Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 23, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Guess who declared for the Korean Basketball League draft? If you guessed Samaki Walker, you’re a deeply disturbed individual. And totally right.
  • David Thorpe ranked the top rookies that played in Summer League, and Dominique Jones came in at #10 (Insider): “Jones is super competitive on both sides of the ball and capable of putting up points in bunches. Possessing a great frame for a combo guard, he has every chance to be this year’s Marcus Thornton — ready to play from day one and having the confidence to play in the fourth quarter.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz got SUMMER LEAGUE LEGEND Jeremy Lin on the phone for a few to get his reactions to the post-Vegas whirlwind. Among other things, Lin reminisced about his game against John Wall and the Wizards Summer League team: “Roddy [Beaubois] was hurt so I got a chance to get a little more playing time in the first half, which helped a lot because I got a chance to get comfortable. Going into the fourth quarter, we were down. I wanted something to happen. I was just, like, playing. It just felt like it was college again. I was just, like, out there. It felt very, very comfortable and very relaxed. It was such a natural feeling. It wasn’t like that with most of the other games. In those other games, it was more like, “Wow, this is a job interview. I have to perform well.” I had that kind of pressure. But in the Washington game, going against John Wall in the fourth quarter, trying to come back, I was just playing off instincts. It was the best quarter I had in summer league at the best possible time. If the Dallas Mavericks weren’t scheduled to play the Washington Wizards, I might not be in the NBA.”
  • Ancient news by this point, but Caron Butler is the “sole proprietor if six Burger King restaurants around the country.”
  • Antoine Wright will be playing in Sacramento next season. He’s not a great offensive fit next to Tyreke Evans, but I still like Wright as a defender, as does Tom Ziller.
  • Mike Prada ranked the league’s 30 GMs, and put Donnie Nelson in the 10th slot: “Ultimately, Nelson hits a lot of singles and doubles, and that’s not a bad thing for a team that is willing to spend and will therefore never have or need cap flexibility.”
  • “He doesn’t owe you anything. He is not a representative for every Asian-American kid. He is just Jeremy Lin.”
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com, from Team USA training camp in Las Vegas: “Tyson Chandler is wearing the Zoom LeBron III, personalized to protect his toe.” Chandler seems more and more likely to make Team USA’s final cut, even after early reports indicated that he came into camp out of shape.
  • Reminiscing on Summer League, and more specifically, the match-up between Omar Samhan and JaVale McGee.
  • Could Jeremy Lin already have a shoe endorsement deal?

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume V

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 21, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

In lieu of a delayed recap of the Mavs final game at the Vegas Summer League, I’ve opted for a player-by-player review based on their exploits. If you’ve come in search of some analysis of Moussa Seck that’s probably more serious than it should be, actual praise for Mouhammad Faye, or a first look at Ian Mahinmi, you’ve come to the right place.

Rodrigue Beaubois: Experience is important, but Beaubois didn’t demonstrate much growth in terms of running the point. He had his moments — a read here, a read there — but this was not a particularly successful trip for Rodrigue. However, Beaubois did show off his pull-up game a bit, something he didn’t do with much frequency last season with the Mavs. Granted, he didn’t have much of a chance; pull-up threes are the kind of shots Beaubois is able to take in Summer League, but probably shouldn’t be taking with the actual team. There are better shots to be had when playing with Dirk Nowitzki et al. Aside from that wrinkle, Beaubois played off the ball a bit too much and didn’t blow me away as a traditional point guard prospect. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth noting.

Dominique Jones: Dominique Jones isn’t quite a bull in a china shop — he stands just 6’5”, after all — but at the very least he’s a Tasmanian devil in a Pottery Barn. It’ll be nice to see if Jones can get to the basket (and to the free throw line) consistently against bigger and badder NBA regulars, but he passed his first exam in that course with flying colors. Jones isn’t a particularly versatile scorer just yet, but his driving abilities are sealed and ready for NBA use. He has a quick first step. He’s incredibly strong. He can drive in both directions, finish with contact, and attack the basket in a variety of ways. Jones may seem like a black hole at times, but he’s not an unwilling passer. He’ll find his teammates, but there’s no question that his offensive focus is to score as frequently as possible, regardless of who’s defending him.

However, as I mentioned in my game-by-game recaps, Jones was just as excellent defensively. It’s still very early, but Dominique looks like a player that could be defensively viable at both guard positions, and his tenacity on that end is beyond impressive. His technique still needs work, and he needs to continue to develop to become a better team defender. However, Jones looked remarkable in showcasing his one-on-one defensive abilities (staying in front of his man, bodying up, contesting shots, etc.).

Jeremy Lin: It’s not easy to walk into a gym where every unheralded prospect is looking to make a name for themselves and do just that, yet Lin earned himself an NBA contract on the strength of his play at Summer League. Jeremy has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, which is pretty remarkable considering the Mavs were Lin’s only Summer League invite.

Lin surprised a lot of people with his ability to keep pace athletically, which was thought to be one of his bigger weaknesses coming into Summer League. It looked like a non-issue, even as Lin was asked to check John Wall. Jeremy looked strong in the open court, but he also impressed with his vision and decision-making in half-court sets. I don’t know of Lin will ever have the talent necessary to be a full-time starting point, but it’s not hard to imagine him providing scoring and playmaking off the bench in a regular capacity.

Jeremy Lin’s journey in Vegas was a gradual unveiling. Initially, he showed an ability to make simple, effective passes and finish in the lane over NBA shot-blockers. Then came a surprising diversity in his drives and moves to the rim, which is essential for long-term success on the perimeter in the NBA. Lin also added a few threes for good measure, giving team officials reason to hesitate before inking his jumper as a weakness on the scouting report. Finally, Lin really showcased his defensive abilities by pressuring ball-handlers and attacking the passing lanes. He’s hardly a finished product, but Lin can do a bit of everything.

