LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t quite the way Rodions Kurucs wanted to experience NBA Summer League.
The Brooklyn Nets rookie was a spectator in Las Vegas as he waited for the formalities of his European buyout to be completed and his NBA contract to be signed. But he was still able to spend the week around Summer League and Nets teammates Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, plus fellow draft pick Dzanan Musa, while he got his first look at NBA-level players up close.
He was also able to connect with Nets veterans in town for the week like D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and DeMarre Carroll.
“It was a crazy, crazy experience for me as I sat down,” said Kurucs. “First time I’ve seen it in my life, American basketball, what it’s about. It’s fast, physical. I like that. I’m really excited to play next season.
“It’s a good feeling to be here, with all these guys. I’m enjoying it every day.”
Nets assistant coach Jacque Vaughn led the Summer League team and found it a worthwhile first step for Kurucs, even without the court time.
“I think the value lies in him learning his teammates, his coaches, our system,” said Vaughn. “Just kind of integrating into professional basketball at the NBA level. So overall success in that sort.”
From Barcelona to Latvia, Brooklyn and Las Vegas, it’s been quite the month for Kurucs, but the 20-year-old is unfazed by the changing locations, and soon enough the shuffling will stop. With the Summer League experience complete, Kurucs is going to spend time back in Latvia for a spell before settling in Brooklyn to get ready for his first NBA season.
It’s an adjustment that could be daunting. But Kurucs is looking forward to making the change.
“For me, it’s easy,” said Kurucs. “For me, new places are easy to live. It’s like a new challenge. You get to know new people and that’s kind of interesting for me, because I enjoy the process of when you’re meeting new people and you have to adjust to the lifestyle of New York. That’s good.”
Kurucs arrived in the United States just three days before the June 21 draft. He’d wrapped up his season with FC Barcelona, then spent four days at home running through the necessities – paperwork, passport … and a new suit for draft night.
It was his first time in New York. And then, he found out he’d be sticking around when the Nets selected him 40th overall. The following morning, he was on a podium with Musa and Nets general manager Sean Marks, posing for pictures with his black Brooklyn jersey on the court and the rooftop at HSS Training Center.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Kurucs. “It was something new for me. Press conference. Meeting the people. Keep the jersey in my hands. That was also amazing too. I think I’ll remember it for all my life. This moment is just once in life.”
He’s spent a little bit of time checking out the area, walking around Brooklyn and being introduced to some local restaurants by his agent. He and Musa spent a day on Coney Island with Nets public address announcer Olivier Sedra seeing the sights of the iconic landmarks along the boardwalk and greeting fans.
And his new home at HSS Training Center made an impression too.
“It’s amazing,” said Kurucs. “You don’t even need anything more than what they have there. It’s amazing. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve seen something like that. You can’t complain about anything. You just have whatever you need there.”
And then it was off to Las Vegas, which could be a head-turning experience for any 20-year-old.
“Las Vegas is a crazy city,” said Kurucs. “Everybody said to me don’t stay here too much because Vegas is changing people. But we’re still young. Me and Dzanan we’re walking around, checking everything out, enjoying it. It’s an amazing feeling.”