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For Noah Clowney and Nets, subpar performance in Summer League not a concern

A lot of Nets fans were disappointed in Noah Clowney’s Summer League performance, but both Clowney, the Nets and at least one pundit say they’re unconcerned.

2023 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When David Aldrdige of the The Athletic ranked the Nets off-season — draft and free agency — he pointed to two positives, one from each. The free agency positive was obvious: the Nets signed Cam Johnson to a four-year, $94.5 million ($108 million if all incentives get rewarded) contract. The other might have surprised Nets fans. Aldridge liked the Nets 21st pick in the Draft, Noah Clowney. And he said he was unconcerned about the 6’11” big’s subpar performance in Summer League.

Considering where Brooklyn was drafting, getting Clowney that late was a good value. (Yes, he wasn’t great in summer league. Unless they are jerks to their teammates and don’t do what their coaches ask them to do, I don’t care about how guys play in summer league.)

Indeed, Clowney only averaged 4.8 points in five games on 22.6% shooting, including 23.5% percent from 3-point range. He did show off his 7’3” wingspan, blocking 1.4 shots per game and showed some athleticism ... and a lot of maturity. In talking with Brian Lewis last weekend at the Ticketmaster Party in the Plaza, Clowney admitted things didn’t as he would have liked, but called it a learning process.

“Obviously the game is faster,” Clowney told Lewis who was out in Las Vegas for the Summer League. “It’s really all a bunch of small details, really — like screening angles, getting into screens faster, then getting out faster and things like that. What shots are good shots, if you don’t (have) a shot, get right into the next action. …

“You learn from it, and I think the only way you can learn from it is by going through the experience of that Summer League. So I’m glad I played in it. It was fun. I didn’t play my best, obviously. [My shooting] percentages were horrible. But it was a learning experience. I feel like that’s what it was supposed to be. So I’m happy with it.”

The Nets didn’t seem concerned much either, analyzing his overall game and his ability to adjust, to be a “sponge,” as Sean Marks said back then.

“I love the intangibles. I love how hard he competes. I love the length that he has,” said Marks. “When you have a 7-foot-3-inch wingspan, I can’t teach that. Our coaches can teach a lot of things, but they can’t teach that.”

“I love the fact that he doesn’t shy away from shooting from the outside. He’s very versatile, can play a couple of different positions out there.”

For starters, the two positions he currently seems most suited for are the 4 and the 5, maybe even the 3 as long as he can master 3-point shooting. He, like his two fellow draft picks, is likely to spend a lot of this season in Long Island, home of the Nets G League affiliate. Clowney said that he feels comfortable playing defense at the NBA level, not offense. at least for now.

“The guarding was a little different, but it’s like the same principle,” Clowney said. “If somebody makes a spin and contested fade-in two on you, that’s a good shot. Get back on D, get it next time. As long as it’s not open threes necessarily, no layups, no dunks … guarding is easy. It’s not always easy, but the concept is easier than offense.

“Offense is a lot different. You’ve got to play offense based on your defense, but that’s all we work on. We’ve been working on it, so we’re going to get better at it.”

“Noah, he’s a sponge, right?” said Marks, looking at how that could play out in his career . “Where they’re going to be at 21, 22, 23, that to me is really exciting when they’re a sponge like Noah, soaking everything up. He’s a highly competitive guy. We saw that when he played at Alabama. We’re seeing that again. I’m excited to see where he goes.”