Omar Samhan: Dexter Pittman may be a rotation player for the Miami Heat this season, but Omar Samhan couldn’t even secure a spot on an NBA roster. This makes very little sense. Though Pittman is probably the more intriguing athletic specimen (buried underneath his robust exterior is a definite NBA athlete), he clearly doesn’t have the proper understanding of how to use his size to his advantage. Samhan does. Neither player is in optimal NBA shape, but if we’re looking at which prospect has a better understanding of mechanics, spacing, and talent utilization? There’s no debate. Samhan works his way into the low post to drop a baby hook, while Pittman spins and elbows his way into an offensive foul.

Pittman is just one of many. With so many raw center prospects in the NBA that never find actualization, it’s a shame that players like Samhan can’t even get their foot in the door. Omar is a very poor defender if pulled out to the perimeter, not a sure thing in the post against real NBA bigs, and would have his minutes capped by poor conditioning. Still, he was able to score and rebound well against some of the better centers Summer League had to offer, which has to count for something.

For some reason or another, it’s acceptable for a wing player to be an intriguing, one-dimensional scoring talent, but blasphemous for a center or power forward to do the same. Samhan may not be a great NBA rebounder or defender, but would there really be anything so wrong with getting a few free offensive possessions out of him in the low post?

Ian Mahinmi: Ian had an abbreviated Summer League run, but he showed glimpses of what we can expect next season. Mahinmi rebounded very well in fairly limited minutes, and while he wasn’t a dominant offensive force in any particular game, he showed off a few skills that should be helpful in real NBA games. He has a nice mid-range jumper that can keep defenses honest. Mahinmi looks quicker on his feet than any other Maverick big. He’s not afraid to offer help from the weak side. Mahinmi isn’t the strongest finisher, but at least in Summer League he was able to go up strong and draw fouls.

Mahinmi will frustrate some fans with the holes in his game, but provided we stay focused on what he can do (come on, he’s the third center on the roster, after all) rather than what he can’t, I think it’ll be very clear how cool it is to have a guy like this on the team as an insurance policy.

Mouhammad Faye: While Mouhammad Faye didn’t quite have a Jeremy Lin-style explosion, I feel he played pretty well in Vegas. Faye will never be an impact player offensively. His influence on that end will always be strictly complementary, which means that the most important skills he can showcase are the ability to hit open jumpers and finish freebies at the rim. He did both. Faye’s defense could possibly get him a chance with an NBA team some day, as he’s both well-equipped (Faye is listed at 6’9”, but has Stretch Armstrong limbs) and hard-working. It’s very, very difficult to gauge defensive success in the Summer League because of how sensitive those skills translate to a 5-on-5 game with more experienced opponents. Moving from Vegas to the NBA regular season won’t make a made three rim out. It won’t make a smart pass into the wrong move. But a successful individual defender in Summer League could end up flubbing when forced to be part of something more.

For now, that’s where Faye is. He needs three-point range before he’s given a serious NBA shot anyway, but he also needs to prove that he can operate effectively as a team defender. That’s exactly what he’d be able to do in the D-League, if the Mavs choose to make him a part of the Texas Legends’ inaugural run.

Faye is already 25. He’s not going to overhaul his game by the time his career is through. Still, based on the strength he’s shown as a defender, he could be an interesting guy to have on the wing. Faye really needs to bulk up if he’s going to play as a combo forward (he’s a bit slight even to guard NBA 3s at the moment), but he has the makings of a pretty impressive NBA defender.

Shan Foster: Shan Foster is the mythical three-point shooter who can’t shoot. Foster shot 46.9% from three during his last season at Vanderbilt, but he just doesn’t look all that comfortable spotting up at the NBA three-point line. He shot just 25% from beyond the arc in Vegas, and that’s not even close to what it would take to secure Foster a spot on an NBA roster. He’s not a bad defender, but Shan really doesn’t do much offensively except shoot. I wouldn’t call him a black hole, but he certainly doesn’t make plays. He doesn’t drive. He doesn’t post up. He spots up frequently, and misses far more than he should.

J.R. Giddens: I just don’t see it. Giddens plays hard, but he doesn’t seem to have a particularly good grasp of where to be on the court. One could appreciate him solely for his hustle, but too often is he forced to rely on it based on his own mistakes. He seems like a pretty decent positional rebounder, but considering Giddens really failed to show any standout NBA skills aside from his athleticism, I’m not sure he’s cut from the NBA mold. A good player, but unfortunately he just doesn’t seem good enough.

Moussa Seck: Ever the project, Seck’s height is undeniably attractive in an NBA setting, but he has a long way to go before he’s ready to use it. Not only did Seck really only shine offensively when putting in an easy dunk, but his body needs a lot of work before he’s NBA ready.

Consider Yao Ming. The guy is built like a tree, and even with the amount of upper and lower body work he’s done throughout his career, he still has trouble staying healthy. Such is the life of the league’s giants, who have the principles of physics working against them.

Seck could benefit a lot — particularly in the strength and conditioning departments — from playing in the D next season, and I have a sneaking suspicion we may see him in Frisco. But until he puts in the work to make his body NBA-ready, he’s not worth having a particularly serious discussion about. I will say this: Seck may not be all that mobile, but he can surprise people as a shot-blocker for pretty obvious reasons. If Seck could ever bulk up enough to at least put up a fight on the glass, he could find enough minutes to be a difference-maker on the defensive end. Teams simply have to account for him when he’s on the floor, even if Seck lacks a natural feel for the flow of the game.

