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RMR Day Two Summary

As has been the habit the last couple of days I’m writing this up in basically a blog format. Time constraints and multiple article requirements will force the more polished articles to come out through the next week so check back often. In addition to my commentary I will look to answer questions posed in the earlier threads. Feel free to ask other questions and I will get back to them later in the day.

Some pictures are up….

The number one story of yesterday’s Sonics/Spurs game was the early struggles of Mo Sene who drew two fouls in his first thirty seconds of play. Story number two however is that after the game Big Mo spent time explaining to the trainers how the flu-like symptoms he had woken up with affected his game. Sene complained of a severe headache, dizziness, and a sore throat. He repeatedly coughed during our talk and appeared to have little or no energy. According to Sene these symptoms, combined with the altitude here in SLC made him feel exhausted and heavy just minutes into his warmup routine.

It will be interesting to see which of the first two games was an aberration for Sene. In game one he was quicker, more confident, and less tentative than should have been expected of a player so raw. In game two he began the night in the fashion I expected to see throughout the summer league. His reaction time was a split second slow and it seemed to take him an extra moment to process where he should be and how he should defend a play. While he still managed to block 4 shots(unofficially, the official box score only credited him with 2 but there was a consensus among myself and the Utah press that he CLEARLY had 4 total) the Spurs players seemed to sense his hesitation and went right at him.

Also struggling was Noel Felix who simply seemed tired. In game 1 Noel was excellent across the board and easily the teams best player. In game 2 he simply seemed a bit lethargic. He wasn’t bad at anything but was not good enough to take the ball away from the guards who were scoring fairly well.

Game 2 for the Sonics definitely featured more structured play with an effort to get the ball inside to Sene and run set plays. Andre Emmitt who led all scorers commented on the more structured game-play.

“We emphasized efficiency, running plays, just trying to get on the opposite side of it to make the defense play defense.” Emmitt said. “We definitely wanted to work on Mo. We wanted to give him that experience.”

Emmitt was the best player on the floor for the Sonics last night playing tough nosed defense and generally showing the athleticism that led to him being selected by the Sonics in the 2004 draft, where he was considered a borderline first round pick.

Also generally impressive were Ronnie Burell, an unheralded 6’9 swingman out of NC-Greenboro and Keith Langsford from Kansas. Neither player is likely to make the opening day roster but both probably have a chance to open some eyes and potentially earn a call up at some point in the next couple of season. Burell is particularly intriguing because of his length at his position. The emergence of lanky players like Tayshaun Prince and Boris Diaw has left the league somewhat intrigued by players with a long, disruptive body type and Burell may benefit from that fact. He is extremely active and athletically compared well to all the players there.

As mentioned in my earlier game-blog both Patch Morliende and Yotam Halperin were much improved from game 1. Halperin in particular showed both his strengths and weaknesses in a two minute stretch in the second quarter. He is smart and savvy, able to direct a team on offense and score just because he knows the game better than his competition. He is however very slow laterally and this makes it extremely difficult for him to defend the quick players in the NBA. On offense he appeared very susceptible to the trap because the defensive player can stay so tightly on him that he cannot find an easy exit pass. Most NBA players have enough quickness to move away from their defender and either create a little bit of daylight or draw a foul. In Halperin’s case his defender simply stuck with him like glue.

As for the other teams at the RMR I came away with a few thoughts. For starters Ronnie Brewer is going to be a damn fine player and he’s in a system which will maximize his talents. He was the guy I wanted Seattle to draft and I wouldn’t mind one bit having him on my team. The word active gets brought up a lot in summer league because, with the lack of structure sometimes the best way to judge a player is by how much they are moving, and how much sense they have of where to move to. Some players are active but out of control. Others, like Brewer are in constant motion and always getting to the right space to tighter the game up a bit. Brewer is active and he’s confident. Think of Desmond Mason with longer arms, the ability to handle the rock, and pass. He brings the same type of intensity that Desmond does but adds a lot more versatility. I believe he will be in contention for the Rookie of the Year award and likely finish top 5 or so in the voting.

Shelden Williams on the other hand did not show much at all. For two consecutive games he did not appear to be particularly good at much of anything and several NBA players commented on him while watching the game. Across the board there was disappointment that the 4 year senior did not look to be athletically superior to any of the assorted camp prospects gathered to play. Hiram Fuller out of Fresno State went toe to toe with Williams and it would have been impossible for the uninformed observer to tell you who the #5 overall pick in the draft was.

