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Kruger upsets Ewing
by John Denton / July 10, 2009

Kevin Kruger - Steve KylerGames like this might make Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing want to re-think his dream of someday becoming a head coach in the NBA.

Ewing, the head coach of the Orlando Magic this week in the Orlando Pro Summer League, could only look on in horror as his team squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and went scoreless in overtime of a 92-84 loss to the Utah Jazz.

What made Orlando’s collapse even more stunning was that the fourth quarter was a 10-minute period as opposed to the standard 12 minutes. And in the OT, Orlando missed all seven of its shots.

With Utah down by three and 14.4 seconds remaining, Jazz power forward Derrick Brown converted a tough layup in traffic and hit the subsequent free throw to tie the game. Brown, a 6-foot-8 forward who is the property of the Charlotte Bobcats, scored 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting.

``He made a great cut to get open, really finished the play and then hit the free throw,’’ said Utah’s Scott Layden, who has shared the coaching duties with Tyrone Corbin this week. ``It was a great play.’’

Ewing, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer, is adamant that he still wants to be a head coach even though he hasn’t drawn any interest from any of the teams with head coaching vacancies this offseason. Ewing is directing the Magic’s summer league team for a second straight season.

``I’m not a big man coach; I’m a coach for all of the players,’’ Ewing said recently. ``I do everything all the rest of the coaches do. I fe el like I’m ready (to be a head coach). I just need that opportunity.’’

Here’s a look at the standouts and the low lights from Thursday’s action:

GAME 1: Oklahoma City Thunder (3-1) 83, New Jersey Nets/Philadelphia 76ers 62 (0-4)

STUDS: Byron Mullens, formerly known as B.J. Mullens, was criticized by some at Ohio State and the Big 10 Conference for declaring for the NBA after his freshman season. But he’s showing this summer that he could possibly challenge for playing time with the Thunder.

Mullens had 18 points and five rebounds on Thursday against Philly’s Marreese Speights. He made nine of 12 shots, some of them on his own doing and some of them by remaining active for feeds from Russell Westbrook (nine assists).

Mullens, who is often miscast as a center because o f his 7-foot, 275-pound frame, but he plays more like a power forward. He’s shown good lateral quickness, better-than-average hands and the ability to knock down the jumper from the elbow. If he can become a better rebounder and tougher in traffic, he could cut into Nenad Krstic’s playing time this season at center.

``I talked to (Oklahoma City coach Scott) Brooks and he said he wanted to see me start out closer to the basket before I drifted out a little bit,’’ Mullens said. ``I made my first shot and it gave me a lot of confidence and I was just in rhythm. I watched tape with (assistant coach) Mark (Bryant) and we saw some shots that I was rushing and I have to take my time on those, just slowing down and focusing and letting the game come to me.’’

DUDS: New Sixers coach Eddie Jordan was the first to say he wasn’t very comfortable at all with the idea of combining players from Philadelphia and New Jersey, and it’s easy to see why now. The Nets/Sixers team is 0-4 and has been hardly competitive so far. Marreese Speights, a center with seemingly load s of promise, has been a disappointment inside. Chris Douglas-Roberts has played well (13.5 ppg. on 48.4 percent shooting), but he’s had little help. Terrence Williams, the No. 11 pick of the draft, can fill up a boxscore (14 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on Thursday), but his decision-making has been questionable at best most of the tournament. Both he and Philly rookie point guard Jrue Holiday have 14 turnovers each through four games.

GAME 2: Utah Jazz (2-2) 92, Orlando Magic (2-2) 84 (OT)

STUDS: Prized rookie Eric Maynor, who admitted a bit of fatigue, lost out on playing time to summer league veteran Kevin Kruger, who led the Jazz’s fourth-quarter charge back. He had 16 points in 22 minutes, directing the offense much of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson, the summer league’s leading scorer, had another 26 points by making nine of 18 shots and five 3-pointers. Five of his nine offensive rebounds were on the offensive end of the floor and he also swatted four shots. But Anderson was whistled for eight fouls in 33 minutes _ the last three of which in the modified system resulted in technical foul free throws that aided Utah’s comeback.

DUDS: Jeremy Richardson, who played 12 regular-season games with the Magic and hit the record-setting 23rd 3-pointer in a January game against the Sacramento Kings, re-injured his ankle and once again struggled shooting the ball. Richardson, who could return to the Magic again for a minimum salary, missed eight of 13 tries and is shooting just 35 percent in the summer league. He made only two of 13 tries from 3-point range, and he could be playing his way off the Magic’s regular-season roster.

GAME 3: Indiana Pacers (4-0) 91, Boston Celtics (1-3) 88

STUDS: He isn’t exactly facing Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard, but Indiana’s Roy Hibbert has become the summer camp’s best big man here against the likes of Marreese Speights, Robert Swift and Richard Hendrix.

Hibbert, arguably the camp’s most improved player from last summer to this one, battered Boston for 28 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots on Thursday. His play, combined with another 22 points from rookie Tyler Hansbrough, allowed the Pacers to remain unbeaten after a 91-88 defeat of Boston.

Through four games, the 7-foot-3 center has averaged 21.3 points on 66 percent shooting. He’s also averaged 8.5 rebounds a game and he credits most of the improvement to his improved conditioning and newfound strength.

``I couldn’t have played 31 minutes last summer,’’ Hibbert said candidly. ``I’ve been running a lot on the treadmill, doing the slide steps and running in the arena. I’m at 268 pounds, and I may not have the big frame, but I’ve put on some more muscle.’’

Former University of Tennessee guard Chris Lofton, who played in Turkey last season after recovering from testicular cancer, could be shooting his way onto the Boston roster. Lofton made six of eight 3-pointers on Thursday and has drilled 13 of 19 threes in four games.

Last season in Turkey, Lofton scored 61 points in a game in April, hitting a remarkable 17 of 22 3-pointers. He scored 47 points in another game after hitting another 13 3-pointers.

DUDS: Nick Fazekas missed two free throws with six seconds remaining that could have given the Celtics the lead. Then, after two clutch Hansbrough free throws, Fazekas had a clear look at a potentially tying 3-pointer. He didn’t rush on the play, pump-faking and putting the ball on the floor to gain space, but his shot was offline.

John Denton has contributed to HOOPSWORLD for three seasons. He’s covered the Orlando Magic and the NBA for 11 years.