DeShawn Sims: I was a bit more impressed with Sims’ play in the Orlando Summer League than I was with his performance in Vegas. Sims is a tad small for a natural 4, and his largely face-up game only reinforces that fact. He’s not a great rebounder, but it’s not for lack of effort; Sims puts in the work on the boards, he’s just not all that tall, strong, or athletic. He could be worth an extended look, but Sims doesn’t seem like the kind of talent that would take the jump from Summer League to the NBA all that well.

Amara Sy: Strong, but awkward. Aside from the occasional bizarrely soft jumper, Sy really didn’t look like a basketball player. He got a bucket now and again, but I’m not exactly sure what it is that he’s supposed to do on the court. He’s not a good rebounder (though he really should be, given his strength and athleticism), doesn’t have much touch around the rim at all, and isn’t more than a passable NBA player. Sy seems like a lock to continue in the D-League for a spell before floating back across the Atlantic.

Josh Mayo: Pretty quick, but doesn’t have the blinding speed necessary to make a difference as a 6-foot-flat point guard in the NBA. Mayo didn’t have much of a chance to display his talents behind Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Jeremy Lin, but he also played incredibly pedestrian basketball when he did make it to the floor.

Eric Tramiel: If he ends up in Frisco, it will be solely as a ticket draw (Tramiel came out of UNT, which is about a 30 minute drive from the Legends’ new home). Tramiel didn’t play badly per se, but his defense — while competent — wasn’t impressive to make up for his no-show offensively. It’s tough for guys in Tramiel’s position to impress NBA scouts, but there are also reasons why players of his ilk struggle to even find PT in Summer League.

Darryl Watkins: Big body. Not horrible. Disappears, both on the court and from the Summer League roster.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 20, 2010 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • Dirk officially signed his new contract with the Mavs yesterday, and here are the yearly values, according to Eddie Sefko: $17,278,618/$19,092,873/$20,907,128/$22,721,381.
  • Congrats to Dominique Jones, who made the All-Summer League Team in Vegas. At the beginning of Summer League, we all figured Rodrigue Beaubois would be in thie position, but Jones’ offensive efficiency and defensive excellence weren’t necessarily surprising, but they’re definitely welcome.
  • Something about this picture is just…weird.
  • Omar Samhan on his decision to play professionally in Lithuania next season (via Jeff Caplan): “I didn’t have any offers for guaranteed money [in the NBA]. A lot of people wanted me to come to training camp, but they couldn’t guarantee anything. And, if I did make a team, I wouldn’t get playing time, I wouldn’t get a chance to develop a ton…So, it’s going to give me a chance to go over there for a year or two and really develop as a player. I plan on coming back and being an NBA player for the next 10 years.”
  • Jason Kidd will help out Team USA this summer. He just won’t, y’know, play.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News has a featureish piece on Ian Mahinmi for those that aren’t acquainted with his career in Austin and San Antonio.
  • The Chicago Bulls are considering picking up Josh Howard for next season.
  • Shocker: Brandon Bass doesn’t seem all that happy with his role on the Magic. In such situations, I recommend actually learning the playbook and rotations.

UPDATE (10:29 AM CST):

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume IV

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 16, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