To further bash the woeful Hawks let me say that Marvin Williams also does not impress me. Williams had a great stat line with 30 points and 10 rebounds but it was the most unimpressive 30/10 outing I could have imagined. Williams has a lack of body control that is startling. His shoulders slump and his arms hang limp throughout the game. While his physical talents are amazing I think that this “imprecise movement” for lack of a better term will always make him a marginal player. Compare him to Brewer, who always seems to have a sense of exactly where his hands are and it just appears that he may never have the physical discipline to be a star player.

The highlight of the Atlanta/Dallas game occurred at the start of overtime when the assembled Jazz Roster sat at the end-line watching. “It’s Stoudamire time baby!” People were shouting in reference to second year guard Salim Stoudamire, “Overtime is Stoudamire time”. Stoudamire came out of the gate handling the ball and immediately rolled off a pick by Marvin Williams. At the time he gained enough space that he easily could have taken a three point shot. Almost as if it was in slow motion you could see Stoudamire think about the shot, consider it, and his body just naturally started the motion. However Stoudamire, likely aware that he must play the PG position to make it in the league switched to a pass to Williams that was easily picked off and run back by Dallas. I probably cannot do this scene justice with words but let me say it was the most amazing example of conscious thought trying to fight physical instinct that I have ever seen. For a moment it appeared as if Stoudamire had strained his back by fighting his body’s natural motion too hard.

Q&A

Is Sene a good defender ?
I know he is a tremendous shotblocker but is he, like Dalembert, just an average defender ?
Because i noticed that the players matched up with Sene had big games (Randolph and Mahinmi)

I think the answer to that is yes, conditionally. I keep coming back to Sene’s instincts which appear to be really good. Right now he is playing 100% on instincts and players are taking advantage of it. They lure him out to cover and then catch him off guard. What should be noted is that Randolph is a guy with league experience and Mahinmi has several years of professional experience in Europe. One thing that is REALLY apperent when watching summer league is how much of a difference big-league experience makes. Guys who've played in either the NBA or upper-echelon european teams are simply more accustomed to the speed, etc. and dominate. DJ Mbenga is a great example. You would think the guy is Hakeem the way he dominates other players at his position. I think it was this experience that allowed them to excel against him. The guys with less experience were stonewalled by the 7 footer. His shotblocking has a big impact on the smaller players trying to penetrate the lane so it is safe to say that he makes a defensive impact.

I heard that Ridnour and Swift have a crasy look now !

Swift has a shaggy look and 4-5(he honestly didn’t know how many) new tattoo’s since the season ended. Big ones on his arms that go all the way down his body. He actually looks better. Ridnour shaved his head skinhead style and reportedly looks like a nut. My sister may be suicidal if he doesn’t grow it back by the time the season starts.

It is way way early but it was mentioned in the game 1 comments that Philly adjusted to Sene’s early success by using Randolph at center and I presume luring Sene out further from paint and taking jumpers or driving by. Will NBA coaches make this a main strategy when he is in the game? Or just try to beat him with some combo of footwork, muscle, pumpfakes and other basketball smarts?

I don’t want to be too hard on assistant Ralph Lewis who is coaching these games, but in general it has seemed to me that every team I’ve watched has been more structured and coached than the Sonics. I’m honestly not sure what to make of it but the team simply doesn’t seem to make any adjustments during the game. Our bench has only Lewis (1 year NBA and D-League), Sikma(2 years NBA), Schrempf(1/2 year NBA), and Bob Hill’s oldest son (nanda) so there is some really limited experience as far as coaching goes. If I had to name the biggest disappointment with the summer league the coaching of the Sonics would be it. I just am not sure exactly what they are doing.

Anybody other than Robert (of the main rotation guys) at RMR Brian?

Nope. I’m not sure why Robert is really there except that he is a hoops junkie. He wants to play and says that he is asking Rick Sund every day, hoping to break him down. Apparently the Sonics don’t really like 3rd year players to play in the Summer League unless they are trying to make the team. They know what they have with Swift. Robert is really putting in the time. I’ll have an article up about him later this week with lots of good quoted but he basically says that if he doesn’t have a breakout season this year “it won’t be because I didn’t do everything in my power to improve. I don’t want to ever think that there was one more thing I could have done, to work harder that prevented me from making it.” He will go back to Seattle for the month of July and work with the team, then leave for Las Vegas to train with Tim Grgrich before returning for training camp. Basically he took about a week off this summer.

Between Felix and Burrell who has been playing (or guarding) SF and PF?

Felix has been at the 4 exclusively. We are a little undermanned at the 3 and have played some three-guard lineups.

Langford 18 freethrow attempts in 2 games. Good drives? Freelancing or within the flow of what they were running?

Keith Langford has been really impressive. He knows his shots and doesn’t try to exceed his range. Almost all of his scoring has been 12-15 foot jumpers off screens. He hits them so consistently that when he decides to drive instead he can draw the foul well.