Chet Holmgren and NBA Summer League overreactions

For those that didn’t know who Holmgren was until his lone season at Gonzaga, or until they started paying attention to draft analysts, I’m here to inform you that he’s been really good at basketball for a while now, and he’ll continue to be. The kid is a bucket, and he’s been a bucket, which is why it was so surprising to see people act like him getting buckets was out of the norm. The same thing happened — on a less intense level — to Miami Heat rookie Nikola Jović, a 19-year-old Serbian prospect, after he dropped 25 points and 9 rebounds, though teams and fans in the know have been drooling over him for years.

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There are all types of variables that come into play during Summer League, from coaching and teammates to injuries and minute restrictions — it’s a gamble. There’s a reason why most of the games are played in Las Vegas. Some guys do well and others don’t. But a player’s production is never a guaranteed indication of what they will or won’t be despite all the chatter that’s currently taking place about how good someone plays while wearing a glorified practice jersey.

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Sean Beckwith, my colleague at Deadspin, would like me to remind people that he’s a diehard Portland Trail Blazers fan and that in 2008 Jerryd Bayless averaged 29.8 points over four games for the Blazers en route to being named Summer League MVP. It was the peak of Bayless’ NBA career. Guys like Randy Foye, Josh Selby, and Glen Rice Jr. have also been Summer League MVPs, but so have household names like John Wall, Damian Lillard, and Blake Griffin. Sometimes that trophy means you’re destined for a max contract and shoe deals, sometimes it means that you might not be heard from again, and sometimes it means you’re gonna be a really good role player for a decade. Nobody knows, but what we do know is that every summer people act like one good game in Las Vegas means you’re going to be on the cover of NBA2K one day. Sadly, because of that, too many people overlook the importance of these games and the career-changing opportunities it annually provides.

“I think, yes, I would be the guy that people can look at and say, ‘He was in his third year in the NBA, he probably shouldn’t have played Summer League, but he went and did it. And it was the best thing for him. And now look where he is.” That’s what Miami Heat guard Max Strus told ESPN in a recent story about the importance of Summer League and how it helped him become a starter for a team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals after the 26-year-old went undrafted in 2019.

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Take Memphis Grizzlies guard Demond Bane for example, who is one of the centerpieces of one of the league’s most exciting young teams. After being taken 30th overall in the 2020 draft out of TCU, Bane wasn’t thought to be one of the better young players in the coming years, especially after Sports Illustrated named him on their Honorable Mention list after the 2021 Summer League. Fast forward a few years later and Bane will be offered a huge contract, in the same way that Strus has cemented his place in this league. The future is impossible to anticipate. So everybody needs to put their crystal balls down and just enjoy summer basketball. Besides, watching the unpredictable take place is what makes basketball so amazing. It’s like Kevin Garnett told us, “anything is possible!”

Of all people, Jeanie Buss caused a social media stir on a holiday weekend

Ignoring Buss deciding to explain how people have interacted on Twitter for 15 years, the rest of the tweet is quite deserving of the Druski “what do you mean by that” meme. Or, since she decided to share these thoughts that received 79,000-plus likes and more than 5,000 replies during a time when the NBA season is about nothing but speculation, maybe a meme of Brian Windhorst captivating the First Take desk, and a lot of social media, on the Friday before Independence Day by asking “What’s going on in Utah,” repeatedly for two minutes while slowly drawing a parallel between what new Utah Jazz general manager Danny Ainge did in building the current Boston Celtics roster by accumulating assets, and pointing out Ainge is doing the same at his new job. Hours after possibly Windhorst’s best two minutes ever on television, the Jazz traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for four first round draft picks.

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So what’s going on with Jeanie Buss? Sending out cryptic tweets during silly season, why would she do that? Do we need to be paying attention to what’s going on with Buss? Do the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets need to find out what’s going on with Buss? Will Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris end up with the Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker, Russell Westbrook and a 2027 first-round pick? Is she upset with the Los Angeles Lakers’ teamwork last season?

It’s also a possibility that she’s messing with us. She threw that out there on a Sunday night at 11 p.m. pacific time to rile up all the Lakers fans and when the Laker haters woke up it could add fuel to their beliefs that the Lakers are a tire fire with no relief in sight. That last one is the most unlikely, but whether she knows it or not, her tweet was quite the Jerry Jones move. When you own the most recognizable team in a professional league, anything you say about it generates a massive amount of attention.

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That technique is how Jones made the Dallas Cowboys the most valuable sports franchise in the world. They haven’t played in an NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season, but while a First Take A-Block topic in September could be about the Cowboys, it could also be about them in March or May. If winning the big one isn’t in sight, put on a show, and always be accessible for a quote.

Buss has something that the Cowboys do not have, she owns the winningest franchise in major American professional sports since they were widely integrated. Of their 27 World Series championships the Yankees won their 10th literally the year Jackie Robinson entered the MLB. Since MLB peaked in the 1970s with 20 percent of its players being Black, the Yankees have won seven. Of the Lakers 13 championships they’ve won in Los Angeles 12 came after the ABA/NBA merger, and six since the turn of the millennium. The Cowboys were closest most recently to a Super Bowl when a ball moved in Dez Bryant’s arms in 2014.

