Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

LAS VEGAS -- The Trail Blazers have moved into the second round of the summer league's tournament and will face top-seeded Toronto tonight at 7 o'clock in what I like to call "The Tourney Nobody Really Cares About Winning."

Unless you win it, of course. Then you can tell your fans that it's a sign their franchise is on the right track.

And that could possibly be true, of course. But winning the title could also just mean that you got a team together quickly and went to either Orlando or Salt Lake City summer leagues before coming here and so your team has spent a lot of time playing together. Or maybe you have four or five players from your regular-season team here. Or perhaps you just had good luck picking up some experienced free agents to play for your summer team. Or even more rare, that you actually care about winning the tournament -- which isn't common.

As you can see, I'm not big on this tournament, which seems to me more of a money grab than anything else. Most teams have already had enough games to get what they want out of this little carnival of turnovers and would prefer to not risk further injury to key players.

But it is a chance to see some of the new players heading into the NBA this season. I haven't had enough opportunity to see them all for a long enough period to make any major judgments but I have a couple of thoughts I'll share:

The first thing I want to talk about is Jordan Bell, because a lot of Ducks fans are already going off the deep end about how Portland should have drafted him instead of Caleb Swanigan. Um, no. I don't think so.

Bell is probably going to be a very nice off-the-bench contributor for the Golden State Warriors. He'll rebound, block a shot or two, hustle all over the floor and he's going to profit from playing in a great system alongside some terrific players who will probably make him look a little better than he is. But after watching both Bell and Swanigan here, it's hard for me to say Bell should have been picked ahead of Swanigan.

Swanigan is the more skilled player. More well-rounded. He can do most of the things Bell can do and also make shots from distance. And he's more than two years younger than Bell -- which means he probably has more room for improvement and a couple of more seasons in his career. He's also bigger than Bell and the one question left with Bell is how he's going to operate against bigger, more experienced players once he reaches the NBA.

Nothing against Bell. I like him. I think he was a very good choice for the Warriors, who will make good use of him. But in terms of eventually being a starting player and major contributor I think most people here would take Swanigan.

More Thoughts From Summer League

I'm anxious to see more of Lonzo Ball. He's such an interesting player and, I think, difficult to assess at this point. Yes, he can pass -- but he's not the clever, tricky sort of passer I expected. He is not flashy to any great degree. And that's not a knock on him. He makes the right reads and delivers the ball appropriately.

But he also seems just a little slower than I expected. It will be interesting to see what tempo the Lakers will play with him at the helm. And yes, his shooting form is terrible. His old man, LaVar, seems to act as if he's created the perfect player in Lonzo but I can't believe that's the best he could do with the the kid's shooting mechanics. It is more of a set shot than a jumper and takes a little while for him to load.

That said, he seems to have the "it" factor they love in LA. He's got a star quality about him. And it's going to be fun to see if he can make good on all the expectations the Lakers have for him.

And maybe he will even add a summer-league championship ring to his resume. As if there is such a thing.

Blazers open summer-league tourney with win over Chicago

Blazers open summer-league tourney with win over Chicago

LAS VEGAS -- Jake Layman had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals Wednesday night as the Trail Blazers opened the tournament portion of the Las Vegas Summer League with an 88-77 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Layman had struggled in his previous summer league games and got off to a slow start against the Bulls Wednesday night. He was 0-3 from the field in the first period but caught a little run in the second quarter that netted him 10 points. In the third quarter he finally got the Blazers the lead with a dunk, a steal and a layup. He had 20 points heading into the fourth quarter and the teams were tied at 61.

Portland also got nice efforts from Jarmell Stokes, R.J. Hunter, Nick Johnson and Antonius Cleveland, who contributed down the stretch of the game.

The Trail Blazers move on to a second-round matchup vs. Toronto Thursday night at 7 that will be telecast on NBA-TV.

Highlights: Swanigan has big game in loss to the Spurs

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Highlights: Swanigan has big game in loss to the Spurs

The Trail Blazers fell victim to the injury bug in their loss to the San Antonio Spurs, losing both Pat Connaughton and Zach Collins to leg injuries, but it wasn't all doom and gloom for Portland. Caleb "Biggie" Swanigan had another great game for the Trail Blazers with yet another double-double, and showed glimpses of why he may just be the steal of the draft. Don't believe us? See for yourself in these highlights courtesy of the Trail Blazers Twitter account. 

