Summer league is one of the weirder annual sports traditions.
A mix of developmental basketball and open gym, it features rookie draft picks, young players with NBA experience already, and journeyman veterans all trying to make good impressions on the army of talent evaluators in attendance.
Today’s Hornets-Blazers game offered a fantastic example across that spectrum. Portland, for example, closed their win by playing Kenneth Faried and Michael Beasley in crunch time. They might end up being part of the last ever Summer League to feature players born before 1990.
But despite losing, the Hornets offered a more entertaining display in many ways.
First of all, Kai Jones. My goodness.
Kai Jones 👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/mlmnrqNI53
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) August 8, 2021
Yeah, that’s the kind of length and athleticism that gets you taken in the first round.
More surprising than even that Jones dunk from halfway up the paint was the play of LiAngelo Ball, the least-talented Ball brother known more for his legal issues in China while at UCLA than for any play on the court.
Today, though, Ball, well, balled, getting a surprising amount of run for someone not really considered a prospect and making the most of it.
Gelo was hoopin' in his Summer League debut 📈
He scored 16 points in 16 minutes. pic.twitter.com/hZJmz7AQxN
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 9, 2021
Ball at one point took a shot from the corner that, while open, was maybe not the best look for the possession given the scrambling defense. But at that point, you can’t really blame him for taking the heat check. It was hard not to be shocked that “Gelo” was trending on Twitter, much less that it was because he was lighting it up. Only in Summer League!