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Frank Jackson succumbs to sprained ankle but Trevon Bluiett shines in New Orleans Pelicans Summer League victory, 90-77

Game 1 is in the books and we’ve got mixed feelings.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Nashville Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Glass half full or half empty after the New Orleans Pelicans first game of the 2018 Summer League?

In the first half, fans finally got their chance to see Frank Jackson compete against NBA competition and he didn’t disappoint. The former Duke Blue Devil scored 13 points in the first half, showing an ultra-aggressive mentality in attacking the rim which earned him five attempts from the free throw line. The positives didn’t stop there: Jackson’s athleticism and burst appeared to be on point, he grabbed six rebounds, and in my favorite sequence, his motor and second effort were on full display after getting beat by a Toronto big man back door. Instead of giving up on the play, Jackson nearly pulled off the block from behind.

On the other hand, of course, are the constant reminders of Jackson’s brittleness. With 8:46 left in the third quarter, Jackson stepped on OG Anunoby’s foot and appeared to twist his ankle severely. After slapping the floor several times with his hand, he was helped off the court, but before disappearing from view, it did appear he was able to put a little weight on the injured left foot. Remember, Jackson’s right foot is the one that has endured multiple surgeries.

While concerns are legitimate about his propensity for injury, don’t read too much into his foot bending close to 90 degrees perpendicular to his leg after stepping on OG Anunoby’s foot on a drive less than two minutes out of halftime. That’ll knock any player out of a game with at least a sprain. The big takeaway should be that no bone snapped (X-rays came back negative) and he’s got a chance to compete again in a few days. According to P.J. Carlesimo on the telecast, one of the main objectives of Summer League was to find out what Frank Jackson could do.

As much as Jackson impressed on the court, Cheick Diallo disappointed in his third summer league go around. He just didn’t look good; in fact, he often looked awful. While he managed to score 13 points, on 5 of 11 shooting and grab 10 rebounds, he committed a Boogie-like seven turnovers and resembled a fresh-faced rookie with eight personal fouls in 27 minutes.

On offense, Diallo seemed to be trying too hard to finesse shots around the rim and show-off what we hope is an improved jumper and range. One three-point shot came up about four feet short. Also, he attempted to finish around people instead of over or through them, but the touch just wasn’t there as evidenced by a couple of finger rolls coming up woefully short. And then he fumbled away an easy catch or two. We know he doesn’t possess the mitts of Omer Asik, so clearly to me, Diallo was simply trying to do too much.

Look, we know you had high hopes to go out and dazzle — and that may still happen — but Cheick, about all of that MVP talk, forget you said it. Just go out there and let the game come to you. No one goes from so little basketball experience to dominating the competition on the highest level in just three years time.

Thankfully, Trevon Bluiett came out of nowhere and exploded for 24 points and six rebounds. He drained six of eight attempts from the three-point line and made the Pelicans front office look really good by gambling on a player who went undrafted and wasn’t given an invite to the NBA Combine.

“Being in college for four years, I think it’s helped polish my game,” said Bluiett in an interview after the game. “I’ve been able to learn some things at the college level that I didn’t know before. Going into this type of {event}, you have more knowledge, more wisdom and you can even help these one-and-done guys.”

After following Bluiett’s career pretty closely for four years at Xavier University — I’m a Cincinnati guy so I know who’s who from that area, I’m honestly not all that surprised by today’s results. Bluiett is a seasoned college player coming from a good program, and he showed off his intelligence and feel for the game through his defensive positioning and help from the weak side several times that led to good things for New Orleans.

As for the rest of the players, here are some bullet points.

  • Derek Willis — slow at contesting shots, doesn’t box out, one-effort guy, very stiff with his movements.
  • Tony Carr — showed decent form on his jumper and scored on good floater. He moves easily on the floor and seems to glide effortlessly by defenders at times. Had a bad drop off pass to Diallo. Hope he gets more touches in future games to show/work on decision-making.
  • Walter Lemon Jr. — I fail to see what the Pelicans see. Again. He’s not the smartest of slashers as he’ll either shoot an attempt right into the hands of the defense or wind up taking a really difficult shot. Defensively, he gambles too much, misses, and leaves the team defense playing catch up.
  • Cliff Alexander — Good effort but unimpressive. Total camp body.
  • Shavon Shields — Had some flashes. Got lost defensively a few times but was also in the right place often to get the ball. Need to focus on him more in the next game as a 6’6 player who can put up a 12-point, 8-rebound, 3-assist line demands more attention.

At the start of the second quarter, Head Coach Alvin Gentry joined the telecast and talked a little bit about the roster turnover. “First of all, we did pick up another Kentucky guy...We have a good core and adding Julius is really going to help.”

Gentry acknowledged the team will miss DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo but praised Nikola Mirotic, commenting the Pelicans did a great of spacing the floor, creating driving lanes after he joined the team.

Up next, the Pelicans will face the Miami Heat tomorrow at 4 p.m. Central...and Kevin Barrios, Preston Ellis and I will be there in person!