Former KU guard Devonté Graham signs contract, produces in first game for Hornets

Devonté Graham plays for the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA. | David T. Foster III | Charlotte Observer/TNS

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Former Kansas point guard Devonté Graham signed his first NBA contract — terms not disclosed — with the Charlotte Hornets at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas.

Just a few hours later, the 23-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native looked like a possible second-round steal, scoring 10 points with five assists and four rebounds in Charlotte’s 88-87 victory over Oklahoma City in a Las Vegas Summer League opener at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Graham, a consensus first-team All-American at KU last season selected No. 34 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, hit 4 of 10 shots overall — 0 for 4 on three-pointers. He had a crucial steal, was fouled and hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left to give Charlotte an 87-85 lead.

Graham — who started in his pro debut — at one point delivered a highlight-reel 3/4-court pass to Malik Monk for a layup. He had no turnovers in 22 minutes.

“An undersized point guard but a competitor on the floor,” ESPNcharlotte.net’s Jeff Caruso wrote after the game. “Like Bridges (Miles, six points, 2-of-14 shooting), Graham struggled with his outside three-point shooting, an area where the Hornets will certainly depend on him if he continues to get minutes in the coming years. However, the one takeaway fans could like is his poise and vision in the Hornets’ offense, dishing a few flashy assists. He did come up big in the final seconds with a critical steal and free throws.”

It was a busy Friday for Graham and the Hornets, who also reached agreement on a two-year, $10 million deal with guard Tony Parker, a 17-year veteran with the San Antonio Spurs. Parker is expected to be the Hornets' backup point guard behind Kemba Walker, meaning Graham likely has dropped to third point guard on the depth chart. Hornets’ combo guard Monk also can play the point.

“Just to come in and do what I was doing at Kansas,” Graham told the Charlotte Observer, asked his goals for summer league before the game. “If I’m running the offense, making the simple plays and don’t turn the ball over … I feel like, coming from Kansas with coach (Bill) Self, during the preseason we put in so many plays early on that it kind of helped me get adjusted to this.

“Coach Self put the pressure on me to know what all five guys have got to do on each play. That really helped me as a player with my IQ, which is helping me pick up stuff here pretty well,” Graham added.

First year Charlotte coach James Borrego said Graham “is learning the speed of the NBA. It’s a different level of athleticism and speed. There are more possessions and the possessions are much shorter. So you can’t take a second off.”

Vick chooses No. 24

Kansas senior shooting guard Lagerald Vick will wear jersey No. 24 his senior season.

The Memphis native’s No. 2 had been given to sophomore Charlie Moore after Vick declared for the 2018 NBA Draft in the spring. Vick, who had been planning to turn pro with no possibility of returning to school, changed his mind and withdrew from the draft on May 31.

After reporting to campus for second session of summer school, Vick was awarded No. 24.

Why 24?

“For him this is a new beginning so after praying and reading the book of Ephesians we placed emphasis on (verse) 24,” Vick’s mom, La La, told The Star in a Facebook message. She was referring to Ephesians 4:22-24.

Vick, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound shooting guard, averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game his junior season at KU.

Moore recently told KUathletics.com he was pleased to be able to obtain No. 2.

“It’s my favorite number. I wore this number in high school. I was so happy I was able to get it here at Kansas. I’m so excited and ready for the season,” said Moore, who attended Chicago’s Morgan Park High.

Other KU players and numbers: Marcus Garrett 0; Dedric Lawson 1; Sam Cunliffe 3, Quentin Grimes 5, E.J. Elliott 10, Devon Dotson 11, Chris Teahan 12, K.J. Lawson 13, Garrett Luinstra 20, Silvio De Sousa 22, Ochai Agbaji 30, David McCormack 33, Udoka Azubuike 35 and Mitch Lightfoot 44.

Alexander nets eight points

Former KU forward Cliff Alexander scored eight points on 3-of-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds while playing 11 minutes in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 90-77 victory over the Toronto Raptors in a summer-league game Friday in Las Vegas.

Alexander, 22, is trying to find a home in the NBA after playing eight games for Portland in 2015-16. He’s played in the NBA G-League and overseas since that rookie season.

Former KU forward Cheick Diallo, who is beginning his third year in the NBA with New Orleans, scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds with two blocks in 28 minutes.

He also committed eight personal fouls in 27 minutes. Players are allowed 10 fouls a game in the summer league.

“I’m trying to win every game,” Diallo told NBA.com before the game. “I’m trying to go to the finals and win MVP (of summer league).”

Diallo averaged 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Pelicans last season.

“I love Cheick,” Pelicans summer-league coach Kevin Hanson told NBA.com. “He sets goals for himself and that’s what it’s all about. We’re here to improve. You can’t reach those goals unless you set them, right? The kid wants to be great and you have to appreciate that work ethic. He’s the hardest-working guy on our team. He’s going to get there.”

Hanson said Diallo struggled some defensively last season.

“We spent a lot of time working with him at that end. It’s hard to do without playing minutes," Hanson said. "Young players need to play through mistakes and he didn’t have the luxury of doing that early in the season. We tried to put him through a lot of different situations and that was the biggest thing he really grew in. And that will be big in summer league. We’re going to have him guard stretch 4s. He’s got to keep his spacing, be disciplined and not allow these stretch 4s to get open looks."

Former KU forward Dwight Coleby, who finished his career at Western Kentucky last season, did not play in Friday’s game. Like Alexander, he’s trying to make the Pelicans roster as a free agent.

Coleby, a native of Bahamas, averaged 11.1 points on 59.8 percent shooting and 8.0 rebounds per game his senior season at Western Kentucky. He tied for seventh in Western Kentucky history for blocks in a single season (66).




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