Nuggets open summer tournament against D-League Select team

Elimination play begins after 1-2 preliminary record
by Aaron Lopez

The last time Will Thomas played in a single-elimination game, he scored 25 points for George Mason in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Two years earlier, he was part of the Patriots’ historic Final Four run that ended with a loss to the eventual national champion Florida Gators.

“We had a lot of fun (in 2006),” Thomas recalled. “We beat the odds. As we won more and more games, everybody came to our side and wanted to support us and see us do well.”

The stakes aren’t nearly as high, but Thomas will be part of another elimination game Wednesday when he and the Denver Nuggets face the NBA D-League Select team in the first round of tournament play at the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The Nuggets received the No. 18 seed after going 1-2 in preliminary play. The D-League Select team also went 1-2 but received the No. 15 seed by virtue of the tiebreaker system. The winner will advance to face the No. 2 seed New York Knicks (3-0) on Thursday.

While Denver’s coaching staff is focused on seeing players in different situations and helping them gain familiarity with the team’s offensive and defensive playbook, the Nuggets will be aiming to make noise in the tournament.

“We’re all competitive,” assistant coach Patrick Mutombo said. “We still want to win basketball games. Let’s not use the excuse of wanting to teach and say losing is OK. Ultimately, why not teach and win? They’re not mutually exclusive. We still want to go as far as we can.”

Rookie Gary Harris led Denver in scoring through the first three games in Las Vegas, averaging 20.0 points. Quincy Miller was right behind at 18.7 points per game.

The D-League Select team is led by former Los Angeles Lakers swingman Devin Ebanks, who averaged 17.7 points in preliminary play.

Because each team is guaranteed five summer-league games, the Nuggets will play at least two more times in Las Vegas. The loser of their game against the D-League Select team will face either Philadelphia or the L.A. Lakers on Friday.