The NBA Summer League just wrapped up in the desert oasis of Las Vegas. Due to the lockout this was the first Summer League since 2010. The Summer League is for those of us who akin to the addict. Well, we actually are addicts. We yearn for that round ball of leather in our lives.
The Summer League is not for the casual fan. Oh no, it’s for that hoops junkie. It’s for the guy sitting in his cubicle in Kalamazoo who is looking at the acquisitions of the Phoenix Suns on a Tuesday morning in mid-July. His co-workers think he’s gone mad, it’s the middle of the baseball season, plus football training camps will open soon. They care about the Pistons but not until October. “Is he on drugs?” they wonder, has he mentally cracked?
Yes my friend, the Summer League is for you. It’s in the only place that people won’t think you are weird for being there for basketball in July. Las Vegas is the asylum for the addict in one way or another.
When you go to Sin City you see every walk of life there. The gambling addict up at seven in the morning, taking long drags off his cigarette, watching the roulette wheel spins like hypnotist is controlling it. This man has seen better days certainly, but he’s soul still holds out for that one huge pay day, when all his problems will be gone. Many more like him are littered around the casino. This place will welcome you, and your addiction.
I arrived in Las Vegas about noon, Pacific time. My flight on Delta had been quite pleasant. I have a superstition that I always sit on the left side of the plane. If I don’t, who knows, the damn thing may fall out of the sky. The guy sitting beside me was on his way to set up a convention. Hired hand, put up in Treasure Island he said. It was his second trip of the year.
“Ready to party?” he asked me all wild eyed.
“Not just yet,” I replied, “I must check into hotel.” I hoped dearly I wouldn’t have to see him again. He was surely to be arrested at some point of his trip.
I arrived at the Luxor. It was a nice hotel, although I felt as if I was on set of the movie, “The Mummy”. Made my way to my room and deposited my belongings. It’s on now. I first had to make a bet for my friend. Before I left he hands me $20 and said, “on red.”
I walk down to the roulette machine, lay $20 on the table and tell the lady I want it on red. She gives the wheel a spin, in my mind the scene from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” comes to mind when Raul Duke lays down $20 and as the wheel spins he says, “make me rich, make me rich!” Well, I had better luck than he did.
After collecting my winnings, I walked out into the heat and hailed a cab. The driver was from Honduras. In the short ride to the Thomas&Mack Center he proceeded to give me a lesson on foreign policy and told me that Honduras was the United States’ biggest ally. “Okay my man, whatever you say.”
Once I got to the arena it was three days of hardcore basketball. Nobody really cheers at these events, you are there just to watch the games and evaluate the talent. The players that stood out the most to me were, Damian Lillard, Josh Selby, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Jeremy Lamb, Kent Bazemore, Adam Morrison(just kidding, but he was decent) and Bradley Beal.
I really liked their games. I was so bummed that MKG only got to play in one game due to his ankle injury, but WOW what a game that was! Twenty-two minutes of action he amassed 18 points, 8 boards, 5 assists and 4 steals. If anyone negatively speaks of him, it’s only because they are a hater. The guy can ball. Charlotte has a GREAT player of the future.
Damian Lillard really showed up and in a big way. The guy can score and he can hoop. Portland will be his team soon. I’m excited to see him play with Aldridge. Myers Leonard is still a few years away.
Bradley Beal showed everyone why he was the top choice of the Wizards. He will be a perfect backcourt mate to John Wall. He seems to grasp the feel for the game already.
Austin Rivers showed nothing in two games before injury. I didn’t like him coming into the draft and he is adding fuel to the fire. I don’t think he will ever be an impact player. Also, New Orleans should get rid of Xavier Henry. The guy sucks. Sorry if you are a fan, but he does. I wish Darius Miller could have gotten some more playing time.
Josh Selby could make Memphis look like geniuses by letting OJ Mayo leave. He was great. Go look up his stats and minutes if you are a Grizzlies fan and you will be smiling ear-to-ear. Very impressed by a guy who I honestly didn’t think could play in the NBA.
Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Jones impressed for the Rockets. Lamb has a very smooth game and showed he can hit the mid-range jumper. Terrence Jones is a beast and has explosion to go with his tenacity. He played really hard and it showed.
Harrison Barnes really impressed me more than anyone, and I hate to admit it. He showed that he can score at will and effortlessly. He has such a quick release and he so high on his jump shot. He showed some moves in the post, which was surprising. What impressed me most was his defense. He had really stepped up his game, make sure to keep an eye on him.
The wild card name I’m giving you is Kent Bazemore out of Old Dominion. I remember him in a game against Kentucky and he looked great. He had a very solid Summer League. Watch for him to surprise this season.
I left Vegas on Sunday after the games had concluded vowing to be back for it next season. If you are an NBA fan you will want to make a trip out to the Summer League. You will have an opportunity to see the games close up, and if you want to, you can meet some players who are milling around the strip when they are not playing. Go to the Summer League next year. You can thank me later.