  • Rodrigue Beaubois played a pretty miserable game. In almost sixteen minutes, Beaubois went scoreless, but still managed to pick up five fouls and turn the ball over three times. He suffered a bit of a high ankle sprain during the game, which does help to explain his hesitation and ineffectiveness. However, even with the injury as an alibi, this was a weak performance for Rodrigue.
  • With Beaubois sitting most of the game due to injury, there was an offensive void to be filled. That’s where Dominique Jones came up big, and Jeremy Lin, Omar Samhan, and Ian Mahinmi made notable contributions. Dominique had a high-usage outing (with Beaubois sitting, Jones ran the offense for extended stretches) but sitll a remarkably efficient one: He scored 28 points on 17 shots, shot 53% from the field, and only turned the ball over twice. Typically I’m more of an advocate of evaluating skills in Summer League rather than production, but Jones’ outing was too impressive to ignore.
  • However, Jones’ best work was on the defensive end. Dominique was matched up with the prodigious John Wall, and though Wall finished with a fantastic 21 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, Jones’ ability to anticipate Wall’s moves was very impressive. The #1 pick may have gotten his, but he shot just 4-of-19 from the field in doing so.
  • Kevin Arnovitz on Dominique Jones: Jones played the point at South Florida and can distribute the ball in traffic, or make use of himself off the ball. He recorded four assists on Thursday and turned the ball over twice, which is a minor miracle for an active, high usage guard in summer league action. ‘I love the point guard position, as people can probably tell the way I work with the ball,’ Jones said. ‘But whatever the Mavericks need me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to prepare myself and learn from Jason Terry and Jason Kidd so that when the time comes at either position that I play, I won’t be a liability.’ For an aging Dallas squad, the time might come sooner than later — and Jones seems far more of an asset than a liability.”
  • Jeremy Lin had his best Summer League performance yet. He threaded a long bounce pass through two defenders to a cutter. He picked off a lazy pass and sprinted out for an open court dunk. He sliced to the basket and found an open teammate on the other side of the rim. He unleashed a breathtaking spin on a shot attempt that was unfortunately led to an offensive foul call. He stuck with John Wall on defense. Lin looks every bit an NBA player, and at this point the only thing separating him from that official status is an invite, not skill.
  • Here’s my fellow Hardwood Paroxite, Zach Harper (also of Cowbell Kingdom and Talk Hoops), on Lin’s performance: “Jeremy Lin and John Wall faced off in the fourth quarter of the Wizards-Mavericks game in Vegas and pretty much played each other to a standstill. That’s right. An undrafted Harvard, SMAHRT kid, point guard went toe-to-toe with the number-one pick in the NBA draft and sort-of held his own. The final box score will show John Wall with an impressive 21 points (let’s just forget about the 4/19 shooting), 10 assists and seven rebounds. But it won’t show that the majority of the Lin’s 11 fourth quarter points were the result of him getting the better of the ‘best player in the draft’ for times than Wall will care to remember. Lin and Wall played the equivalent of an iso chess match on the hardwood game board. The kid from the Ivy League refused to back down from the YouTube sensation and while Wall walked away with the highlight reel, Lin walked away as the fan favorite.”
  • Ian Mahinmi looked good in his Maverick debut. He’s confident in his mid-range game, which is good, but he’s also not content to settle. Mahinmi attacked the rim whenever he could, including one impressive drive to the rim from the high post. Ian also rebounded fairly well, although the Mavs’ bigs on the whole did a poor job on the defensive glass. It’s tough to attribute specific blame when the defensive rotations are Summer Leaguerrific (forcing the bigs to step up and contest shots they shouldn’t have to, exposing the soft, chewy center of the defensive unit), but JaVale McGee and John Wall killed it on the offensive glass.
  • Omar Samhan looked strong again in a complementary role, but he’s not long for this NBA world. Samhan has agreed to a two-year contract with Zalgiris, a Lithuanian team, with a team option for a third year. Let’s hope he’ll be back stateside before that. Cheers, Omar.
  • With Ian Mahinmi inserted into the starting lineup, Mouhammad Faye was relegated to reserve duty. He didn’t look as impressive against Washington. Though Faye’s defense was above average, it wasn’t notable, and he didn’t contribute anything offensively.
  • DeShawn Sims had his most productive game as a Mav, but I have a feeling he’ll be picked up elsewhere. Sims is a pretty decent NBA prospect, but the Mavs need an immediate contributor as the back-up 4. Plus, if they’re going to take a flyer on anyone from this roster, Lin seems to be the better find.
  • If I’m not mistaken, Shan Foster had his first drive of Summer League in Game 4. This is not a good thing.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas: “The Mavericks had no centers under contract when free agency started. Now they have four. Don’t be surprised, though, if the one of the new arrivals is traded again before the season starts…provided that the Mavericks can find a taker for Alexis Ajinca…ESPNDallas.com has learned that the Mavericks have been asked [by Ajinca's agent, Bouna Ndiaye] to shop Ajinca in the hope they can find a team that might be able to offer him more hope for minutes.” As DOH noted at Mavs Moneyball, this does offer some hope for Omar Samhan to make the final roster. Not too much, though. Three centers isn’t necessarily crowded, but it’s certainly cozy.
  • Dirk is still unsure if he’ll play in the World Championships this summer, but has decided to play for Germany in next year’s Olympic qualifier provided he’s healthy.
  • Brendan Haywood will start next year. Tyson Chandler will not. Tyson Chandler does not seem to mind this. Crisis averted!
  • By Jermaine O’Neal’s estimation, the Celtics have a better chance to win it all next year than the Mavs do. Hard to argue with that given Dallas’ early exit and Boston’s incredible (and seemingly improbable) run to the Finals.
  • Rick Carlisle will head down to Senegal this summer to take part in the Basketball Without Borders program.
  • Most comparable statistical projection for Brendan Haywood? Erick Dampier. Eerie. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus thinks the Mavs overbid for Haywood, but he is fairly high on Ian Mahinmi. Count me among those interested to see what Ian can do with some regular playing time.
  • Kelly Dwyer on the Dampier-Chandler trade: “It’s a great deal for the Mavericks. They had no use for a plodder up front in Dampier with Brendan Haywood re-signed, so adding the athletic Chandler as a counterpoint helps this team moving forward, even if he misses the de rigueur 25 games a year. Chandler’s contract expires next summer, so he’d be off the books after a one-year trial.” Though Chandler may only be a slight upgrade over Dampier if one at all, there is something to be said about variety. Dampier and Haywood are similar players, whereas Chandler can give the Mavs a different defensive look.
  • John Hollinger (Insider), also on the trade and where the Mavs stand: “What Dallas really needs to vault itself to elite status is a first-rate perimeter player; at the moment, the Mavs man those positions with several 30-something former stars but no current ones. With none available to be had with the Dampier contract, they did the next best thing. By adding Chandler, the Mavs retain the rights to a top defensive center. Additionally, he has a $12 million expiring contract, which gives the Mavs maximum flexibility to pursue other trades during the course of the season. No, it isn’t quite as alluring as being able to waive Dampier and clean the books entirely, but it’s a useful asset.”
  • Team USA looks incredibly thin at center this year, so Tyson Chandler has been added to the tryout roster.
  • It seems like Gerald Green’s basketball experiences have helped him grow as a person, but have they helped him grow as a player?

The Ride: Omar Samhan and the Ups and Downs of Summer League

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 14, 2010 under Commentary | 18 Comments to Read

Photos by Kyle Weidie.

Omar Samhan sits folded in the seat next to me, our roller coaster car clearly designed for something less than his 6-foot-11, 275-pound frame. He wears the same goofy grin while joking with the ride’s operator that he does while holding court in a post-game press scrum, and he carries with him an infectious charisma. There’s absolutely no denying the kid within Samhan, and his dynamic personality made him one of the NCAA Tournament’s most captivating stories. Yet layered beneath is a hell of a basketball talent still searching for a home.

