegas… well, at Summer League. Vegas itself never quiets down. This is the city where once you’ve been here five days and you get to bed at 2 a.m. and think, “good, I got in early tonight and can get some sleep.”

Here is stuff from my Thursday notebook.

• Charlotte Hornets Summer League coach Patrick Ewing spoke with ProBasketballTalk about the development of a couple key guys. One is Noah Vonleh, who has struggled at points finding an offensive groove — he was 3-of-11 shooting Thursday against New Orleans. There have been flashes but Vonleh is a project.

“I like Noah, I think he has a bright future in this league. He’s a rookie, he’s 19 years old, it’s going to take some time…” Charlotte Summer League coach Patrick Ewing told ProBasketballTalk. “The thing I think he needs to do is: rebound. He has to continue to rebound. His second game in here he had 18 rebounds and it’s not been consistent. Do all the things that he can be consistent with until his offense and all the other parts of his game is able to get going. He has to get stronger. But he’s a talented guy and he’s going to be one of the guys who is going to have a bright future for our team and possibly could be a star in this league.”

• Ewing also talked P.J. Hairston, who is ready to shoot the second he walks in the gym — a player on the opposing Pelicans said to press row at the half “How ‘bout how much P.J. shoots?” That said they were falling for him on Thursday.

“P.J., he had a very good game for us tonight. He shot the ball extremely well,” Ewing said of Hairston’s 8-of-16 overall, 4-of-9 from three night from the floor. “I keep telling him, get back and rebound also. Share the ball, because a lot of the shots are going to him and don’t just put your head down and take it. He should be a rotational player in this league, his future is predicated on how much he wants it and how much he wants to put in the work to get it.”

• P.J. Hairston does this thing where if he feels contact while dribbling he throws his head back to exaggerate it and try and get the call.

• While we were at it, I asked Ewing (also a Hornets assistant during the regular season) about the chances for the Hornets next season with the addition of Lance Stephenson.

“They keep saying the East is wide open, you never know,” Ewing said. We feel that we have a pretty good team. Lance definitely is a great addition to our ball club, he’s a guy that can shoot the basketball, he can handle the basketball, distribute the basketball, and he can get in there and play defense and rebound. He’s a great addition. We had one of the top 10 defenses in the league and with his addition it’s going to be even better.”

• Dontas Motiejunas showed what happened when you put a rotation caliber NBA big man in a Summer League game. He had 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, pulled down 11 rebounds, blocked one shot and altered a bunch more. The Cavs simply could not match up on him with this Summer League roster. Anthony Bennett tried but he’s not big enough to stop a skilled big. The guys big enough were too slow.

Andrew Wiggins had a showcase game Thursday where he just attacked the rim — he had 20 free throw attempts on his way to 21 points (on 3-of-5 shooting). He’s still raw in a lot of ways but he has decent handles already and when he attacks good things happen.

• Here is Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt on Wiggins: “You know what you got to like about a kid like that is that it doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth game of Summer League, or the fourth game in seven days or eight days, or if people are keying on him, or if the crowd has funny things to say to him, he just goes out there and really plays and has a nice calm about him. A real good demeanor.” That includes him ignoring the trade rumors swirling around him.

• After seeing him a few times in Vegas I’m not the biggest fan of Zach LaVine‘s game, but man can he dunk.

• Utah Jazz rookie Rodney Hood can flat out shoot the ball, and with the dual point-guard role of Trey Burke and Dante Exum there was room for him to shine as a shooter. He summed up the Jazz offense through Summer League:

“I think we did a a great job moving the ball. Some games we became a little stagnant because of the way people were playing, they were real aggressive. We shared the ball a lot, you rarely ever saw Iso ball or stuff like that for the most part, sometimes we didn’t shoot the ball well….

“It’s fun, especially for role players like my self, on the other end you’re that much more engaged if you’re going to touch the ball, playing with unselfish guys.”

• That said, Exum seemed a little frustrated that he got fewer touches on Thursday (Burke got more).

• Forced to do it because of the roster, Russ Smith showed he can create a little offense, putting up 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting Thursday.

Cody Zeller is solid backup big. Pretty good defender, works hard on the glass, willing to be physical, actually has some handles, can finish through contact. Outplayed Jeff Withey head-to-head Thursday.

