LAS VEGAS — Five minutes after Robert Sacre was announced as the final pick of the 2012 NBA draft, Keith Wright received a call from his agent, Derrick Powell.
The Dallas Mavericks wanted Wright, the former Harvard forward, to join their summer league team. So after a solid four-year career for the Crimson, Wright is trying to follow Jeremy Lin, another Harvard star, who made a big splash two years ago facing off against No. 1 overall pick John Wall as a Mavericks summer leaguer.
Wright scored 6 points and had two rebounds in 15 minutes 40 seconds of playing time Monday in Dallas’s 85-75 Las Vegas Summer League win over Toronto, shooting the same midrange jumpers he did at Harvard. Wright is soaking in the NBA experience, hoping that the Crimson’s recent success and Lin’s meteoric rise can help him.
“It’s just a great honor to come out here, it’s very humbling,” he said, wearing a bright smile. “They called me as soon as the draft ended, it’s just been exciting. I’m getting more comfortable, feeling more confident. The coaches want me to shoot, so it’s a little different from college, but I’ve been knocking it down.”
Wright fit perfectly into Tommy Amaker’s defensive-minded system at Harvard, and the NBA can always use those who are eager to play defense. Harvard held opponents to 55.6 points and 41 percent shooting last season and reached the NCAA Tournament.
And before its first tournament game since 1946, Harvard was thrust in the spotlight after Lin became an international sensation with the New York Knicks.
“I think Jeremy Lin’s definitely opening doors for us in the Ivy League,” Wright said. “We’re definitely grateful and that doesn’t go unseen. The success of the program definitely helped me as well. Coach Amaker is a great coach with great contacts and when I got called into my [NBA] workouts, I think I performed the same every time. Dallas liked me a lot and that’s why I’m here.”
Making a point
This is a significant summer for E’Twaun Moore, who played sparingly as a Celtics rookie and who will have to fight for minutes next season. So he is making the transition to point guard for the Celtics’ summer league team, attempting to change the shooting-guard mentality that made him one of Purdue’s all-time leading scorers.
He is being asked to distribute, to be more vocal in telling teammates where to be on the floor, and to be more commanding calling the plays. It’s a work in progress. He has recorded 16 assists in six games, second on the club to the surprising Dionte Christmas.
“It just takes time and experience,” Moore said. “The more I do it, the most comfortable I feel, so it’s just something else I can add to my game. I know I have to be more vocal and talk to guys.”
Moore has NBA talent and his performance Jan. 26 against the Magic, when he scored 16 points in 18 minutes, proved he was unafraid to take significant shots. But the Celtics lack a true backup to Rajon Rondo, and with Avery Bradley and Jason Terry slated to fill the shooting guard role, Moore is making the change.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Celtics summer league coach Tyronn Lue said. “A couple of times he’s [been] lackadaisical in the backcourt, he doesn’t think guys will go for the steal, but they will test your handle. It’s summer league, guys are playing hard, just being mentally aware that guys are going to pressure you, so just be sharp with the ball, strong with the ball. I thought he did a good job.”
Five Celtics scored in double figures, including Jared Sullinger and Kris Joseph with 14 points apiece, and Boston improved to 5-1 in the summer with an 87-69 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Cox Pavilion Monday afternoon. The Celtics fell behind, 11-5, before going on a 44-20 run to end the half to take control.
Jamar Smith (Southern Indiana) and Jonathan Gibson (New Mexico State) combined for 21 points off the bench as the Celtics looked sharp in the second and third quarters after two days off.
Those looking for JaJuan Johnson to show the skills that encouraged the Celtics to take him in the first round are still waiting. He finished with 6 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes, going 1 for 4 from the field. Lue has pushed Johnson to be more aggressive, especially in such an important stretch of his career, but he is fifth on the team in shot attempts.
So far in six summer games, Johnson is 19 for 44 from the field, 14 of 24 from the free throw line, and has 34 rebounds. He is averaging 8.6 points.
“JaJuan Johnson is a pick-and-pop player, he can post but in summer league it’s hard,” Lue said. “If he’s playing with Rondo, KG [ Kevin Garnett], or Paul [Pierce], he’s going to get open shots, easy little buckets. In summer league, it’s kind of hard for him to score because he’s not really going to do that during the regular season, so I just want him to work on his defense.
“We’ve just got to get him better at that, because that’s what it’s going to take for him to play.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.