The Fourth was no holiday for Trail Blazers' summer-league team

The Fourth was no holiday for Trail Blazers' summer-league team

TUALATIN -- It was a holiday, but not for the aspiring basketball players on the Portland Trail Blazers' summer-league roster.

Tuesday was the first day of practice for the team, which opens play in the Las Vegas Summer League Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Utah Jazz in Cox Pavilion.

The team went through a two-hour session at the team's practice facility and all eyes were on recent draftees Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan.

"They're good," said two-year Trail Blazer veteran Pat Connaughton, who will spend his third summer playing in the league. "They're big bodies and they work hard and that's about all you can ask of young guys that come in. It will be fun to work with them and play with them and watch them grow throughout summer league and hopefully, throughout the season."

Connaughton was asked to break down what he saw from each player during Tuesday's practice.

On Collins, the seven-footer out of Gonzaga, he said, "He's a hard worker, he's big and he's skilled. Obviously I've only been with each of the rookies for a day and I'll be able to tell you more at the end of summer league but from the standpoint of his ability to play basketball, he's got a knowledge for it, he's got a feel for it and wben he's able to build his size even more from a strength standpoint -- he's 19 years old -- that will be huge for him. He's the got the skills and the tools to be a phenomenal NBA player."

And Swanigan, the 6-9 forward from Purdue: "The kid works hard ... He's a guy who is going to find a way to make his way in this league just off sheer ability to defend, rebound, put back -- and he can make a jumper. He can shoot, better than I thought -- but I hadn't watched a ton of his games -- and that's always an important thing, especially in today's NBA."

Beginning Saturday in a game telecast on CSN -- Portland fans will get their first look.

CSN to air first two Trail Blazers summer league games

CSN to air first two Trail Blazers summer league games

The Trail Blazers will head to Las Vegas at the end of this week to take part in the annual NBA Summer League which will showcase a young roster over the course of at least five games. The Blazers will play three pool play games, with the first two being broadcasted live on CSN with Trail Blazers play by play man Kevin Calabro and analyst Lamar Hurd on the call. The games are as follows:

Saturday, July 8th at 3pm vs. Utah on CSN

Sunday, July 9th at 5:30pm vs. Boston on CSN

The Blazers will get one more pool play game on Tuesday at 1pm followed by at least two tournament games based on seeding after that. The Championship game is held Monday, July 17th. 

You can get full coverage from Las Vegas throughout both pool play and the tournament from CSN's Jason Quick and Dwight Jaynes. Plus get pre-game coverage with our Facebook live streaming show, The Scoop with Jamie Hudson and all the updates from summer league with Sports Talk Live

Trail Blazers announce Summer League roster

Trail Blazers announce Summer League roster

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 30, 2016) – The Portland Trail Blazers today announced their roster for NBA Summer League 2017 in Las Vegas, highlighted by 2017 first round draft picks Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, and returning roster players Pat Connaughton and Jake Layman. 

Portland’s four-day Summer League training camp begins Tuesday, July 4 at the Practice Facility.

The Trail Blazers made a draft day trade to acquire Collins, who was picked 10th overall out of Gonzaga, and Swanigan was selected with the 26th overall pick out of Purdue. Connaughton holds averages of 1.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 73 games (one start) over two seasons with the Trail Blazers. Layman finished his rookie 2016-17 season averaging 2.2 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 35 games (one start).

The Trail Blazers will tip-off the game schedule on Saturday, July 8 vs. Utah, followed by a game on Sunday, July 9 vs. Boston, before closing out the preliminary round on Tuesday, July 11 vs. San Antonio. The first and third games will be played at Cox Pavilion, while Sunday’s contest will be at the Thomas & Mack Center. Both facilities are located on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus.

Following the three-game preliminary round, the NBA Summer League returns to a tournament format for the fifth consecutive year, with each team guaranteed a minimum of five games. The championship game will take place on Monday, July 17.

Tickets for NBA Summer League 2017 are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets by visiting NBATickets.com.