• Speaking of bigs who looked solid — Patric Young. A guy who never developed into the star some hoped still has an NBA body and all week has worked hard on the glass, put in the effort on defense. Should get a training camp invite somewhere at least.

• Some team carrying three point guards really should consider Will Cherry for the third spot. Raw on the edges but a ball of energy.

• The Spurs work the ball into the post in the half court more than any other team in Summer League. (This is a league where guards trying to get noticed like to shoot the rock not pass it.)

  1. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    Nice to see the Hornets getting so much coverage on PBT lately. Too bad Vonleh is such a project, but if Cody Zeller is stepping up it might not matter.

    • dacapt704 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      Yup, agreed. Hard to even remember that 7 win season we had…no longer the laughing stock of the NBA, Philly can have that title now

      • sixerstrong - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        Orlando Summer League Champion Philadelphia 76’ers!

        Don’t forget, even with deliberate tanking, they still weren’t the worst team in the league last year, and I can think of more than a few fan bases that would rather have the young core we have than the scrubs their team is trotting out.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        Nothing wrong with what Sam Hinkie is doing in Philly… for now. We basically tanked all but 2-3 of our seasons as the Bobcats. It got to the point where the fans forgot we had a professional basketball team and MJ had to remind us by finally putting together a winning roster. So if you guys don’t get any superstars or franchise guys in the next year or two… you’ll be ready for any kind of winning season.

    • qdog112 - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      If the Hornets have to rely on Cody, we’re done. He is not starter quality and probably will never be. He’s way too frail to play PF in a half court set and that’s what the Hornets do. running the floor he’s OK, but gets knocked around like a rag-doll.

      Marvin Williams will keep the seat warm until Noah is ready.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:01 PM

        I agree. I’m not buying that he’s shown a lot of improvement. Zeller was baaaaad last season. So was Biyombo. D*mn, I really wish we had one more quality big on the roster.

  2. edavidberg - Jul 18, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    Vonleh is going to be fine. Summer league doesn’t have quality bigs and half the league (or more) is players that are not good enough to playin the NBA. Lots of good players struggle there.

    • misremembered72 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      how would that be a good sign for Vonleh then?

      • dacapt704 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

        You could say that it gives him a chance to work the “kinks” out of his game while still being in a competitive environment. I think what edavidberg was saying is that its hard to increase your skill level if you’re not playing amongst the most talented players. Basically, he looks raw compared to other raw players but the difference is Vonleh has a contract and Pat Ewing as a coach so he’ll get the chance to develop.

        Go Hornets!

      • davidtmp - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        You have to also remember that these guys just got drafted. They haven’t really had a chance to go thru workouts with the team and too much coaching. These guys are showing what they have and the areas they need to work on. Get them back home and start coaching them up, then you may start to see the real improvement. Vonleh is 19…..if he improves like Zeller did last year, he’ll be fine.

      • edavidberg - Jul 18, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Who said it was a good sign? I said don’t put too much stock in it. Vonleh will be fine.

  3. rjmarrella - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    Interesting about exum. Great article …

  4. junkmtb - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Hornets bringing some much needed excitement concerning basketball back to Charlotte!!! Just hoping PJ and Lance avoid all troubles on and off the court!!

  5. therealhtj - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Between Wiggins and LaVine, this year’s dunk contest may actually be worth watching!

  6. amelik801 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Watching the jazz in the summer league it’s pretty obvious Exum is far more talented than Burke as a point; his first step, size, and speed make Burke look like an amateur … Hopefully Brad Jones and especially Quinn Snyder will realize what mcw 2.0 looks like ( ps Burke literally will not pass Exum the ball, no joke

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Exum was frustrated about not getting the ball.

    • edavidberg - Jul 18, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I liked Burke a lot in college but he hasn’t shown the ability to excel at this level. I think he lacks the athleticism.

      Exum on the other hand ….

    • qdog112 - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      Does Exum ever touch the ball with his left?

  7. 22yearsagotoday - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Glad to see Patrick Ewing in a coaching gig, especially for a team owned by GOAT Michael Jordan. MJ certainly owes Patrick after going off for so many points at MSG so many times.

  8. amelik801 - Jul 18, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    I hope the jazz don’t alienate their only potential superstar

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