The New Orleans Hornets just finished their five-game summer league schedule in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon with a tough eight-point loss at the hands of Vegas' only undefeated team, the Golden State Warriors.
In game five, Xavier Henry finally showed up, scoring 21 points in the summer league finale. Meanwhile, undersized power forward Lance Thomas continued his impressive summer by scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
And Brian Roberts continued his wonderful summer, which should lead to a training camp invite, by finding a way to score 18 points against a talented defensive team.
That's how the final game ended. But it was not the first time the undermanned Hornets scrapped their way back into a game, a la the 2012 regular-season Hornets team.
The team continued to fight hard, but had a difficult time matching the talent of Golden State and its other competitors. A lot of that can be explained by the absence of Anthony Davis (more on him coming), Austin Rivers for all but two games and second-round pick Darius Miller playing through injury.
Surely if the team had just a healthy Rivers and Miller the team would have fielded a more competitive team through the five games it played in Vegas.
And then there is the biggest man the Hornets have in their organization, Anthony Davis. The 6'10" forward was the college player of the year, Final Four most outstanding player and No. 1 pick in a three-month span that just ended.
Now he is playing alongside future Hall of Famers such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul as part of the USA Olympic team. Though Davis didn't get to mesh with some of his new Hornets teammates, the experience he has with that team will prove more valuable in the long run.
Add to Davis' experience that of guard Eric Gordon and again forward Lance Thomas. Those two also got to participate in the the USA Basketball workouts. Gordon did not make the Olympic team but was a final cut who was allowed to run with the very same players as Davis.
And Lance Thomas was part of the USA Select team and thus was permitted to compete against players like Davis, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. His play in the summer league proves there were immediate benefits of having played against the best of the best in an open gym for a few days.
Thomas may never become an NBA superstar but his inclusion on the select team was probably the larger confidence booster than his stellar play in the Vegas summer league. He knows he can handle his own against some of the best players in the world.
What a tremendous asset to have coming off your bench if you are Monty Williams and the Hornets organization. The summer he had could grow his game by leaps and bounds. If it does, imagine what the Hornets' front line could look like in 2012 and beyond.
The three players the Hornets organization had in the USA Basketball program this summer tied them with the Oklahoma City Thunder for most players involved.
Though the Hornets' official 2012 summer league did not look pretty on paper in terms of results, there is an underlying sense of great accomplishment and hope stemming from the experience accrued by each individual involved.
The Hornets must build on that, whether we're talking about individual development or growth as an entire franchise. With the tremendous coaching provided by Monty Williams, expect the Hornets' growth to be accelerated greatly due to the players' experience this summer.
That means the rebuilding effort going on in New Orleans may come together faster than anyone could have expected even three months ago.
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