 2017 Trail Blazers Summer League Roster

No.  Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Birthdate Last Played NBA Years
37 Jordan Adams G 6'5" 209 7/8/94 Memphis Grizzlies 1
34 Keith Benson C 6'11" 240 8/13/88 Sioux Falls (G-League) 1
26 Markel Brown G 6'3" 190 1/29/92 Khimki (Russia) 2
44 Antonius Cleveland G 6'6" 195 2/2/94 Southeast Missouri R
33 Zach Collins C 7' 230 11/19/97 Gonzaga R
5 Pat Connaughton G 6'5" 210 1/6/93 Trail Blazers  2
24 DeAndre Daniels F 6'9" 196 4/15/92 Dinamica Mantova (Italy) R
2 Jorge Gutiérrez G 6'3" 195 12/27/88 Trabzonspor (Turkey) 4
28 R.J. Hunter G 6'5" 185 10/24/93 Long Island (G-League) 1
31 Nick Johnson G 6'3" 200 12/22/92 Bayern Munich (Germany 1
10 Jake Layman F 6'9" 210 3/7/94 Trail Blazers 1
9 Patrick Miller F 6'1" 200 5/22/93 Sioux Falls (G-League) R
16 Josh Scott F 6'10" 245 7/13/93 MZT Skopje (Macedonia) R
50 Caleb Swanigan F 6'9" 249 4/18/97 Purdue R

 

Summer League Coaches:  

  • Jim Moran (William & Mary)
  • Nate Tibbetts (South Dakota)
  • David Vanterpool (St. Bonaventure)
  • Dale Osbourne (South Alabama)
  • John McCullough (Oklahoma)

    Summer League Assistant Coaches:

    • Jason Staudt (Texas Tech)
    • Jonathan Yim (Cal State Fullerton)
    • T.C. Swirsky (UNLV)
    • Brian Barkdoll (Northwest Nazarene)

    Director of Player Heath and Performance: Chris Stackpole (Boston University)

    Head Athletic Trainer: Geoff Clark (Oregon State)

    Sports Performance Specialist: Todd Forcier (Washington State)

    Sports Performance Specialist: Ben Kenyon (Adelphi)

Blazer summer-league performances were sub-par

Blazer summer-league performances were sub-par

Time to put a big bag over the Trail Blazers' summer league and place it on a shelf someplace where it can be forgotten.

Summing it all up as kindly as I can, I'd say performances by Portland's regular-season roster players did not live up to expectations.

Exhibit A is forward Noah Vonleh. Yes, you're going to hear that he's still only 20 years old. True, but the fact is there are teenagers in summer league these days, players 18 and 19 years old. And Vonleh was actually playing in his third summer league, and as one NBA executive told me, "It's a bit of a red flag when you're here for the third time and still can't dominate."

Vonleh started four games, averaged 31 and a half minutes, 12 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.75 turnovers and 3.25 fouls per game. He shot 46.3 percent from the floor, 23.1 percent from three and 70 percent from the foul line. Interestingly, he got more attempts from three than the foul line.

Pat Connaughton had all kinds of problems with his shooting. The 6-5 guard averaged 32.2 minutes in five starts, shot only 34.8 percent from the field, 27 percent from three, 3.4 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists and two turnovers per game. He made a couple of big shots along the way and still continues to look like an NBA-level athlete. But shooting guards need to be good shooters.

Luis Montero still looks like a player who needs at least a year in the D-League -- promising, but still not savvy or experienced enough to play meaningful NBA minutes. He played five games, started only two, averaged 27.2 minutes, shot 36.4 percent from the field, 25 percent from three, had 1.8 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game.

Rookie forward Jake Layman was surprising. He seemed to get more comfortable on the floor with each game and showed enough athleticism to belong in the league. Still, as with his teammates, shooting was a problem. He hit 35 percent of his field goals, 18.2 percent of his threes and just 57.1 percent of his free throws. He averaged 8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

All in all, not pretty numbers and not a very promising summer for those young players.

 

Blazers complete summer league with win over Boston

Blazers complete summer league with win over Boston

LAS VEGAS -- The summer version of the Portland Trail Blazers completed its season Friday with a 80-75 win Boston Celtics in Cox Pavilion.

Pat Connaughton scored 23 and Pierre Jackson 20 to lead Portland, which finished the Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-3 record. The only other game the team won was a sudden-death, double-overtime contest vs. Utah, won by a Connaugton three-point field goal.

