What to Watch for in the Hornets Summer League Games

Published: July 15, 2012

The Hornets first Summer League game is tonight at 9:30 CST. Here’s what to look for.

When I get home I’m going to eat so much melon from my garden. Just thought you should know…

For everything you need to know about Summer League, check out Andrew’s all encompassing Hornets Summer League post.

Austin Rivers

When I spoke with Austin yesterday he made it pretty clear that he doesn’t see himself as a traditional point guard, but then again, he doesn’t see anyone except Steve Nash that way. He even qualified Steve Nash as a guy who can score, so he isn’t really a pure pg, so let’s move past the point guard thing.

What’s important? Hornets radio personality and the host of Sports Buzz, Gerry V, had a few tweets to this effect yesterday. Since 140 characters isn’t what I’m limited to, I’ll elaborate a little bit on his thoughts.

Is he vocal when running the offense from the point? Rivers is a guy who very well could wind up being the on-court voice of this Hornets team when he’s playing. The extent to which he is able to direct his teammates will likely be evident right off the bat. All signs point to him being a natural.

Does he see corner to corner with his head on a swivel, or does he often miss the open man on the other side of the court? The Hornets are going to drive and kick way more than we’ve been used to seeing in the past. Can Gordon utilize both hands in doing so?

He has a strong right hand, but there were concerns about his left not being up to par. Does he finish strong with both hands, or does he defer to the right even in situations where the left would be strategically superior?

When playing defense, is he active and alert? Does he communicate with teammates on that end? Can he stay in front of NBA level guards?

I spoke with him yesterday about some stuff, and let me just tell you that he’s one of the easiest guys to interview that I’ve ever talked to– a true quote machine.

One highlight from the following video is that he hasn’t talked to Eric Gordon yet, but he’s going to contact him soon.

The Final Score

Before you skip down to the comment section to write me a scathing message about how winning in Summer League doesn’t matter, and that in 2010 the freaking Raptors went 5-0 en route to finishing the regular season at 22-60, let me just say that I feel you. I understand that Summer League doesn’t really correlate to success during the regular season or the playoffs… for most teams.

For others, it does. This Hornets team is fielding a roster that could very well earn a sizeable chunk of their total playing time for 2012. I’m not talking about end of the bench guys, either. Xavier Henry and Darius Miller will compete for minutes and could very well take starts  away from Al-Farouq Aminu if he hasn’t progressed like we all pray he has been. Austin Rivers is being heralded as a long-term backcourt mate for Eric Gordon. Lance Thomas played pretty big minutes last year. After a summer of lifting and working out with Team USA as part of the Select Team, bigger things are expected from him in the coming season. Jerome Dyson is coming off an injury, but played big minutes at the end of 2011-2012.

This matters to those guys, too. I questioned Xavier Henry about the importance of Summer League after he told me that winning matters. Here’s what he had to say–

“For us, yeah its a big deal and we want to come out here and grow as a team because we’re so young. We want to get as much experience as we can so going into next season we have some jump about us, we already know the intensity we need to be at. and where we need to play at.”

Looking at the roster, and hearing what he said, I was offering even money last night to other bloggers that the Hornets would go undefeated during Summer League, even without Anthony Davis. While my BAC is a bit lower now, my confidence is still sky-high. Am I convinced it matters? No, not really, but to the guys on the team it seems like it does. Plus we won’t have that many games to watch for the next few months. We might as well care about these.

Darius Miller

For those of us who don’t watch college basketball, this may be the first good look we get at the small forward from Kentucky.  What I’m interested in seeing is how the team utilizes him, and how he handles himself against NBA-level players, especially on the defensive end. In college he had lapses of concentration and effort while playing D. Let’s see if playing at the next level, against superior players, gets him to focus more. He’s has talent on the defensive end, as well as the body to go with it, yet it’s not yet clear what his ceiling is. I’m interested to see if we can see flashes of him being a lock-down defender.

Lance Thomas

Fresh of an appearance with the Select Team, and packing 17 pounds more muscle than he finished last season with, Lance is a guy to watch for. Last season he often got bodied up by the bigger, badder, big men in league. I’m curious to see if the added muscle will allow him to better box out his man, and also if he’s as susceptible to back downs as he was last year when facing larger players. He’s been working on his jumper also, so I expect that we’ll get a taste of how that’s going.

Jerome Dyson

Dyson saw 20 minutes a game over the last 9 games of the Hornets season, playing 41 minutes and scoring 15 points against Houston. You may not recall, but Dyson suffered a bone bruise which kept him off the court the majority of this offseason. Only now is he really getting back into the swing of things. He’s working on becoming a better operator from the point, but coming off of the injury we might most want to see whether or not his mobility is limited in any way. He said he’s near 100%, but basketball players tend to say that when they’re fighting for playing time and a job.


