Las Vegas is famous for plenty of reasons, one of which is the showdown that NBA fans from around the globe flock to each summer.
There's something special about the NBA Summer League, an event that takes place over the course of 11 days and features 23 teams in action.
While not as serious as its cousin based in Orlando, the epic tournament gives most fans a first glimpse at their favorite team's newly constructed rosters, including rookies and perhaps a dose of newcomers from the market.
But it's not all chill. Rookies are fighting for playing time and looking to flaunt their goods to impress teammates. The event also acts as a proving ground for names without an NBA contract, employment that can certainly be obtained via strong performances.
It makes for a highlight of the summer, so here's how and what to watch.
Las Vegas Summer League Information
Dates: July 11-21
Watch: NBA Summer League Pass, NBA TV
Teams/Rosters: Full rosters can be found at HoopsHype.
Bracket: Full schedule can be found at NBA.com.
NBA TV Schedule
|Friday, July 11||New York vs. Dallas* (Game 1)||1 p.m.|
|Friday, July 11||Toronto vs. LA Lakers* (Game 2)||3 p.m.|
|Friday, July 11||Cleveland vs. Milwaukee* (Game 3)||5 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 12||Portland vs. New York* (Game 7)||1 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 12||Toronto vs. Denver* (Game 9)||3 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 12||Utah vs. Philadelphia* (Game 14)||7: 30 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 13||Cleveland vs. San Antonio* (Game 15)||1 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 13||Sacramento vs. Charlotte* (Game 17)||3 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 13||Chicago vs. Denver* (Game 19)||5 p.m.|
|Monday, July 14||New York vs. Charlotte* (Game 23)||1 p.m.|
|Monday, July 14||Toronto vs. Dallas* (Game 25)||3 p.m.|
|Monday, July 14||Cleveland vs. Philadelphia* (Game 27)||5 p.m.|
|Tuesday July 15||Portland vs. Atlanta* (Game 31)||1 p.m.|
|Tuesday July 15||LA Clippers vs. Houston* (Game 33)||3 p.m.|
|Tuesday July 15||Philadelphia vs. Phoenix* (Game 35)||5 p.m.|
|Wednesday, July 16||Matchups TBD||1-7 p.m.|
|Thursday, July 17||Matchups TBD||1-7 p.m.|
|Friday, July 18||Matchups TBD||1-7 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 19||Matchups TBD||1-7 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 20||Matchups TBD||3-5 p.m.|
|Monday, July 21||Matchup TBD||6 p.m.|
Note: NBA TV will televise all 67 games, but only 38 of them live.
Storylines to Watch
The Lakers and Julius Randle
Yawn, right? Who wants to watch the same old Los Angeles Lakers, especially in games that don't matter?
Well, this isn't the Lakers we are accustomed to at this point unless Mitch Kupchak and Co. suddenly manage to reel in a high-profile free agent soon. The franchise is coming off perhaps the worst season in its legendary history and had a lottery pick to prove it.
That lottery pick turned into Kentucky star Julius Randle, who is reason enough to watch any franchise—should he participate.
Randle has been going 12 rounds with a foot issue for quite some time now, and the summer tournament gives fans an opportunity to see how he reacts.
"I kind of knew what the diagnosis was going to be as far as clearing me to play, but to finally have it over and that whole whirlwind of flying places and all that drama, to finally have that over with is definitely a relief and I can finally play basketball," Randle said, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
There is no doubt the team wants to get him on the floor and not only test out his health but tinker with its new toy and franchise cornerstone, who averaged 15 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.8 blocks per game in his lone collegiate season.
For a rookie who will be looked upon to eventually help hold up the franchise in the wake of Kobe Bryant's retirement, the sooner he gets on the pro court, the better.
Here's a fun wrinkle to the whole situation—the Lakers have yet to ink their star rookie because of their attempt to pursue free agents, as Bresnahan notes:
The Lakers begin summer league Friday in Las Vegas, but Randle will not be on the court until he signs with them. The team is waiting because it can save about $500,000 if his signing is delayed, money that could be used toward free agents such as Anthony and Pau Gasol. With the Lakers already allocating $23.5 million to Kobe Bryant next season and $9.7 million to Steve Nash, every dollar counts. So Randle waits.
The layers of the onion surrounding the Lakers continue to unfold with Randle at the core. Don't turn away now.
How High-Profile Rookies Handle the Pressure
It sounds so simple (and perhaps trivial) given the amount of time rookies have to adapt to the pro game, but the summer acts as a crucial learning point for the young players.
Understand that each rookie goes all out to impress his pro franchise, so the myth that summer leagues provide miserable action is simply false.
But the league understands this and has thrown a counterpunch with a superb slate of action, as Jody Genessy of the Deseret News points out by dialing in on one day in particular:
July 14 would be a fun day for Jazz fans to attend Las Vegas Summer League. Utah (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood) vs. Milwaukee (Jabari Parker).— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) June 27, 2014
Let's examine that day for a moment.
There's Dante Exum, he of mystery who is supposed to at some point assume the mantle as an elite weapon for the Utah Jazz. The problem is that we don't know much about the kid and how he fares against elite competition because he spent most of his time in Australia.
Across the court from him that day will be Jabari Parker, a Duke star despite just one collegiate season thanks to averages of 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Often hailed as the most pro-ready player in the class, his resume was still not enough to hear his name called first, something that routinely creates gigantic chips on shoulders.
Speaking of hearing his name called first, there is Andrew Wiggins, who will be under the biggest microscope of all. His plight is only hurt by the fact he is both supposed to save the Cleveland Cavaliers, and apparently learn a new position, too, as explained by Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:
David Griffin said he sees Andrew Wiggins as "a big two-guard" on Friday, which has some execs believing Cavs may look to move Dion Waiters.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 1, 2014
Even better, there are also rookies who are not alone and must team up with another high-profile name to turn around a miserable franchise. This perhaps applies to no duo better than the Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (No. 10 overall) and Aaron Gordon (No. 4 overall), two young stars facing the pressure of turning around a 23-win team from a season ago.
Beneath the spotlight, each rookie faces a unique situation in a league that is dominated by individuals. The tournament in Las Vegas is a great way to get acquainted with the new faces early—they might just be around a long time.