As Tai Webster’s Summer League travails stumbled along in Orlando with the Charlotte Hornets, older brother Corey’s had to wait his time for his own chance too. But when it did come, he did pretty well with it – playing some good minutes and looking a reliable part of that Dallas rotation as they tipped off their Las Vegas campaign.
The Mavericks have one of the stronger Summer League squads that will be competing in Vegas. Guys like Yogi Ferrell, who made the All-Rookie second team despite only playing half a season, and first round (#9 overall) draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. lead the pack but it’s a pack that also includes Dorian Finney-Smith and Nic Brussino who each played strong minutes last NBA season while Ding Yanyuhang has already established himself as a fan favourite after his efforts in the Orlando league (in which Dallas, with a largely different squad, won all their games and took the championship). Johnathan Motley went undrafted because of a knee issue but he hit the winning shot in overtime of the final in Orlando.
So yeah, this is a stacked team and it remains stacked even after Dallas traded A.J. Hammons, a centre who they drafted in the second round last year, to the Miami Heat for Josh McRoberts. The dude who replaced him? Some bloke called Brandon Ashley and he only went and top scored for the Mavs in their opener in Vegas.
But Corey wasn’t coming in cold either. He had that mini-camp with the Mavs a few weeks ago and so would have already been familiar with the coaches. After what happened with his brother you might have been forgiven for thinking he’d struggle to get much time here but 2:34 left in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls and there he was strutting in for Yogi Ferrell.
Webster mostly stuck to his wing and tried to draw his defender away from the lane, the kind of thing that a guy like Dennis Smith Jr. is gonna love – he had a few lovely little finishes when he was able to find the room to drive. Webby didn’t bring suffocating defence but he also didn’t try to, just doing his job as you’d expect. First touch of the ball he ended up with it at the top of the key and called out how things would proceed like you want a veteran to be able to do.
Corey would end up staying in there for a good chunk of the second quarter too, logging six and a half minutes in his first stint. With Dallas starting poorly from deep and Lauri Markkanen hitting a few for the Bulls, we had ourselves a slight lead to Chicago at this point, as would be the case for most of the first half. But don’t blame this dude for the shooting woes, CW sunk the only battleship he’d launch at that half. Just a shame he left a foot on the line, to be fair.
Led initially by the NBA trio of Smith/Ferrell/Brussino the Mavs came out quickly in the second and were able to edge in front before Ashley and Motley did a few things on the roll to the hoop, especially Ashley who’d end up with 21 points. At almost the exact same time as he came in during the first quarter, that was when Corey Webster reappeared in the third. Two and a half to take things into the final break, nothing much to sing about there.
Nah, it was in the fourth where we really saw what Webster can offer these lads. Nikola Jovanovic finished a layup from a Kris Dunn assist to get the Bulls on the board first but after that it was a 16-2 run for the Mavericks which pretty much killed the game off and Corey was on the court for the whole distance. Granted the two points the Bulls did get came from Webby reaching in on Paul Zipser as he tried to turn the corner, two free throws there.
Corey’s defence wasn’t tested much, partly by his conservative approach (which is about exactly what the coaches would want from him) and partly because he was defending out on the wing against a team stacked with point guards trying to make a splash. Kris Dunn was quite impressive for Chicago but running things through him did give Webby some freedom. Although Cam Payne, former teammate of Steven Adams in OKC, wasn’t quite as splashy and the highlight of Corey’s Summer League debut was probably the double team he and Ding set on Payne, leading to an easy transition layup after the steal.
And then, just for kicks, he hit a triple later on. Also missed one but 50% for the game… well, those are some Steph Curry numbers. Speaking of overreactions, the way Ding Yanyuhang was received by the Vegas crowd was super cool. Every touch of the ball by the final quarter he was cheered like a hero. When he was called for a travel the arena erupted in boos. Even just getting subbed in was cause for a standing ovation. Handy player too, that Ding – this Corey three has a superb pass from the halfway line to Finney-Smith cut out before the gif starts.
The Payne steal: Deng got plenty of credit for his help defence – he was already the subject of adoration for hitting a three on the previous possession and now he’d reacted smartly to trap Payne in the corner and Corey ended up with the steal as he stuck an arm out towards the pass. But note how well Corey gets around that screen to catch up with Cam, sharp stuff.
Is that all enough to get him onto an NBA roster? Mate, don’t get ahead of yourself. Let’s just see how he goes over the next couple days and keep an eye out for preseason suggestions. Remember he didn’t even play Summer League the year he came close to making the Pelicans. The Mavericks are a team that always has their ear to the ground for unexpected talent – for a franchise that hasn’t picked in the top ten before this season since 1998 they kinda have to be. So if he can offer some three & D stuff with a little ball handling in there then you can at least be sure they’ll take a look. Hell, they already are. Guard spots on their roster are pretty stocked but may as well see how things progress.
That’s a whole lot on Corey but we covered Tai’s Golden State situation fairly deeply over here. On the same day as Corey took the court for the first time, however, so did Tai as he wandered over from the bench to begin the second quarter for the Dubs against the Philadelphia 76ers. The game was overshadowed by the apparent ankle injury suffered by overall top pick Markelle Fultz but for a short amount of time there it was TW running the point against him… well, against Larry Drew while Fultz rested, but yeah.
Not a lot to show as he started the second quarter, Tai was mostly out there to facilitate which, as an average shooter, he should be doing. Whipped the ball around nicely and might’ve had an assist had Jabari Brown hit from deep… but Tai did his own dirty work in getting the offensive board and dishing for an open Kevon Looney for three, bingo.
Start of the fourth quarter and he was back, getting some third string PG minutes at the back of what was a 12-man rotation. Of the comparative guards mentioned in the last piece, Joe Rahon and Alex Hamilton were buried beneath Tai in that rotation – which is cool to see after it was Tai left drowning in depth with Charlotte. Again, he didn’t have a lot to do other than some on-ball defending though a scrappy steal from Larry Drew was a highlight. Also had two less than perfect moments stuck in the left corner, a three pointer tossed up late in the shot clock that comfortably rimmed out and a step out of bounds for a turnover on the drive a little earlier.
Patty McCaw took control of this game, he scored 25 points and dominated a lot of the ball while Jabari Brown and Jordan Bell had their moments too. But McCaw missed a triple right on the buzzer that would’ve meant the win and Philly instead took a W. Don’t really care about that though, more just keen on celebrating a day in which both Webster Bros took part in NBA Summer League proceedings. Basketball is fun.
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