Basketball is finally back!
Well, maybe not entirely back and maybe just for the basketball junkies, but the NBA will play its first “official” games of the 2013 season Monday at the practice court at Amway Center in the week-long Orlando Pro Summer League. While not the public event or as large as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (beginning next week), the eight teams participating in the event in Orlando will come to the same conclusions about their rookies and undrafted rookies and long-shot free agents participating on their teams.
There are interesting storylines in this smaller Summer League competition. After all, Dwight Howard and LeBron James made their debuts in the private practice court for the Magic. Kevin Durant showed up and just started playing after his rookie season, donning a generic NBA penny in the first game as Oklahoma City Thunder.
It could be an interesting week off the court too. Like the Vegas Summer League, NBA personnel intermingle and talk. Rumors will certainly swirl out of the Amway Center — especially considering the Magic and Nets are set to open the league’s play Monday at 11 a.m. ET (airing on NBATV). For sure Billy King will try to get a face-to-face meeting with Rob Hennigan this week if he makes the trip to Orlando. And surely Dwight Howard’s name will come up.
This week for all the players actually playing the games will not be about what happens in the back rooms of the Amway Center. It will be about getting that experience and playing in front of scouts. Here is what to look for from the eight teams in Orlando this week:
Go figure, the first game of the Orlando Pro Summer League is between the Nets and the Magic. Somehow I do not think many of the players on the floor for this game will have to worry about being involved in a trade.
Actually, one might.
Nets guard MarShon Brooks has long been rumored to be part of the deal for Dwight Howard. Brooks averaged 12.6 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting last year for the Nets as a rookie. He was put in the role of volume shooter. As far as young, promising players go, he might be the best one the Nets have to offer. Or maybe the only one.
Brooks will be the best player on the Nets roster and the one to watch. Orlando certainly will be as the team evaluates who it wants in a Dwight Howard deal.
Adam Morrison — he of the wild hair and paper thin mustache — is attempting an NBA comeback with the Nets summer league team. Notably four-year pro Al Thornton and former Florida point guard Taurean Green also dot the roster. Rookie point guards Tyshawn Taylor and Ashton Gibbs are also playing.
The Pistons summer league roster will feature Andre Drummond’s debut. Drummond is one of the great mysteries of the draft. He skipped his senior year of college and had an average year at Connecticut in his only collegiate season. His decision to go the NBA was a surprise. So now everyone wants to know how he will do at the NBA level. This will be the first clue, albeit a vague one.
This Pistons team will be incredibly interesting because of the collection of talent.
Austin Daye has been a disappointment in his first few years and this could be his last chance to prove his worth to his team. Kim English had a great career at Missouri as did Yancy Gates at Cincinnati. Both will be fighting for roster spots.
Then there are the stalwarts. Brandon Knight will return to his home state and play for Detroit. Kyle Singler will also make his American debut after a successful season overseas. Detroit could be full of Summer League all stars. Whether that translates to the regular season…
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder’s Summer League roster is not quite a gold mine. After all, no one would say the Thunder are in need of many players from their Summer League roster. Oklahoma City just went to the NBA Finals and the general consensus is that the team’s young core and great scouting will lead to more Finals appearances.
Third-year players Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and Morris Almond are the headlines of this roster. The Thunder are likely looking to improve their depth down the road and get these young players some experience.
What will be interesting is the play of Reggie Jackson. Jackson played 11.1 minutes per game in 45 games last season before the Derek Fisher deal. The Thunder spent a first round pick on him and would like to believe he can be the insurance policy of Eric Maynor cannot get backt o full health.
This year’s big faller in the Draft, Perry Jones, will also make his debut for the Thunder. He will surely be trying to prove a lot of people wrong. This is his first chance.
The Magic, on the other hand, do not have anyone too exciting lining up for them. No one for the Nets to evaluate at least. There are a lot of players for Orlando to evaluate though.
Little-used second-year players Justin Harper and Deandre Liggins will be playing in their first Summer League with questions about their short-term futures with the team and in the league lingering. Orlando simply has no clue what it has in these players because of how little they played last year. The Magic will also be evaluating their draft picks — Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn.
With everything so up in the air for Orlando, a player from this roster might be on the opening night squad.
It will feel like the Big Ten all over again in Celtics Summer League practices. Second-year player JaJuan Johnson will join first-round pick Jared Sullinger on this year’s roster and Johnson’s college teammate E’Twaun Moore is there too. This is a big roster with the addition of rookie Fab Melo and second-year player Craig Brackins to it too.
Will they play like the Big Ten?
The Boston way is very much like the nation’s toughest college basketball conference. They are committed to defense and a controlled offense. The Celtics are likely to use an offense that takes advantage of all these bigs they have.
The Jazz roster is full of many of their rookie and second-year players. Enes Kanter, DeMarre Carroll, Alec Burks and Blake Ahearn will be on the roster. Go ahead and accuse Utah of some nepotism too. Paul Millsap’s brother John and John Stockton’s son Michael will play for the Summer League roster.
The last time Indiana was in Orlando, Indiana took a stranglehold on its first round series with an overtime win in Game Four. The next trip is not nearly as important. And the Pacers are not bringing many of their big guns along for this one. Lance Stephenson and Jeff Pendergraph are the only players from the main squad coming back to Orlando. Local favorite (from Purdue) Chris Kramer is there as is Tyler Hansbrough’s brother Ben.
Philadelphia’s roster is full of rookies like first round pick Maurice Harkless. The 76ers will also get a good look a Nikola Vucevic, their first round pick from last year out of USC.