LAS VEGAS — LA Times columnist T.J. Simers once told me he only writes about players who matter to a team, and maybe that’s one reason Simers isn’t at summer league.
In all likelihood the only Phoenix Sun in Vegas who will make any kind of impact this season is Earl Clark, so that’s where I’ll start with my thoughts on the Suns’ 100-82 loss to the Houston Rockets, a game the Suns trailed by three after three before falling apart in the fourth.
Clark needed 14 shots to score his 14 points (shooting 4-for-14) and looked like the same player we saw in limited action last season. By that I mean he’s still never met a shot he doesn’t like and he still doesn’t hit jumpers with a hand in his face at a very high rate.
Yes, it’s only one game of summer league — and Goran Dragic rebounded quite nicely in his sophomore campaign from a poor first game of summer league — but it still would have been nice to see Clark attack the basket with authority instead of facing guys up and clanking another pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper.
“This was his first game, he’ll get better as the week goes along,” said Summer Suns coach Dan Majerle.
As for what he hopes to accomplish in summer league, Clark said, “Definitely shooting the ball better, and that’s about it.”
I would add working on a post game that he also admitted could use work, driving more and taking open jumpers instead of contested J’s off a one-on-one move.
Clark also returned to the court noticeably stronger in his upper body, saying he’s up to 236 or 238 pounds (he was listed at 225 last season).
“They (Suns strength staff) say I don’t lift enough, but I’ve had people say it looks like I do,” Clark said.
Suns second-round pick Gani Lawal got his first taste of pro ball, going for 14 points and five boards. He ran the floor well (finishing in the open court a few times) and he blocked a couple shots.
However, he did not exactly lock down Rockets center Jordan Hill, who scored with ease a handful of times in one-on-one situations against Lawal.
“It was cool,” Lawal said. “I went out here and made some good plays, made some bad plays.”
He added that he needs to work on his free throws (6-for-11 from the line) but showed the hustle that’s supposed to be his calling card. It may be tough to see Lawal’s true value in summer league since these helter-skelter games don’t exactly showcase big guys who do the little things.
Of his game Lawal said, “I just try to play hard, rebound, just do the dirty work that nobody wants to do.”
And he’s got one fan with the team already. When asked who impressed him most today, Clark said, “Oh, Gani. He runs the floor excellent, he plays hard, rebounds, and he’s just a hard-nosed kid.”
He didn’t exactly distinguish himself as an NBA player with a 2-for-8 shooting performance, but Taylor Griffin looked more like an NBA wing than ever before.
He pulled down a rebound and drove coast to coast on one play, looked comfortable getting shots on the perimeter and played solid perimeter defense (the one thing we know he has in him). He was also a leader on the floor, urging the Suns to communicate on defense quite often.
There may be a better fit for the Suns’ 13th man spot, but if Taylor Griffin can add a jump shot the Suns could do worse than him.
After a great summer with the Suns last season, Zabian Dowdell is at it again. Dowdell led the Suns with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting (he was the only starter to shoot better than 50 percent for a Suns team that nailed just 40 percent of its shots), and he added four assists.
If Dowdell keeps playing like this, he deserves consideration for a roster spot.
Reynolds, Collins out
Villanova All-American Scottie Reynolds missed the game due to a problem with his Achilles. Majerle said he’s not sure if Reynolds will be able to play at all during summer league.
Second-round pick Dwayne Collins’ recent knee surgery also kept him out of action.
Majerle frequently urged the team by shouting “Let’s go” multiple times, attempting to create the kind of pace the Suns play during the regular season. … Jermaine Taylor led the Rockets with 25 and Patrick Patterson added 18 on 8-for-9 shooting. … Matt Janning chipped in with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting for the Summer Suns.
The Suns return to the hardwood at 1 p.m. MST Saturday on NBA TV when they take on the Toronto Raptors.