SummerKnicks 76, SummerMavs 64: Notes and highlights

Andy Lyons

SummerKnicks are undefeated!

The New York Knicks kicked off the Las Vegas Summer League this afternoon, taking on a Dallas Mavericks summer squad that boasted a similar composition of veterans, draft picks, and undrafted folks.

As the game went on, the pace and consistency came and went, with the usual summer sloppiness rearing its head. However, there were legitimate segments of good, clean action, like Eric Griffin dunking ALL OVER Shane Larkin, followed by Larkin poppin' up at the top of the key and splashing a three-pointer. Later in the game, the Knicks showed actual signs of running an organized triangle offense. Cole Aldrich actually did a solid job operating out of the low and high post, and a few times helped organize some nice cuts to the basket with lovely bounce passes. Hardaway Jr. launched haplessly on every three-pointer hand-off he got his hands on, and Cleanthony Early was the beneficiary of some good ball movement, canning some corner three-pointers.

The non-Knicks or draft picks didn't stand out much -- at least not in good ways -- but the guys who have real shots at making the team (or are already on the team) showed some things worth discussing. Some notes:

- Cole Aldrich looked like the best Knick today (in my opinion) and may have already earned a spot on the roster. I always thought of him as the big, goony guy who can block shots and finish an offensive rebound, but he displayed some nice traits of a triangle center. His passing out of the post was surprisingly deft, he knocked down a nifty little turn-around jump hook in the paint, and three times he swatted the shit out of a Maverick driving to the hoop. All these things would be nice from a center who could come off the bench and give the Knicks 15-20 minutes a night.

- Tim Hardaway Jr. did more or less what you'd expect from him in a Summer League game. He looked like a veteran on the court, and he treated his possessions like a veteran, launching three-pointers, face-up jumpers, and awkward drives on almost every touch. His three-pointer was weirdly awry from the elbows, but he knocked down his treys from the top of the key, canned a few nice face-up midrange jumpers from the elbow, and got to the line 12 times on his way to 25 points. His best moments were arguably a drive-and-kick to a Cleanthony three and a fast-break dish to a Cleanthony slam (more on that next). Hopefully he makes a conscious effort to do those things during the rest of Summer League and they translate to the regular season.

- After a slow start, Cleanthony Early got it going and looked very promising on the offensive end. His first attempt and bucket was a nice little drive, spin, and floating jumper. After that, he got rejected on a post-up, turn-around jumper and bricked a pull-up jumper. Later, however, he began stroking the three ball off the aforementioned ball movement, and he also did THIS on that aforementioned outlet from THJ:

Early's got to get a lot bigger and stronger, as evidenced by his weak backdown and some of the bullying he took on the defensive end, but on that jam, he did knock down Ivan Johnson which is a feat unto itself.

- Shane Larkin also improved as the game went on. He looked tentative and a little sloppy to start -- he forced an outrageously bad pull-up jumper from just inside the arc -- but once he got used to the pace of the game, he made some smart passes, some smart cuts, and canned a three from top of the key. He finished with 10 points, 4-9 FG, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 TOs, and a team-best +16.

- Another Larkin note I made that Clyde kept harping on: He's quick enough to beat just about anyone off the dribble, so he either needs to be more aggressive or improve his handle or both. But he looks like he could be an effective guard off the bench, especially if he's paired with Jose Calderon or Pablo Prigioni.

- Speaking of Calderon, you can tell Clyde isn't the biggest fan/totally aware of Calderon's game. He compared to him Prigioni as slick and shrewd and a good shooter, but unable get into the lane and not quick enough to break down defenses. When Mike Crispino (doing play-by-play) noted Calderon is a good guy to have on the floor at the end of the games because of his free throw shooting, Clyde said, 'Yeah, but who can he guard on the other end?" Fair, I guess, but Calderon is better than Prigioni and better than Felton, too.

- Thanasis Antetokounmpo kind of looked like you'd expect. He's raw -- he bricked a few jumpers, blew some baskets at the rim, and committed some foolish fouls on defense. However, he also had a nice layup in transition off a leak-out, hounded guys on defense, forced some turnovers, and kept possessions alive with his aggressiveness on the boards. Also: we are now calling him "No Chill":

- Jeremy Tyler didn't play the first half, but played the second half and... looked like Jeremy Tyler. He scored a couple of baskets, got into it with Ivan Johnson (who remains scary), and fouled at an absurd rate -- 5 fouls in 14 minutes.

- As mentioned, the rest of the bench bros didn't stand out too much. Shannon Brown played 13 quiet minutes, completing a cool and-one layup at one point; Langston Galloway (a guy I was watching for his three-point shooting) was a silent 0-4; Cameron Moore stood out for a lot of bad reasons, like looking incompetent on offense and over-matched on defense.

Some Seth notes:

- The Knicks spent a lot of time icing pick-and-rolls-- not cleanly, but they did it. Larkin would pop out to funnel guys toward big man help (which wasn't always there), then scramble and try to pick pockets while he sped back into position.

- Larkin was generally jumpy. Bit on fakes, reached when he saw the ball, jumped every available passing lane. That leaves as many openings as it creates turnovers, but he mostly looked speedy enough to recover.

- That diagonal-driving, wrong-footed finish by Hardaway with the foul was strooooooong. Some of those deep threes totally out of rhythm were wroooooong.

- Walt Frazier can pronounce "Thanasis Antetokounmpo." Tim can't.

- When Clyde was talking about how Jeremy Tyler is in better shape, did he say he was "a little hippy" last year?

- Clyde is happy LeBron's in Cleveland because now the Knicks' games against the Heat won't be on national TV and Clyde can visit Miami a couple times a year. Clyde stays looking out for number one.

- Cleanthony Early is a great celebrator, and I loved in his post-game interview when he talked about how different and constant basketball is now-- "It's not like you have to go to school or anything"-- and how he's been spending all his time watching film and practicing. He's an endearing sort.

- I'm not even sure I know who Jordan Henriquez is, but I think he's very strong? I, like Scott, didn't see much from the undrafted guys. Will Sheehey had the one nice drive.

So, that was the first Summer League game. The Knicks take on the Portland SummerBlazers tomorrow!

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