NBA AM: DaJuan Summers’ New Opportunity
Summers Making The Most Of The Opportunity: DaJuan Summers played a total of 609 minutes of basketball for the Detroit Pistons after being drafted with the 35th overall pick in 2009. Summer was a Mr. Everything player at Georgetown and had big NBA dreams. The problem was in the 2009 draft the Pistons also took Austin Daye from Gonzaga and drafted an obscure forward from Sweden in Jonas Jerebko.
Injuries and circumstance kept Summers on the bench, and it seemed as if the NBA dream was slipping away.
When the NBA imposed its player lockout, Summers opted to sign a deal with Montepaschi Siena in Italy and most NBA pundits thought he’d stay there.
When the league finally opened for business in December, Summers got his release from Montepaschi and landed a roster spot in New Orleans with the Hornets.
“It’s a little weird,” Summers said to HOOPSWORLD about his Detroit experience. “But it’s just a business. As much as we love the game, we know it’s also a business aspect now. From amateur to professional that’s the biggest thing that you’ve got to be aware of.
“The situation in Detroit, I don’t really hold it to close to my heart. It was not there for me, but here I am here with a great opportunity to erase that. That’s all I focus on. I focus on the next day, the next play, so things that happened in the past, I really don’t worry too much about.”
Some players struggle to find their way after sitting and not playing for so long.
“I’m very confident in myself and my game,” said Summers. “I know I’m a very talented player. Just putting in my work and making sure that I stayed focused was my only concern. Things that are out of my control I try not to worry about, so whatever was going on in Detroit I really didn’t know why I wasn’t playing. I just try to stay positive.”
Summers got the call from the Hornets, who were desperate to fill out their roster, having nine spots to fill because of free agency and the Chris Paul trade drama.
“Me and my agent talked about it a lot,” revealed summers. “There were a couple different places we could have went… I went overseas for the lockout just to stay in shape and stay ready. This is what we were trying to prepare for, this opportunity, so you know it’s been systematic for me and my agency to try and stay ready and be ready for this moment so when it came I was ready and I knew it was time.”
Summers has gotten a chance to play in New Orleans, even to start some games. That’s the opportunity he hoped he’d get when he agreed to come to New Orleans.
“Absolutely,” Summers said of making the most of his opportunity. “More so then my individual goals and things of that nature. The times when I was at the best in my career I was just focusing on what the team needs me to do. Back even when I was in Georgetown, we went to the Final Four, I was just focused about the next game, the next stop, the next win. That’s been my approach here and it’s been working out for me so anything I can do to help the team is the only thing that I’m concerned with.”
Hornets head coach Monty Williams is a defense-first coach, focusing more on how his team defends than how they attack on offense.
“It’s funny, when you kind of find your identity as a player,” smiled Summers. “I’ve always been gifted physically, defense has always come natural to me as well as offense. My defense predicts my offense as most teams do.
“Defense wins championships and you can turn defense into offense quickly, so you know stops and making teams take bad shots, converting the transition buckets and get in the flow of rhythm. So yeah to answer the question yes definitely being more of a defense focused team is definitely more suited for me.”
The Hornets have one of the formidable front lines in the Western Conference with Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor; as a result teams tend to double the bigs, leaving the lane and the perimeter open.
“With those two guys down there attracting all that attention and even Jack up top penetrating the lanes,” explained Summers. “There’s going to be a lot of open shots.
“There’s going to be a lot of times to where… you pick and choose when you want to attack and when you want to kind of take it easy and feel the game. Talking to coach that’s been one of my growing points is to know when to attack and when not to. Know when to shoot and when not to.”
The Hornets are 3-12 on the season, which is more a reflection of the injuries the team has been enduring. Trevor Ariza just returned to the lineup last night after a prolonged groin injury and the team is still waiting on Eric Gordon to rebound from a bone bruise in his knee.
