Welcome to the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League. If you aren't familiar, it's the ultimate NBA experience. The rookies we just saw drafted in late June scrimmage at UNLV with other young players in need of development. The stands are littered with GMs, coaches, players (current and retired), celebrities and, of course, fans.
Come join me as I cruise around the Summer League for eight hours a day with my camera and my paparazzi eye.
My day starts as I wake up at the Hooters Casino Hotel, located a (by Vegas standards) short 2.6 miles from the Thomas and Mack Center. I can see it from my balcony.
I then hop on my moped (which I keep in Vegas specifically for this event every year) and head over. The problem is that the moped is a piece of junk and has the speed of a tectonic plate. It can barely go more than 25 mph down Tropicana as cars whiz past me at twice my speed.
It seems fitting that the first photo I got at the Summer League this year was of the NBA logo himself, Jerry West.
Tim Hardaway was here to support his son, Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., but he took some time here to make someone else's day.
It's Hawks rookie Lucas Nogueira. His hair made him a sensation on draft night, but he can ball some, too. He looks like me in one of those fun-house mirrors that stretches you out.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin showed up together. I guess those reports of them not liking each other are a bit overblown.
They chatted with their new coach, Doc Rivers.
Iman Shumpert was supposed to be one of the stars of the Summer League due to his experience and potential, but after an 0-of-5 performance in his first game, he shut it down for the rest of the tournament.
Reggie Miller may have lost his "Most Clutch Shooter Ever" title when Ray Allen buried that three at the end of Game 6 in the NBA Finals.
Big Z, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Getting your West jersey signed by West is pretty boss.
To quote French Montana, Mike D'Antoni "ain't worried bout nuthin." He parlayed his highly successful stint at Phoenix into a couple of high-price contracts and mediocre results in New York and LA. I don't know one Lakers fan who approves of his performance (expect the ones who are trying to tank for Andrew Wiggins). As you can see, he's not worried about what we all think.
The Thomas and Mack Center offers food, but with an In-N-Out Burger on campus there's no reason not to grab some burgers. My daily lunch is a Double-Double Protein Style (meaning the bun is replaced by extra lettuce). It's my feeble attempt to eat healthy on the road.
Cavs star Kyrie Irving came to support his younger teammates at the Summer League, including Dion Waiters. Unfortunately for us, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett was unavailable as he was still recovering from shoulder surgery.
With Bennett going first in the draft this year, Andrew Wiggins going first next year and Drake's verse on "Versace," the Canadian takeover is almost complete.
Speaking of Canadian takeovers, in his playing days, Rick Fox toed the line between playboy and enforcer.
New Cavalier Jarrett Jack was there for the entire first day.
It's the Lakers' Jack Sparrow. This guy channel's Johnny Depp's character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and attends as many Lakers games and practices as possible.
The Morris twins seem pretty happy to be reunited in Phoenix. Before the draft, they had never slept in different places in their lives.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, here. Unfortunately for him, his team's first round pick, Shane Larkin, broke his ankle this day in practice.
The reigning executive of the year, Masai Ujiri. This time last year he was working for the Nuggets, but he has since returned to where he started his NBA career, Toronto.
He's also consistently the best-dressed GM at the Summer League.
The No. 3 overall pick, Otto Porter, enjoys some pizza in the stands on a day he didn't have a game.
Porter would go on to play the next two days and have a poor showing in both.
Bobcats GM (and the first Asian GM in NBA history) Rich Cho with his wife.
Sam Cassell, Brian Scalabrine and Mark Jackson share a laugh.
More Mark Jackson.
Harrison Barnes graduated from the Summer League after just a year.
Jan Vesely, on the other hand, is still is summer school for the third straight year.
John Wall and Bradley Beal were steady presences around the Wizard Summer League squad.
Here's the Lakers' Sparrow getting an autograph from Del Harris as Calvin Booth looks on.
Wall is usually really shy about photos, but during interviews I had a license to shoot.
Kermit Washington. It's nice to see him still around the game. He was here representing the National Basketball Players Association.
Chris Mullin is here, too! We officially have a full on Run TMC reunion on our hands.
Soon-to-be free agent Al Harrington.
He had on some socks that were a photograph of Dennis Rodman grabbing a rebound.
Shabazz Muhammad, pounding the air out of the basketball.
I'm not sure who this guy is, but we'll call him Birdman Jr.
Ben McLemore struggled in his first Summer League game. That seemed to be the case in the Summer League this year with players drafted high.
Tony Snell on the other hand looked like a young Kawhi Leonard on the floor (I'm not just talking about the braids).
New Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive. He's rich and famous from digitizing Wall Street in the 1980s, but more recently he's know for saving basketball in Sacramento from the evil Maloof brothers.
Carlos Boozer made an appearance with a sweet looking tank top.
Arron Afflalo posing with a fan. No NBA event brings fans and players together like the Summer League.
Sacramento Kings GM Pete D'Alessandro.
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald.
Middleweight champion and avid sports fan Floyd "Money" Mayweather. His impending collision with Canelo Alvarez is the biggest boxing match I can remember.
Tom Thibodeau always seems to be having a great time here.
As you can see, The Strip casinos are visible from the front steps of Thomas and Mack.