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They’ve still got the celebrities on the sidelines and now they have the Crypto company name on their stadium instead of the place where people buy office supplies and use printers on the rare occasion that they need one.

She’s already got the documentary celebrating the franchise’s lore, Buss needs to ramp up keeping the Lakers on peoples’ minds. Maybe she threw shade on Sunday at LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, maybe at her front office, or maybe she just misses Bryant. Regardless, with Irving to Lakers trending, her tweet did massive numbers on a holiday weekend and she’s not a big social media personality.

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So what’s going on with Jeanie Buss? I don’t know, and she clearly hasn’t found her Danny Ainge to turn her franchise around. But this placing the wick of this tweet in the social media fire for it to explode is good business. She should keep it up. 

It’s such a New York Knicks move

It’s such a Knicks move it’s not even funny anymore. I’m not against Brunson securing the bag; I’m happy for him. The Mavericks probably don’t get to the Western Conference Finals without his contribution in the playoffs. Brunson took over against Utah in the first round, with Luka Dončić inactive during the first three games of that series. Brunson led Dallas to a 2-1 series lead, scoring 41 and 31 points in games 2 and 3.

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But this signing doesn’t jump off the page when you think of New York City and the wow factor. Then again, Knicks free agent pickups never really scream “wow.” Not in the good sense, at least. Last year it was NYC native Kemba Walker coming home to play for the franchise, and that wound up not working out. They also brought in Evan Fournier, which was great for about one night at the start of last season.

A couple of years before Walker and Fournier, Julius Randle signed a big free-agent deal with New York. That came on the heels of Kevin Durant turning down the Knicks in favor of following his buddy Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets. That hasn’t exactly worked out as planned, but it’s the same old song for the Knicks.

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This franchise hasn’t landed a big-name star since Carmelo Anthony in 2011. That should have been a free agent signing, but the Knicks gutted their roster trading for Anthony instead of waiting until the summer. That move produced a couple of postseason appearances and a 54-win season where the Knicks were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Certainly not the outcome Knicks fans had hoped for.

With the Brunson deal, the kicker is now the team will likely be penalized because it leaked that they’d been in contact with him before they were supposed to. Honestly, who cares? Damn, near every team, is tampering. Someone’s always spouting off about this player and that player going to another team. It’s already the wild west in terms of player movement. Let’s remove “tampering” and let them all have at it. Teams and players are already doing it anyway.

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Tampering in the eyes of the NBA is all over the board. If you mention a player while being even remotely affiliated with a different team, you could get popped with a tampering fine. The Lakers incurred a $50,000 fine a few years ago after Magic Johnson spoke glowingly in public about the greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Brunson’s situation relates more closely to actual tampering, but even that seems ridiculous. There’s no way the NBA believes organizations aren’t having conversations with soon-to-be free agents during the season. Even if it isn’t directly with the player, messages are relayed through an agent, family members, friends, etc.

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These franchises know the deal, and they’re still out to get the upper hand on acquiring players by any means necessary. It’s time to give up this charade. Teams and players don’t give a crap. The league makes so much money that teams don’t care about $50K or even $100K fine if it means landing their man.

Trust me, these owners care much more about the recklessness of player movement and these guys demanding trades with multiple years left on existing contracts. But that’s likely to end in the next collective bargaining agreement. Player empowerment is wonderful, but it’s gotten out of control, and the owners will reel it in soon.

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When the two sides return to the bargaining table, one thing on the agenda needs to be removing tampering. It’s downright silly. It can’t be that significant a factor affecting competitive balance if nearly everyone engages. They just need to eliminate it and move on. 

Kevin Durant wants a new team to front run for

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Hmmm, was the amount of research KD did simply looking at last year’s regular-season standings?

But, we know that Durant has pulled this act before. The first time he was open for wooing, he ended up on the greatest team of all-time, the 73-win Warriors that did that without him. He got a lot of plaudits and confirmation as a true NBA legend and a crunch-time hero for winning games in the Finals that the Dubs would have won without him. So too is his other big accomplishment, a Gold Medal in Tokyo, a bauble that Team USA likely would have found anyway.

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Durant tried to create his own power in Brooklyn, it didn’t work, and now he’s going back to the old playbook of just finding one already constructed. He wants the baby without the labor pains, which we all do in some way. Both the Suns and Heat would probably be stripped pretty heavily to acquire Durant, but that’s not his concern at the moment. And if they are, we’ll do all this again in two years.

And to be fair, Durant tried the hero thing the past couple springs. He couldn’t beat the Bucks alone in 2021, though he came awfully close. He couldn’t come anywhere close to beating the Celtics on his own this past spring. And perhaps that’s enough for him. This new road is awfully easier.

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But hey, as Homer Simpson told us, “If something is hard to do it’s not worth doing.” Durant tried to make the Nets something truly memorable, even noticeable, for the first time in their history. It didn’t work. So now he’s going back to what he knows, running the last lap of the race. Nice gig if you can get it.

