11 Observations from Vegas Summer League Plus Daryl Morey Playing Ping-Pong | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

11 Observations from Vegas Summer League Plus Daryl Morey Playing Ping-Pong

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Updated: July 18, 2015
(It's time to say so long to the NBA at the Vegas summer league. Don't ever change. See you in the fall. Screenshot - NBA TV NBA Summer League Live)

(It’s time to say so long to the NBA at the Vegas summer league. Don’t ever change. See you in the fall. Screenshot – NBA TV NBA Summer League Live)

With apologies to Jim Nance, the NBA summer league in Vegas is a tradition unlike any other. There’s so much to see and hear it can be a little overwhelming. I’ve written extensively about the comings and goings at UNLV this past week but it was impossible to include it all. So, without further ado, here are 11 more observations about the greatest sporting event on earth (plus Daryl Morey’s annual table tennis tournament).   

1. It’s a Family Affair.

The Vegas summer league is one big networking event for front office staff, agents, media and everyone else in the NBA universe. It’s interesting to see the friendly interactions between NBA players and front office personnel. Fans tend to adopt an “us against the world” mentality when it comes to sports. However, in Vegas, you see that the NBA really is one big family—and summer league is its annual reunion.

Just like any big family, you’ve got dysfunctional in-laws. And the crazy uncle who you have to be really nice to because he could snap at any minute.

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(Careful Juwan, no sudden movements. Uncle Joey hasn’t been the same since Full House was cancelled. Photo – A. Rubin)

It’s also funny watching famous NBA faces introduce themselves to people who have no idea who they are: “Hi, I’m Steve Javie. Nice to meet you.”

2. Phil Jackson Doesn’t Really Need That Big Chair

(Phil Jackson watching Kristaps Porzingis' NBA summer league debut. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Phil Jackson watching Kristaps Porzingis’ NBA summer league debut. Photo – A. Rubin)

I don’t know if he’s been pulling a George Costanza to get access to the executive bathroom or what, but Phil Jackson is perfectly capable of watching an NBA game from a human-size chair. All those fans who had to sit behind him in Staples Center should file a class-action lawsuit for a refund. Or maybe his hip just eventually healed. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

3. Derek Fisher is Trying Real Hard to Take Reporter’s Questions Seriously.

The Knicks didn’t play too well at the start of summer league. They had a lot of difficulty scoring and their point guard play was sub-par. But who cares? This is summer league. The whole point is seeing if Kristaps Porzingis is a real NBA player, judging whether the Jerian Grant/Tim Hardaway trade was a mistake and watching Cleanthony Early drive wildly at the rim.

Nevertheless, reporters were hitting Derek Fisher with regular season-type questions about pace and scoring and what needs to change … like any of that matters. Fisher was a good sport, even making facial expressions that gave the impression he was seriously thinking about his answer.

(Hmmm, let me see how I can make this sound like I  give a .... Photo - A. Rubin)

(Hmmm, let me see how I can make this sound like I give a …. Photo – A. Rubin)

4. Mark Cuban is Living the Dream.

cuban

(Cuban signing autographs before the game (left); holding court with reporters after the game (middle); and exchanging laughs with fans pre-game (right). Photos – A. Rubin)

Mark Cuban loves being an NBA owner. Directly on the heels of the DeAndre Jordan disaster, Cuban was holding court at summer league. He was the first face anyone saw when they entered Cox Pavilion for the Mavs’ opener on Saturday, July 11, and he greeted fans with smiles, handshakes, autographs, and selfies. After the game he gave an impromptu interview to a gaggle of reporters who were hanging on his every word.

It’s Mark Cuban’s world and we are just living in it.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive seemed equally enamored with the cameras in Vegas. He entered the Thomas & Mack center with what appeared to be a documentary film crew following him and organized a pow-wow with Vlade Divac and George Karl, whose only purpose seemed to be creating a photo-op. The three stood together awkwardly for several minutes while dozens of photographers gathered around waiting for something to happen.

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(George Karl does not quite know how to react to Vlade Divac’s awkward hug attempt. Photo – A. Rubin)

5. Milwaukee’s Got Flair.

The Bucks summer league head coach, Sean Sweeney, looks like he just came from an afternoon shift at Chotchkie’s, threw on a new shirt and walked onto the sidelines.

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(Photos – A. Rubin; Office Space inset from http://threads.dappered.com)

6. Byron Scott’s Head is Larger than it Appears.

You know how you can block the entire sun with just your hand, well, Byron Scott’s head has the same effect on a basketball court. Can’t complain, though. The seats were free.

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(I think the Lakers were playing the Knicks but it’s hard to see. Photo – A. Rubin)

7. Draymond Keeps on Trollin’—Even in the Off-Season.

The opening day of summer league featured an NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Draymond Green, never one to shy away from celebrating, showed up wearing a “2015 NBA Champions” T-shirt to make sure that even Cleveland’s summer league team didn’t forget what happened a month earlier.

