By John Denton
July 1, 2016
ORLANDO – At one end of the NBA spectrum there’s the free-agency frenzy, a chaotic time when veteran players are lavishly courted by teams desperate to make a splash and are expected ink guaranteed contracts totaling more than $1 billion total.
At the extreme other end of the vast NBA spectrum there are the Summer Leagues, a time in the offseason when overlooked and undervalued players scratch and fight throughout most of July for the opportunity to scratch and fight again in training camp for a roster spot on a team in the regular season.
One such league, the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League, tips off on Saturday and is filled with NBA hopefuls praying that they can impress GMs and scouts enough to land on rosters in the fall. The 25-game, seven-day event in Orlando will feature two teams from the Magic, along with squads from the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The games will be played on the Magic’s practice court at the Amway Center and will be closed to the public due to space limitations. NBA TV will televise all of the games (with 24 being broadcast live) and OrlandoMagic.com will publish recaps and box scores minutes after each game over the next seven days.
Unlike in years past when the rosters for the Orlando Summer League were packed with high-profile draft picks or prominent second-year players, this year’s cast is a mostly anonymous group looking to make names for themselves. Stanley Johnson (Pistons), Josh Richardson (Heat), Glen Robinson III (Pacers), Cleanthony Early (Knicks), Mitch McGary (Thunder) are the most accomplished players in the league.
Orlando’s most prominent players are 2016 second-round pick Stephen Zimmerman, 2015 second-round pick Tyler Harvey and Magic holdover Devyn Marble, who will be playing in his third consecutive Summer League.
Magic head coach Frank Vogel, who was hired in late May following the departure of Scott Skiles, won’t be on the sidelines this week, but he will be busy evaluating and monitoring players. Vogel’s newly named staff of Chad Forcier, Corliss Williamson, David Adelman and Jay Hernandez will coach one of the Magic’s Summer League, while Erie Bayhawks head coach Bill Peterson will guide the other Orlando entry.
Vogel said he will be watching Zimmerman, the 41st overall pick of last week’s NBA Draft, to see how he takes to instruction and playing with others.
``We want to see how coachable he is,’’ Vogel said. ``A lot of players come into this league wanting to show how well they can shoot, how well they can rebound and how well they can defend, but for us it’s about how coachable are you and how quickly can you pick up what the coach is trying to get you to do in the system. And how can you contribute to the chemistry of your team? And what kind of guy are you?
``All of those intangibles are what we’re looking for with Zimm more than anything,’’ said Vogel of the 7-foot, 240-pound Zimmerman, who averaged 10.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.96 blocks as a 19-year-old freshman at UNLV. ``We kind of know what his skill set is, but we want to see it against a greater talent level and the speed in summer league will be faster than he saw in college, but not as fast as the NBA. So it’s a good building opportunity for him.’’
On Orlando’s other summer league entry, Nnanna Egwu, Jordan Sibert, Aaron Bowen and Alex Davis all played for the Magic’s Development League team, the Erie Bayhawks last season. Center/power forward Landry Nnoko, a native of Cameroon, graduated high school just outside of Orlando at Montverde Academy and is trying to grab the attention of the Magic with his defensive skills. Nnoko, a 6-foot-10, 255-pounder, finished fifth in Clemson history in blocked shots with 212.
``We’ll be looking to evaluate all of the guys on these rosters and a lot of times guys make strides in their career and we want to see how much they have improved,’’ Vogel said. ``Part of building a deep team is being able to find guys from the D-League who give you value, won’t cost you as much and aren’t big salary cap hits. You want to be able to throw them out there and know that they are going to give you (production).’’
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