What We Learned: California Classic
Summer League was once seen as a hidden treasure of the NBA offseason: easily accessible at one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it provided basketball fans of all ages the opportunity to watch NBA talent in ways never seen before.
Now, you’d be hard pressed to find a news outlet or general manager who isn’t in town for the summer’s hottest basketball event. For the first time, Summer League not only has all 30 teams present in Las Vegas, but the tournament extended to Sacramento at the California Classic.
For Kings fans, there was no shortage of reasons to visit Golden 1 Center this past week: No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley made his debut, Harry Giles continued his remarkable comeback from multiple ACL injuries and familiar faces De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III looked to build upon their rookie campaigns.
It’s early, but we learned plenty from the Kings first few contests in Sactown.
Marvin Bagley Isn't Sweating the Slow Start
Sactown was ready for MBIII to make his Kings debut, and in the opener vs. the Los Angeles Lakers the rookie from Duke was ready for Sacramento as well. Gifting Kings fans an early treat for their Lakers friends, Bagley ran the break, cocked back the ball with his left and finished a ferocious slam over Lakers first round pick Moritz Wagner.
Bagley finished his debut with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks on 54.5 percent shooting.
From there, the rookie struggled. His final two efforts in Sactown weren’t what he hoped they’d be, but he’s not losing any confidence.
“The last two games weren’t my best games, but it’s next play,” Bagley said. “Move on, go back and study what I did and go back and see what I need to do to get better and just keep moving forward.”
If confidence is contagious, Bagley’s Summer League coach and teammates surely understand why. Neither Larry Lewis or Harry Giles are worried about the rookie’s performances after his debut.
“It’s a different kind of defense; it’s a little more physical and he’s just got to learn different angles and ways to use his body to his benefit,” Lewis said. “And he’ll figure that out and we’ll teach him and we’ll work with him. I think when that happens, it will be a little different for his opponents.”
“He just didn’t make his shots today…and it’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be good, but he’s going to get better each game,” said Giles. “I promise you by the end of Vegas, he’ll be right where he wants to be.”
Bagley has another chance to get back on track Saturday against Deandre Ayton, Jack Cooley and the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas.
Harry Giles is Healthy and Ready to Contribute
Who doesn’t love Harry Giles?
The rookie who underwent surgeries to both knees before entering the league impressed at the California Classic with contributions on both ends, displaying the skill-set evaluators and fans dreamt about when he enrolled at Duke.
In addition to the skills, Giles brings a certain toughness that the team admits it was lacking last season, especially down low. Giles has been a notable voice in practices as well as during the California Classic.
"Toughness is something I'm going to bring every day," Giles said. "I'm always going to bring that fight, that grit because I'm never going to let another man feel like he's got an advantage over me. That's never going to happen, especially in a basketball game. No way."
Giles rounded out his impressive Classic with his first NBA double-double, including a defensive swagger that the team hopes to see throughout the duration of the regular season.
“It just feels great to be out there. I’m getting better each game,” said Giles. “It’s a roller coaster so you just have to stay patient and keep going with that.”
In combination with fellow Blue Devils big man Bagley, the two hope to feed off each other and shore up the Kings frontcourt line for the foreseeable future.
The California Classic is Here to Stay
Summer League continues to grow, as evident in the upwards trending ratings and attendance numbers each season. With talented rookies, the ever-changing evolution that is free agency and the massive appeal of the sport, the summer’s NBA festivities isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
On behalf of the @Lakers I want to congratulate the Sacramento Kings organization, Owner Vivek Ranadivé, and my former teammate GM Vlade Divac for putting on a very exciting California Classic.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) July 3, 2018
“Kings and basketball fans alike made the inaugural California Classic a huge success and we look forward to making this an annual tradition,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé.
More than 50,000 fans attended the inaugural tournament in Sacramento. The demand was so great for summer basketball that additional seating had to be added in the upper bowl to meet the demand.
With basketball being the global game that it is, the appeal of Summer League and the sport as a whole is here to stay. The California Classic was by all means a success thanks to basketball fans of all ages, genders and fanbases.
In addition to basketball, the Classic provided fans with a post-game concert and outdoor party featuring Grammy Award-Winning artist Lil Jon. Over 5,000 people enjoyed his performance in the plaza and Grand Entrance.
This combination of entertainment, basketball and the world’s most technologically-advanced and sustainable arena, the California Classics aims to be a summer staple for years to come.