The Trail Blazers have matched their win total from last year's experience in Las Vegas after just one game. As everyone always says, the win-loss records don't really mean much during summer-league play, but Vegas veterans Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham didn't enjoy going 1-4 last summer.
The Houston Rockets had started their summer-league play 2-0, and were said by some to be the best team in Vegas this year, but they were routed by the Kaleb Canales-led Blazers 84-67 on Sunday afternoon. Canales picking up his first win as the head coach of the summer-league team (don't think that doesn't mean something to assistants- Dean Demopoulos knew his summer league winning percentage off the top of his head).
We set up this game as being very much about finding out what Portland has in its rookies, but even more about what the Blazers have in Patty Mills. Conventional wisdom says Portland won't make an effort to keep both Mills, and this year's second-round pick Armon Johnson (it's possible they don't keep either one). So, this is a big chance for Mills to show he belongs in the NBA, and he hopes with the Trail Blazers.
Keep in mind, the Blazers don't hold the rights to Mills. He's unrestricted, and is basically auditioning for not only a job with Portland, but will field offers from others if he can turn enough heads in Las Vegas. Against the Rockets, Mills had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in just over 26 minutes of action. Johnson wasn't bad either, scoring 8 points, and coming up with 4 steals defensively.
Pendergraph bullied his way around the middle, as usual, and was effective. He scored 9 first-half points, and also pulled down 6 rebounds. Cunningham had 10 points and 7 rebounds, and isn't really auditioning for anything. He's an NBA regular and will be a rotation player again for the Blazers next season.
I thought Luke Babbitt was solid in his first outing, and showed the desire to play some defense and rebound. He shot the ball well, going 5 for 9, and it was a good showing, considering he was dipping his toe in the water for the first time. We'll watch his development closely this week. I'm not sure what some were expecting, but I've been a little surprised to see that some people were underwhelmed with his opening performance. I thought he was fine.
The star of the day for the Blazers was Ekene Ibekwe, who is on his second tour of duty with a Portland summer-league team. He went to Maryland, and played in Turkey last season. But, if he keeps playing like he did on Sunday, perhaps an NBA team will give him a shot in the fall. Ibekwe had 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots, and helped the Blazers outrebound the Rockets 48-32.
The Trail Blazers continue play in the Vegas summer league on Tuesday night, when they take on the New Orleans Hornets. We'll have the game live on Comcast Sportsnet, once again.
Tonight, it's Trail Blazers Courtside, on the radio network, CSN, and here on this website. We'll be joined by Canales and Pendergraph, among others.
We'll also continue to watch this week to see if the Utah Jazz decide to match the offer sheet Portland has given Wesley Matthews. Some of the early reports are suggesting the the Jazz won't match. But, they've got seven days to decide.
Talk to you at 6pm, on TV, radio, and on trailblazers.com.