Jordan Hamilton scores 25 points, Nuggets drop game to Raptors

Kyle Barone taking a couple free throws against the Raptors. - Nate Timmons

The Nuggets lost to the Raptors today and have thus entered the consolation bracket of the summer league tournament.

"There were some shots that we made yesterday that we didn't make today," said assistant coach Chad Iske. "We got into the paint and weren't able to finish as well, [Jonas] Valanciunas had a little bit to do that. We made some tough finishes [against the Pelicans] and didn't get those to go down today."

The Nuggets lost 95-78 to Valanciunas and the Raptors. The Toronto big man had been averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds in the summer league and put up 15 points and 12 rebounds today. Toronto, however, was led by Dwight Buycks' 18 points today (and Terrance Ross' 17 points) on 6-11 shooting (5-5 free throws) and 10 assists. He played with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Orlando summer league and is making a name for himself in Vegas, as well - he will play for the Raptors this season to backup Kyle Lowry.

The Nuggets got another good offensive game from Jordan Hamilton. He played aggressive and shot 10-21 from the floor (4-10 from deep) for 25 points in nearly 30 minutes of action. It was good to see Hamilton put together back-to-back performances.

"Jordan came back, he had some personal issues that had been weighing on him, and he got everything resolved and was able to come back with a fresh mind, which I think was helpful," said Iske. "We've always thought he's a very talented scorer and he's shown that the last two games."

The talk with Hamilton is usually how he played on the offensive end, but it's on the defensive side of the floor where he may earn or lose his minutes.

"I'm just making sure that I always have my eyes on the ball, staying on-ball defense - staying in front of my man, and just making sure I do those things," said Hamilton. "The coaches have been on me and that's what I think I need to get better."

"He knows that [defense] has been - not his biggest strength and it has been a learning curve for him after a short stint in college and getting up here and not getting a lot of time," said Iske. "The experience, the schemes, the pick-and-roll coverage, and all of that - to really understand them you've got to be playing live basketball as much as possible. Going into his third year he needs to be more of a leader in this setting and lead both offensively and defensively."

Leadership, that's a new term that we have yet to use when talking about Hamilton. His first two seasons with the team, Hamilton was under the wing of Corey Brewer. With Brewer moving on to Minnesota, it's now up to Hamilton to make some leadership strides himself.

"I'm definitely one of these leaders for this summer league team and going forward we have some guys, veteran leaders, which I'm still going to learn from," said Hamilton. "And in this last summer league game, just making sure I'm talking with the young guys."

Once training camp begins, the leadership roles will be assumed by Ty Lawson and Andre Miller - if Miller is still with the team. Danilo Gallinari will also look to assume a leadership role, but since he's injured at the moment, that will be put on hold a little bit. It is a bit odd to think of Hamilton, such a young player, as being a leader, but Iske has noticed it.

"He's trying to figure out how to be a leader here [at summer league]," said Iske. "Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. The main thing is that the effort is there and it's a focus of his."

Next game, last game

The Nuggets last summer league game will take place at 6:30 p.m. MT tomorrow night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

More with Iske

Assistant coach Chad Iske has worked closely with Quincy Miller for the past two seasons. I was interested in his take on how Miller has been progressing since his start with the Nuggets last year.

"Quincy is another guy that just needs to play. One year of college and he got a little bit of time in the D-League last year, but had to work on his body quite a bit," said Iske. "So, everything is new. Everything we're asking him to do is really starting with somebody that hasn't done or ever heard of any of the stuff we're asking him to do - especially defensively. You can't build Rome over night, it takes a little time. He's making progress in all areas. He's showing that he can be a stretch big, at times, and shoot the ball from beyond the arc."

Has Quincy's body grown stronger?

"He has done a great job with our strength staff, Steve Hess and Felipe [Eichenberger], all year long," said Iske. "They worked on his leg strength and his upper body strength and in the last 12 months he's come a long way physically."

Talking with Evan Founier:

Fournier has averaged 11 points in Denver's five summer league games. He has had some up-and-down performances - like his 20 point performance against the Bulls and then his 5 point performance today against the Raptors. He has shown to be an aggressive player that is decisive with the ball, has range, and can make plays off the dribble. He has struggled in all those areas in Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been progressing.

His goals in Vegas?

"To get used to the NBA game again because I'm going to play for the Euro-championship with the French National team [in September]," said Fournier. "I've been working on my body and my shooting ability, like last year basically. Just full body workouts, getting stronger, and putting on weight - to be a better athlete basically."

When asked to evaluate how he has played in the summer league ...

"I'm not very happy about what I'm doing here at summer league, but I'm not worried about my game." said Fournier.

He is very excited about getting to compete with the French National team in September:

"We have big expectations, we have to beat Spain," said Fournier. "I can't wait to be there."

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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