Photo by Kyle Weidie.

It’s not hard to see why reporters flock to Samhan at the end of every game. In a sea of athletes who have been trained to say nothing at all, Omar’s candor is beyond refreshing. He’s somehow both larger than life and completely down to Earth. “You know, you get these universal answers [from athletes] that nobody likes reading and nobody likes to hear, but people just say them because they’re uncomfortable,” Samhan said. “They’re scared of what people will think. At the end of the day, the media want you to be honest with them. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta liven up a little.”

That Omar does. So much so that while the St. Mary’s product has become a figure of renown for his sound bites, his game is somehow overshadowed. “After the first two rounds of the tournament, people were like ‘He’s such a good interview,’ he’s this, he’s that,” Samhan said. “Hold on, hold on. I scored more in the first two rounds than anyone in the history of the tournament. I averaged 30 through two games. It was one of those deals where it was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” If only we were. Omar led the Gaels through an insane tournament run, but the national media’s spotlight seemed to focus more on one-liners than drop-steps, unaware that such disregard is a punch line in itself.

Samhan isn’t in Vegas as a sideshow. He’s not here to entertain, even though he does. He — like so many other undrafted players and second round prospects — is fighting for his NBA life in Summer League, close enough to smell the hardwood but far enough from it to bow to uncertainty. “It’s tough to be in the middle ground, and it pisses me off to be honest that I am in the middle ground,” Samhan said, unearthing a bit of the fire normally reserved for the court. “I feel like I’ve done enough to be over the hump at this stage in my career and I’m not. It’s frustrating. For sure. It’s just the reality.” Omar sports self-awareness well.

“The funny thing is that everyone says my game is where it needs to be,” Samhan said. “It’s more my body. Keep working, keep getting in shape. I’ve lost 60 pounds so I wonder what else I have to do. I’ve lost 60 pounds so you know I’m serious. You know if I had an NBA trainer to work with everyday, I could lose another 60. I think [teams] today are looking for athletes. They’re not looking for skill guys anymore.”

Omar’s not wrong. Asking for a legitimate center with a refined post game is exceedingly greedy in today’s NBA. There aren’t enough guys with the size and work ethic to resurrect one of the league’s disappearing trades. Yet Samhan, who has something of an arsenal in his back pocket when positioned on the low block, has a hard time getting a serious look from NBA teams due to his relative lack of athleticism. As a player, he’s certainly not without flaws, but Omar clearly has NBA-caliber skills in a league where potential triumphs over actual basketball erudition.

“It’s a lost art,” Samhan noted. “It’s funny: Guys like [Kevin] McHale are doing our games and I got a chance to listen to some of the stuff he said after the game. He was impressed with my footwork, and he’s a guy I copy all the time because he had great footwork. A lot of these guys that have great footwork like that, they’re coaching now, and they’re recruiting guys that don’t have great footwork. I don’t understand. Why are you signing guys that don’t have great footwork when that’s how you made your money? It’s a lost art. It’s just not as respected as it used to be.”

I asked Omar to take me through a the finer details of a post-up possession. Perimeter players are considered virtuosos for their performances, but even at their best, interior scorers are generally regarded as lumbering and unspectacular. There’s an inherent unfairness to NBA flash, where productive bigs like Samhan are overlooked despite the incredible precision, patience, and technique in their craft. “I have an initial move that I want to do, either to go baseline or go middle,” Samhan said. “After that, it just kind of flows. I like to play with my defender in there, especially since I’m not that athletic. I like to get ‘em jumping and faking back and forth.”

“The thing that really helped my game was that I got a chance to meet Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal. This was last summer, before my senior year. They told me to attack the [defender’s] top foot. If one foot’s higher, attack it, because it’s going to be harder for them to open it up. There are little tips you learn over the years to outsmart people. I did it at the college level, and now I’m learning at the NBA level because guys are bigger and stronger, and you have to outsmart them even more. It’s a process. Once you get position, that’s when the creativity starts flowing.”

Summer League is the perfect place to display that creativity, even if Samhan is in a less-than-ideal position. Despite looking absolutely dominant in the tournament, Samhan was still forced to use the Vegas Summer League as an extended tryout for NBA clubs unconvinced of his professional utility. Omar certainly has holes in his game; he’s not terribly quick on his feet, and in a pro game so reliant on pick-and-roll coverage, that could be damning. Still, prospects have been given a proper shot with far bigger weaknesses, yet Samhan’s deliberate style is a convenient way to discount him. Omar has averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds in about 26 minutes per game in Vegas. Against quasi-NBA opponents. Playing NBA-style basketball. While “overweight,” and “unathletic,” and “unable to defend quicker players,” and evidently undeserving of the opposing draft picks he’s out-playing.

“I’ve definitely held my own and done well,” Samhan said. “I don’t think these guys are better than me. I’m playing against guys like Jordan Hill who was drafted #8 overall, and I’m like ‘This guy’s not better than me.’ I’m even happier in how I played in that sense.” For the record, Omar dropped 17 points on the far more athletic Hill, while shooting 67% from the field. All hail the power of athletic potential.

Samhan is a passionate and fiercely competitive player. Yet off the court, he’s rarely caught being completely serious, even when demonstrating some of his marketable NBA skills (toughness, shooting ability, defense):


Video by Kyle Weidie.

Before Omar and I had contorted our way into the coaster’s car, everything in the loading station came to a grinding halt. The ride was dead, and yet Omar, standing head and shoulders above everyone around him, hadn’t even begun to ride.

