Friday, July 11, 2008 | 8:39 p.m.
IF YOU GO
What: 2008 NBA Summer League presented by EA Sports
Where: Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center
When: Friday through July 20. Minimum of four games each day.
Teams: Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards.
Tickets: General admission daily passes begin at $20; UNLVtickets.com; 739-3267
If O.J. Mayo was nervous on Friday afternoon, then the rest of the NBA won’t want him to settle down anytime soon.
With 23 seconds left in the first half, Memphis’ highly-regarded guard out of USC picked off a pass, went nearly the length of the court and threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk over New Orleans’ 6-foot-11 Hilton Armstrong — forcing the nearly full Cox Pavilion attendees to rise to their feet in appreciation.
“I was real nervous at first, I don’t know why. I didn’t expect this many people to be here for a summer game,” said a smiling Mayo, who early in the game received plenty of heckles from UCLA fans in the crowd.
Of course the irony is that almost all of the basketball junkies watching Friday’s first-round session of the NBA Summer League on UNLV’s campus were there to see Mayo.
The third overall pick in this year’s NBA draft didn’t disappoint, scoring 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and dishing out five assists to help Memphis to a 88-75 victory over New Orleans.
“I just wanted to play hard and win. It was pretty good, I really feel I can do better,” said Mayo, who did commit eight turnovers in his 34 minutes of action.
Memphis’ other first-round pick, Darrell Arthur, couldn’t have asked for a better debut.
The forward, who helped Kansas win the national championship this season, scored a game-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I’m just trying to go out there and showing people I can play and that I belong up here,” said Arthur, who slid from a possible lottery pick on draft night to 27th and then was traded three times.
Arthur’s former Jayhawk teammate and New Orleans’ 2007 lottery pick, Julian Wright, should have plenty of motivation as well considering his 4-of-17 shooting performance and 11 turnovers. Wright did scored 12 points, while Armstrong led the Hornets with 13.
In addition to his posterization of Armstrong, Mayo had another highlight-reel dunk off an alley-oop. He was patient off the dribble and drove when the opportunity presented itself as well as working to find open teammates.
Memphis Summer League coach Marc Iavaroni said he was impressed with the maturity Mayo showed during his first time out.
"His drive and his desire to be a great player, you can sense it," Iavaroni said. "Now we just have to teach him how to channel that drive in an NBA setting."
Mayo admitted as much and said that despite recent distractions — including an NCAA investigation into whether or not Mayo accepted improper cash and gifts — his entire focus was on the NBA.
"I really don’t pay attention," Mayo said of the distractions. "I have a job now to be a basketball player so I’m focused on my job.
"There’s million of guys who would love my opportunity," Mayo continued. "I just want to make the most out of it and come out here and be a leader, do everything on the floor — everything."
Familiar faces — A pair of players with Las Vegas ties helped lead Golden State to victory in the NBA Summer League’s opener.
Former Bishop Gorman star C.J. Watson scored 14 points, while UNLV alum Louis Amundson added six points and eight rebounds to help the Warriors to a 96-89 victory over Philadelphia in the first of four games to be played Friday during the 10-day, 21-team event.
“It’s always nice to be able to come out and play in front of your hometown fans,” said Watson, who took an early lead in the weirdest wardrobe category when he donned a long sleeve shirt under his jersey — saying he “got cold on the bus ride over and wanted to say warm.”
Amundson and Watson have played together in Vegas before at a draft camp a couple of years ago, and both say they have a good shot of staying on with Golden State.
“I feel like it’s a good situation for me right now and that’s all I can ask for,” said Amundson, who played for Philadelphia last year — but said: “it was all love on the court (on Friday).”
Lake Show — The Los Angeles Lakers may have dropped their opener to Detroit, 84-73, but it was clear who the large contingent of fans (who stayed inside the Cox Pavilion after the O.J. Mayo show was done) were pulling for.
"It's pretty cool to see the Laker fans here bring that kind of energy," said former Nevada guard Marcelus Kemp. "It definitely pumps you up a bit."
After trailing by as much as 18, the Lakers went on a 24-17 spurt over the third quarter. But Detroit, led by Rodney Stuckey's game-high 21 points, closed the last 10 minutes on a 25-17 run. L.A. was led by Coby Karl's 14 points. Former UCLA Bruin Arron Afflalo scored 15 for the Pistons.
Another Debut — Unlike Mayo, Clippers rookie Eric Gordon said he felt calm and confident in his first pro game against Dallas, despite Hall of Famer and Clipper executive Elgin Baylor was watching his every move from the baseline.
Despite spotty shooting (5-of-18 from the field) Gordon led all scorers with 23 points in L.A.'s 86-69 victory over the Mavericks. Behind Gordon's aggressive play (he hit 10 of his 11 free throws and seven rebounds) the Clippers spurted ahead with a 24-10 second quarter run.
"I was just trying to go with the flow of the game," said Gordon, who was greeted with a hug afterwards by former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson. "It's just good to get this one out of the way, and I knew I would make a few mistakes. But I felt good, our recent practices got me feeling confident about all the guys on this team."
One of those teammates was Al Thornton, who added 20 points and seven rebounds. Dallas was led by James Singleton's 13 points.
To watch any of the action live, check out the NBA's official Summer League coverage at nba.com.