NBA Summer League
Trusting the Process
(For those of you too lazy to read. Scroll to the bottom and watch the movie)
As promised, Chris and I made it out to NBA Summer League in Las Vegas for 1.5 days of bad basketball and worse food. I’m going to try to recap the “highlights” and give you a general feel because I know many of you were curious and interested in coming out next year.
We stayed at the MGM Grand which is one of the closest LV Strip hotels the Thomas & Mack Center. It’s about a 5–8 min Uber ride from the hotel’s dungeon where they make you meet your Uber driver. The tickets are $30 if you can survive the 15 yard walk from your Uber to the front door in the 108 degree LV dry heat. If Phoenix is the Valley of the Sun, I guess Vegas is the Surface of the Sun. The concourses are empty but all the vending stands are open so you never have to wait for your $8 beer. There’s plenty of up close seating (we were about 6 rows up from center court).
Everyone in attendance is a serious basketball fan. For example, we saw Kirk Heinrich, Lance Stephon (Charlotte), Antonio McDyess, and Vince Carter (Nets), Jesus Shuttleworth, and multiple Toon Squad jerseys. We sat next to two guys from Houston the opening game who were out to support their team and Chris proceeded to get into a deep dive with them about 90’s Rockets players.
Not everyone is friendly though. A salty old guy sitting 5 rows behind me yelled “Shut up Bibby. You never won anything” at me (I was wearing a Bibby Kings Jersey). All I had yelled was “put Connaghton in” at the Blazers Coach. I guess that was enough to set this guy off. After he got done with me, he did a 5 minute rant on one of the poor ref’s. But I guess he had paid a week’s worth of wages buying his $30 ticket that day so he wanted to get his money’s worth.
There may also have been a “handful” of fans with serious gambling problems. When Chris turned to me and innocently asked “I wonder what the spread is on this game?”, the guy in front of us turned around within a split second and said “3.5” and the guy next to us chimed in with “and the over is 162”. I know it’s hard to believe, but apparently there are people who like gambling in Las Vegas.
There was a also a dad/uncle (not sure) with his two young boys there (est ages 7–9) and the kids were heckling the players mercilessly and everyone was cracking up. They had a special fondness for chirping at Bryce Alford from UCLA who was playing for the Warriors and we soon had our entire section yelling for Bryce. Some of the best stuff was:
“C’mon Bryce, move your feet”-7 year old kid.
“Give it to Bryce. Iso, Iso”
“We don’t need Lonzo. We got Bryce”
Me yelling at Steve Kerr across the court: “Give him the Super Max!”
Chris convinced the kids that Bryce might be their Dad and so they started yelling “Dad” at Bryce.
We were all having a blast and had the good fortune of meeting Bryce on the concourse and he was super gracious and a nice guy.
There’s also a ton of media and coaches and NBA personnel walking around and they are usually in good spirits and accessible. We ran into ESPN NBA writer Zach Lowe and chatted with him for 10 minutes or so and covered everything from the Vivek’s questionable moves in Sacramento, Serbian water polo, the demise of Grantland, and why Scottie Pippen is underrated. Our conversation ended abruptly when we both told him how disappointed we were that Jake Layman and Pat Connaughton weren’t going to be running in the next game for the Blazers and he just shook his head and said “you guys know way too much about Summer League” and walked away.
The quality of play at Summer League isn’t exactly like watching a Warriors game at Oracle. In general, nobody can shoot so everyone drives to the basket and tries to lay it in or dunk it. This usually leads to 3 huge dudes waiting in the lane to clobber an undersized guard. It’s looks something like this:
We got to the T&M Center at 2 pm and stayed to watch the Lakers Lonzo nightcap that ended after 9:30 pm. That’s a full day of hoops and bad stadium food.
Overall, it’s great experience to go out and watch these games and walk the concourse for 1–2 days. For those of you on the fence for next year, step up and make the trip. You (probably) won’t regret it.
Summer League: The Movie
Brought to you by: Bob Arabian and Chris Burks