I thought the NBA season was over. Silly me.
If nothing else, the NBA certainly knows how to make money. The league steals it with multi-million-dollar television contracts. Their merchandising is off the charts with jerseys and caps, and now the once-obscure Summer League is raking in viewers and spectators.
I have no idea where the summer league used to be, and maybe nothing has changed except for high-profile rookies like Lonzo Ball, but I don’t remember it being so staged in the three cities of Las Vegas, Orlando and Salt Lake City. Ticket prices range from $400 per courtside seat to $20 for juniors, another smart move for future fans.
Funny, there are 30 NBA teams but 36 summer league squads because six franchises have two teams competing in different cities – Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. Utah? That must be a concession for only sending four teams to the Salt Lake Summer League. Players can move between both squads, so the fans never know who will be playing for which team on which night; more brilliant marketing.
This must be a study in NBA fan analytics because Golden State and Cleveland, which have met in the last three NBA Finals but have few rookies of note, have only one team each – both playing in Las Vegas, where 24 teams compete at the packed Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV. You won’t see Curry, Durant or LeBron there for sure.
Vegas also has both LA teams, the Lakers and Clippers, and is a perfect place to center the summer league, when tourist traffic is high and people can go gamble, take in the Strip and see Lonzo Ball and the rest of the highly touted rooks guaranteed to be playing for their franchise’s summer league team. Few vets compete.
If you are a basketball junkie, which I am not, you watch various ESPN networks and NBA-TV and sometimes see four or five of your favorite college players competing in the same game. The other night, five of the 10 players on the court for the Clippers and the Jazz were former Tar Heels. Some of them you may be seeing again into the regular season. Some of them, like free agents Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt, may be getting their last chances before they head for the NBA D-League or pro careers in Europe.
You can follow all of their progress on NBA.com. Justin Jackson scored 18 points in his one game so far, TB5 had 13 and 4 rebounds.