Xavier Henry

Despite what I thought, this is Xavier Henry’s first Summer League! He said Monty didn’t tell him anything specifically that he wanted to work on, but that he personally is trying to get better at being the ball handler on the pick and roll, as well as becoming a better defender. Let’s take a look how he does when he gets the ball in the pick and roll situation, as well as whether or not he shuts down his mark. He’s a solid defender at the NBA level already, so I tend to think that he’s going to completely own whoever he’s tasked with guarding.

Someone You’ve Never Seen Play

Look, it’s fun to watch all the guys you’ve heard of in Summer League, but it’s just as much fun to check out the guys whose names you can’t pronounce or you’ve never heard of before. Denzel Bowles, for example, is a really big dude who would love to earn himself a training camp spot on an NBA roster. There are few players with as much to gain as a guy like that, so they tend to be as exciting to watch as anyone. Watch not only how guys like Bowles play individually, but also how they function as a member of a unit. That’s more important for an end of the bench guy than whether or not he can 360 dunk in the open court.



  1. Josh

    July 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks. I really enjoyed the article and the videos.

  2. Mac

    July 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Great read! Ill definitely watch out for Denzel he sounds like a great guy and player, so i guess we will find out soon! I really liked this article.

  3. mojart

    July 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    can’t wait for the hornets vs portland game today

  4. Chuck

    July 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I think Summer League can be a great stepping stone and tell guys that are assured a spot what they need to work on in camp. For example, Monty and the coaches might see that Rivers has great court vision and can actually make the transition to point guard well, but he needs to work on using screens. Or they might realize that
    Miller bites too hard on fakes or some big man needs to position himself better on rebounds. Those are all things to work on, and if you realize it’s a weakness now even against weaker competition, you have all fall to work on it.

    That melon looks delicious, by the way

  5. James McPherson

    July 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I’m really excited about the summer league; I don’t know if that says more about my lack of social life or my passion for the Hornets!

    Great read. I’m very much hoping that X can knock down FTs with regularity … and hit jumpers.

  6. mojart

    July 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    and now is the start of who is better (Austin Rivers or Damian Lillard)……we will finally see even if its only summer league game……the debate leading to the draft last month wil be concluded tonight…..^^,

  7. lsucpolk

    July 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    If Austin shows that he can consistently get aggressive, hit shots, get to the free throw line, drain a few threes, make crisp passes, and minimize the turnovers, I will feel better about the season. I’ll feel even better if Darius Miller shows that he belongs, and does the little things to win, like grab a few rebounds, make a few assists, drain a key bucket here and there, and show that he can be a stopper on defense. I’m excited to see what the new guys can do. I’m hoping all the guys can mesh, and actually look like a team.

  8. Kempleton

    July 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    What a game! Lillard vs Rivers! Wow! Go get him Austin. 🙂

    • Banloo

      July 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Lillards better, sorry. Only the homers will disagree.

  9. BamaBoss

    July 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Austin Rivers is 19, Lillard is 22. At 22 Austin will be one of the better guards in the league

  10. eddiehunter89

    July 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    bowles is looking really good! what are the odds he makes the team?? big body next to davis, think it could work

  11. Leonel

    July 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    That was an entertaining game. Sadly I only caught the back end of the game. Looking forward to a writeup about the game.

  12. Banloo

    July 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Blazers win

  13. Butch

    July 16, 2012 at 12:15 am

    I was impressed with what I saw from Rivers as an aggressive and attacking PG. He seemed to have a very good handle and an explosive first step. I agree that Lillard was very poised as an NBA ready PG but I think this game will give Rivers room to build on. Lance Thomas looked bigger and stronger and played well in the paint. Bowles showed a nice shooting touch. If Bowles can consistently produce the way he did tonight on the glass during the season as a big body compliment to Davis and Smith, then we may already has that “muscle center” we were looking for in free agency. Dealer Dell keeps finding talent under the radar!

  14. Lucas Ottoni

    July 16, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Let’s look at Denzel Bowles…

  15. Lucas Ottoni

    July 16, 2012 at 1:06 am

    And Darius Miller played tonight? Someone saw him there on the court?

    Because I have not seen…

  16. Kempleton

    July 16, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Airball? Come on Austin. Well, he will learn in time. He could have found Roberts for the open 3 instead of forcing a 3 over Leonard, which ended up being a bad miss. The good thing is he wants to win and he is not afraid and he can learn to make better decisions in time. Lillard looked better especially in the second half but Rivers showed that he can attack to the basket!

    Thomas has a lot of energy. I am glad we have him on the roster! If Bowles can produce like this thru the summer league, he can make it to the team. Planinic worths a look as well!

    Miller was lost out there. Henry tries but He’s gotta get better. Is he overweight? Too much crawfish? 🙂

    Sad to start with a loss… Let’s beat the Bucks tomorrow! Geaux Hornets!

  17. Lawrence

    July 16, 2012 at 2:35 am

    Denzel is a really good asset for the team not only he has size but also his scoring ability he can be a factor on both ends.. hopefully he can be added to the roster..

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