Summer league isn’t about winning games. It’s all about player progression, deciphering strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating what you currently have and what you may get in the future. With that said, it still must have been nice for the young Clippers to hold on to a win tonight, especially after Vinny Del Negro reamed them earlier in the day at practice for a lack of effort in their first two games.
You could tell the energy was much better right from the get-go when the Clips jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead to start the game. Portland answered with a 9-0 run of their own, something that seems unusual but probably won’t be going forward. Young players typically ride waves of confidence and momentum much more so than veterans, and considering the Clippers youth, big peaks and valleys are probably going to present themselves quite a bit.
Al-Farouq Aminu isn’t a good shooter or scorer at this point in his career, but he showed a few glimpses of how he can contribute outside of a halfcourt offense. What was most impressive about Aminu tonight was his abiltiy to leak out and constantly beat his man up the floor in transition. If there are any concerns about Aminu being able to hack it should the pace pickup, there shouldn’t be. He’ll pick up a few charges because he’s a little predictable in his moves at the rim, but Aminu has a really good sense of staying wide, filling the lane, and then attacking right at the rim.
Dean Demopoulos experimented a bit by starting Marqus Blakely at the small forward and Aminu at the power forward, and the pairing worked well together. Blakely is an incredible athlete, and his energy and quickness on the defensive end helped speed up the defensive rotations all night. On offense Blakely knocked down one top of the key three and finished the evening as the leading scorer with 14 points. Blakely has a training camp invite already secured and has the tantalizing athleticism that will warrant him a solid look prior to the season.
Eric Bledsoe’s stats weren’t flashy (9 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) but it was his most solid game yet. The Blazers threw a variety of traps and full-court pressure at the young guard, but he handled himself pretty well. Bledsoe wasn’t scoring much, but he only committed three turnovers, a far cry from his first two games in Vegas. He’s already shown his explosiveness off the bounce, but we hadn’t seen if he could run an offense and take care of the ball until he did it tonight.
Every summer we arrive at this question, but it’s a little more realistic now then it was in the past.
Should the Clippers be a running team?
It’s too early to know for sure, but Aminu and Bledsoe certainly looked like they belonged when they were on the move tonight. Aminu often pushed the ball up the floor with his dribble and attacked the basket, making one very good change of direction and finish with his left-hand and another hanging baseline layup after the foul. Bledsoe is nearly impossible to stay in front of with a head of steam behind him, and even though he almost always looks to score, he had a beautiful baseline dump off in an up-tempo situation to DeAndre Jordan for a big dunk. Intricate half-court sets may be foreign to these guys right now, but up-and-down basketball? That comes easy.
With Aminu, Bledsoe, and Griffin, the Clippers have three guys who appear to have offensive games that work best at a high speed. If Baron Davis and Vinny Del Negro both really want to run, they’ll have no shortage of pieces to utilize in that sort of setting.