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LAS VEGAS — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 90-85 summer league win over the New York Knicks from KSL.com's Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Georges Niang leads Utah to summer league win
In the second quarter, newly-drafted Knicks center Mitchell Robinson nearly jumped over the 6-foot-9 Georges Niang.
But instead, Niang got hit in the eye by Robinson, ending the game with a black eye that even Rudy Gobert asked him about later Sunday night. As ugly as it was, though, the injury seemed to wake Niang up, and he finished the night as the Jazz's leading scorer in a five-point win.
Niang showed off his varied offensive game, including an ability to create off the dribble and hit jump shots from outside, while scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds. And his most important points were two free throws that sealed the game after he attacked Knicks draftee Kevin Knox and earned a foul.
After the waiver of Jonas Jerebko, Niang is a real candidate for the Jazz's 15th roster spot. In the G League and summer league levels, Niang can do everything you ask of him, and it's no coincidence that the Stars' season turned around when he joined the roster. But in the NBA, Niang will have to make adjustments.
"The difference is his role will be much more defined in the NBA. But I think there's a role for him," Jazz summer league coach Alex Jensen said.
"He'll be a floor spacer, and he's a good passer," in the NBA, Jensen said. "It will be a little bit more difficult off the dribble."
But, Jensen said Niang is definitely an NBA-caliber player.
Niang is taking on that challenge.
"I think I am, but in this league you have to come in day in and day out to prove yourself. Someone is trying to take your job. There are 60 new guys who are coming in and trying to take your job."
2. Tony Bradley has terrific 3-minute stretch, then hurts wrist
Jazz center Tony Bradley put his stamp on the game with a 3-minute stretch at the beginning of the second half in which he dominated the Knicks' Robinson, twice using his strength to bully Robinson under the basket. A frustrated Robinson fouled Bradley each time in return, but Bradley finished through the contact for two consecutive and ones. In the end, he scored 10 points in those three minutes, and 16 points overall on 7-8 shooting.
Don’t bite, young blood. pic.twitter.com/XjGg2Bpf4K — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) July 9, 2018
But just a minute later, Bradley injured his wrist battling with Robinson on the defensive end. At first, Bradley just had it taped and was reinserted into the game, but he still kept playing with the injury, opening and closing his hand in some discomfort. He quickly left the game for good. Bradley wasn't available to the media afterward.
The Jazz will do more testing to figure out what exactly happened. I doubt it's a long-term injury, but we'll see if he'll be available in the Jazz's remaining summer league contests.
The 3-minute dominating stretch was highly encouraging, maybe especially because Bradley's first half was a little underwhelming. In particular, I thought two defensive plays were disappointing: one in which Bradley didn't rotate quickly enough when the ball was passed to the weak side, and one where he was switched on a Knicks guard, and used both hands to foul instead of staying tall at the rim.
"It's still a work in progress," Jensen said, but was overall mostly positive about the big strides Bradley has taken since being drafted just over a year ago.
3. Diamond Stone's best game
The Jazz are using a backup center rotation in summer league: former Purdue big man Isaac Haas and Salt Lake City Stars big man Diamond Stone have been alternating games since the beginning. When Bradley went down Sunday, that gave Stone an opportunity to get even more than his share of minutes.
For me, that would normally be a source of massive concern. I've watched Stone play for the Stars and the Jazz in summer league and have been massively underwhelmed nearly every time. I understand why he's a prospect: he's big, is capable of shooting and scoring, and can jump on the defensive end. Those traits made him the 40th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
But so often, he does exactly the wrong thing. He forces bad shots and avoids any kind of passing. He'll get beaten for rebounds that he should probably get. And on defense, he'll miss rotations, or jump and commit silly fouls. It honestly drives me crazy. He's an example of a player who is promising in theory but probably hurts your team in the end.
To my surprise, on Sunday, Stone was very good! He hit the rotations he should have on the defensive end and then jumped vertically to avoid being called for fouls.
OH MY THIS BLOCK#TakeNote | #NBASummerpic.twitter.com/OLd6ZchWPA — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) July 9, 2018
He smartly made himself available on guard drives for easy dump-off dunks. And he only took like two shots outside of the offense. In the end, he finished with 14 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor. Best of all, the Jazz weren't outscored when he was on the court.
"I have to trust the process, but it's a rough start for me," Stone said of his career so far. "This journey that I'm on, I have to make the best of it. I think that's what I did today."
If the Jazz can turn this stone into a diamond, it will be the ultimate example of the organization's player development prowess.