Suns Retorter: Summer League All Work While Playing

by Greg Esposito Columnist and Radio Postgame Host

When you hear the two words Las Vegas the last thing that probably comes to your mind is hard work and discipline. That’s because you aren’t a guy trying to make your way in the NBA.

The NBA Summer League is a 10 day adventure in Sin City but for most lucky enough to be on rosters around the association it’s a heavy emphasis on city and little on sin. It’s all business because guys are fighting to make it clear they’ve grown as players or that they deserve a spot in the league.

Maybe the more appropriate state to hold the entire thing is Missouri because the handful of games are all about the league executives having a “show me” attitude and the players and coaches wanting to do just that.

If the NBA is the penthouse, the Summer League is the economy hotel. There are no luxury charter flights, no one carrying your bags, no big gyms, bright lights or fancy locker rooms. Players arrive on planes alongside the fans who are coming to watch them. They carry their own equipment and uniforms. They play in two college gyms, one of which isn’t much bigger than the one in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air basketball episode, with makeshift locker rooms better described as staging areas covered by curtains for after games. Pregame stretching takes place under the bleachers adding to the youthful feel of the proceedings. Even the rules aren’t the same because any game that goes to double-overtime is decided by a first to score wins sudden death period.

It’s the perfect environment for the attitude the Suns franchise has adopted over the last season. One that rewards players focused on hard work and dedication to your teammates and the game.

Curry, Summer Suns Defeat Bucks

The Summer Suns are no different. It’s a unique group of guys who either were drafted over the last two seasons (Archie Goodwin, TJ Warren, Tyler Ennis and Alec Brown) looking to showcase and improve their games or ones who are looking to prove they deserve a roster spot in the league come training camp.

Seth Curry is one who is working hard to show he belongs.

“Anytime you step on the court, especially in Summer League, you’re playing for all 30 teams in the league,” the second year guard from Duke explained after dropping 26 points on the Bucks. “Everybody can see everything you’re doing. No one has my rights. I’m just trying to go out there and compete.”

Dionte Christmas understands the spot Curry is in. He’s been to summer league so many times that the entire thing has to feel like a scene out of Groundhogs Day. In fact, one NBA executive could be overheard joking that he “has to be the all-time Summer League scorer by now” just based on his time spent there.

The hard work paid off for Christmas. It helped earn him his first full season in the NBA as member of the Suns. But that doesn’t mean he’s relaxing in Vegas. There is still plenty of work left to accomplish.

“I learned a lot from a lot of different guys,” he said of his first year in the league. “I’m just trying to put that all together now and continue to do what I’m doing now. Hopefully the coaches and general manager see that and pick up my option coming into this year. I think I can be a great asset like I was last year. I’m doing nothing but getting better every day.”

It’s that lunch pail attitude, the lack of glitz and glamour in the city built on spectacle, that makes Summer League an experience so vastly different from the regular season. It’s simply guys trying to take what they have from their hard work and hit it big.

Now that’s the one thing about it that seems fitting for Vegas.