1. How Raptors Won Big In Lin Shuffle
LAS VEGAS -- As Jeremy Lin was being sworn in as the newest member of the Houston Rockets, the New York Knicks were unofficially kicking off the post-Lin era, in the same gym where the legend of the rags-to-super-riches point guard first began.
As their summer squad hit center court at Cox Pavilion to tip off the seventh day at Las Vegas Summer League against the Toronto Raptors, some of the key figures in Lin's sudden and, quite frankly, shocking departure from New York mere months removed from becoming the team's, and league's, supernova began to funnel in.
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald positioned himself against the railing in the northeast corner of the stadium's seats. Amare Stoudemire milled about, ultimately settling into a courtside chair directly across from the Summer Knicks' bench. As did a relatively svelte-looking Raymond Felton, Lin's presumed successor at point guard. Assistant general manager Allan Houston also looked on. As did several other team staffers.
With such a large contingent representing what has become the NBA's biggest lightening-rod franchise outside of Miami, especially once the offseason arrives, it was easy to overlook two of the casualties in the very public war waged this past week for Lin's free-agent rights.
Sitting on the other end of the court, right across from their new team, were former Knick Landry Fields and former Rocket Kyle Lowry, who were both shipped off to Canada from their respective teams this offseason. It was the first summer league game for both, and a clear reminder that a chapter had flipped in their careers.
"It's very interesting timing," Fields said. "Not that I don't want to go, but I was like, 'Oh, man. Now I've got to see all these people.' I literally see everybody over there [in the northeast corner]."
Fields, in fact, would end up having amiable-looking conversations with several of the Knicks representatives, including Stoudemire.
The Raptors probably should have, too.
No team outside of the two directly involved in the signing and the declining of Lin's $25 million offer sheet has benefited more than Toronto. With the Knicks allegedly looking to avoid the new CBA's more punitive luxury tax, the Raptors were able to pick up Fields, in part because they offered him a very generous sum (three years, $20 million) in the presumed hopes of gunking up New York's attempt to woo Steve Nash. And Lowry, whose displeasure with playing for Kevin McHale had been well-documented, was able to get the Rockets to trade him to Toronto, effectively paving the way for the Lin signing.
Add in incoming rookies Terrence Ross, the No. 8 pick in this year's draft who has impressed here in Vegas, and Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft who is expected to finally come aboard, as well as another year under the tutelage of defensive guru Dwane Casey, and all of a sudden, a playoff berth doesn't seem like such a wild expectation for the much-maligned Raps.
"Both [Fields and Lowry] are defensive-minded guys, but both can also score," Casey said. "So they're guys that will fit into our system. We need scoring, we need the confidence on the offensive end, and I think both guys give that to us because they came from offensive systems. But still defense is a priority to those guys."
And to the team.
Once notorious for their historically porous defense, the Raptors' identity was completely overhauled in Casey's first season in Toronto. Using almost all of the same parts from the team's 25th-ranked defense in 2010-11, Casey's schemes and motivational tactics -- which include importing a giant rock into the team's facility and using some type of magic elixir on the defensively apathetic Andrea Bargnani -- were able to move the Raptors into 12th place in defensive efficiency by season's end.
But with their offense now ranked 25th in the league, Toronto still had to make significant improvements this offseason in order to make a serious playoff push.
The team's very public pursuit of Nash would've done just that, in one fell swoop, as well as provide them with instant credibility -- something general manager Bryan Colangelo said the Raps needed after four straight seasons outside of the playoff field.
Colangelo's hard sell obviously didn't work, as the point guard he courted to the Phoenix Suns eight years ago fled to the opposite side of North America. But the duo they did bring on should at least provide some more scoring punch.
The 26-year-old Lowry, whom Colangelo called a top-10 point guard in the league, had a breakout season running the show for McHale's Rockets, finishing with a player efficiency rating of 18.89 and averages of 14.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds a game. And while Fields has fallen off considerably since storming into the league two seasons ago, the team could still find a way to unearth the fill-all-the-holes repertoire he flashed as a rookie.
Casey also said he's moving forward under the assumption that Jose Calderon, who has reportedly been dangled in trade scenarios, will return next season.
"It would've been great to get Steve," Casey said, "but for the long-term culture of our team, the long-term health of our team, we've got some young players that fit well within the organization."
Even though it took more high-profile moves from two other teams to get them there.
"However I got here, I'm not going to argue with it," Fields said.
Justin Verrier is an editor for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2. Morrison Looks Good In NBA Return Bid
LAS VEGAS -- While the young guys making their first appearances in pro basketball get the headlines at the Las Vegas Summer League, a familiar and forgotten name may be raising eyebrows just like the NBA's future stars. Adam Morrison is lighting up the competition in Vegas, showing off the shooting touch that made him the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft.
After two seasons away from the NBA, Morrison is working to make his return to the league. Earlier this month he played in the Orlando Summer League with the Brooklyn Nets, averaging a shade over five points per game in five contests. Now he's in Vegas with the Clippers, making it known he can put the ball in the basket.
After 11 points in his first game with the Clippers, Morrison exploded for 23 on Wednesday in a win over the Spurs and 22 in Thursday's 75-69 loss to the Lakers. Morrison isn't just spotting up in the corner and hoisting 3s, having shot just seven 3-pointers in three games. The former Laker is scoring from a variety of spots.
"Maybe I've been typecast as a certain player, certain type of person, but I just want to show people I can play, I'm a good teammate and a good dude in the locker room," Morrison said.
In a game which saw neither team shoot over 44 percent, Morrison hit eight of 13 from the field, showing he still excels in one area that NBA teams value. Though, having spent four years in the NBA, he knows that isn't enough to get him on a roster.
