The New Orleans Pelicans do not seem at all surprised at the improvement of Cheick Diallo, the squad’s 2016 second-round draft pick out of Kansas who has scored 50 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in two 2017 NBA Summer League games.
“He’s been here every day for the last month, month and a half, really working on the defensive end of the floor, trying to get the close-outs,” Pelicans summer league coach Jamelle McMillan told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
McMillan was commenting on 6-foot-9, 237-pound Mali native Diallo, who has gained 12 pounds of muscle since last season — a season in which he played 17 games for the Pelicans and 26 for NBA Development League teams in Austin, Texas; Greensboro, N.C.; and Long Island in New York.
“He’s going to have to guard some 3s if he is in there, as well as 4s, maybe even 5s with the league going 6-foot-8 and under now it seems like. Everybody’s playing small,” McMillan stated. “He really understands the opportunity. I dare say he’s the hardest worker we have on our team.”
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Diallo, who averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds a game while shooting 56.9 percent from the field in his one-and-done 2015-16 season at KU, scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots while playing 34 minutes in New Orleans’ 84-82 loss to Atlanta on Sunday in Las Vegas.
On Friday, he had 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting with 10 boards in the Pelicans’ 96-93 loss to Toronto.
“Last year was so different, man,” Diallo told theadvocate.com. “This year, I have to be the leader on the team (at summer league). I have to talk to everybody and I have to tell everybody what to do. I don’t try to demand of you, but basketball-wise, I was there last year and I know I have to talk to people and help them.”
The 20-year-old Diallo said he wants to weigh 240 or 245 by the start of his sophomore season in the NBA. Being a physical presence might prevent the constant shuttle between the D-League (now called the G-League with Gatorade as sponsor) and the parent club in New Orleans.
“Everybody keeps saying if you want to play power forward, you have to gain some kind of weight,” Diallo told NBA.com. “So I just made up my mind to get stronger.”
He explained the key to the weight gain.
“I don’t eat fast food,” Diallo said. “I’ve been eating steak, mashed potatoes, chicken and a lot of pasta.”
Of Diallo, the Pelicans’ McMillan said: “We always talk about Cheick’s motor. He runs like a deer. He can really move up and down the floor, which puts a lot of pressure on defenses and helps the rhythm and pace of your team. He gets random tip-ins, because he has a knack for the ball. He’s a ballhawk.
“He loves blocking shots, especially from the weakside. He just gravitates to opportunities, which is really going to help him and us. When you have a guy like that who can get an extra possession just because he’s going to outwork somebody, that’s something he can control and understands that. Moving forward, that’s something that’s going to really benefit him in his career.”
Jackson nears double-double again
Former Kansas guard Josh Jackson scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Phoenix Suns’ 88-77 loss to Dallas in an NBA summer league game on Sunday in Las Vegas.
The 6-foot-8 Jackson, who hit 6 of 18 shots, and 1 of 7 from three, fell just short of a double-double for the second-straight game. He scored 18 points and captured eight rebounds in Phoenix’s victory Friday over the Sacramento Kings.
Jackson has made one of his first nine three-pointers as a pro. He was 0-for-2 versus the Kings. He cashed 2 of 4 free throws Sunday after making 6 of 7 versus the Kings. Jackson also missed a dunk in Sunday’s game.
Perry Ellis bounces back, scores 19
Former KU forward Perry Ellis, who was blanked in his 2017 summer league debut for Minnesota on Friday, scored a team-leading 19 points in the Timberwolves’ 90-71 victory over Denver on Sunday in Las Vegas.
The 6-foot-8 Wichita native hit 7 of 11 shots and was 3 of 5 from three. He also grabbed three rebounds with a block in 22 minutes.
Julian Wright nets three points
Former KU forward Julian Wright scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting (1-2 from the line) and had one rebound in Utah’s 86-67 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday in Las Vegas.
Team USA claims bronze
Team USA defeated Spain 96-72 in the bronze medal game Sunday at the Under 19 World Cup event in Egypt.
High school senior point guard Immanuel Quickley, who has a final four of KU, Kentucky, Maryland and Miami in recruiting, went 3-for-3 from three and had 11 points for the U.S.
Canada, which beat the U.S. in the semifinals on Saturday, beat Italy, 79-60, in the title game. Canadian guard R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the recruiting class of 2019, who is considering KU and many others, had 18 points and 12 rebounds a day after scoring 38 points against the U.S. with 13 boards. He was chosen tourney MVP after averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
Former KU players Danny Manning and Tad Boyle served as assistant coaches for the U.S. team, which was led by Kentucky’s John Calipari.