The Trail Blazers led by as many as 13 in the second quarter and held a 44-35 halftime lead. They then watched Boston storm back to lead by 2 in the third quarter. But Portland took a 60-58 edge into the fourth quarter and fought off several Boston rallies down the stretch of the game.

Friday was a real bounce-back game for Connaughton, who has not shot the ball well consistently during the summer. He hit 8 of 18 against the Celtics and made some big plays down the stretch.

Second-round draft pick Jake Layman had one of the biggest plays of the game, blocking a potential dunk by Boston's Jaylen Brown with inside a minute to play. Layman finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Jackson hit seven of his 10 shots, had five rebounds and eight assists. There is little doubt he will end up in somebody's training camp this fall, be it Portland's or another team.

Noah Vonleh, who is suffering from a hip contusion, did not play.

 

Summer league: Welcome to the tournament nobody wants to win

Summer league: Welcome to the tournament nobody wants to win

LAS VEGAS -- A few years ago somebody came up with the bright idea of ending the Las Vegas Summer League with a tournament. The idea, I suppose, was to make the summer games more competitive for the teams and to provide more spectator interest by building to a "championship" game.

But after watching the tournament's first round Wednesday and the first round last summer, I've come to the conclusion that pretty much none of these teams has any interest in winning this thing. In fact, most of them in yesterday's first round seemed dedicated to losing and getting out of town as soon as possible.

The idea here is about developing players and not about winning. You can see that by the way lineups are used -- who plays and who doesn't. If you have a first- or second-round pick here, he's going to play as many minutes as possible -- no matter how poorly. If you have an older guy who can help you win a summer-league game but probably doesn't figure in your plans for fall training camp, guess what? He's probably not going to play.

A good many of the high draft picks have been sitting out games in the past few days and it's their appearances, rather than trophies, that generate the big crowds.

I think organizers of this summer basketball festival would have been pressured into dropping the idea of a tournament if not for extenuating circumstances. No. 1, the league is run by Warren LeGarie, who happens to be the agent for a good many of the league's general managers, coaches and assistant coaches. Those guys aren't going to put heat on their agent. And, too, nobody in the league is likely to do anything that would cause the demise of these games being played in Las Vegas.

The NBA, like a good many other companies, loves to gather in Sin City for its conventions. And this, as much as anything, is a convention that brings together most of the league.

So if you're planning on visiting this summer league in the future, I'd encourage it. There is wall-to-wall basketball that's mostly a lot of fun. Just show up before the tournament starts. It's not pretty.

Trail Blazers fall to Jazz -- just one summer game left

Trail Blazers fall to Jazz -- just one summer game left

The Trail Blazers trailed throughout most of the final three quarters Wednesday evening and fell 86-71 to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the tournament portion of the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Trail Blazers (1-3) are thus eliminated from the tournament's championship round and will play just once more -- a consolation game at 3 p.m. Friday in Cox Pavilion.

Non-roster point guard Pierre Jackson led Portland with 18 points. Shabazz Napier, who had been starting at the point since being acquired in a deal with Orlando, is suffering from a sprained shoulder. He did not play and is out for the Friday game, too. Jake Layman and Noah Vonleh added 10 points apiece for Portland.

The Trail Blazers looked fatigued in this game and in the second half couldn't muster much of an effort. At this point in summer league, many of the teams run out of gas.  Just as many of them run out of motivation. Very few of these teams really care about winning a summer-league tournament. This is an opportunity for personal development and to allow players to showcase their skills.

For a player such as Jackson, who has bounced around the D-League, played in Turkey and been the property of New Orleans and Philadelphia in the NBA, this is a pressure cooker -- with every minute of every game a chance to prove he belongs in the NBA, or not.

At 5-10, he's a point guard, but one who can score. He set the D-League single-game scoring record with 58 points in 2014 and has terrific quickness to the basket.

He admitted after Wednesday's game that he feels a lot of pressure in these games because his future is on the line, but that it is mitigated to a degree by the fact that Las Vegas is his home and he has the support of his family.

He was just about the only Trail Blazer with any energy against the Jazz. The Blazers were pounded 47-32 on the boards and Vonleh, who had been a consistent rebounder during the summer, managed just 2 boards in 27 minutes.

All in all, the best news appears to be that this group has just one more game left. And I'd anticipate that playing time will be spread among the entire roster in that contest.