"Everybody's going to laugh, but I think I've played decent defensively," he said. "Obviously I'm not Michael Cooper, but I'm not a complete sieve."
The road is long for Morrison, but NBA teams have shown there's always room for guys who can knock down open shots. If it doesn't work out, Morrison will be content with what he has.
"Obviously I want to make it back to the NBA, but even if I don't I have a good family and good friends."
3. For 'Cats, Long Climb Back A Pressing Matter
LAS VEGAS -- You can't consistently press in the NBA. It isn't something that really works for teams.
NBA point guards are too quick, too adept at protecting the ball, and anticipate the pressure too well to make it an effective tool. Trap too softly and your double team will get split in the blink of an eye, leaving your team at a 4-on-3 or 5-on-3 disadvantage. Rotate incorrectly and a pass to the middle of the floor can break everything wide open, leaving you with shooters, cutters and any other attacking option you can think about.
When you see the Charlotte Bobcats creating chaos out of unprepared Summer League teams, you can see the value of their full-court pressure. They're trapping initiators in the backcourt, and almost providing their own players with a shock against the culture of losing that was present in Charlotte last season.
"I think we can press during the year," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said after a 99-86 win over the Denver Nuggets. "We try to do the hardest things first -- fitness, pressing 94 feet, rotations harder than stunting. But we want to let them know there are certain things we can do that are brandings of ours."
The Cats forced 22 turnovers from Denver, wreaking havoc on anybody unfortunate enough to try to bring the ball up through the teeth of the defense. After a historically unsuccessful season, the Bobcats' summer edition has won all four of their games in Las Vegas. Using harassing defensive pressure and a minefield of carefully orchestrated traps, Charlotte has forced 91 turnovers against its four opponents.
It's one thing to do it in a summer league; it's another to do it in the regular season against the top talent, scouting and game preparation the basketball world has to offer.
"When you get into the season, we can take it off; we can do it at times versus certain teams," Dunlap said when asked about using a strategy you don't see past the college level. "But it's a tool in our toolbox."
If anything, this teaches the Cats' young core that hustle and effort are mandatory at all times. Whether it's successful or not during the regular season will remain to be seen. For a team that won just 10.6 percent of its games last season, there isn't a lot to lose here."We know we have to work really hard to win during the year, so we want to start that now," Dunlap said.
Zach Harper is the host of ESPN.com's Daily Dime Live. Follow him on Twitter.
4. Coach's Corner
ESPN.com's head coach, David Thorpe, gives his impressions on Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger.
LAS VEGAS -- Too fat. Too slow. Too gravity bound. And too broken (as in his injured back).
Perhaps it was just one of those things that pulled Sullinger down the draft drain to the No. 21 spot, or maybe it was all of them. My one-word response is most likely what he's thinking: whatever.
I see a player that is absurdly productive despite his flaws. Meaning that when he gets in better shape, which he most certainly will, he's going to be skinnier, bouncier, quicker, and able to play harder for more minutes.
And as far as his back goes, I don't see teams afraid to pay Dwight Howard max money, and we know he has back issues only surgery can fix. So why should we be so afraid of Sullinger, who may not even need surgery?
Forget for a moment about what he can't do, and let's focus on what he is doing in July. Like catching and rebounding the ball with ease, in traffic, thanks to his ultra-soft hands and his excellent hand-eye coordination. Rajon Rondo is going to love threading the needle with this guy.
We've seen his back-to-the-basket game, where he has a better plan and more skills than many NBA veterans. He's also shown shooting range out to NBA three, and a terrific midrange floater that belies his size.
Then we have to consider Sullinger's nimbleness in tight spaces, which makes him a dangerous threat to run screen-and-rolls with Rondo or Paul Pierce, and thanks to his hands, he can be thrown a late pass (often a turnover to bigs) and still catch and finish, or draw the foul.
There are a lot of similarities on offense to Kevin Love, who is now one of the premier players in the world. Both guys can score just about every way possible.
I do have some concerns about Sullinger, though not related to his back. Unlike a lot of guards, who have had to work so hard to develop their craft and body, Sullinger has been phenomenally successful in high school and college without having learned how to "grind."
Even in the two summer leagues, I have not seen his intensity level build to a new level, though he has played very well. And if he was playing for a bad coach or for a bad franchise, I'd say he'd be far more likely to not change, and therefore either stay heavy or even get heavier.
Fortunately, I do not think this is likely to happen now that he's in Boston. The coach, franchise and his teammates are far too competent to allow that to happen.
Instead, they will do all they can to develop his overall game, aware of what he can bring them in the postseason. I'd guess he will have a lot of GMs shaking their heads and thinking that he's already a better scorer than any big they have.
David Thorpe is an analyst for Scouts Inc. Follow him on Twitter.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Best Of The Night
Damian Lillard, Blazers: Can anyone stop this guy? Lillard, who has burned every opponent he has faced thus far in summer ball, continued his tear through summer league, putting up 31 points (11-for-22 shooting) and seven assists in an 84-78 victory over the Hawks.
7. Worst Of The Night
Celtics draft picks: On the same night Boston brought on Courtney Lee, a defense-first shooting guard, the C's rooks couldn't muster much on the offensive end. In a 91-82 loss to the Kings, first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo and second-rounder Kris Joseph shot a combined 4-for-15 from the floor.
8. Lillard Time
9. Quote Of The Night
"Everybody's going to laugh, but I think I've played decent defensively. Obviously I'm not Michael Cooper, but I'm not a complete sieve."
-- Adam Morrison, after his performance for the Clippers on Thursday.