Welcome to the NBA.
For some participants in the 2009 Orlando Summer League, a precursor to the 2009 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, this is the closest they will ever be to wearing Jerry West's silhouette on a professional jersey.
For others, this is a warm-up to an illustrious NBA career.
The NBA's summer leagues can feel a bit like the AAU tournaments the players played in growing up. It's not that the games aren't important—these are elite competitors who got to where they are because of their will to win—but there aren't the outside expectations of fans and endorsers.
Whether it's the Orlando or Las Vegas summer league, it's about player development. The six teams involved are giving NBA fans some great storylines to follow.
With all of the hype surrounding Rasheed Wallace, don't think that the Celtics aren't preparing for the future. They have a talented roster in Orlando which includes some very uplifting stories.
Coby Karl, the son of George Karl, is doing his best to prolong his NBA dream. The 6'5" Karl poured in 18 points in his first game and everyone is raving about his heady play.
The Celtics have some outstanding athletes on their roster, including Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, and Gabe Pruitt. Walker would have been a lottery pick had he been eligible to enter the NBA out of high school, but injuries have slowed his NBA quest.
As the Celtics continue to age, I expect them to count one of these young wings when the season rolls around.
There has been a Michael Sweetney sighting in Orlando. The C's are hosting the ninth pick of the 2003 Draft, but he is grossly out of shape, resurrecting questions about his dedication to the game.
Other notable bigs include Robert Swift, formerly of the Thunder, and Nick Fazekas who last played with the Clippers. Swift has 10 points and five rebounds in two games, but Fazekas has shown a scoring touch including three-point range.
The star for Orlando's summer league team has been the recently acquired Ryan Anderson.
Anderson is a dynamic post, shooting 4-9 from behind the arc on his way to 54 points and 21 rebounds in his first two games.
When called upon in New Jersey last year, Anderson stepped up and should ease the pain of Hedo Turkoglu leaving.
Oklahoma City Thunder
For OKC it starts with the backcourt of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The duo could be the Thunder's starting guards on opening day, and they have averaged 40 points in the first two games in Orlando.
Many thought freshly-drafted B.J. Mullens would be the Thunder's center of the future, but another 19-year-old is stealing the show.
Serge Ibaka of the Congo is showing an athletic shot-blocking ability and a nice jumper from outside. He's not as tall as Mullens but will push the former Buckeye to perform.
Shaun Livingston, who was picked above Devin Harris, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, and Josh Smith in 2004, is also on the Thunder's roster as he continues to come back from the tragic leg injury he suffered.
In his first game, Livingston dished out six assists without committing a turnover in 31 minutes. He could be a fantastic backup to Westbrook.
The most followed player in the Orlando Summer League has to be Tyler Hansbrough. Against young (and some fringe) NBA players, it should be no surprise that Hansbrough is doing well.
In his first game, Hansbrough poured in 14 second-half points off the bench to lead Indiana to an overtime victory.
In his second game, Hansbrough scored 23 off the bench in 25 minutes, including 2-2 from deep in a win over OKC.
Not only is Hansbrough succeeding, he's winning, which is exactly what Larry Bird and the Pacers organization was looking for.
Along with Hansbrough is another promising post, Roy Hibbert, who received quality playing time as a rookie. Hibbert is playing stronger and more assertive than ever.
Brandon Rush is also in Orlando, but he did not play the second game so that some of the lesser players could get looks. Rush was 4-18 in the first game, finishing with 15 points.
Philadelphia 76ers & New Jersey Nets
As the only hybrid team of the bunch, the Sixers and Nets have brought their best young guns to Orlando. It seems like it might be hard for the teams to mesh, but players are used to playing with their in-season opponents during the summer.
The player looking to impress the most is former Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts. CDR didn't make the impact he wanted to as a rookie, but with Vince Carter gone there will be more minutes spread around on the Nets.
In two starts, CDR has averaged 23.5 points per game; he does a good job of getting to the stripe but can be guilty of over-dribbling at times.
The most watched sophomore Sixer is Marreese Speights. He hasn't been shy, hoisting up 38 in two games, which has led to a disturbing 36.8 field goal percentage, but he is rebounding and blocking shots.
Rookies Terrence Williams and Jrue Holiday haven't broken out, but they have had some nice flashes. Both players have point guard skills and can rebound, but neither has displayed big-time scoring ability.
The Jazz round out the NBA's 2009 Orlando Summer League, and they are led by PG Eric Maynor who is ready to back Deron Williams up when the season starts.
Maynor has done some scoring, passing, and rebounding, but Utah has a 15 man roster which has limited Maynor's time to 25 minutes per game.
Another PG-type on the Jazz roster is Cedric Bozeman, who has been about the only UCLA PG in the last decade not to stick in the NBA.
He's 1-9 shooting in two games.
Final Four hero Goran Suton was drafted by the Jazz. He seemed like a perfect fit on draft night but has gone 0-5 from behind the arc so far, not living up to his "poor man's Mehmet Okur" billing.
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