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December 18, 2014

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NBA Day 3: Jennings looks like a million Bucks

Brandon Jennings continued to show that he just might belong in the NBA on Sunday night at the Summer League in the Cox Pavilion.

Jennings led the way with 23 points, 5 assists and 4 steals in Milwaukee’s 80-69 victory over Cleveland in the day's fourth and final game.

Jodie Meeks and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute often were the recipients of some added attention on Jennings, which helped the Bucks improve to 2-0.

Meeks scored 16 points and Mbah a Moute added 12, and Jennings stayed on track to meet his goal of guiding Milwaukee to a 5-0 record at the Summer League.

Undefeated in the Summer League? Not a big deal to many in the business, or even fans, but proving that he can win right away in the league is vital to Jennings.

Tarance Kinsey had 14 points for the 0-2 Cavaliers. Former San Diego State guard and Las Vegas native Lorrenzo Wade scored his first points of the league on a fourth-quarter basket.

Milwaukee plays Sacramento at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at the Thomas & Mack Center, then the Bucks play Chicago on Wednesday at 3 p.m. before finishing Thursday against Toronto at 1 p.m. Those final two games are at Cox Pavilion.

The first blowout

7:16 p.m.

It took almost 3 full days, but the first blowout at this year's NBA summer league is in the books.

Memphis's size proved to be far too much for Oklahoma City to handle, as the Grizzlies rolled, 86-57, in the day's third game.

Hasheem Thabeet -- the No. 2 overall pick last month -- wasn't needed much in the second half, as fellow big men Darrell Arthur and DeMarre Carroll stepped up, each finishing with 11 points. Thabeet had 9 points and 2 rebounds in his pro debut.

Thabeet, however, looks the part of the real deal. While he didn't register a blocked shot in his pro debut, he altered a handful of shots and opponents thought twice every time they entered the paint against him.

Veteran guard Marcus Williams, a former first round pick of New Jersey's, had 7 points and a whopping 17 assists for the Grizzlies. Making that assist total look even better was the fact that he had just one turnover.

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 14 points, while rookie James Harden, who was impressive in the Orlando summer league a week ago, had 4 points and 3 assists in a dud of a Vegas debut.

The Cavaliers and Bucks are now underway, with Brandon Jennings again filling the Cox Pavilion with a stiff buzz. With 3:43 to go in the first quarter, he already has 7 points. This comes after not scoring in his debut on Friday night until the final minute of the third quarter.

Thabeet appears to fit in

6:00 p.m.

Hasheem Thabeet -- the No. 2 overall pick in last month's draft -- has made it pretty clear to first-time viewers that he's not simply a stiff who happens to be 7-foot-3.

The steady improvement he showed over the past three seasons at UConn was no joke. In his first half of pro ball, he had 9 points, a couple of impressive dunks and 2 rebounds. While he didn't swat any shots -- his forte in college -- he distracted a handful. You just won't see that accomplishment on a stat sheet.

The Grizzlies lead Oklahoma City at the half, 42-30.

As for the No. 3 pick in the draft -- Thunder guard James Harden -- it hasn't been so smooth so far. He has 3 points on 1-of-4 shooting and has looked timid at times.

The best player on the floor so far is arguably OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who has 8 points, 3 assists and a pair of rebounds.

Budinger budding in the desert

4:45 p.m.

One of the summer league's better stories continues to be former Arizona swingman Chase Budinger, who just had his third solid performance for Houston in just as many days.

After sliding out of the first round, Budinger was picked up by the Rockets in the second round, fitting right into their system nicely, as they love long guys who can shoot it.

In the 79-65 victory over Minnesota -- which featured the pro debut of T-Wolves point guard of the future Jonny Flynn -- Budinger scored 11 points, keeping his average at 15.7 points per game so far during the summer league.

As for Flynn, he looked in command at times, and at others he looked just as lost as several rookies have this week in their respective debuts.

The Syracuse sparkplug finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, 7 assists and 7 turnovers.

Flynn appears cursed by the number 7 so far in Vegas, as he was spotted for a short while last night at the craps tables at the Hard Rock.

Next up is maybe the most anticipated game of the day, as Memphis makes its summer league arrival known along with Oklahoma City.

The game will feature the No. 2 and No. 3 picks from last months draft -- Memphis big man Hasheem Thabeet and OKC guard James Harden. Harden played in the Orlando summer league last week and impressed, while Thabeet, well, is hard to miss at 7-foot-3.

Who's in the house?

3:56 p.m.

Several UNLV players from this past season just entered Cox Pavilion to see how the game's played at the next level

Rene Rougeau and walk-on Rob Ketchum, both of who graduated, and power forward Matt Shaw just walked up the aisle to the top of Section 115 to watch Houston play Minnesota.

They just missed Romel Beck, the former UNLV swingman, tally 13 points for San Antonio in the Spurs' victory over New Orleans.

Among other notables inside Cox include Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, O.J. Mayo of Memphis and ex-UNLV assistant coach Tim Grgurich, who now coaches for the Denver Nuggets.

The winning jersey

4:17 p.m.

It might be early, but the best jersey among today's crowd has been the Santa Clara No. 11 model -- Steve Nash. There's a fourth quarter and two games left, but we doubt that one will be bested today.

Thornton looks bullish

1:52 p.m.

New Orleans leads San Antonio, 41-39, at the half as LSU rookie Marcus Thornton scored 11 points. The guard doesn’t think twice about taking it in among the trees.

George Hill, a second-year guard out of IUPUI, has 11 for New Orleans.

Romel Beck, the former UNLV swingman, is playing for San Antonio and hit five of eight shots in the first half for 11 points. He also grabbed an offensive rebound and doled out an assist.

Beck has played in Italy and Mexico, and he was with the Dakota Wizards in the NBA Development League last season. We’ll check in with him after the game.

Nevill one of a few debuts

12:45 p.m.

The third day of the Summer League starts with New Orleans and San Antonio here inside the Cox Pavilion at 1 p.m.

It’s the first game for both teams, and we’ll be keeping tabs on 7-foot-2 Luke Nevill, the free agent center from Utah who is playing for New Orleans.

He is the Mountain West Conference’s career leader with 943 rebounds, and he’s among the top 15 in several categories on the Utes' career charts.

(Nevill didn't fare very well today. In four minutes, he had an assist and two personal fouls.)

The rest of today’s action is Minnesota vs. Houston (3 p.m.), Oklahoma City vs. Memphis (5 p.m.) and Cleveland vs. Milwaukee (7 p.m.), and there are other debuts that we'll be watching.

Former Pittsburgh forward DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs), former Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet (Memphis Grizzlies) and former Arizona State guard James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder), who signed Saturday, are all on our radar.

The story of the league, so far, might be Adam Morrison, who is leading everyone with 23 points a game for the 2-0 Lakers.

Check that, Stephen Curry of Golden State has been a major draw. The stands have been packed for his games, and he’s been the focal point of much applause.

He hasn’t disappointed, averaging 22.5 points.

Anthony Randolph, Curry’s teammate on the Warriors, has also put on a show, averaging 22 points and 10.5 boards, third in the league.

As we wrote Saturday, Rodrigue Beaubois of Dallas has given the hoops an exotic touch. The Frenchman, who doesn’t speak English, is fifth at 21 points and second with 5 assists.

Joey Dorsey of Houston is leading all rebounders with 13.5 a game.

That’s the overview, and – with a big thanks Jackie Gleason – away we go.

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