Nets rookie Noah Clowney shoots 1-of-9 in NBA Summer League debut

16 July 2023

Victor Wembanyama found other ways to impact a game. Noah Clowney could not.

It was the difference between picks No. 1 and 21 in their NBA Summer League debuts on Friday night. Both the Spurs’ Wembanyama and Brooklyn’s Clowney struggled to find the bottom of the net in their opening NBA games in Las Vegas.

Wembanyama, the generational talent from France and heir apparent to Tim Duncan’s Spurs throne, shot 2-of-13 from the field and one-of-six from downtown for nine points, while Clowney, the streak-shooting stretch-four out of Alabama, shot just one-of-seven from deep and one-of-nine from the field overall for four points for the Nets in their 101-97 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Wembanyama, however, was a dominant defensive presence for San Antonio and anchored the defense with five ferocious blocks against No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller and the Charlotte Hornets. He also showed his abilities as a capable ball handler and facilitator, finding one of his teammates with a no-look bounce pass for an easy layup in the first quarter.

Clowney came up with a pair of steals on hustle plays but largely disappeared from the game when his jump shot faltered. Several of his three-point attempts fell short, signaling a need for the 210-pound rookie to get stronger this offseason. His only made basket was a top-of-the-key three that came with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

No. 22 overall pick Dariq Whitehead watched from the sidelines in a walking boot and has been ruled out for Summer League rehabbing after foot surgery. Jalen Wilson, the gifted scorer out of Kansas the Nets selected in the second round with the 51st overall pick, scored 17 points in 25 minutes and posted two blocks, one steal and five rebounds on the night.

It was the smooth-shooting Armoni Brooks, the third-year journeyman and former undrafted rookie out of Houston, whose five-of-nine three-point shooting night helped keep the Nets afloat. Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said he can’t read too far into Summer League performances.

“You really strip things down to as bare as you can: Are guys competing? Do they have a sense of floor spacing?” he said in a mid-game interview. “Do they have a sense of being a teammate when things aren’t going in their direction, when they don’t get their minutes that they’re usually accustomed to in a typical basketball game, so those things, those intangibles are what I look forward to looking at first with guys.”


Vaughn said franchise cornerstone Mikal Bridges fits the Nets’ timeline, both with his age and his game.

“His ability to take responsibility on both ends of the floor is pretty unique to see,” the coach said. “He is invested in his teammates. Those things are hard to come by in this league, and when you get a chance to have an individual who loves the game, loves being around a team setting, wants to represent a whole community: That’s Mikal Bridges.”

The Nets acquired Bridges as part of the Kevin Durant trade with the Suns, and after serving as a role player alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul in Phoenix, Bridges erupted to average 27 points per game after his arrival in Brooklyn.

“We did dive into some film,” Vaughn said. “When Devin Booker was hurt for a stretch of the year, [Bridges] took on some additional responsibility and really responded well. We thought if we could put the basketball in his hands, put some shooters around him, give him some more responsibility, we wanted to see if he could handle it, and he really stepped up, and I think he has even more room to go.”


Vaughn said he’s looking forward to finally coaching a healthy Ben Simmons this season. Simmons is the highest-paid Net, set to earn $77 million over the next two seasons, but has largely been unavailable due to issues with his lower back. The Australian forward has been attacking his rehab this summer.

“That’s exciting for me,” Vaughn said. “Our team is excited to have him healthy, part of our program, and moving forward. He has an innate ability to impact the basketball game on both ends of the floor. We missed that in the Philly series and [are] looking forward to it.”


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