Summer League Observations

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Published: July 15, 2009

The Hornets lost to the Clippers last night in summer league 88-86.  The Clippers Sophomore Deandre Jordan and #1 overall pick Blake Griffin dominated in the paint, combining for 37 points, 21 rebounds and 8 assists as the Clippers outrebounded the Hornets 44-29.  None of the Hornets bigs provided much resistance at all, and their problems were compounded by the Clippers Eric Gordon, who took the ball freely to the hole, scoring and getting fouled regularly.

The Hornets could have really used Courtney Sims and the rebounding prowess he showed in the D-league.  Since their wasn’t anything that good I could say about any of the Hornets bigs, whether it was Tolliver, Barron, Nevill or Cusworth(who was probably the best) I’ll focus on what the Hornets did that was good, which occurred in the backcourt.

  • Julian Wright was active as usual and willing to attack off the dribble.  He didn’t shoot very well and opened the game pretty rough, but ended with 12 points on 9 shots and some nice defensive play.  He still doesn’t seem to get it all the time, though.
  • Thornton was ice cold through most of the first three quarters, managing just 4 points on 9 shots, including 0-3 from deep.  He was playing hard and with a lot of energy, but his shot wasn’t falling.  Then he re-entered the game with a minute left, got an assist from Tolliver for a layup, and the lid came off the basket.  He hit a three, and through the fourth kept pouring it on, drilling 6-8 in the least twelve minutes to finish with 19.  He’ll have some growing pains in figuring out his shot selection, but he was playing well enough I could easily see him as a Flip Murray scorer in the NBA.(I’ve also heard Eddie House, but Thornton has shown a nice ability to drive and pop)
  • Darren Collison was very, very good.  He doesn’t take bad shots, and has impressive ball control.  Though he had a couple costly turnovers in the fourth I can’t fault him because he was being aggressive, showed a nice floater in the paint, a good pull-up shot, and never settled for an early three, choosing instead to drive into the paint where he drew nine free throw attempts.  He’s also a better than advertised athelete – showing impressive speed and quickness, and at one point getting an open court steal and taking it in for an emphatic dunk.  The whole game he played with energy and focus, and I’m having trouble containing my enthusiasm for him the more I see him play.  He finished as the game’s leading scorer, with 23 points on 14 shots, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, a block, and 4 turnovers.

Random Item of the Day
I kept meaning to post this during my earlier evaluations of the Hornets cap, but it never really fit into the theme of any of my posts – so I’m just going to toss it out here.  It salary cap stuff, which I find fascinating, but you may find it as exciting as the 300 straight hours of Michael Jackson coverage we just suffered through, so feel free to stop reading now.

I’ve seen some complaints here and there on message boards about players like Ryan Bowen or Devin Brown who make the league minimum but because they’ve been in the league six years or more, have a minimum salary of $1.1 million.  There is some frustration last year and this year about those players being on the roster instead of younger players who have minimum salary requirements of 700k or so.  Why spend the same money for one player that you could for two?  That frustration will probably increase this year if the team ends up over the Luxury Tax line.

Well, the Collective Bargaining Agreement holds the answer to why the Hornets were fine paying older veterans over younger ones.  The Players Union, which is made up of veterans, don’t want older veterans to be shunted aside in favor of unproven young kids solely because their minimum salaries are lower.  I can see the argument – if two players have equal skill, but one has been in the league 4 years, and the other 10, the 10 year vet is probably going to lose out, solely because of their minimum salary requirements.  Possibly, the 10 year vet will lose out even if their skill set is more complete due to the financial incentives.

So the CBA incorporates the following rules:

  • Teams pay ALL minimum salaried players with more than a year of experience the minimum salary of a 2nd year player.  The NBA pays the rest of the contract.
  • For minimum salaried players, any salary over that which a 2nd year player makes does not count against the Luxury Tax.

Example:  Devin Brown was paid $1.14 million on a minimum contract last year.  The second year minimum salary, however, was set at $711,517.  That means that the Hornets paid Brown $711,517, and the NBA paid him the other $400k or so.  If the Hornets were over the Tax Line(like they are this year) they would only pay the luxury tax on the $711,517, not the full amount.

So, to NBA teams over the Salary Cap, all minimum contracts cost the same.  Of course, if you want to argue that Devin Brown or Melvin Ely don’t really have a place in the NBA at this point at any salary number . . . then you probably won’t get any argument from me.

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