Posted Jul 13 2012 10:04AM
The Las Vegas summer league, a lockout casualty a year ago, returns to the forefront of the NBA's offseason calendar with a schedule of 24 teams and 60 games beginning today and continuing through July 22.
The event is an important step in the development of two draft classes. The 2011 rookies missed this opportunity and a semblance of a real training camp while the latest draft class is just a couple weeks into their NBA careers. Thirteen of the top 14 selections from June are on rosters, with only Andre Drummond missing at Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center after the Pistons played in the Orlando summer league.
Among the storylines:
• The first appearance of No. 1 pick Anthony Davis in a Hornets uniform. Or maybe not.
Davis, an alternate after failing to make the 12-man roster for the London Olympics, was called back by Team USA for Thursday's exhibition against the Dominican Republic when Blake Griffin left Las Vegas for tests on an injured knee in Los Angeles. Davis became a virtual lock to stay with USA Basketball, and away from summer league, with the subsequent news that Griffin will have surgery and miss the Summer Games.
The Hornets do not play for the first time until Sunday night. It will be a first look whether Davis plays or not, though, with the debut of No. 10 pick Austin Rivers.
• The first days of Kendall Marshall's unenviable task of replacing Steve Nash as Suns point guard.
It helps that Marshall, a great passer with natural instincts, the best distributor in the draft, will undoubtedly be embraced by residents of Planet Orange, even if he is replacing one of their all-time favorites. It helps that he won't have to fill the void himself, not once the verbal agreement with Goran Dragic turns into an official signing. But, still. Steve Nash.
• The Cavaliers' starting lineup. Summer league, regular season -- pretty much same difference.
Kyrie Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, is on the Vegas roster, as is Dion Waiters, the No. 4 pick. That's the hoped-for backcourt of the future. Tristan Thompson, No. 4 a year ago, and Tyler Zeller, No. 17 a couple weeks ago, are scheduled to play. That is Cleveland's potential power forward-center combination.
• The Jimmer Fredette transformation, continued.
Few top 2011 prospects needed a normal calendar more than Fredette, trying to make the canyon jump from BYU scoring sensation with limitless range to Kings distributor. But no summer league and a high-speed training camp fed right into a poor rookie season. The new chance to learn in Vegas, while facing some quality young point guards, is a valuable opportunity.
• The new day for the Trail Blazers.
It's still LaMarcus Aldridge's team, but No. 6 pick Damian Lillard, at point guard, and No. 11 Meyers Leonard, at center, could have immediate starting roles in Portland. Getting acclimated to the Blazers' system would be an obvious benefit of summer league...
... If anyone knew what the system will be. Because that's the other thing about the Trail Blazers and summer league. Management will spend part of the Vegas run deciding on a coach.
• The arrival of the lone import.
France's Evan Fournier, picked by the Nuggets at No. 20, hits town as the only first-rounder from outside North America, making this the first real look for most fans and players in the United States. After initial post-draft uncertainty whether he would come over from Europe for 2012-13, the swingman signed his Denver deal, guaranteeing his arrival for summer league and the season ahead.
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Isaiah Thomas throws the deep lob to Quincy Acy who elevates over Mike Dunleavy and throws it down with authority.
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Darius Odom-Johnson gets the steal and makes the sweet feed to Ed Williams for the flush.
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John Wall comes up with the loose ball and races the other way for the the dunk.
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Rodney Stuckey almost looses the ball, both sides scramble for it, and Stuckey finds Brandon Jennings on the wing who drills the triple.
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Derrick Williams makes the jab step then drives baseline and dunks on Taj Gibson.