“I think we can be really good,” explained Summers. ”We played the Thunder very close the whole game and if you look at the rankings the Thunder are tops in the west right now… Just looking at what we have and what we’re missing you know Eric Gordon one of our scorers is out. Trevor [was] out, so just looking at what we have with the talent and the youth, I think we can be very good and we haven’t been together that long so I think the sky is the limit.”
“I feel like once I get more consistence minutes, the team gels more, I feel like when those things start to happen. I feel like when you start to focus on those things and that’s in your mind, you kind of lose focus on what the main goal is and that’s to win games. Whatever we can do out there to win games and me in particular that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
Summers was an afterthought in Detroit, in New Orleans he is a player with potential. It’s up to DaJuan to make it more than that and through the first 15 games Summers has earned some respect from his team – how far it goes from here is about winning and work.
It’s not every day you get to hit the rest button, Summers has a chance to do just that in New Orleans.
Moving Devin Harris?: ESPN’s Marc Stein revealed via Twitter that he continues to hear chatter that the Utah Jazz are not only open to trading guard Devin Harris, that they have gone out of their way to make teams aware of their interest in a deal.
Harris was never viewed as a long-term piece for the Jazz in fact after dealing Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets last season, the team tried to move Harris then to several teams including the Portland Trail Blazers, but were unable to make a deal.
Harris has started all 14 games for the Jazz, who are 9-5 on the season. However Harris has been playing roughly 25 minutes per game and has been shooting a dreadful 35% from the field on the season.
Harris was 0-for-7 from the field last night versus Dallas.
Devin has one more year at $8.5 million left on his deal and is still relatively young turning 29 in February.
Harris is a $9.3 million contract this season, so it’s hard to imagine too many teams lining up to take on his deal this year and next, especially for a guy that is averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 assists per game.
It is clear that Utah would like to move him and its equally clear Harris could probably use a change of scenery. The problem is the economics involved just don’t line up to the performance on the floor.
Being A Rookie With The Spurs: Kawhi Leonard was the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, selected by the Indiana Pacers but immediately traded to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for George Hill.
That transaction alone should illustrate how the Spurs fell about “Whi” Leonard. Hill was long labeled Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s favorite player, and if you look at Hill’s impact on the Pacers it’s easy to see why.
Leonard has moved into the starting lineup for the Spurs and while he’s never going to challenge for the scoring title, he is finding his way and is fitting in nicely with what San Antonio is trying to do.
“[I’m”] just learning a lot right now, “ Leonard told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m just going out there and trying to make a stop and so we could win.”
Leonard was coveted in the draft process because of his size and his defense, something the Spurs have been pushing on him since training camp.
“It’s a great organization and everyone welcomed me with open arms,” explained Leonard. “Each and every game and at practice, I’m learning a lot from everybody. They come up to me, I ask them questions and they just give me a lot of answers, great answers and it just helps me succeed when I’m playing.”
“I’m happy that I’m here. It’s a great organization and everyone welcomed me with open arms and everything’s working out for me.”
Like most rookies the frenetic pace of the NBA takes some getting used to but for Leonard the fact that he’s played in 15 games in 25 days – 6 of which on the road -hasn’t impacted him yet.
“I still got energy,” smiled Kawhi. “I like playing the game, I love it. So once I step on the floor I’m ready to go. The travelling situation, it’s hasn’t really got to me yet… getting my rest is always key, just know that we have a lot of games, sixty games, sixty six games in 126 days, so the rest is key.”
Leonard also has the crutch of a Hall Famer to lean on in Tim Duncan.
“He just makes the game easier for me,” said Leonard. “A lot of attention comes on him, on our offensive end so he’s just helping me out a lot, even on the defensive end he tells me pointers here and it just helps me out… He’s been good”
Kawhi is averaging 8.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, with a Hollinger PER rating of 16.31, that’s sixth best in the rookie class, putting him ahead of Derrick Williams and Kemba Walker, the 2nd and 9th picks in the draft.
As Leonard finds his way, don’t be surprised to see that number go up. The Spurs after all do have a history of finding hidden gems where other teams have missed.
So far so good for Kawhi Leonard.
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