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Good news for Hickson
by Bill Ingram / July 21, 2008

JJ Hickson - Icon Sports MediaGame 1: Minnesota 111 - New York 91

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu wants to play in the NBA in the worst way. He’s been oh so close to being a rotation player for the Dallas Mavericks, but a poor showing in Las Vegas last year at this time cost him that opportunity. He did have a stunning year in the NBDL last year, even winning MVP of the All-Star game, but his dream of playing in the NBA has him once again fighting it out in Vegas trying to get a roster spot. On Sunday, he was the star of the show as he led the Wolves to a 111-91 win over the Knicks.

Studs: Mensah-Bonsu scored 21 points (8-12FG), grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots to lead five Wolves in double-figures. Blake Ahearn chipped in 16 and Drew Neitzel had 14 off the bench. Anthony Roberson scored a game-high 23 points to lead New York.

Duds: Wilson Chandler had a good game for the Knicks on Saturday, but managed just four points on Sunday. You could actually throw the entire Knicks team under the bus for their lack of defense, as the Wolves shot 57% from the field and saw nearly everyone on their roster turn in a productive game.

Game 2: Phoenix 88 - Washington 69

Equally duddy today were the Washington Wizards. Their regular season roster is a force to be reckoned with, but their summer league squad laid an egg today. It’s an easy thing to do against the Suns, who run and gun just as much during summer league as they do during the regular season. The Wizards were buried early, fought back, and then got blown out 30-6 in the fourth en route to a 88-69 loss.

Studs: Steve Kerr is looking for Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry to crack the rotation this year in Phoenix, and they’ve certainly shown that at the very least they will make training camp interesting. Tucker led all scorers with 25 points on Sunday, while Strawberry added 20 of his own. The lone star – and a dim one at that – for the Wizards was Dee Brown, who led the team with 10 points.

Duds: Washington’s Andray Blatche has been consistently good in Vegas, averaging better than 19 points, but had just four points on 1-7 on Sunday. Nick Young started the league off with 17 points, but went on a downward spiral from there. He had just nine points on 4-10 shooting in his second-worst showing in Vegas.

Game 3: Milwaukee 88 - Cleveland 72

The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t exactly been tearing things up in Vegas. LeBron James left in a huff after watching his team blow a close game on Saturday; there was no such drama today. The 4-1 Bucks wasted no time blowing out the Cavs, It was tied after one, but Milwaukee used a 26-11 second quarter to make sure everyone would get plenty of garbage time minutes in the second half. Of the 10 Bucks who played, six scored in double figures as Milwaukee won, 88-72.

Studs: JJ Hickson may have been on the losing team, but he was the best player on the court. He scored 24 points and finished the league with averages of 19.4 points and 53% shooting. Hard to narrow it down for the Bucks, but Darius Washington was the leading scorer with 12 and Rodrick Riley led all rebounders with 14.

Duds: It was sad to see the Cavs fail to play Robert Traylor, who has been hoping to show that he has some game left. Traylor told HoopsWorld’s Pree Bhattacharya he was trying to make it back from career-ending surgery so his young son could see him play in the NBA. That looks like a long shot at this point. Traylor didn’t get on the court in today’s final summer league game.

Game 4: Portland 78 - New Orleans 63

Up to this point the Blazers’ summer league team has basically been the Jerryd Bayless. Bayless’ relentless pursuit of the rim, culminating in a 36-point outing on Saturday, earned him Summer League Top Rookie honors, and also a seat on the bench as his team played its finally game on Sunday. If the Hornets were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to face Bayless, their relief didn’t last long. JR Pinnock blew up for 30 points and six rebounds in leading Portland to a 78-63 win.

Studs: Pinnock’s performance was by far his best of the league, and he got 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Bernard Robinson to help with the heavy lifting. The Hornets got 13 points and 10 assists from Bobby Brown and Derrick Byars gave them 15 off the bench.

Duds: The Blazers were hoping Nicolas Batum might shine in summer league, but he never quite found his groove. Batum averaged 6.8 points on 34% shooting in Vegas. New Orleans’ Adam Huluska turned in a goose egg today, which was representative of his entire summer league performance. In better than 20 minutes per game he shot 19% from the field and averaged 2.8 points.

Game 5: Sacramento 91 - Houston 98

Maarty Leunen is going to spend the 2008-09 season in Europe, brushing up for a future stint with the NBA. That’s the story from Rockets GM Daryl Morey, anyway. Frankly, he looked fantastic in Vegas and should at least get a spot in training camp. On Sunday his apparent swan song was a mere 21 points (5-11 from three) and seven rebounds in leading Houston to a 98-91 win over the Kings. Shelden Williams had permission to leave Vegas long enough to attend the ESPY’s with girlfriend Candace Parker, but returned on Sunday to score 20 and grab nine boards in the losing cause.

Studs: Aside from Leunen, Donte Greene scored 22 points, but more impressive was his collection of a block, three steals, three rebounds, and an assist. The Rockets have been looking for him to do more than just score. Aaron Brooks also shook off a terrible game to score 20 points and drop eight dimes. For Sacramento the trio of Spencer Hawes (22 points), Jason Thompson (21) and Shelden Williams were unstoppable.

Duds: Houston’s Justin Williams had a golden opportunity to show something as Joey Dorsey sat out with a bum ankle, but struggled to even hold his own. He had eight fouls in 18 minutes, with only eight points to show for his effort. Patrick Ewing, Jr. was the biggest name on the Kings’ team . . .mostly because of his dad . . .but never made any kind of impact on the team. He looked bad in Virginia at Portsmouth Invitational, and was basically a no-show in three appearances in Vegas. In three games he averaged 0.7 points on 13% shooting.

Bill Ingram is the Executive Editor for HoopsWorld and HoopsWorld Magazine

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