NBA Summer League 2013: Behind the Scenes at Las Vegas, Days 7-10
Welcome back to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. As the league goes on, more and more good players are rested, more media members go home and fewer stars show up.
This is usually where Summer League fatigue can set in, but I channeled the consummate professionals I see there all day every day, like Tom Thibodeau, R.C. Buford, Isiah Thomas (who can sit on air for eight hours straight every day) and others.
Tristan Thompson rolled up to the game in a $325 T-shirt that said "Pervert 17" on the back.
Tristan Thompson Covered Up
Someone in the organization may have taken exception to the shirt because he quickly donned a towel across his shoulders the rest of the time he was there.
Mike Brown is pretty jovial, laughing it up with everyone he talks to. This photo of him laughing looks pretty scary though.
Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra
Tom Thibodeau isn't impressed.
What is impressive is his and Erik Spoelstra's work ethic and drive. Some coaches show up for the first few days and then take a hike (Doc Rivers, Rick Adelman), as if there is anything else NBA related going on right now. Not Tom and Erik, who are there every day.
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was one of the owners in attendance.
There was a pop-up appearance by James "The Beard" Harden. With Daryl Morey making big moves, I'm starting to think the Houston Rockets may be the biggest threat to the Oklahoma City Thunder this season.
Just when you thought the Harden trade couldn't get worse for OKC.
The Dwight Buycks hype had been growing as the Summer League progressed and it reached its fever pitch as he laid into the Phoenix Suns for 28 points.
The way he's playing, it makes you wonder if the Toronto Raptors regret signing D.J. Augustin this offseason.
John Henson, rooted in the paint for a rebound. Is it me or are the Milwaukee Bucks going to have an amazing frontcourt next year between Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia?
OK, I was just kidding about the Zaza part.
"OK, now the Summer League has officially started," said a Summer League handler upon seeing Nate.
Nate is Mr. Las Vegas Summer League, having put on memorable shows there four straight years. I was in the building in 2008 when he became the first player in Summer League history to have his number retired.
Hey, Mom, look, I'm on TV! With Nate Robinson and both Tim Hardaways. This is why the Summer League is the best.
Kenneth "The Manimal" Faried graduated from playing in the Summer League, but he still dropped by as a spectator.
Robert Pera, the 35-year-old billionaire owner of the Grizzlies, was sitting courtside. He's already revolutionized Silicon Valley, can he revolutionize the NBA?
Masai Ujiri and Jonas Valanciunas
After every game, Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has pulled Jonas Valanciunas (or JV as teammates call him during games) aside and talked to him. Masai spent six years playing basketball professionally in Europe, so perhaps he can speed up the impressive transition JV has been making from Euro basketball to NBA basketball.
Jonas has unsurprisingly been one of the best players in the Summer League, and with Andrea Bargnani being shipped out JV is going to have a huge role on the 2013-14 Raptors.
Here you can see the wear and tear the Summer League has had on Jonas Valanciunas.
Tony Snell was one of the few first-round picks living up to the hype in Vegas. He was a sublime blend of wing defense, corner threes and rebounding. One night he grabbed 12 rebounds (11 through the first three quarters), the next night he scored 20, including five three-pointers.
Between Snell and Jimmy Butler, I would be shocked if impending free agent Luol Deng is on the Bulls a year from now.
Syracuse head coach and Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim is presumably in town for the Team USA minicamp next week.
Erik Spoelstra's Threes
Erik Spoelstra with a crisp pair of Jordan 3s. He was the only coach I saw wearing Jordans.
A.C. Green was the Tim Tebow of a previous generation.
Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff Hornacek
I remember being in homeroom in seventh grade and seeing the Jerry Stackhouse-Jeff Hornacek fight on SportsCenter.
Out of nowhere there was this sheer brutality in what I always thought was a beautiful, safe game. When I realized that both were in the same gym, I knew I had to get them in a photo together. Though it may be abstract, it brings closure to my childhood.
Jeff Hornacek and Jerry Stackhouse
From the reverse angle.
Patrick Ewing and Patrick Ewing Jr.
Patrick Jr. spent last season in Germany and is trying to break into the NBA.
Terrence Jones, the No. 18 overall pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2012 draft, was sitting courtside. Did he come into town with James Harden?
The Houston Rockets invasion continues. Here's Aaron Brooks, who's been to China and back. He signed a contract with the Houston Rockets on July 16. Linsurance?
Rip Van Winkle
This guy wasn't too into the action.