Paul Millsap came to cheer on his younger brother Elijah, who plays on the D-League All-Star team.
One of the most popular people at the Summer League was Toronto car tycoon and Raptors mega fan Nav Bhatia. He has basically embarked on a campaign to change people's stereotypes of Indian people by balling out at basketball games. It's pretty awesome.
NBA fashion alert: I'm not sure who the player was wearing these, but it's not really a good look.
Senegalese-born rookie Gorgui Dieng.
Ndamukong Suh, giving me the death stare. I wonder what brought him here?
Mark Madsen sighting!
Floyd actually left and came back. Maybe he went and placed a seven-figure bet on the Bulls Summer League team. I'd believe it.
The No. 2 shot blocker in the league, Larry Sanders.
New Nuggets coach Brian Shaw. He toiled away under Phil Jackson and Frank Vogel before getting his shot at a lead coaching job.
I remember being floored when I saw John Henson's length at last year's Summer League. He looked like Mr. Fantastic. He had some dominant games as a rookie (a 28-point, 16-rebound game and a 17-point, 25-rebound game in the last two weeks of the season).
He picked up where he left of, scoring 19 point and grabbing 13 rebounds in just 20 minutes in this game. Despite having Ersan Ilyasova in front of him, he's a player to watch this year.
Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey. His selection of C.J. McCollum is already being heralded around the Summer League.
DeMar DeRozan and Dwane Casey.
Jonas Valanciunas was dominant in this game, scoring 20 points before halftime.
It's always nice to see Clyde.
Larry Johnson. Oh boy do I miss those Converse Reacts.
Pelicans GM Dell Demps. I'm pretty sure he's glad he doesn't have to deal with the restrictions he did when the NBA owned his team.
Jan Vesely getting out of dodge.
Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman. Probably wishing they could get that Vesely pick back.
Throughout the day the league was doing things to raise money for St. Jude Hospital. Whether it was auctioning signed merchandise, selling raffle tickets or taking donations in exchange for letting fans participate in a three-point shootout at halftime, the NBA put an emphasis on giving back to the community.
An impromptu Mike Woodson news conference.
KnickerBlogger Robert Silverman.
It's pretty cool to see Patrick Ewing, Mitch Richmond, Tom Thibodeau, Chris Mullin and Kermit Washington all in the same shot. I can't stress it enough, you are missing out if you are an NBA fan and don't come to the Summer League.
More Ewing. He has been trying to break into the coaching ranks forever (with no help from his Knicks). He seems to be moving closer to his dream with his work for the Bobcats.
NBA fashion alert: Let me preface this with the facts that R.C. Buford has been very nice to me every time I've met him and is an exceptional GM, but, the cargo shorts with tassels and Euro race driver shoes were not hot.
Flip Saunders, Tom Thibodeau, Ric Bucher and Frank Isola, all hanging out watching the game.
What Clyde wears under the desk.
Byron Scott, who reached high plateaus as a player (Showtime!) and coach.
Newly minted Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Pelicans coach Monty Williams.
Robert Sacre, who's energy is undeniable.
It's not uncommon to see a Rolls-Royce at the Summer League. Especially not one with a license plate that says "TALLMNY" (Tall Money?).
Another gem from the local In-N-Out Burger. Normally, their fries taste like cardboard, but when you go "Animal Style" (melted cheddar, well done grilled onions and Thousand Island dressing), it's a whole new ballgame.
So....about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's shooting form....
Herb Williams and Allan Houston are all smiles. Last year I told Houston that I loved his acting debut (and finale), "Black and White." It was the biggest lie I told all year.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry. He may have had a rough time in Cleveland, but I love the job he's done in Atlanta in the last year and some change.
Whenever you saw C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard was near by. That's a great sign for C.J.'s future.
Also, it's Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, fresh off being jilted by Dwight Howard.
The Bobcats brought in legendary shooter Mark Price to help Kidd-Gilchrist with his shot. Good luck with that Price.
The Bobcats' controversial fourth overall selection, Cody Zeller.
These guys come to the Summer League every year and had the brilliant idea to make a bingo card with VIP's names on them. When you spot them, you mark it off. First to get "Vegas" wins.
Cavs bruiser Marreese Speights.
Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis. I was really looking forward to seeing him teamed up with Nerlens Noel.
Two-time champion Erik Spoelstra and reigning Coach of the Year George Karl. Unfortunately for Karl, he's a statistic in our nation's unemployment numbers. The Coach of the Year Award is the NBA's version of the Mafia's kiss of death.
Boobie Gibson and his songstress wife, Keyshia Cole, were in the building.
As the NBA becomes more international, so do the people covering it. Here are some members of the German media here to watch Dennis Schröder play.
"He is intense, but in a good way. He will (crap) on teammates who don't work hard," they told me.
Schröder would go on to have the game-winning assist, one of his eight on the night. It was the second straight game his shot hasn't been falling in the desert yet, but aside from that he already looked very comfortable and in control out there.
His teammates seemed to love him, too. As he gave this interview they ran by and gave him "wet willies." Or in John Jenkins' case, playfully choked him out.
If you can believe it, there's still eight days left of the Vegas Summer League. Check back in as I'll be documenting the whole thing.
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