While it is important not to form too much of an opinion based on any good or bad performance in a summer league game there are still things that can be learned. While we don't normally get too excited about a game that we can only watch streaming over the internet, the jersey still says Atlanta Hawks on the front of it and that is enough to get us excited.
The Atlanta Hawks began their Summer League season last night with an 89-85 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Never mind the fact that the Grizzlies sent out four players that were in the NBA exclusively in addition to last years' number two pick in Hasheem Thabeet. The Hawks countered by sending out Jeff Teague who wasn't in the rotation last year but expects to be this year, and Jordan Crawford who might very well earn some playing time before this season is over as well.
These games aren't about wins and losses and this game could be summed up best talking about two halves of basketball. The first half not so good with the second half being much better. The Hawks dug themselves a hole in the first half due to some sporadic play that included missing lay ups, missing jump shots, and turning the ball over. They did however play at a very encouraging pace and had ample ball movement around the perimeter.
More after the jump....
Jeff Teague had to be the biggest positive coming out of this game in my eyes. He looked in control and looked for his opportunities. He had no problems getting to the basket but didn't really force the issue. When the opportunity presented itself then he took it. He also set up a lot of his teammates off of penetration and then by either dishing or kicking it out for perimeter shots. He had 16 points and 3 assists on the night but could have had three or four more assists had teammates converted right under the basket. Still a pretty productive night considering it is the first night of summer league.
Jordan Crawford looked a lot better than I expected and played within himself. As MC points out, he looked pretty good playing off of the ball as well. He seemed to be floating to the appropriate spots which is good considering he has never played with any of his teammates before. He showed some long range on his jump shot shooting 4-9 from deep. I was most impressed with his passing. Probably the highlight of the night for me was his no look pass to Richard Hendrix for a dunk. He demonstrated an overall feel for the game and competed hard on defense against the bigger Sam Young. Crawford finished with 16 points and 5 assists for the night.
The European guys Pape Sy and Sergiy Gladyr didn't do a whole lot in the first half. Sy played the point and looked really tentative especially when the Grizzlies brought ball pressure against him. He seemed to find himself somewhat in the second half and demonstrated a quick first step which got him to the free throw line. He is very long and if he can get stronger without sacrificing quickness then there is a possibility that he could turn into something. Gladyr didn't play a lot but did hit a three off of a nice curl play. His shot looks sound and it is easy to see that the guy is probably a really good shooter. The problem I saw last night is he didn't do much else. He struggled staying in front of his man and we didn't get the opportunity to see him handle the ball much. So that is something that we will be looking for from him in the coming days.
Alade Aminu showed a nice touch around the basket and finished with 14 points despite not getting a lot of time late in the game. He ran the floor well and looked athletic in contesting some shots. I was surprised to see that he only had 3 rebounds on the night. He is 6'10" and looks slender at around 230lbs. Clearly though he jumped to the front of the line as far as the big men on the Summer League go after the first game. One of the reasons he didn't get a lot of time late was the play of Richard Hendrix. Hendrix got going late finding some space where the guards found him on his way to 11 points.
James Augustine also played a lot and didn't look nearly as good offensively as he did in the Orlando Summer League but I will still point out that he led the team in rebounding with 6 boards and had the highest +/- on the team for the night at +7. He drew a lot of comparisons to ZaZa Pachulia in the comments section of the game thread.
Defensively I was pretty pleased with what I saw out of this group. They struggled at times in transition defense but in the half court set they were active and forced Memphis into 21 turnovers. Gone was the constant switching of screens that was a trademark of the Hawks under Mike Woodson and in its place was a show and recover technique. I thought Teague did a good enough job on O.J. Mayo and I was very pleased with the effort that Jordan Crawford was giving. Overall this group is pretty long and they had their hands in the passing lanes for most of the night. The only negative was failing to get back on defense which could have a lot to do with conditioning.
The last thing I want to touch on is the offense. While you may or may not be able to correlate some of the things done in Summer League to what we will do during the regular season, the ball moved constantly and only seemed to stop when the shot clock was running down. There was ample movement off of the ball and players like Aminu and Hendrix were cashing in at the rim by cutting to the basket. The Hawks pushed the pace which led to some turnovers but the fact that they were making an effort to play fast is encouraging.
It must be said again that this is in fact summer league and there are only two players on this team that are certain to be with the Hawks on opening night. Still there were some encouraging signs and hopefully we will continue to see players like Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford build momentum going into training camp.
Ridiculous Upside has his Day 4 of the Vegas Summer League Review up and continues his excellent coverage of all things Summer League and D-League related.
Grizzlies blog Straight Outta Vancouver also has a recap of the game up if you want to hear things from the Grizzlies point of view.