Don’t mourn the NCAA being cut out

The main takeaway from USC and UCLA bolting for the Big 10 in two years, other than this:

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…is that this is just another big leap down the road to college football doing away with the NCAA. We’re getting to a point where the Big 10 and SEC will swallow up just about everything, and then they can just ask, “Why don’t we just have our two champions play one another and that’ll be the national champion?”

All the NCAA does now is just hold events and plan parties, and negotiate contracts for those, so why can’t these two conferences do it for themselves? Make them both 24 teams, and let them negotiate their own deals. It’s what the NCAA deserves. 

Jolly St. Perk, fashion faux pas, and more from NBA Draft night

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Bane referring to Perkins as “black Santa Claus” in an exchange about running up a chimney is why you do not, for any reason, “lip box” with Gen Zers. You getting mad only delights them more.

Jabari may have went third, but his fit came in first

It takes more confidence than I’ll ever have to show up on the biggest day of your career — to this point — wearing a purple suit with silver rhinestone tassels on it. Fashion certainly is subjective, so if the No. 1 pick wants to walk across the stage looking like a moldy grape jolly rancher, let him.

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I love the ESPN Twitter feed evaluation of these prospects that they’re not allowed to post a bad word about. If Banchero’s fit was “ELITE” then what all caps complement will be bestowed upon Chet “You Rang Jr.” Holmgren?

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Yes, the curtains from Dracula’s dining room repurposed into a suit is indeed STYLE. The gold dice chain makes him look like a croupier from Transylvania.

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If you’re going to have a gimmick, at least put it in the lining of the suit like Jabari Smith Jr., who wore the cleanest suit among the Top 3 picks with an Auburn-inspired three-piece featuring pictures of his journey where cameras can’t catch them.

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Notice how he opted for a tie instead of obnoxious jewelry, as well. That man’s wardrobe selection was as pretty as his jumper.

The “Pornhub Comment Section” award for thirstiest tweet made about a player’s mom

There were a couple of women who caught the attention of the internet’s foremost experts on making shit uncomfortable. There’s nothing like Twitter coming alive with bursts of lewdness about a prospect’s mother or girlfriend to remind you where a lot of people’s minds are stuck.

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The mothers of *redacted* and *redacted* were the subject of online cat calls and posts in the aftermath, and as much as I want to scroll through responses to Barfstool tweets for the greasiest pervert, I’d rather dunk my genitalia into a vat of acid and spend my life like Lord Varys.

So, sorry to disappoint those of you sick of the selection on SpankBang and too poor for OnlyFans. You’ll have to open a few more browsers before you unzip your trousers.

Riding the Chet Holmgren overhype train

Over the past 24 hours, Banchero jumped into the favorite spot in betting odds to be the No. 1 pick. This comes as a surprise since most of the talk had been about Smith or Holmgren going first until now. Regardless of Banchero’s overnight rise, I’d still be inclined to draft him ahead of Holmgren. Banchero’s game and body are ready to contribute in the NBA immediately. He’s 6′-foot-10, 250 pounds. Wherever he falls, I can see him starting from the opening tip next season.

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Holmgren will probably need more development time which he’ll get in Oklahoma City, where he’s largely projected to go at this point. The Thunder have been very successful in the draft over the years and always have multiple picks. So, they’re probably OK with Holmgren not being NBA-ready for a year or two after drafting him. But if they want a quicker bang for their, they’d select Banchero, assuming Smith is the first player taken.

I’m not saying Chet can’t be a good player in the NBA. I just don’t see a star in the making. A nice solid role player feels like what he’ll eventually settle into. Of the three, Smith seems like he’s most likely the future star of this trio.

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Of course, where a player lands plays a huge part in how their career turns out. Since the Thunder have four picks in the top 34, whiffing on one wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But missing on the second overall pick when there’s a better option (or two) available is something not easily forgotten.

None of this is an exact science for anyone. The so-called “can’t miss” guys often become career role players or wash out of the league before their rookie contract expires. Other times we see someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo go on to shock the world in his progression over several years.

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One of the more recent comparisons for Holmgren has been to a young Giannis. Not MVP Giannis, but 2013s 15th overall pick of the draft. I see where some might make this comparison as you have two tall, skinny kids with potential and upside. Antetokounmpo claims he’s gained 50 pounds since coming into the association in 2013. It’s not impossible, but I’d like to see if Holmgren can add half the weight Giannis has over his time in the league. It just looks like that will be a tremendous battle for Holmgren.

We saw in the NCAA Tournament that Holmgren’s play felt underwhelming at times as the competition got stronger, tougher, and stepped up a notch. In Gonzaga’s final two tourney games, Holmgren scored a combined 20 points against Memphis and Arkansas. He did grab 23 rebounds in the two games, which is a great sign but whether he can do this consistently in the NBA is open for debate.

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Holmgren has a nice skill set, but whoever drafts him will need to spend many hours with this kid in the weight room. He has a nice handle for a 7-footer but isn’t very explosive. So, I just think it’s going to take time for Holmgren to become comfortable with the NBA game, and it’s going to take a patient team (like OKC) that’s fine with him needing two-three years before he’s ready to play significant minutes. 

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