Guards, Bolden and Bronny: Takeaways from Day 1 of the California Classic

Guards, Bolden and Bronny: Takeaways from Day 1 of the California Classic

SAN FRANCISCO — Around a swirl of summer transactions and rumors, actual basketball returned.

At Chase Center, the three-day California Classic Summer League featuring the Warriors, Kings, Lakers and Heat tipped off.

All eyes were on Bronny James, who played his first game as a professional, in the Lakers-Kings matinee. In the late game between the Warriors and Heat, Anthony Vereen earned a victory in his first game as a head coach.

Led by Daeqwon Plowden (26 points) and Ethan Thompson (27 points), the Warriors routed Miami, 105-66.

Any Summer League observations, especially from just one game, should be taken with a flaky grain of salt, but here are three takeaways from Saturday’s action.

Bronny’s introduction

There’s a mountain of pressure on the 19-year-old James. Over an hour before the game, when the only people in Chase Center were players, team staffers and coaches, he emerged from the visitor’s tunnel to the sound of camera clicks. Any missed layup during warmups could’ve been videoed and uploaded to social media, to inevitable clowning.

That’s life as LeBron’s son. He’s used to it at this point. But the NBA spotlight is different than anything even he has experienced.

James’ first play as a pro came on defense, and a Kings Summer Leaguer dropped him to the hardwood with a crossover. Moments later, he missed an ill-advised pull-up jumper. Then he got his ankles twisted again, surrendering a bucket.

James got a loud ovation when he checked back in the second quarter, but then he fouled a 3-point shooter. A steal, layup and nice pull-up jumper saved his stat line from a nightmare. The Lakers played him as a 6-foot-1 off guard who isn’t an outside shooting threat. That’s not going to play at the NBA level.

James finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal on 2-for-9 shooting. This was all against Sacramento’s B-Team; they split their Summer League squad between games at Sacramento and Golden State.

A no-frills Warriors squad

Against the Summer League Heat, Vereen started Pat Spencer, Marques Bolden, Daeqwon Plowden, Reece Beekman and Jackson Rowe.

Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis are in Las Vegas training with the US Select Team. Quinten Post is on the roster but was in street clothes Saturday.

Slim pickings. Welcome to the Pat Spencer Show.

Spencer has been working on his speed and strength in his first full summer after his last offseason got derailed by hip and wrist surgery. He looked spry, beating on-ball defenders several times. His craftiness was never a question, and he dropped off a bunch of dimes in the pick-and-roll.

A tad overstretched as the primary lead guard, Spencer logged 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and five turnovers. In the fourth quarter, he took a steal all the way for a coast-to-coast, and-1 jam with one hand. Seems like his offseason work is paying off.

He and Beekman — the undrafted guard on a two-way deal — formed a fairly formidable backcourt, with the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year providing as-expected defense. The question with Beekman will be whether he can score, and the mileage varied on his slashing game. His shot doesn’t look broken, and he drilled an off-the-bounce 3 to beat the halftime buzzer.

Neither Spencer nor Beekman are expected to contribute much at all at the NBA level this year. But as high-floor depth options in the organization, you could probably do worse.

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Marques Bolden on the radar

A slew of injuries have slowed Marques Bolden’s career, but he’s healthy now and looking to use Summer League to get another shot.

The 6-foot-11 center is going to have issues guarding quicker players on switches, but he’s a force inside. On one play, he ceded a drive on the perimeter, only to recover and swat a shot in the lane.

A former elite high school prospect who went to Duke, Bolden has the pedigree. He has the size — the kind you can’t teach. His hands aren’t terrible for a center of his stature and he found himself in the right places on the court against the Heat more often than not. When he catches inside, coaches just need to plead with him to go up strong and dunk.

Bolden finished with eight points, six blocks and 13 rebounds. Opposite Heat rookie Kel’el Ware (15th overall pick), he generally had his way.

The Warriors’ roster is crowded at the moment. But if not them, it’d make a lot of sense for a team to take a flier on Bolden.