Live from Las Vegas: NBA Summer League Day 2 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Live from Las Vegas: NBA Summer League Day 2

Updated: July 10, 2016

The 2016 Las Vegas Summer League was in full swing on Saturday with its first full slate of games. There was a great game, some great performances, and this guy…

On to the highlights…

Game of the Summer.

As soon as the summer league schedule was announced, one game was circled on everyone’s calendar: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram. Plus, the rest of both team’s rosters are stocked with NBA-talent (D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell, and Nik Stauskas). It could be argued that the Sixers’ summer league team could compete with its regular season counterpart.

Unfortunately for Wizards fans who wanted good seats to watch Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Jarell Eddie’s debut versus Utah, the Lakers-Sixers showcase was scheduled as the next game. Summer league seating is all general admission and Lakers fans arrived in droves during the Wizards game (and even before it) to secure prime locations. It was nearly impossible to find seats within the first 20 rows. By the end of the Wizards game, the entire lower bowl was filled and they were forced to open the upper deck to accommodate the crowds. The VIP seats were packed with NBA coaches and front office staff from opposing teams and even real-life celebrity Jamie Foxx was in attendance. Rumor has it Damian Lillard was turned away from a front row seat.

Upper deck is open for the Lakers game. (Photo - A. Rubin)

[Upper deck is open for the Lakers game. Photo – A. Rubin]

One more thing about “summer league” Lakers fans… Over the last few years there has been a seismic shift in the make-up of Vegas crowds. Sacramento Kings used to have the most vocal fan base, but they have been surpassed by the Lakers—and it is not even close. As the “regular season” Lakers squad has gotten progressively worse, its “summer league” squad has become infinitely more interesting. Such is the cycle of life in the NBA. It’s a little sad to see a once-proud franchise’s fan base reduced to chanting, “Lar-ry, Lar-ry, Lar-ry” whenever Larry Nance, Jr. is spotted walking around the arena, but such is the state of things in the post-Kobe world.

The game did not disappoint. Before we get to the exciting ending, Jerami Grant provided the highlight of summer league thus far with a vicious dunk over 7-foot-1 Ivica Zubac that stunned the crowd.

The game went down to the wire with D’Angelo Russell and T.J. McConnell hitting back-to-back-to-back last-second shots. After Russell pulled up for a long 2 to tie the game in the final moments, McConnell hit a wild driving floater over two Lakers defenders that bounced off the backboard and rim several times before dropping through the net with 1.8 seconds remaining. With Luke Walton sitting courtside, Brandon Ingram inbounded the ball to Russell beyond the 3-point arc and he fired a smooth jumper that touched nothing but net, sending hysterical Lakers fans onto the concourse celebrating like it was the NBA Finals.

Ben Simmons is For Real. And He’s Spectacular.

It is not entirely clear why there was ever a debate between Ingram and Simmons for the first overall pick. Simmons is better and it’s not even close. He might be one of the top point guards in the NBA on Day 1. His vision is incredible and he has LeBron-like accuracy with his passes. I cannot really assess his jumper because he did not attempt any, but he was able to bully his way to the rim when needed.

The only negative was that Simmons was sometimes careless with his passes (seven turnovers) and he got stripped  a couple time by Larry Nance, Jr. (much to the delight of the pro-Lakers crowd). Defenders will definitely play off Simmons on the perimeter, like they did against John Wall early in his career, but Simmons has the skill and vision to make them pay even if his jumper takes some time to progress.

Groundhog Day.

In what has become an annual summer league tradition, Joel Embiid made an appearance in street clothes prior to Philadelphia’s game. Trust the process.


Terp in Vegas.

Jake Layman (Portland) made his summer league against third overall pick Dragan Bender and the Phoenix Suns. First things first: this happened.

Aside from that dunk, which ranks right up there with Jerami Grant’s poster, Layman’s game was nondescript. His offensive role was exactly what you would expect. Layman spent large stretches of the game standing in the corner waiting for a catch-and-shoot 3. Unfortunately, he missed all five of his 3-point attempts.

Former Terp Jake Layman pictured in his natural habitat - Along in the corner waiting for a pass. (Photo -A. Rubin)

[Former Terp Jake Layman pictured in his natural habitat: alone in the corner waiting for a pass.
Photo -A. Rubin]

Layman held his own on defense. He matched up with Bender for most of the game and he did a pretty good job keeping him off the glass. Speaking of Dragan…

Mystery Man From Croatia.

Bender was one of the biggest mysteries heading into summer league, and even after watching him play for 30 minutes he remains a bit of an unknown. He’s big, but he does not have the imposing length of Kristaps Porzingis. He’s mobile, chasing wings around picks, but he will not be able to stay in front of the quicker forwards. He stretches the floor with long-range shooting, but he missed every 3-pointer he attempted (1-7 3Ps), until he banked one in off the glass in the fourth quarter with a smile and shrug while his teammates celebrated.

Bender is comfortable putting the ball on the floor and is a willing passer, but it will take a bigger sample size to get a feel for where he may fit in the NBA.

Wizards Debut.

For a recap of Washington’s first summer league game, check out Conor Dirks’ rundown. I’ll only add one observation: Aaron White is the new Vladimir Veremeenko, meaning a second round pick that is never coming to the NBA.

Days of Future Past.

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.