Monday, July 13, 2009 | 9:51 p.m.
Typically, MVPs of the NBA summer league don't need an opportunity to defend the crown.
Last season's winner -- Portland guard Jerryd Bayless -- is trying to do so as a completely different player.
The 11th overall pick in last year's NBA Draft averaged just a shade under 30 points per game last summer for the Blazers, and had the Portland brass foaming at the mouth in the stands as it took place.
However, in a loaded backcourt rotation, Bayless never got much of a shot as an NBA rookie, averaging just over 12 minutes per game in 53 appearances. He put in just 4.3 points per game.
Now, he's continuing his shift to the point guard slot.
In his 2009 summer league debut -- and his first full game at the point as a pro -- Bayless scored 22 points, but more importantly had 7 assists in a 92-87 Blazers loss to Toronto.
"It felt pretty comfortable," he said afterwards. "It's a different situation here this year than last year. I'm playing all point and trying to get people involved, then take advantage of opportunities that are there for me.
"Last year was more trying to score a little bit. So I did."
Also helping the Arizona product feel at ease was having some trade rumors pretty much put to bed just before coming to Vegas.
In a proposed 3-team deal between Chicago, Portland and Utah last week, the Bulls were attempting to pry Bayless away from the Blazers, who were reluctant to let him go so soon and so cheap.
That turned out to be a major snag in the trade talks, which have mostly fizzled.
Now, Bayless can solely focus on learning a new position as opposed to worrying about a new home.
"I think they've been shot down already, so I'm not really worried about that," he said of the trade talks. "That's not really for me to say, but it's nothing for me to worry about."
Power trio helps Bucks remain unbeaten
A Brandon Jennings 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds helped Milwaukee seal an 91-86 victory over Sacramento on Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, improving the Bucks to 3-0 so far this week.
Apparently, the brash Jennings' desire to go 5-0 in Vegas was no joke.
After a rough debut last Friday night, he put together his second consecutive solid performance, finishing with 13 points, 13 assists and 7 steals as he continues to morph into a fluid point guard.
Fellow rookie Jodie Meeks tallied 20 points for Milwaukee on 8-of-12 shooting, while second-year forward Joe Alexander led the Bucks with 24 points.
Sacramento's top pick -- Tyreke Evans -- led all scorers with 33 points.
The rest of the night's action
In the aforementioned Toronto victory, Quincy Douby led 5 Raptors in double figures with 20 points. Rookie forward Dante Cunningham chipped in 21 for Portland.
Following that game came Golden State's second consecutive victory, as the Warriors slammed the Pistons, 97-69.
Second-year Warriors forward Anthony Randolph registered his third straight double-double, putting together 21 points to go with his 10 rebounds. Rookie gunner Stephen Curry led Golden State with 23 points, while Cartier Martin and Anthony Morrow combined for 35 points to complement the duo.
Jonas Jerebko led Detroit with 16 points.
Griffin announces his presence with authority
Blake Griffin's professional debut -- an 83-72 Clippers victory over the Lakers -- ended with 27 points and 12 rebounds to his credit.
The kid was flat-out into it. He played into the final two minutes of the game, even taking a charge late with his team up by 15. The show was followed by a media horde surrounding him in the Thomas & Mack hallways outside of the locker room. He graded himself at a B-. Just wait until he plays a game he can grade an A. That could be scary.
You'll be able to read more on him here on lasvegassun.com here in a couple of hours.
Also, an update on Mavericks rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who was helped off of the floor earlier in the closing moments of a contest with the Phoenix Suns. Apparently, he merely banged knees with an opponent and should be fine. Of course, that is not an official diagnosis ... just word on the street ... or in the concourses outside of Cox Pavilion.
Griffin, Gordon putting on a show
Blake Griffin was emphatic right from go in his pro debut about wanting to put on a show.
In front of more than 3,000 fans, commissioner David Stern, head coach Mike Dunleavy and teammate Marcus Camby, Griffin called for the ball adamantly on the game's first two possessions.
On the first trip, he executed a nice move to create an open layup look for himself underneath. On the second, calling for the ball from point guard Mike Taylor just past midcourt, he hit a turnaround jumper off the left block.
The third possession? The 6-foot-10 No. 1 pick in the draft swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key. He finished the first quarter with 10 minutes and a well-earned spot on the bench.
The Clippers are absolutely putting on a show. Last year's draft picks Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan are throwing home dunks and joking around with Camby, sitting just across from the Clips bench.
There's even a Clippers superfan -- yes, that exists -- sitting 10 rows behind the bench in a custom-made blue and red suit. His taunts at the Lakers can be heard loud and clear and have drawn a few laughs, including a jab at Adam Morrison for being left off the Lakers' playoff roster. The fourth-year gunner responded with a hint of a smile.