Samhan understands his current place on the NBA spectrum, but he’s not thrilled about it. He’s just doing what he can to grab a roster spot, even if Summer League (and the NBA dynamic) presents a bit of a culture shock. “It’s hard,” Samhan said. “It’s definitely hard. People keep moving in Summer League. Already we had a guy come and leave, new guys come, it’s a lot of changes, and it’s not what I’m used to. Especially being at a school like St. Mary’s. If you go to Kentucky, if you go to Kansas, if you go to North Carolina, Duke, you’re playing to play in the NBA. You’re playing for yourself in a sense. Coach K and those guys do a great job getting people to buy in, but at the end of the day those guys are trying to be pro athletes. At St. Mary’s, we were trying to win.”

“A lot of us don’t have a future in basketball, we just have today. It’s a unique chemistry that you can’t get anywhere else, and to go from that extreme to where I am now has been tough.”

It also doesn’t help things that the Dallas Mavericks, the team Omar is playing for in Summer League, have essentially given away his roster spot during his time in Vegas. Dallas signed former Spur Ian Mahinmi and traded for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca on Tuesday, adding three bigs to a frontcourt that’s now looking a bit crowded. “I thought I had a good chance of making the team…” Samhan said,“…until they went out and signed 30 centers.” He doesn’t have many NBA options at this point; Omar’s impressive showing in Vegas has secured him a basketball job for next season (he’s already received an offer to play overseas if an NBA gig doesn’t materialize soon), but it’s not a sweet victory. Omar Samhan is an NBA player, and what’s perhaps a bit worse: He knows it. It just doesn’t seem like many NBA decision-makers do.

So Samhan, who really only stops smiling when faced with the possibility of not living out his dream next season, does the only thing he can do: He continues to work hard in a city that demands he do otherwise. Really, Vegas is the perfect place for Omar to carve out some sort of NBA future. He certainly partakes in the fun and decadence the city has to offer, but dig deeper and he’s still the one trying to get work done in the world’s largest playground. “I think it really tests guys,” Samhan said. “Everyone wants to go out and have fun, and there’s a bunch of women here and everything else. It should be held in Fresno, California or something like that, but it’s good. I mean, you get to see who’s really serious, and who’s going to show up everyday in a hard place to show up everyday.” Even the roller coaster at New York, New York can’t quite seem to pull it off, as we continue to wait and wait while the ride’s operators suss out the technical difficulty.

Luckily, I have pretty good company: An athlete extremely conscious of what the professional sporting sphere really means, and particularly in tune with how the media operates. As a former broadcasting and journalism major at St. Mary’s, Samhan responds as the athlete that he would want to be interviewing. In a sense, he’s an intermediary between journalists and the professional athletic stereotype, and with that in mind, I asked for his help.

Most athletes are, as Samhan noted, afraid of truly speaking their minds. So they turn to canned answers as a media mulligan. The typical post-game interview is riddled with cliché, an indecipherable and unusable code that’s no fun for anybody. Omar was nice enough to provide real translations for some run-of-the-mill athlete clichés:

Both teams played hard? “We suck.”

We’re taking things one game at a time? “I’m lying to you. I just wanna win the championship.”

I’m just happy to be here? Omar laughs. “Well if they say that, then they’re probably not very good.”

Anything for the good of the team? “That’s a lie. Especially in the NBA.”

It’s not about the money? “That’s the biggest lie. It’s all about money for the teams and for the players.”

Omar also understands the growing influence of direct athlete-to-fan interaction, and that regardless of what the media says about his game or personality, he does have some control over how his brand is established and consumed. “I like to put some stuff out there, too, and it just appeals to the fans,” Samhan said. “People joke that I’m the most well-known guy at Summer League, even though I went undrafted. All of that is because I like to be involved with the fans. On my Twitter a few days ago, I put up my BBM — BlackBerry Messenger — just for whoever, for fans to hit me up so we can talk. I talked to a lot of guys about the LeBron trade. There’s probably 400 people that added me on BBM, but it’s cool.”

