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UK in the summer league: Las Vegas action gets underway

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The Las Vegas portion of the NBA Summer League got underway Friday, coinciding with the final games of the Orlando Pro League. While three former Wildcats have now completed their summer action, a few more are getting ready to take the stage for the first time in their new colors.

The NBA's summer schedule comenced the Orlando league Friday on the same day that the Las Vegas league began, creating a marathon of July basketball from 8 a.m. with Enes Kanter's Utah Jazz, ending with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's Charlotte Bobcats, and a smattering of other Wildcats in between. 

With No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis bowing out of summer league games to go play in the Olympic summer games and Brandon Knight inactive for his last game of the Orlando league, the Big Blue Nation's focus turned to the No. 2 overall pick in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He did not disappoint in his professional debut.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz

In the early game of the NBA's summer hoops marathon, Enes Kanter's Utah Jazz fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 89-75. Yet, it was a big step and a strong showing for the Turkish center. 

Kanter had his highest scoring output of summer league action in the finale with 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds (seven offensive) in a losing effort. While winning in the summer league carries little significance, the improvement of players is paramount. That is what Kanter did in all give of his games. Though he set the standard rather low with a three-point performance in game one, he either increased or matched his point total from the previous game throughout the week. In five games, Kanter nearly averaged a double-double with 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.

Though he started slow, Kanter really came around throughout the week, which has to make Utah Jazz management happy. He showed improvement, great touch, and nifty footwork in the post. He was aggressive on the boards. Perhaps most importantly, he stayed on the floor and continued to build his endurance while playing big minutes.

Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

DeAndre Liggins' Orlando Magic dropped their finale to the Boston Celtics 94-73 Friday. Looking at straight point totals, Liggins appeared to have another sub par performance. He scored only two points, but what Liggins gives to a basketball team often does not show on the stat sheet. But he was still productive against the Celtics despite a poor scoring performance. He pulled down eight rebounds while dishing out three assists in the losing effort.

Liggins is a guy who is starting for the Orlando summer league team, so he is getting a really good look from Magic evaluators. Though they have to be concerned with his ability to put the ball in the hoop, they have to love his effort and athleticism. When Liggins struggles to score, he is still able to affect the game in a positive way with his defense, rebounding and ball handling. 

For the week, Liggins averaged 5.6 points a game, with his high of 11 coming the game before. He also tallied 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists over the five game span.

Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors

With play switching from Orlando to Las Vegas, Terrence Jones made his professional debut for the Houston Rockets as a reserve. He played like man on a mission. 

Houston used their second first round pick on Jones, and he did not disappoint. In 25 minutes on the floor, Jones racked up 17 points 9 rebounds, outscoring fellow first-rounders Royce White (6) and Jeremy Lamb (16). It was quite a first impression and one of the better performances from a former Wildcat in all summer league action thus far. 

Jones and his Rocket teammates went on to win their opener with a comfortable 93-81 victory over the Toronto Raptors. If he continues to perform in a similar manner, he'll likely find himself in a starting role for the summer league and move up the Houston depth chart. What remains to be seen is if Jones' future lies in Houston or if he may be part of a deal that ultimately lands Dwight Howard. Regardless of who he ends up with, he will likely make that team very happy in the not too distant future.

Sacramento Kings vs. Charlotte Bobcats

In the nightcap in Las Vegas and the final game of the summer league marathon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his professional debut as a Bobcat rather than a Wildcat. Regardless of name or jersey color, Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be a really good NBA player. He showed everyone why Friday night.

While many NBA Draft experts had Kidd-Gilchrist falling down to the fourth or fifth pick in this year's draft, it seems the Charlotte Bobcats, who have been much maligned for their draft history, may have made a wise decision. Kidd-Gilchrist went second overall in this summer's draft behind Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, but with Davis traveling with Team USA, Kidd-Gilchrist is the highest pick playing in the summer league. 

With an 18-point, eight-rebound performance in a 121-87 shellacking of the Sacramento Kings, Kidd-Gilchrist showed the world what Kentucky fans have known for a year: He is good at basketball. He was aggressive in getting to the rim, attacking it like a player who has been in the league for years. He also kicked in four assists and had five steals. It was a big first night out for the former Kentucky All-American. 

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