Pete’s Perspective – Summer League (July 8)
Las Vegas, Nevada – The NBA Summer League experience is unlike anything else in the basketball universe. You will see virtually every coach, GM, scout, agent or former player at either Cox Pavilion or the Thomas & Mack Center. And all the media are here. Ric Bucher? Check. Amin Elhassen? Him too. Marc Spears? Yep, the fellow Arsenal supporter was taking in the action today as well.
For ten days or so, the blistering-hot desert is the capital of the basketball world. And it’s even more true with the debut of Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers. In past years, getting a seat reasonably close to the action in the cavernous Thomas & Mack Center was pretty easy. This afternoon, the entire lower bowl was packed and the upper reaches of the arena were heavily populated. Afterwards, the NBA announced that a new attendance record (17,500) was set for the day.
Lonzo Ball and the Lakers were going to take on Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. Well, at least the Summer League versions of those two teams. Ball put up a triple double, Tatum’s Celtics got the come-from-behind win.
I think both will be solid pros. Will Ball be – as his father as predicted – the “greatest guard ever”? That’s a big statement and there are a lot of guys who could be already considered in that argument. I could see Ball as a future All Star and perhaps one-day a league MVP. Best ever? Um, can I get back to you in ten years?
You cannot imagine a greater disparity in personality: LaVar Ball literally was strutting around Thomas & Mack Center during halftime of the game; his son is much quieter and lets his play do the talking. If Lonzo is unaffected by the (as Pat Riley termed them) peripheral opponents, he’ll have an outstanding NBA career.
At the bottom line is this inescapable truth: Lonzo Ball is now must-see TV. The national TV networks will plead with the NBA to schedule as many games with the Lakers on their air as possible. I put the over/under on national Lakers telecasts at twenty.
Speaking of national television, it’s been fun to call games for NBA-TV with Isiah Thomas. He’s sharp, personable and has great insights from his days as a player, coach and executive. But calling Summer League games is very different from a regular season game. Typically we have coaches or GMs in the booth during the game and that becomes the focus rather than the game itself. I’m part game-caller and part traffic cop. No matter, it’s been great fun and I’m thankful to the NBA for the opportunity.
Prior to Ball-a-palooza, the Memphis Grizzlies took down the Washington Wizards in their opener 91-88, thanks to a heroic effort from Wayne Selden, who made shots, ran the floor, stole the ball, rebounded the ball and hit the decisive shot after the Grizzlies almost gave up a double-digit lead
Some quick thoughts from the game:
- Selden was scintillating. Then again, against Summer League competition, he should be. He acquitted himself well in the playoff series against San Antonio, so performing well in this setting should come as no surprise. Mike Breen and P.J. Carlesimo, who called the game for ESPN, agreed that Selden was a man among boys.
- Wade Baldwin IV continues to struggle. A year ago in Summer League, he would drive into traffic with no lane to the hoop, then rise up and fire a pass out to the perimeter. A year later, he’s still doing the same thing. His shooting is still spotty and he too often relies on getting bailed out by a whistle on drives. He had one assist and three turnovers. Yes, he scored 19 points, but on 17 shots.
- Jarrell Martin remains a bit of a mystery. He did score 13 points, but needed 12 shots and 7 free throw attempts to get there. He also committed eight fouls. Thankfully, the benevolent rule-makers for Summer League don’t disqualify you until you ring up ten. This is a vital outing for Martin and against this level of competition, he should shine, if not dominate. Saturday he did neither.
- Dillon Brooks made some shots, but defensively had trouble staying in front of his man. I like his motor and ability to change ends of the floor though.
- Kobi Simmons looked fluid and dynamic on the offensive end. He didn’t shoot well – just two of nine from the floor, but did have four assists. When the ball is in his hands, there’s an air of anticipation.
Again, dear readers, take this all with either a grain of salt or the knowledge that all this is from an exceptionally small sample size.
A few more random thoughts from a city where it’s still 100+ degrees after the sun goes down:
- I’m not a fashion critic, but there are a lot of folks wearing stuff that – and I’m being kind here – they have no business wearing. A word to the wise: be stylish but stay in your lane.
- Props to the guy on the pedestrian bridge who has his photo taken with passers-by. Dressed as Chewbacca. Cannot imagine why someone would think standing in the hot sun in a fur suit is a good idea.
- When you see the drunken bachelor/bachelorette parties stagger through the hotel, you know exactly why they say “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
- I may be missing out, but I’ve never hit up a buffet in Vegas.
- Then again, I’ve never dropped so much as a dime in a casino in Vegas.
Guess I’m boring. Or I’m just here for the hoop.
But I’m not wearing a Chewbacca suit in 120-degree heat either.
Check out Grizzlies Summer League ’17 Coverage for more exclusive stories.