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September 1, 2014

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NBA Day 8: A tale of two game-winners … and an almost-was

Hello, my name is Jason Thompson - Kings 94, Warriors 91

While several NBA junkies sat at home on draft night and muttered 'Who???' as Jason Thompson was selected 12th overall by Sacramento, the Rider product had already muttered questions of his own.

"I bet you there were a couple people drafted before me, and I said 'Why?'" Thompson responded. "All they do is see the school, they see the label."

Unless you're a devout follower of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (several of those same people may have just said 'What?'), you probably weren't familiar with Thompson until a few weeks ago. Heck, you still might not be.

After averaging 20.6 points and 12.0 rebounds per game for the Broncs last season, more and more people are getting to know June's most unlikely lottery pick this week in summer league action.

A 20-point, 10-rebound showing Friday in a 94-91 Kings win over Golden State in Cox Pavilion was capped by a tip-in of his own miss in the closing seconds to ultimately push Sacramento ahead.

"He's enjoying himself, it's a new experience for him," said Kings coach Reggie Theus, who watched it all from behind the team's bench. "He knows he's got a lot of work to do, but he's got some tools. We saw that in the workouts and stuff, so it's absolutely not surprising to me that he's able to do these things.

"This is just a sprinkle of where he's gonna be."

And with his continued development, the 'Who?' response will gradually be replaced by 'Wow'.

It's already sunk in with some complete strangers, as evidenced by an e-mail Thompson received shortly after the draft.

"Some kid came to me and said 'You gave me motivation to go to a smaller school rather than Virginia Tech, who was looking at me,'" Thompson recalled. "'You gave me the chance to know that if I have the heart, I have the work ethic and the ability to have a chance ...', that's why he committed to a smaller school around the way.

"And that makes me feel better than anything."

It also took a good amount of proving it against the bigger names. Thompson took the initiative on that front, and in return, he's creating as big a buzz as almost any lottery pick in Vegas this week.

"During the draft workouts, I asked my agent to go against guys who were predicted higher than me," he said. "I did well against them, and here I am.

Who exactly were those guys, if you don't mind me asking?

"I don't know if I want to name them," he said with a sly grin.

Probably better that way.

This and that ... Quincy Douby, who started the week off hot with two 20-point-plus performances, bounced back from an awful offensive showing in a 22-point loss to Dallas Wednesday by exploding for 36 against Golden State Friday. While the rest of his stat line was a bit bare (one assist, one steal, two blocks, no rebounds), his 14-of-21 shooting preached to his best skill - getting the ball in the bucket. That's what fills seats, right? ... Bishop Gorman product C.J. Watson, who spent a good part of last season on the Warriors' active roster, continued his impressive week. He followed Tuesday's 23-point showing against Charlotte with 24 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals in the loss to Sacramento. He's now averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.5 rebounds through four games. All of this took place in front of Warriors head coach Don Nelson, who watched the game two rows behind Theus. He was Golden State's best answer in the backcourt for Douby. "It gets you fired up when you see a guy going off like that," Watson said. "I was trying to be aggressive myself, get to the basket or find open teammates." ... UNLV alum Louis Amundson had six points and seven rebounds for the Warriors ... Marco Belinelli, who scored 30 points and impressed with his incredibly quick and accurate three-point shot Tuesday, notched just six points on 1-of-10 shooting Friday. Judging from his seasonal tan, he may be spending a fair amount of time by the pool while enjoying Vegas. That sun takes it out of you, young fella. Not on a game day ...

Ankle support this - Nuggets 105, Rockets 104 (OT)

No, Aaron Brooks isn't making some kind of a fashion statement with the low-top Nikes. He just wouldn't mind if he were the beneficiary of some osmosis.

"I read a little report that high-tops don't help your ankle support," said the speedy second-year Houston Rockets point guard Friday night. "As long as they're basketball shoes. I mean Steve Nash thinks they're all right, he's got two MVP's, nothing wrong with that."

In a way, Brooks has been the Nash of this year's Vegas summer league. He's looked the part of the most seasoned point guard in the field (with the closest contender probably being Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions), and for the second straight game nearly played the role of hero to perfection.

After scoring five late points to lead Houston to a 73-72 win over Cleveland on Wednesday, his old-fashioned three-point play in overtime against Denver in Friday's nightcap was just barely outdone by a Dahntay Jones runner with less than a second to go as the Nuggets eeked out a 105-104 win.

Brooks finished with 22 points and 10 assists, bumping his averages to 14.5 and 5.5 this week, respectively, through three games.

The former Oregon Duck was the Rockets' 2007 first-round pick. He had a steady rookie season off the bench, and his roster spot is all but guaranteed come this fall.

The same doesn't go for Jones.

The 20th overall pick in the 2003 draft spent his first four seasons with Memphis, and despite steady improvements, was a Sacramento King for just 25 games last season, averaging 3.2 ppg. The rest of his 2007-08 campaign was spent in the NBA Developmental League, where he poured in 24.4 points per game for Fort Wayne.

So what that suggests is he's a tweener of sorts.

He's certainly tipping the scales back in the other direction this week, as his buzzer beater gave him a game-high 29 points (compiled in just 25 minutes of run) Friday night. He's averaging 21.5 per game through four contests in a Denver practice uni, and he's playing harder than just about anyone here this week.

Talk about willing your way back into a higher tax bracket.

"I love this game," he said. "And I play extremely hard. And I'm just trying to show people that I'm gonna play hard no matter where I am or what I'm doing."

This and that ... Houston second-round pick Joey Dorsey was again an animal in the paint for the Rockets. He followed an eight-point, 14-rebound showing the other night with 22 and 13 Friday. Thank goodness for this time around for his team that he didn't make an appearance at the charity stripe. He's 14-of-17 from the floor in his last two games, but was 0-for-6 at the line in Wednesday's win ... Houston's other second-rounder, Oregon product Maarty Leunen, continues to be one of the week's more pleasant surprises. His 13 points put his average for the week at 15.3, and he's as reliable a three-point shooter as anyone who's suited up in Vegas. He's 6-of-15 from distance, including a 5-of-9 showing in the last two games ... Denver's Elton Brown made up for a sluggish Thursday showing with 21 points and 12 rebounds Friday. Second-round selection (acquired via trade) Sonny Weems scored 16 points after a poor Thursday of his own. Though he missed two late free throws which could have iced the game.

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