(I'm sure Draymond was really hoping Kyrie Irving would show up to summer league. Photo - A. Rubin)

(I’m sure Draymond was really hoping Kyrie Irving would show up to summer league. Photo – A. Rubin)

8. GQ for GMs.

There is a wide range of clothing styles among NBA GMs. Sam Hinkie prefers the classic blue blazer. He was wearing it every time I saw him. Maisi Ujiri prefers European slim cut pants. Ernie Grunfeld likes slacks, tucked in polo and a belt clip for his over-sized phone. Bob Meyers wears resort chic while Vlade Divac goes with standard causal summer fare with untucked shirt and Chuck Taylors. Mitch Kupchak looks like a guy who just signed up for two minutes of speaking time to voice his complaints at a local parks and planning commission hearing. Pat Riley, always stylish, goes with a crisp, clean dress shirt.

(Clockwise from top left - Bob Myers, Pat Riley, Sam Hinkie, Masai Ujiri, Mitch Kupchak, Ernie Grunfeld, and Vlade Divac. Photos - A. Rubin)

(Clockwise from top left – Bob Myers, Pat Riley, Sam Hinkie, Masai Ujiri, Mitch Kupchak, Ernie Grunfeld, and Vlade Divac. Photos – A. Rubin)

9. Satnam Singh is the Next Great Bond Villain.

The Dallas Mavericks selected 7-foot, 2-inch Satnam Singh with the No. 52 pick in the 2015 draft. He was the first NBA player drafted out of India. Singh’s father was also 7-foot-2 and his grandmother was 6-foot-9. I am sure Singh is a very nice guy, but if this basketball thing does not work out, he could scare the hell out of Daniel Craig before absent-mindedly leaving the room without confirming his death.

(Singh's hands could squeeze the life out of the basketball. (Screenshot - NBA TV Summer League Live)

(Singh’s hands could squeeze the life out of the basketball. Screenshot – NBA TV Summer League Live)

10. ESPN Needs More Clout.

There were several media outlets camped out on the Thomas & Mack concourse, including ESPN Las Vegas, SiriusXM, Bleacher Report, and The Starters. Whoever was in charge of negotiating ESPN Las Vegas’ location needs a stern talking to. They were camped directly outside the men’s room. Like, you had to squeeze past their table to get inside.

(Fans had to go out of their way not to disturb ESPN's broadcast on the way into the men's room. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Fans had to go out of their way not to disturb ESPN’s broadcast on the way into the men’s room. Photo – A. Rubin)

 11. Summer League is Getting Big.

Prior to this year, the single-day attendance record was 8,013 set on Monday, July 14, 2014. That record was exceeded every single day for the first nine days this year, with a high mark of 12,422 on the opening day.

The increased crowds were noticeable. It was frustratingly difficult exiting Cox Pavilion after the final buzzer of most games and the Thomas & Mack concourse was jammed after Lakers games. Part of the problem was the placement of kid-friendly NBA attractions in high-volume walkways. In the future it might be helpful to set up a mini-fan zone in a less trafficked area.

On the bright side, summer league stepped up its merchandise game this year with a centrally located stand that offered T-shirts people might actually want to wear. Only problem is you had to get there early; the best styles sold out in the first few days.

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(Photo – A. Rubin)

Bonus: Daryl Morey’s Annual Table Tennis Tournament.

(Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho warmup prior the the NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho warmup prior the the NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

One of the most interesting events in Vegas is the annual NBA Summer League Table Tennis Tournament held at Rain nightclub at the Palms. The tournament is a charity event benefiting St. Jude’s and it is headlined by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Morey, the defending champion, takes his table tennis seriously. He showed up to this year’s event wearing a custom “D. Morey USA” jersey.

(Daryl Morey wearing a custom USA jersey at the NBA Summer League Table Tennis tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Daryl Morey wearing a custom USA jersey at the NBA Summer League Table Tennis tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

The tournament field is a mix of NBA general managers, coaches, league personnel, media and anyone else who pays the $100 charitable buy-in. Morey generously offered to pay the buy-in for a large portion of the field. This year’s players featured, Morey, Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, Brooklyn Nets rookies Rondae Hollis-Jeferson and Markel Brown and NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum.

(Official bracket for the summer league table tennis tournament. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Official bracket for the summer league table tennis tournament. Photo – A. Rubin)

Hollis-Jefferson had the most fun of the night. He was talking trash, psyching himself up by jumping in place and fooling around during NBA TV interviews.

(Rondae Hollis-Jefferson taking a break from playing for an NBA TV exclusive interview. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Rondae Hollis-Jefferson taking a break from playing for an NBA TV exclusive interview. Photo – A. Rubin)

You know who is surprisingly good at table tennis? Jeff Hornacek. He even played some points with his left hand.

(Jeff Hornacek plays Rich Cho (foreground); Daryl Morey warms up (background). Photo - A. Rubin)

(Jeff Hornacek plays Rich Cho (foreground); Daryl Morey warms up (background). Photo – A. Rubin)

After watching warm ups, it seemed like Cho was a lock for the finals. He was dressed to play in basketball shorts and a t-shirt and showed no mercy on his first opponent, losing only one point.

However, Cho was upset in the semifinals by Brian Shapiro, who appears to be a radio host in Vegas. I asked Cho what happened and he said Shapiro’s serve is hard to return.

Shapiro took on Morey in the finals and cruised to a relatively comfortable win. Morey showed a little frustration after losing match point but it was all in good fun and for a good cause.

(The Palms marquee announces the annual summer league tradition. Photo - A. Rubin)

(The Palms marquee announces the annual summer league tradition. Photo – A. Rubin)

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.