You like that headline? You see, it’s very clever because we are currently in Las Vegas, home to both endless gambling and the NBA Summer League. I’ll give you a moment to really soak in just how clever it is.
Good? Okay. As you may or may not know, Matt, Drew and I are currently on our seasonal summer trip — a trip usually reserved for another Sin City, that city being North Augusta, South Carolina, and that sin being the breaking of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Have More than Five Dilapidated Long John Silvers — this year to head out to Nevada and catch the newly NBA-minted Wildcats in the NBA Summer League for their new respective teams.
In many ways NBA Summer League is like a large-scale Peach Jam: the quarters are sometimes close, the stakes high. To further the gambling metaphor, in some ways it’s very much all or nothing for some of these young pros. It’s either the jackpot of a spot on an NBA roster or the busting of being left behind. And don’t think that here at Thomas & Mack Arena and Cox Pavillion there’s any less nervousness as the cards play out. If you’re not out there on the floor, scrapping for yours, you might as well be sitting at the end of the bench reading a Turkish phrasebook.
A few notes from today’s action, as Matt and I took in the Suns Vs. Bucks and the Mavericks Vs. the D-League All-Stars:
-Not surprisingly, being at a D-League Basketball game feels like being in a micro-version of a full-blown NBA Game. Of course, there’s professional-level basketball, but all the other bells and whistles of an NBA game are there, too. There are TV time-outs, where commercials play on the large screens. There are sideline reporters doing live shots. There are between-quarters entertainment breaks, free throw shooting competitions, half-court big prize shots. Imagine a regular size NBA basketball game experience shrunken down to a large high school gym and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to take in a Summer League game at Cox Pavillion. Thomas & Mack, connected next door, is a much larger arena and feels like a bigger deal simply because of its size. Thomas & Mack, incidentally, is FREEZING COLD. Do you know how much it costs to make a basketball arena freezing cold in Las Vegas on July 16? I don’t, but I’m just going to say a hundred billion dollars. Thanks for the comfort, Adam Silver! You’re aces!
-The characters in the stands are an interesting demographic breed. Here’s how it breaks down, from where I sat:
a.) Players’ families. These are easy to spot. Moms, Dads, girlfriends/wives, babies. It’s easy to spot a player’s family because they’re furiously rooting for one person.
b.) Packs of Dudes. These are pockets of four to five dudes who have likely come out this week to combine the fun of NBA excitement with the fun of a week in Vegas. Every row has one pack of four dudes together. FACT.
c.) Potential entourage members. These guys can’t be bothered to sit down near the court to watch their boys play, they are spread out in the upper arena, arms akimbo, Beats around their necks, brims flat, legs up on the seats in front of them, waiting for the perks to roll in.
d.) Frenchies. French coaches from French leagues. Also some other coaches from other countries.
-These guys are really hustling. They will do anything to impress their coaches. Case in point: at one point a Suns assistant coach yelled from the sidelines “You guys gotta talk to each other!” At that exact point EVERY player on the floor started talking. Any advice any of those guys get, you better believe they are going to take it and let those coaches see them taking it. Every little bit helps.
-Archie Goodwin today looked like a mental patient who has been locked in a room doing speedballs for 8 hours and let out thirty seconds before the game began. He was playing like there was no basketball tomorrow. Flailing, shooting over and over, falling down, driving and trying to leap over three guys. At one point during the second game, I remarked to Matt that I wish Archie was playing in that game too, and wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just run out on the court like a madman and started grabbing the ball and driving to the basket. It was like watching someone try to cram every single thing he can do in basketball into eleven minutes.
-There is remarkably little applause and fanfare, even for big plays. Every now and then there is a smattering of clapping, like six or seven people, but never a crowd eruption like the Peach Jam crowd. It’s very similar to the applause you hear for each individual person crossing the stage at a high school graduation.
-The PA announcer has an annoying habit of tagging a quick “Bang-bang!” onto his calling of every single three point shot. “Rashaad Vaughn for three. Bang-bang!” or “Scotty Hopson for three. Bang-bang!” Dude, it’s not sticking. It’s just weird.
I’ll leave the technicalities to Matt, because you don’t need to hear me ruminating on those. But we’ll be back with more from tomorrow’s action.