Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Do We Have a Summer League?

The Baby Grizzly Bears are on the way to Las Vegas to match games against the diapered squads from other NBA teams to determine who has the best street game among the rookie and sophomore players in the NBA. 10 fouls before fouling out is slightly generous even for a street game after all. You almost expect an AND 1 team to be represented in the league. Last year the Chinese National team did compete after all. Why not AND 1? They may even be more competitive than Chinese were. Definitely more entertaining than the Chinese last season. Well maybe on par with the Rudy Gay facial on Yi Jianlian.

Admit it. That is what the summer leagues really appear to be isn't it? So why does the NBA do it? It's not like the league can't find a reason to go to Orlando, South California or Vegas whenever they want. It's not a great money maker despite the NBA TV broadcasts. It doesn't even draw a large crowd. Outside of the hordes of NBA Execs, Assistant Coaches and Head Coaches who is there? A few people desperate to avoid the heat, a few girls hoping to become groupies or preventing their man from picking up new ones and a few passionate fans who would travel to Alaska to watch their boys play so SoCal or Orlando is no pain at all. I myself considered going to Vegas this year to see the to speak.

Do the execs and coaches learn anything about these players? Not much probably. Sure occasionally you will find the rare nugget waiting to be polished up but that is an extremely rare exception. The camps don't exist to find the exceptions. The camps are to integrate the 'drafted' rookies into the NBA way of life. They get to develop relationships with the coaches and the staff. They get a taste of the NBA life in a easily digestible amount. They start to live the NBA life without having their confidence destroyed by veterans who are years ahead of them in knowledge of the game. That is stage 2 of the development of an NBA player. In stage 1 the players get a little softer start.

So is the rookie camp worthless? No. It was explained to me by one insider that the camps are like the NFL Mini-camps but the league isn't allowed to bring in the entire roster so the rookie camps are the next best thing. Obviously the team would prefer to have the veterans in with the rookies for a week in the middle of summer to work on everyone's issues and to see who has been working on deficiencies in their games but the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't allow for that.

Instead the teams take what they can get. In some ways that may be better.

The rookies didn't have an end of the year meeting with the coaches. The rookies haven't seen how they stack up against players with even one year of NBA experience They get a taste of this at the rookie camp. The coaches get to see them in a system the team runs to check out how they fit in that system. It's a first step on the road to success. A baby step for sure but a step just the same.

So enjoy the games. Relax and watch what is basically a step above a pro-am league game but don't start scouring the lineup for the next Bruce Bowen, Ben Wallace or Jameiro Moon. This really isn't likely to be the place you will see them. Don't be wowed by some late 1st rd pick scoring 40 points or some 2nd rd pick grabbing 15 boards. It will happen but it isn't like doing it in the NBA for 82 games.

As someone told me at the scrimmage Tuesday night, Dan Dakitch shut down Michael Jordan in the 1984 NCAA tournament. Dan was recently relieved of his coaching duties at Bowling Green while Jordan is...well Michael Jordan. One game doesn't make a career and Dakitch's game was in the NCAA tournament not the NBA Summer League.

Good thing to remember as we gear up for Over-Hype Vegas Style 2008.

For more information on the summer leagues and how to approach them I suggest you read Eric Musselman's blog about How Hubie Brown Ran His Summer league.

BallHype: hype it up!

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