That incredible accessibility has helped turn Samhan into a people’s champion, and his refusal to put up a front for the media no doubt helps to reinforce his authenticity. Though Omar is undoubtedly a character, he’s not playing a role. There is no show, there’s just Omar. He is who he is: brash but self-deprecating, loose but focused, powerful yet, somehow, powerless.

~~~~~

The first minute and a half of the coaster ride is spent climbing a giant hill for a signature drop. Even the surest riders get a bit anxious, as the attraction’s adrenaline-infused payoff is delayed by the long climb. Being in limbo is kind of cruel in that way, but you know what? It hardly stopped Samhan from being Samhan. Even if he has to make the slow climb before finally starting his NBA ride, it won’t matter in the long run. The rush is coming.

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Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume III

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | 7 Comments to Read

  • Mouhammad Faye continues to impress me. He seems a very likely candidate to end up in Frisco next season, and Faye could conceivably grow into a defensive-minded, reserve 3 for the Mavs down the line. His length is already paying dividends, but for now he’s far too lean to be an effective defender against NBA forwards.
  • Moussa Seck has officially developed a cult following. His status as a Summer League novelty was cemented by his string of impact plays in the first half against the Bucks, and the good news is that all of his plays should be replicable. He didn’t luck into a few skyhooks, he simply contested shots on defense, ran at the rim while looking for the feed on offense, and worked hard to rebound. Nothing special, but good progress for Seck.
  • Amara Sy hit a step-back 20-footer. What?
  • Not only does Seck have roughly the same waist size as Rodrigue Beaubois, but he’s also by far the slowest player on the team. To call him ‘lumbering’ doesn’t say the half of it. He’s also not very quick off his feet, which makes him pretty vulnerable defensively, even with his absurd height and length.
  • Jeremy Lin hasn’t demonstrated an ability to execute more difficult drives, but he can definitely finish after contact. Lin had one of the most impressive finishes of the Summer League thus far on an and one over first rounder Larry Sanders.
  • Omar Samhan has had some strong showings, but he’s not great at protecting the rim. Just doesn’t have the athleticism for it. He’s a pretty decent post defender though, and that’s where his size and strength really give him an edge.
  • Good for North Texas product Eric Tramiel, who was able to make the Mavs’ Summer League roster. Unfortunately, this is where the road ends for him. Just doesn’t look the part of an NBA player. Tramiel holds his own on the defensive end, but he’s definitely a limited offensive player, even at this level.
  • Clarification: Dominique Jones’ jumper is shaky, but it’s actually not too shabby within the free throw line extended. It’s when Jones steps outside that his touch starts to go.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois has been picking up a ton of fouls, but he did make up for a pretty inconsistent game by nailing a game-winner in overtime. All’s well that ends well?

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 11, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Mavs fans only saw a few different shades of Shawne Williams, and none of them were particularly pleasant. However, as is the case with most NBA players, his story is a bit more lush and complex than that.
  • Sebastian Pruiti breaks down the tape of Dominique Jones’ first summer league game.
  • John Hollinger weighs in on Brendan Haywood’s new deal with the Mavs: “Here’s the conundrum, however, if you’re Dallas: What were the alternatives? Haywood was getting serious attention from several contenders and was likely to get an outsized contract someplace, although only the Mavs could give him a six-year deal. And in a market where he, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were the only true centers, and with everybody wanting size to match up against the Lakers and Magic, there was no doubt he’d command a premium. Moreover, nabbing Haywood was the key to two other pieces of Dallas’ offseason strategy — trading Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract to a team looking to shed money, and using its midlevel exception to reel in still more talent. The Mavs couldn’t do the first without keeping Haywood to have their bases covered at center, and they couldn’t do the second without signing their own player (Haywood) rather than somebody else’s. So Haywood will be overpaid in 2010-11 and comically overpaid by 2015-16. It’s a bad contract, for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad decision.”
  • Gerald Green didn’t really seem to enjoy playing in Russia all that much.
  • David Thorpe on Omar Samhan, specifically his performance in Game 2: “The thing I like best is that he’s emotionally engaged in the game. Everything means something to him — his teammates, how they’re playing, how he’s playing. He’s invested in the game — but not just how he’s doing. We all knew he had scoring talent and good hands, but unless he can improve his athleticism, it’s going to be hard for him to show those skills on a nightly basis.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz on Rodrigue Beaubois, from the same SL Roundup: “So much of what Beaubois does off the dribble is predicated on the success of his quick release from long range. If he’s not hitting, defenders grow a lot more comfortable trying to contain him.”

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume II

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

The journey continues, as the Mavs took on one of the Vegas Summer League’s most talented teams in the Houston Rockets:

  • Rodrigue Beaubois shot himself quietly into that good night during the first Summer League game, but put together quite the follow-up. Beaubois was far more patient in running the Mavs’ sets, but more importantly he looked like himself. Rodrigue hit jumpers spotting up and off the dribble, and made Houston’s defenders look positively silly with his speed. Ish Smith is a speed demon in his own right, but keeping up with Rodrigue in the open court isn’t a job for mere men. 28 points on 60% shooting with four assists — that’ll do.
  • And before you get too upset about Beaubois’ four turnovers, it kind of comes with the territory. Not only is Rodrigue trying to carry the Mavs’ SL squad, but he’s also trying to be extra aggressive in both his scoring and playmaking.
  • Omar Samhan is kind of fantastic. Conditioning is clearly still an issue, but his footwork, touch, and energy are all excellent. He killed it against the more athletic (but defensively limited) Jordan Hill by showing off his face-up J, array of interior moves, and even his ability to attack off the dribble. Samhan’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he uses his technique (whether it’s a shot fake or a drop step) to succeed despite inferior athleticism. He’s good, and while he doesn’t have the defensive seasoning or endurance to play a big role, he could be a reasonably effective bench scorer almost immediately. Summer League defenders aren’t identical to real NBA competition, but Samhan is an intelligent and physical player. He’s a guy you can trust to figure it out.
  • Jon L of Ridiculous Upside listed J.R. Giddens as one of the day’s “Nonstars,” but I was actually pretty impressed. Relative to Giddens’ usual efforts, he was much more in control and certainly more disciplined. He still gambled at times on defense and made his mistakes offensively, but his typically impressive effort level seemed a tad more calculated than usual. Maybe his basketball instincts were just more in tune, but he seemed to play relatively well in the areas which were previously flat.
