Lee, Rondo looking good in Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- The hair has grown out, so has some stubble on the chin, and the arms and shoulders are filling out the jersey nicely.
David Lee certainly looks a year older, but his game has matured, too.
The Knicks' forward played well in the Vegas Summer League last year, which hinted at what turned into a solid rookie season in New York, the erratic playing time aside. If his performance this July is a precursor, he's poised to cement himself in Isiah Thomas' rotation come the fall.
It's the way he's been doing it that has been impressing viewers at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Lee has been rugged around the basket on both ends, working for every rebound and running the floor with Nate Robinson like an undrafted free agent trying to scratch out a roster spot.
"He plays like a warrior, it doesn't matter what the game means," one Eastern Conference coach said. "He's one of those guys who always challenges himself and wants to win."
Look no further than this stat: He's picked up eight steals in the four games because he's constantly trying to stick his hand in passing lanes and hustling on defense. Whether this translates night in and night out when the games actually count is yet to be seen, but there's no questioning Lee's passion.
Some experts dubbed Rajon Rondo as the best pure point guard in last month's NBA draft. That can be debated, but Rondo is making a good accounting for himself in Vegas.
The attributes he honed at Kentucky were on display, especially his quickness, which really seems to help him at the defensive end.
He split the point guard duties with fellow new arrival Sebastian Telfair, which won't be the case during the regular season. At this point, Rondo faces being third on the C's depth chart behind Delonte West and Telfair.
His talents seem to mirror those of Telfair: Both are slick handlers, have good court vision and a desire to get to the basket. But both have issues with the outside shot, the black mark on their games. Telfair has improved moderately, but he's been shooting bricks in Vegas, making just 33 percent.
Rondo has been taking better shots and has made 12-of-18 so far, averaging nine points and 3.3 assists. But the experts watching and evaluating still believe he's got a long way to go in that area.
"I like his quickness a lot, he's very skilled too," said an Eastern Conference executive. "But he's got to make defenders respect him on the outside. Otherwise they're just going to give him room."
• One of the crowd favorites at UNLV this week has been Louis Amundson, a 6-foot-9 power forward who went undrafted after playing for the Runnin' Rebels. He played well at the predraft camp, which earned him a slew of individual workouts leading up to the draft.
The Kings picked him up for a $75,000 guarantee, and it is looking like money well spent. In four games, he's been a nonstop bruiser, averaging 11.8 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 75 percent. He's already assured himself an invite to training camp, and word around here is he's got an excellent chance of making Sacto's roster.
• After two pretty impressive games to start, No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani came back to the pack a little Tuesday. In the drubbing by the Celtics, he went just 2-of-7 from the field, including an ugly airball 3-point try, for 10 points and just two rebounds.
He averaged 16 points and made 12-of-19 shots in the Raptors' first two summer games.
• It was a surprise that former Villanova star Allan Ray went undrafted, but he's playing like he's put it out of his mind. He's averaging 12.3 points and shooting 62 percent for the Celtics in Vegas after an 18-point outburst Tuesday. Boston observers say he's also got a solid chance of squeaking onto the final roster as well.
Brian Windhorst covers the NBA for the Akron Beacon Journal.