RELATED LINK: My blog about Mark Lyons discussing being in the middle of the “He touched the ball” episode at the Pac-12 Tournament (TucsonCitizen.com)
LAS VEGAS — The night was so disjointed for former Arizona guard Mark Lyons that the public-address announcer at Thomas & Mack Center repeatedly called him “Darius” and nobody bothered to correct him.
Lyons played a little more than 8 minutes, including the last five after Miami gained a sizable lead, in Toronto’s 81-72 loss last night in the Raptors’ opening game of the NBA Summer League.
“I was not able to get in a rhythm, things like that,” said Lyons, who went scoreless with two missed field-goal attempts, including a three-point try. “I just tried to make the right basketball play, make the extra pass, get the big guys the ball.”
Toronto’s summer league coaching staff, led by assistant coach Nick Nurse, started former Wisconsin player Jordan Taylor at point guard and played him the most (21 minutes, 36 seconds). Ricky Harris (10:46) and Tywain McKee (10:13) played at the point guard and shooting guard positions.
Former Oregon player Devoe Joseph also played at the point, logging a little more than three minutes of playing time.
Lyons played off-guard alongside Taylor in the backcourt in the last 2 minutes.
“I am a combo guard,” Lyons told me. “They want to see me at both positions. Once I can get that real good opportunity, than I will be able to showcase what I got.”
The news of Toronto signing free agent point guard Dwight Buycks Friday makes the situation more challenging for Lyons. Buycks, 24, played last season in France, ironically where Lyons might be headed.
Lyons, who has signed a contract with French professional team Chorale Roanne, is using his NBA Summer League experience to show the Raptors’ coaching staff and coaches of other teams that he can play in the NBA.
If Buycks passes his physical, he will become Toronto’s second point guard under contract. Kyle Lowery, a seven-year veteran, is Toronto’s starting point guard. The team signed free agent Julyan Stone but that contract was voided when Stone did not pass his physical.
Lyons was inserted 15 minutes into last night’s game but only played a little more than two minutes before he was replaced by Harris, a former Atlantic 10 rival when Harris played at UMass and Lyons at Xavier. Lyons remained on the bench until five minutes remained in the game.
Shortly thereafter, Lyons had one of the most impressive plays of the game, stripping the ball from Miami guard Anthony Marshall as Marshall was trying to direct the Heat offense. The same crowd that cheered on Marshall — a former UNLV player — had a few oohs and aahs when Lyons pick-pocketed him and dribbled upcourt.
Lyons missed a layup in traffic on the other end, but he showed what he can do with his quickness.
“I am just trying to get better and run the professional game at a high level,” Lyons said.
It helps that Lyons has familiarity with Harris and forward Chris Wright, another former Atlantic 10 nemesis at Dayton before Lyons transferred to Arizona for his senior season last year.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Lyons, who has practiced with Toronto here since Wednesday. “I’ve been around a bunch of great guys, some guys I’ve played against in college.
“It’s good for a guard to know his personnel and what they can do on the court.”
It is also helps Lyons’ psyche to see that former teammates Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett fared well at the Orlando Summer League last week.
Hill averaged 14.5 points and five rebounds in four games with the Pacers. Jerrett posted 11 points and 4.3 rebounds a game in three games with Oklahoma City.
“I talked to Solomon after one of his games in Orlando,” Lyons said. “I told him I was happy for him and that he deserved everything he is getting just like I told Grant. Both of those guys had great years.
“They made me look good and they’re making themselves look good right now.”
Lyons is especially grateful for UA coach Sean Miller, whose connections were instrumental in Lyons landing a spot on the Toronto summer-league roster and getting the former UA guard a contract in France.
“He helped me get a contract. That’s my guy,” Lyons said. “He just knows how to turn boys into men. I knew him as a freshman (Miller recruited him to Xavier before leaving to coach Arizona) and got to play for him as a senior.
“Just in that one year he helped me a lot. He helped me mature a lot and approach every day like a pro. He got me and Solomon together. That was Solomon’s team. We made a deep run. He just knows how to coach guys. It’s not even about coaching. He means it. He will be there after our college careers and things like that. It’s more than basketball with him.”
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.