Here, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Bill Bayno chat. Once upon a time (1995-2000 to be specific), Bayno used to be the head coach here at UNLV. He recruited stars like Shawn Marion and Keon Clark, but was eventually fired after a Lamar Odom recruitment scandal that netted the school four years' probation.
It must be bittersweet for him to be back.
Harden's Two Chains
James Harden was going with the twin Jesus pieces look.
Thomas Robinson's Socks
Thomas Robinson was rocking some tie-dyed rainbow socks. I'm loving the colorful sock trend in the NBA right now.
Under Clyde's Desk
Another peek under Clyde's desk reveals smoothness that a baby's bottom would be jealous of.
You may remember Trajan Langdon as the 11th pick of the 1999 NBA draft, another Dukie that didn't make it in the NBA.
Since we saw him last, Langdon moved on to Europe, where he found glory in Italy, Turkey and Russia. Upon his retirement he became a scout for the Spurs (who can use a guy very familiar with the Euro League), which is why he's here today.
To say Jeremy Tyler has had a unique path to the NBA would be an understatement of Oliver Miller-sized proportions. He was once a highly touted high school player, then decided to forgo his senior season of high school to play professionally overseas for two years until he was eligible to enter the NBA draft.
He signed a $140,000 contract with Maccabi Haifa in Israel but quickly left. He ended up playing for the Tokyo Apache until he was eligible for the draft. He was selected by Golden State as the 39th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but ended up in the D-League, and now he's here.
He's been the main bright spot for a star-less New York Knicks squad. In one game, he racked up 20 points in 20 minutes. Is this immense talent starting to "get it," or is this just a desert mirage?
Ex-NBA dunker Darvin Ham is now an assistant coach for the Hawks. He's one of the few human beings to know what it's like to shatter a backboard with a dunk.
Former NBA scoring leader Jerry Stackhouse was courtside for the early games. I didn't want to bother by taking too many photos of him for fear that he would throw on a track suit and give me the Kirk Snyder experience.
DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins made an appearance for the Kings game. He's one of the 27 players who will be forming like Voltron at the Team USA Basketball minicamp being held right here starting July 22. I guess he just got here a little early.
Tickle Me Boogie
I guess DeMarcus Cousins does have a tender side, you just have to treat him like Tickle Me Elmo.
Atlanta Hawks second-round pick Mike Muscala was a casualty of a game versus the Sacramento Kings. A right foot injury shelved him for the vast majority of it.
Kosta Koufos made some new friends.
An incognito Dennis Schröder takes in a game. I saw him watching a ton of games he wasn't playing in. Even the day after his team was eliminated, when most players can't wait to get the heck out of there, he was still in the crowd, watching.
Tom Thibodeau and Michael Finley
Tom Thibodeau: still here. This time he's kicking it with Michael Finley.
Dion Waiters talks to reporters after dropping 27 on the San Antonio Spurs.
Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts kind of looks like the fourth Manning brother.
Before coming to the Summer League, I could only judge Jim Buss by what some media said, which was usually pretty negative.
Watching him up close these last few days, I really like him. He went to a lot of games and was hooting and hollering courtside. He interacted with fans like a common person, fielding questions about Kobe Bryant, the Lakers and more.
Jim Buss on the Dairy Queen Counter
Alright, maybe he's a little too comfortable now, he's just sitting on the Dairy Queen counter messing around on his iPad. Where outside of the Las Vegas Summer League would you get to kick it with the owner of a marquee sports franchise while ordering an ice-cream cone?
Trajan Langdon's Shoes
Trajan Langdon's shoes looked like Dr. Frankenstein had started dabbling in denim. These things do not belong on the court.
Here is Gal Mekel, the second Israeli to be drafted into the NBA. He was the Israeli Basketball Super League MVP last year. This year we will get to see how he does against NBA competition.
Gal Mekel's Backpack
And here is Gal Mekel's backpack. He's apparently a Belieber. Rookie hazing is the best.
Suns Make the Finals
Here, Markieff Morris scores the go-ahead basket to boost the Suns into the finals.
The Morris brothers have been bullying opponents all week. At one point in the game against the Raptors, Markieff backed Quincy Acy down and scored over him. "You're not big enough! You're too small!" he barked at the tweener Acy. It was like he was a drill sergeant breaking a recruit down to rebuild them, only Morris had no rebuilding plans.
Warriors Make the Finals
Here, Kent Bazemore puts an exclamation point on the Warriors come-from-behind victory over the Bobcats.
It was their 13th straight Summer League win and propelled them into the first ever Las Vegas Summer League final.
This Bobcats assistant took a brief break from consciousness at the end of the game.
Don't be this guy, check back for the finals photo essay to wrap up our Summer League coverage!