Rookies, competition push NBA Summer League forward
Posted Jul 20 2009 2:23AM
LAS VEGAS -- For most, the debut of the Blake Griffin-led rookie class is the enduring memory of NBA Summer League. That’s not such a bad memory considering the impressive show the No. 1 pick and many of his fellow draftees put on during their desert stay.
As for the event’s organizer, the 55 games spread over 10 days served as affirmation of the yearly event and its success in Las Vegas.
“The city has certainly embraced us once again,” said Warren LeGarie, Summer League founder and sports agent. “A lot of people thought this was going to be a down year because of the economy, but we had more teams, as good if not better players than we’ve ever had before and, most importantly, the most support we’ve had by the Las Vegas community.”
The size and enthusiasm of the crowds at the COX Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center provided the players with a true game environment. They responded with NBA-caliber highlights.
Second-year Golden State forward Anthony Randolph appears primed for a breakout season after dominating the competition as possibly the most athletically-gifted big man at Summer League. The 6-foot-10 gazelle led all players in scoring at 26.8 points per game, including a 42-point showing that momentarily tied the Summer League’s scoring record.
Randolph’s teammate Anthony Morrow set a new mark two days later with 47 and finished second in scoring average at 24.7 points. The rest of the top five leading scorers were all returning vets, with Nick Young (Wizards), Eric Gordon (Clippers) and Adam Morrison (Lakers) each scoring more than 20 per game.
Many of the rookies weren’t too shabby in their first taste of pro ball. Lottery picks Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves), Tyreke Evans (Kings) and DeMar DeRozen (Raptors) took turns stepping up fans. Second-rounders such as DeJuan Blair (Spurs) and Chase Budinger (Rockets) were out to prove they belong.
But many of the eyes were focused on the 6-foot-10 power forward out of Oklahoma and he didn’t disappoint. Griffin looks like he’ll step right into the Clippers’ lineup and contribute after averaging 19.2 and 10.8 in five Summer League games.
“I felt like I made some mistakes, but I came out of the league with things to improve on,” he said Sunday. “Playing with Eric [Gordon] helped me pick up on some things that he likes to do. I need to keep shooting open jump shots and not hesitate. I’m just going to go back in the gym and get back to work.”
The Summer League wasn’t without a few new wrinkles that need ironing out. LeGarie said the broadband service -- every game was broadcast on NBA.com for a fee -- didn’t hit the number of subscribers organizers were hoping for.
“It was something new,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of lead-up time to push and to market it. We would have liked to see more sales, but it was certainly a way we made this game more accessible. If you couldn’t be in Vegas, we brought Vegas to you.”
LeGarie was unsure whether the event would be broadcast via broadband only next year. NBA TV, which is expected to expand into 30 million homes for the upcoming season, is a likely option that needs to be discussed with NBA and network executives, he said.
The Summer League featured 22 teams in its sixth season -- 21 NBA entries and a first-time squad made up of D-League players. Having the league’s 30 teams in the future isn’t a priority, Warren said. He remains sensitive to the role Summer League plays in the NBA offseason.
Many cite its growth as one of the reasons the Rookie Mountain Revue went dormant in Salt Lake City this year. Orlando hosted the Pro Summer League consisting of six teams.
“Some teams still don’t feel this is the right venue for them,” LeGarie admitted. “We’re OK with it. I’m careful of not monopolizing anything because you always want to have a little contrast so people can always appreciate what you’re really doing for them. At this point we’re not trying to get 30 teams nor do I anticipate that the league would want 30 teams here, either.”
If you have a question or comment for Art Garcia, send him an email.