SportsPulse: Houston could not keep idle and watch everybody else strengthen. USA TODAY Sports activities’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the blockbuster business that sends Russell Westbrook to the Rockets the place he’ll reunite with former teammate James Harden.

The reverberations of the wild, NBA-changing loose company are nonetheless being felt.

The Western Convention has modified dramatically, and we’re nonetheless ready to look what Oklahoma Town does with Chris Paul. Do the Thunder business him? If this is the case, to which group?

After spending 4 days on the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer time League, which concluded Monday, listed below are some takeaways from conversations with coaches, gamers, executives and brokers:

Wizards’ best spot: Group govt after govt had the similar query when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved best front-office activity opening got here up. “Why no longer simply give Tommy the activity?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been operating basketball operations since proprietor Ted Leonsis made up our minds to not convey Ernie Grunfeld again. Sheppard ran the draft, loose company and the Wizards’ Summer time League group, however he does not have the full-time activity. 

The protracted seek has an affect on attainable applicants and different groups. In line with Thunder group coverage, assistant common supervisor Troy Weaver, who interviewed for the Wizards activity, used to be avoided from participating in Thunder trade all over the draft and loose company whilst he’s a candidate for a role with any other group.

Zion’s unexpected appearing: Ahead of Duke trainer Mike Krzyzewski stated New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson shouldn’t have performed in Summer time League as a result of Williamson wasn’t in enjoying form, there have been considerations about his conditioning.

Within the NCAA Event, Michigan State sought after to run, pondering it would put on down Williamson in a 40-minute recreation. Whilst Williamson made a few of his trademark performs, he took simply two pictures within the recreation’s ultimate seven mins, together with a five-minute stretch through which he didn’t strive a shot.

I anticipated Williamson, from the tip of the varsity season to the beginning of summer season league, to get in form. That didn’t occur, and in hindsight, that’s no longer surprising given the whirlwind season he had and the eye he drew.

He performed simply shy of 10 mins within the opening recreation in opposition to the New York Knicks, however left with a bruised knee and used to be benched out of precaution for the remainder of the consultation.

All that issues now’s that Williamson is in form when he returns for coaching camp in September.

Zion Williamson reacts after a dunk within the first part in opposition to the New York Knicks. (Photograph: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports activities)

Pelicans’ draft alternatives shine: The Pelicans seemed to have aced this draft. Selecting Williamson was a no-brainer, but executive president of basketball operations David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon also scored on Jaxson Hayes (No. 8 pick from Texas) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17 pick from Virginia Tech).

Both were impressive in summer league. Alexander-Walker averaged 24.3 points and six assists, and Hayes averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds

Major numbers: Memphis’ Brandon Clarke (14.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, was named MVP of Summer League, and it underscores the impressive early stages of the Grizzlies’ rebuild. They have Jaren Jackson Jr., selected Ja Morant No. 2 overall (he didn’t play following minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee) and are compiling first-round draft picks.

What about R.J.? Don’t fret R.J. Barrett’s Summer League. It’s foolish drawing any long-term conclusions based on five games in Vegas. He has the skill set and mindset necessary to succeed in the NBA. Give him time.

Westbrook to the Big Apple? From what I was told, the Knicks never had interest in trading for Russell Westbrook when he became available. Yes, the Knicks missed out on big stars in free agency and had a few PR snafus. But they remained true to their word and were focused on their rebuild without giving up assets. They signed free agents to reasonable deals that still give them salary cap flexibility in 2020 and 2021.


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Clippers on call: The Los Angeles Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and then acquired Paul George in a trade with Oklahoma City. The moves make the Clippers one of the favorites to win the 2019-20 title. It also puts a spotlight on their medical and training staff.

Leonard’s injury and treatment are well-documented, especially how Toronto managed his health last season. George had surgery on both shoulders in the off-season, and Patrick Beverley missed most of the 2017-18 season with microfracture and meniscus surgery on his right knee.

How the Clippers handle those players, especially Leonard, will be watched all season.

AI inroads: The NBA last week announced a partnership and equity stake in the artificial intelligence company that developed HomeCourt, an interactive app that basketball players can use on the court to train, develop and improve skills. Players use their smart phones to video their actions, such as dribbling or shooting, and receive immediate results and feedback. Those results are compiled in a database.

The app has practical uses (helping players get better through a variety of drills) and far-reaching uses (such as discovering talented players throughout the world).

According to HomeCourt, the app has recorded 25 million shots and 20 million dribbles in 10,000 cities in 170 countries.

Investors include the NBA, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (owner of the Philadelphia 76ers) and Alibaba, which was co-founded by Joe Tsai, who owns 49% of the Brooklyn Nets. Several players are also investors: Bradley Beal, Sue Bird, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, Al Horford, Jeremy Lin, Jewell Loyd, Steve Nash, Mason and Miles Plumlee and J.J. Redick.

Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment joined as an investor because it liked the approach to youth basketball and the convenience of it and being able to use it on your phone on any court.

“I wasn’t a believer at first. I was skeptical,” founder Josh Harris said. “Then I started using it in February. Jeremy Lin got me involved. He talked about how cool it was and how he thought it was going to revolutionize youth training. If I were a kid growing up, this would be one of the first things I would want to have when I was working out in a gym.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ NBA columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt


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