The Boys of Summer League
7:00 AM EDT on July 11, 2012
When I was a young Clark still at home with my parents, my mother hated basketball. Not the sport, really, but the fact that it never seemed to end, so I was always watching it. Of course, back then it was just hyperbole from someone who was having to battle with her son to watch Law and Order re-runs.
These days, it is absolutely true. Once the NBA season ends, the draft is right around the corner, and once that ends, free agency starts. Even if you don't get in to the transaction intrigue, the WNBA puts basketball on the floor, and for those who hate women's sports, there is still international basketball every other Summer (Olympics start in a couple of weeks!). There is also the NBA Summer League which is going on right now.
The NBA sponsors two week long basketball leagues that pits teams sponsored by NBA franchises against each other. Recent draft picks, young bench warmers, and minor league players hoping to draw the attention of scouts generally populate the rosters. For the Thunder, who compete in the Orlando Pro Summer League, the participating players were not even announced until the Saturday before the opener on Monday, so the number of practices the team got to build fluidity could have been counted on one hand...by a guy who had been in an industrial accident.
Play in these games is awful. Ball dominating point guards generally fare well since they look for their own shot and opposing defenses are discombobulated. Post players who rely on the guards sharing the ball tend to get few offensive opportunities and are left out to dry by poor perimeter defense. Despite all of this, every Summer people get overly excited about the results of these games.
Case in point. After the Thunder SL team opened up with a loss to the Celtics, The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry wrote an article speculating about how lucky the Thunder were to get Perry Jones:
In fact, in his summer league debut Jones put on a dazzling display that left everyone talking about what a steal the Oklahoma City got when he unexpectedly fell into the Thunder's lap on draft night.
This was on the heels of a 16 point (on 17 shots), 8 rebound effort mostly versus players who will never suit up in an NBA game. It might be a little premature to start thinking about his jersey hanging from the rafters. Especially since past Summer League stars have been Marco Bellineli (who scored 40 points in his debut) and Jerryd Bayless. Who? Exactly. The point is, nothing should be projected from what happens in such games.
The converse is also true. Cole Aldrich has been terrible in the first two games. He had more fouls (7) in game 2 versus Pacers than he had points total in the first two games combined (6). Yet, the Summer League history books are littered with players, particularly centers, who looked like crap. There is no reason to start getting concerned that Cole will likely be the second string center next season.
Does that mean you shouldn't watch the games (which play on NBA TV)? Of course it doesn't. It's basketball and it's summer. Your other option is the WNBA...which isn't playing right now because of the Olympics.