Summer League is a Hell of a Drug
Summer League this year has been to hardcore hoop fans what cocaine was to Rick James.
Maybe it's all thanks to ESPN broadcasting most of the games, or the intrigue of Lonzo Ball and his living meme of a father, or the competitive edge many of these fringe-NBAers are playing with to attempt landing on a team and elongate their NBA careers (see Jonathan Simmons and his 20 million reasons of why to do so), but I have not been able to stop watching Summer League. I feel like Cookie Monster when he had to go to rehab.
Anyway, here have been my reasons to check the games out:
- Lonzo Ball and the Search for a Sneaker Deal
Everybody laughed when Lavar said Lonzo would be on the Lakers (true), that he could beat MJ 1 on 1 (false), and that he would turn BBB into a billion dollar brand (jury’s still out, but probably false). During the Summer League, he’s worn pretty much every sneaker you could wear, from Nike to Adidas to Underarmour to K-Swiss (okay not really but maybe it’s next!). When asked if it’s part of some masterplan, he replied “sort of”, which can only lead us to surmise that he’s not trusting his dad’s process (good thing Philly took Fultz in the draft). Lonzo is definitely good enough to earn himself a sneaker contract. Maybe it’s not the type of contract that LeBron is getting (cue Kanye rapping “GAVE LEBRON A BILLIE NOT TO RUN AWAY!”) but that’s fine, it’ll still be for millions of dollars and be an integral part of his resulting legacy. It’s been a smart move testing the waters of the sneaker game for him, now it’s time for him to be a big baller and cash a sneaker check.
2. The Nets Youth Movement
Four of the Brooklyn Nets rotation players from last season have been active in these games (Dinwiddie, LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson, and Whitehead) and being as how they'll probably be half of the team's rotation this year, it's been fun (also depressing) to see how they fared in Las Vegas (not very well). RHJ has shown signs that he could play the stretch-4 with his defensive versatility, and even played some small-ball minutes at Center, which was intriguing. Caris Levert has continued to improve on offense, while still looking lost on D. Dinwiddie showed a lot more confidence in himself as a shooter and a floor general, and I'd look for him to fill the combo guard role off the bench for the Nets next year, behind Lin and Russell. Whitehead still needs to improve greatly on both ends, but will have the room to grow as "The Cyclone" rides the end of the bench waiting for an opportunity to arise. Without Brook Lopez this year, there'll be opportunities for plenty of guys to get minutes as coach Kenny Atkinson looks to follow Houston and Golden State in their quest for positionless basketball.
3. Tatum and Brown
Both of these young Celtics showed out in Vegas and proved that they can be integral guys coming off the bench in 2017-18. We still have to find out why Ainge traded the first pick but maybe the answer is just that he liked Jayson Tatum’s combination of skills and personality better than Fultz’s and figured he could get extra assets (to perhaps consider using in some hypothetical trade that he’ll probably end up nixing). Brown showed that he’s a true competitor by showing up in the SL and Tatum has shown that he has a nice bag of moves to use coming into the NBA (his Dirk fadeaway has Boston fans already creaming their jeans).
4. Dennis Smith Jr., Destroyer of Rims
Do I really need to say anymore? This dude has been crushing hoops with his insane vertical and already making Knicks fans ask “what if we didn’t have cenile Phil Jackson running our front office?” On an unrelated note, with Frank Ntilikina, instead of Filthy Frank or Frank the Tank, I feel like the nickname here has to get the word “Knick” into his last name. Something like “Knickilkina”? New Yorkers already won’t be able to say his name, why not throw the team name in their just for shits and giggles? Alright enough about the Knicks ineptitude, I’m going to watch Dennis Smith Jr. highlights until the regular season starts.