Meanwhile, in the other gym, last year's summer league MVP -- Jerryd Bayless -- has 15 points in his first half of the summer league, as Portland trails Toronto, 48-46.
Dallas first-round pick Beaubois goes down
Robin Lopez, Phoenix's first round pick of a year ago, absolutely dominated in a 95-90 victory over Dallas, finishing with 24 points and 16 boards.
He was the story of the game until the very end, when Dallas first-rounder Rodrigue Beaubois, the 21-year-old explosive guard from France, went down in a heap under the Mavs basket. He had to be helped off of the floor, unable to put his left foot on the ground, with an apparent nasty knee injury.
Beaubois scored 16 in the loss, and in Dallas's last game against Houston, exploded onto the scene with 34 points.
We'll post more on the injury when information is available.
Now it's time for the Blake Griffin show over in the Mack. About 3,000 fans are already here. Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy and NBA commish David Stern are both courtside. It's almost a true NBA atmosphere.
Flynn's growing pains come in the clutch
The summer league exists not only for fringe NBA guys to try and earn a training camp invite, but for rookies to make their mistakes when it doesn't really count. You know, get 'em out of the way.
Jonny Flynn just had one of those moments.
Against the D-League Select -- a group of veterans who fit in that first category -- a series of missed free throws gave Minnesota a shot to tie things up with just under 20 seconds to play. Trailing by three, Flynn got trapped just beyond the right wing, attempted to fire a pass to teammate Rob Kurz, but it was picked off, and two D-Leaguer free throws sealed it up.
Minnesota dropped its second straight contest to open the summer league, but don't let that one mistake erase an otherwise stellar afternoon from Flynn, the sixth overall pick in last month's draft. The Syracuse product had 12 points and 14 assists in the losing effort.
Fellow first-rounder Wayne Ellington led the Wolves with 22, including a 4-of-7 showing from 3-point range.
For the D-League Select squad, Gary Forbes and Othyus Jeffers each had 20 points.
Now comes a potentially interesting scenario with a local tie.
Phoenix is getting set to play its first game of the week, which brings BYU grad Lee Cummard into the Cox Pavilion.
Cummard -- or more his wife, actually -- is famous among local UNLV fans, for an alleged incident following the Mountain West Conference title game two years ago at the Thomas & Mack, where Sarah Cummard was rumored to have engaged in fisticuffs with unruly Rebels fans.
The Suns won't play in the Mack until Sunday night, but it'll be interesting to see if those 'Psycho Sarah' chants are present across the concourse today.
D-Leaguers holding own against T-Wolves
The D-League Select team is on the Summer League stage for the first time and holding its own against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Fans back in the Minneapolis area, who are listening to two courtside radio broadcasters on a live feed, must be cringing.
Gary Forbes is leading the D-Leaguers with 15 points, and Oleksiy Pecherov chipped in with 10 first-half points. None of the D-Leaguers have their names on the back of their jerseys, but they're ahead, 52-50, with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
Jonny Flynn, the former Syracuse guard running the show for Minnesota, has 10 points, but he has looked tentative in setting up the Timberwolves and lazy on defense.
FC Barcelona, bullfights and paella
It’s day four of the NBA Summer League, which means the event moves to the big time with two games inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
Keep checking here for all of the action, on and off the court, as they day progresses.
At the Mack, the battle of the City of Angels takes place when the Lakers meet the Clippers at 5:30 p.m. That’ll be the professional debut of Clippers big man Blake Griffin.
At 7:30, the 2-0 Bucks and new point guard Brandon Jennings play the 0-2 Kings and spitfire floor general Tyreke Evans. We’ll try to take a closer look at how well Evans has been playing over the next couple of days.
Here inside the Cox Pavilion, the D-League Select squad takes on the Timberwolves at 1 p.m. At 3, the Suns play the Mavericks and fantastic point man Rodrigue Beaubois. At 5, the Trail Blazers play Toronto.
And at 7, it’s the Pistons vs. the Warriors and Anthony Randloph, who is fourth in the Summer League with a 22-point average and third with 10.5 boards a game.
With three outstanding games, we have a new leader on the backboards in Houston’s Joey Dorsey, who’s grabbing 14.3 a game. Starting today’s action, the Rockets are the lone 3-0 squad here.
George Hill of San Antonio is the new scoring leader, too, with a 25-point average.
Marcus Williams made a big splash for Memphis, against Oklahoma City on Sunday, with 17 assists, which leads the Summer League.
For the fourth consecutive day, we write to you from behind a phalanx of Spanish scouts, so forgive any and all references we make to Hemingway, FC Barcelona, the bullfights on Mallorca and the source of the best paella in the world – Valencia!