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April 24, 2014

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NBA Day 6: Even more to Love

Box score: Lakers 95, Timberwolves 93

Corey Brewer is used to winning. Not just that, but winning while playing his way. Neither of those really took place last year for him in Minnesota.

A two-time national champion at Florida in 2006 and '07, you can imagine how frustrating a 22-60 post-KG swap record for his Minnesota Timberwolves was as a rookie.

He can already feel things changing, though.

Brewer was the recipient of two gorgeous, 50-foot-plus outlet passes from rookie forward Kevin Love Wednesday night in the T-Wolves' 95-93 loss to the Lakers in summer league action at Thomas & Mack. Both turned into points (one as a dunk garnished with a swing on the rim, one as a trip to the stripe), and you'd better believe that Love tossed more than just those two bombs.

The fourth overall pick in last month's draft, by way of a swap with Memphis, shined brightest in the contest, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. Even though the lack of precision typical with summer league hoops kept many of his outlet tries from turning into points, Love put on a ridiculous air raid.

"I'm back to normal, now, because at Florida, that's what we did," Brewer said of the freakish up-and-down style. "We kicked that thing out, and it was gone. It was second nature."

It's just more of the same for Love. In one year at UCLA, he led the Bruins to a third straight Final Four appearance, and also became known around the nation (thanks to plenty of press) as a throwback of a big man, who with a flick of the wrists could start the fast break like none other.

"It changes the pace of the game and it can change the game very quickly, and we can get six points in a hurry," Love said in the postgame locker room. "I heard Corey talking about how they used to do that at Florida, so he said it'd be almost second nature running out there, so hopefully that'll continue and help in the regular season, too. Because if we can get six or eight fast break points off of that in a game, that'd be nice."

While Brewer considers fast break basketball part of his blood, Love can say the same for his beastly outlet flings.

He said he truly began to embrace it as a true weapon midway through a legendary prep career at Lake Oswego (Ore.) High. His most memorable outlet (yes, he says there is one that stands out), came in an all-star event in New York last year - a full-court alley-oop pass to Mike Beasley, who turned it into a 360-degree YouTube-legend of a highlight.

"It was a first-timer," Love said, smiling with pride.

In all seriousness, though, Love is well aware that this is just the summer league. That means maybe one or two of the Lakers he faced Wednesday night will be on an NBA bench come October. Maybe. Though, on the other hand, he'll also have the support of Al Jefferson, one of the NBA's most prolific young big men.

Love mentioned conditioning as something still needing work, wanting to wilt his body fat down to below 10 percent (he's currently between 12 and 15).

"I mentioned a couple times, I'm going to try to hire a nutritionist or a chef just to write it off on my taxes," he said with a laugh. "I'm learning all that different stuff, even at 19, about the accountants and different stuff you can write off, so that'd be nice."

This and that ... Brewer's 19 points raised his summer league average to 15.0 per through two games. He averaged 5.8 ppg as a rookie ... Love has now recorded double-doubles in each of his first two summer-summer league-league games-games. He's averaging 18.0 ppg and 15.0 rpg. Can you say MVP front-runner? Plus his uncle was a Beach Boy. How could you possibly hate? ... Nik Caner-Medley led the Lakers with 19 points, while Coby Karl drained a trio of trifectas to finish with 14. The son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl (located in the Thomas & Mack stands), continues to impress. The 'other Coby' is averaging 15.3 ppg for the 2-1 Lakers ... Minnesota is now 0-2 in Vegas ... Nevada-Reno product Marcellus Kemp scored six points in 13 minutes off the bench for Los Angeles ... Love went toe-to-toe most of the night with UCLA teammage Lorenzo Mata-Real. The Laker big had 12 points and seven rips in 26 minutes ... In the house ... T-Wolves VP of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale and head coach Randy Wittman ... UNLV standout guard Wink Adams ...

Reunited ... sort of - Rockets 73, Cavs 72

Russell Robinson finished Wednesday night with zero turnovers to his credit. The same went for Darnell Jackson.

So, neither made the mistake of forgetting that they're no longer teammates. That's good.

The two former Kansas Jayhawks - both seniors this spring on the squad which claimed the NCAA crown - squared off for the first time at Thomas & Mack in summer league action. Robinson's Houston club ousted Jackson's Cavaliers, 73-72, improving the Rockets to 2-0 so far this week and keeping Cleveland winless at 0-2.

"Before we won the champiosnhip, we used to always say like 'Man, you never know, we might end up being on the same team or playing against each other,'" said Jackson, a Miami Heat second-round pick who was acquired by Cleveland via trade. "Seeing Russell out there today, it felt good because I know he wanted that and worked hard to get in that situation he's in now."

Added Robinson: "It was weird. You kinda want to see him do really well, and at the same time you've gotta compete. But I'm happy for him. He did play a really good game, and I'm just happy to be out here."

To throw even more collegiate connection into the mix, also playing for the Rockets is second-round selection Joey Dorsey out of Memphis. He was on the short end of the stick in San Antonio in the NCAA title game, instead watching KU celebrate at midcourt.

"Me and Joey joke about it all the time," said Robinson, playing for Houston as an undrafted free agent. "But it's going to be something to remember for the rest of our lives."

Jackson finished with the better numbers between the two former Jayhawks, tallying seven points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Robinson had two points, three assists (to the aforementioned goose egg in the turnover column) and two rebounds while playing 26 minutes.

Second-year Houston point guard Aaron Brooks stole the show in the game's final minute, clinching the win with two free throws in the final seconds. Moments earlier, he'd kept the Rockets ahead by completing an old-fashioned three-point play in transition. The Oregon product finished with 16 points, seven assists and three boards.

This and that ... Donte Greene, a first-round pick whom the Rockets acquired in a draft night trade with Memphis, followed up his 40-point performance from Monday with a not-too-shabby 17 on Wednesday. Well, it was a bit shabby once you take a gander inside the digits. As opposed to his 12-of-20 showing from the floor in his debut, he went just 4-of-17 in his second try. Greene also had four turnovers. Though he's still averaging 28.5 ppg through two games. Houston has a day off before going Friday, Saturday and Sunday ... Cleveland's first-round pick - NC State frosh J.J. Hickson - rebounded from a blah first half to finish with 18 points and six rebounds ... Marty Leunen was nasty off the bench for Houston. The sharpshooter out of Oregon was 5-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-5 from distance and finished with 17 points ... Dorsey lived up to his billing as a rough-around-the-edges free throw shooter, missing all six attempts at the stripe. Though he'll be the type of player who will require the Rockets to take the bad with the very, very good. The strapping young forward tore down 14 rebounds in 27 minutes and was 4-of-4 from the field. In the house ... Houston coach Rick Adelman, Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay ...

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