LAS VEGAS, July 16, 2007 --
When I was asked to cover the NBA Summer League
presented by adidas, I had two questions. A) Are the Blazers' Greg Oden
and the Sonics' Kevin Durant
going to be there, and B) Where is it being held?
While I was still on the fence about accepting the assignment even after finding out the top two picks of the 2007 NBA Draft
would be in the house, the fact that the league was in Las Vegas sealed the deal.
I assumed I would go see some glorified pickup games between has- and never-beens mixed in with a bunch of too-nervous-to-impress rookies.
Man was I wrong. I'm talking about taking another card even though you already have 17 showing at the blackjack table wrong.
Guys took this summer league seriously. Veterans knew this was their chance to shine in front of countless scouts, general managers and coaches. Lottery selections wanted to show fans and the media that their teams made the right choice by picking them.
With training-camp invitations on the line for some, the games were played at a level normally reserved for high school tryouts when there are 13 players competing for 12 spots.
The only thing missing from the games were the NBA dance teams
Here are some other things I learned while spending 12 days in Sin City.
Las Vegas is hot and that has nothing to do with the beautiful casinos, great places to eat or fit-your-needs shows. I’m talking about the temperature outside, which at one point reached a hope-the-air-conditioner-doesn’t-break 116 degrees.
Having games being played simultaneously at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center was pure genius. What more could a hoop crazy have hoped for? Fans had the chance to bounce back and forth between games, while catching a couple of their favorite players in line buying popcorn at the concession stand.
Since this was the NBA Summer League, games should have had NBA rules, such as being 48 minutes long instead of 40 and players being allowed six fouls instead of 10. What’s next, each made basket being worth four points?
With apologies to the summer leagues in Orlando and Utah, all 30 NBA teams should go to Las Vegas, not just 20 of them.
Dallas and New York were the only two teams to go unbeaten. What day is that championship game, again?
Golden State long-range sniper Marco Belinelli scoring 37 points was more fun to watch than Phoenix’s Marcus Banks and Denver’s Von Wafer both scoring a league-record 42.
Clippers’ forward Al Thornton is ready-made for the NBA.
Portland’s Oden isn’t going to be able to come in and just Mike Tyson (bully) guys.
Former NBA player Wang Zhizhi, not the Bucks’ sixth overall pick, Yi Jianlian, was the best player on Team China.
The Mavericks have to find playing time for lead guard Jose Juan Barea.
Although he needs to work on his shot selection, Sacramento’s Spencer Hawes was the summer league’s top center.
The Blazers should have held on to sharpshooter Demetris Nichols instead of shipping him off to the Knicks on draft night.
Phoenix’s D.J. Strawberry is capable of running a team and would have been ripe to get picked at the end of the first round instead of the end of the second.
Minnesota’s Corey Brewer is an above-average rebounder and defender. The same can’t be said about his offense.
With Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry, the Memphis backcourt is set for years.
Relying mainly on his jumper, Seattle’s Durant is going to average 20 points per game this season.
Relying mainly on his jumper, teammate Jeff Green will score a little more than half of that.
Philadelphia third-year guard Louis Williams was great.
New York third-year guard Nate Robinson, a.k.a. Mr. MVP, was better.
Rookies Rodney Stuckey of Detroit and Aaron Brooks of Houston are going to end up being better than both of them.
And finally, no you really shouldn’t always bet on black in roulette.