  • Jeremy Lin was rather terrific again, even if he was completely eclipsed by Beaubois and Samhan’s incredible production. I’m still a little surprised at well he finishes inside, particularly after absorbing contact. His frame doesn’t necessarily suggest that he’s frail, but Lin’s release on floaters and layups is consistently soft and true. He’s also been rebounding pretty well for a point, even if he’s played off the ball at times as well.
  • I don’t see anything particularly interesting in Amara Sy’s game. He’s a big body and seems like a decent enough athlete, but doesn’t seem to have any offensive game. Sy lost the handle on a few possessions and airballed a baseline jumper, which is probably enough of a reason for Dallas to keep the ball out of his hands. If he’s a designated defender, I’m still waiting to be impressed.
  • Mouhammad Faye, on the other hand, I think is already a pretty decent defender. He obviously needs work before his defense is good enough to keep him afloat in the big leagues, but for Summer League purposes he’s a good glue guy. He finishes around the rim, grabs boards, and forces his match-up into tough shots. Dallas could have done far worse in terms of potential wing players.
  • Shan Foster seems to have matured as a player, but he hasn’t showcased any particularly appealing NBA skills. He’s bulked up a little bit and seems to be a bit pickier with his shot selection,but the results still haven’t been all that promising. Foster’s primary NBA utility was supposed to be his shooting ability, but he really hasn’t demonstrated that he can knock down shots from any range consistently in a supporting role.
  • Darryl Watkins made his debut for the Mavs, but he only played about three and a half minutes. He’s a more polished center than Moussa Seck (who can grab boards, but hasn’t shown any basketball moves nor the ability to properly use his incredible height), but also a bit older. Seck could be an interesting Texas Legends candidate, but Watkins hasn’t shown much yet.
  • Rockets guard Jermaine Taylor is a slightly more complete version of Dominique Jones. He shares Jones’ ability to fight to the rim and finish, but Jermaine is undoubtedly the better playmaker at this stage and a better ball handler overall. Taylor is one of my favorite players running in Summer League, and Mavs fans should really watch Jermaine and the Rockets to get a better feel of where Dominique Jones could be in a year or two. Jones is just as much of a natural scorer, but it’s about filling in the gaps.
  • Worth noting that the TrueHoop Network and SB Nation had a 5-on-5 Battle Royale for inter-network supremacy, and the good guys won, 50-47. Yours truly grabbed MVP honors with 32 points and 17 rebounds on 57% shooting, though those four turnovers were killer. Great playing with all of the TrueHoopers and the SBN folks, and hopefully THN can defend the title next time around.

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 10, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

I wish Summer League lent itself to delicate prose, but unfortunately it’s basketball best consumed in bullet points. There aren’t narratives per se, but the minutiae beg to be absorbed:

  • Rodrigue Beaubois returned to Summer League to refine his point guard skills, but you wouldn’t know it from his first game. Rodrigue put up 16 shots (including nine threes, of which he made none) and was aggressively pursuing shots as the game went on. Dallas actually ran the offense through Dominique Jones and Jeremy Lin a fair bit. Not a crime, but also not indicative of much development.
  • Jones is even stronger than expected. We knew he was a bull of a shooting guard who thrived by getting to the rim at South Florida, but he’s displaying every bit of that ability against his SL competition. It’s not quite the NBA, but it’s a good start. Jones looks quick enough to get around his defender, even if most of his moves were relatively unremarkable straight-line drives. He was very effective, and reasonably efficient: Dominique finished with 19 points on 13 shots, with his low FG% (38.5%) hedged by his frequent trips to the line (12 FTAs). Five turnovers is no good, but at this point that just sees like the sour point of Jones’ game. He does one thing extremely well for a late first rounder, and the rest will have to come along as he goes.
  • Omar Samhan didn’t have a hugely productive night, and he’s not exactly set to dominate against even SL competition. Mobility really didn’t seem to be all that much of an issue, but he didn’t convert on NCAA-caliber post moves. He is doing good work, though. Even though Samhan didn’t put up many attempts, his post game is refined enough to make an impact. He also showed some touch in the face-up game, connecting on a few long two-pointers. Defensive impact: TBD.
  • J.R. Giddens works to hedge his mistakes, but the problem is that he makes entirely too many of them. He’s a decent athlete with a mid-range jumper, but doesn’t seem to know how to put it all together. He abandons his defensive position, works to get the ball offensively but is probably counterproductive in doing so, and isn’t all that versatile. Giddens is good Summer League filler, but not an NBA player.
  • SMU product Mouhammad Faye played well. His 12 points and eight boards were far more fun than I expected we’d get from Faye, but he was just as impressive defensively. He’s 6’9” but a long 6’9”, and looks like he could slide into a niche NBA role as a resident defender/rebounder. Definitely a natural SF, but I suppose he could play PF in a pinch.
  • One of the things that bothered me about Beaubois’ performance was the way in which he surrendered control of the offense. As I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with letting Jones or Lin initiate offensive sequences, but Beaubois simply shifted between phases of scoring (or attempting to) and deferring. There was no middle ground, he was either spotting-up while others made plays or created for himself off the dribble.
  • Moussa Seck is obviously a giant, but he doesn’t have the lower body strength or girth to fully utilize his size. Yao Ming isn’t solely a special athlete because of his work ethic and touch. He also has the strength and size necessary to claim position in the low post and box out. Seck doesn’t have that, and he may never.
  • Dominique Jones’ jumper, which has typically been listed as his most glaring weakness, isn’t NBA ready. He doesn’t look comfortable at all when pulling up, and looks to his J only as a last, last, last resort. That jumper will eventually be what separates Dominique from run-of-the-mill specialists, and the more he looks to diversify his offensive abilities (legit NBA three-point range would go a long way), the more undeniable his utility becomes.
  • Jeremy Lin may not get an NBA spot, but he’s going to play somewhere. And he’s going to play very well. He’d make a very good third point guard in the immediate future, and has the potential to be a reliable bench back-up. Not starting material, but he’s an intelligent playmaker, a capable scorer, and a better-than-advertised defender. When in dual-PG sets with Beaubois (or tri-guard sets with Beaubois and Jones), it was actually Lin that the Mavs put on the Nuggets’ Ty Lawson, not Rodrigue. Lawson still had a tidy 11 points while shooting very well from the field, but the assignment says something of Lin’s defense in itself.
  • Underwhelming: DeShawn Sims (who I expect will play a bit better and a bit more in the future), Shan Foster (who I don’t).