It's becoming increasingly difficult to escape the NBA summer leagues. A game always seems to be on television. (Is NBA TV in the offseason really necessary?) The Herald-Leader publishes daily updates on how various former Kentucky players did.
All this attention prompts a question: Why?
Take it from former NBA coach Del Harris: Nothing all that newsworthy, basketball-wise, happened this month in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
When asked about the big picture value of these summer leagues, Harris texted, "Not much." The games might help the NBA judge players who will sit on the end of the bench, or, more likely, play in the NBA Development League or overseas. Rookies get a taste of NBA basketball and get acquainted with NBA staffers. Players try a new position because, well, why not? Thus, Charlotte took a look at Aaron Harrison at point guard.
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As for how play in a summer league foretells what we'll see in future NBA seasons, Harris texted, "No carryover."
Then, to drive home the point, he used a variation on the catchphrase associated with Las Vegas.
"What happens in summer league stays in summer league," Harris texted.
But that's no longer true. People pay attention to summer leagues. Reed Hunnicutt of the aptly named website Rant Sports went a step further and rated the summer league performances of this year's NBA Draft lottery picks:
■ Willie Cauley-Stein got an "A" because he showed more offense than expected.
■ An average of 6.2 fouls per game dropped Karl-Anthony Towns to a "B." (Players in the Las Vegas Summer League foul out on the 10th foul.)
■ Trey Lyles got a "B minus" because of poor free-throw shooting (16 of 29) and settling for jumpers.
■ Devin Booker got a "D." He didn't shoot well (five of 18 from three). "Looked flustered," Hunnicutt wrote.
Jason Buckner, the manager of scouting administration for the Indiana Pacers, downplayed the significance of summer league statistics.
"Centers and post players' stats are maybe a little bit inflated just because there's not that many NBA-quality post players out there," he said. The same is true of stats posted by perimeter players, who don't have to deal with NBA-quality rim protectors nor on-ball defenders.
"It's nothing to get excited about if a guy does real well," Buckner said. "And it's nothing to get too down about if he struggles."
Summer leagues are like baseball spring training. Except the major leaguers aren't even there. "Exactly," Buckner said. "To me, it's more comparable to the 'D' League. More what a player would (produce) in the 'D' League next year than it is what you should expect from him in an NBA game right now."
Yet the summer leagues have all the trappings of "real" basketball. Towns sounded downcast after his team lost a game on Monday.
"It's hard," Towns said according to the Sports Illustrated website. "I was talking about it with my dad after we lost to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. That was my seventh game lost in five years, including high school. Every loss is hard. You can see it on my face a little bit, I'm a little bit hurt today by losing."
Toronto Coach Dwane Casey, the former UK player and assistant coach, marveled at the attendance for games in Las Vegas. A record 12,422 watched games on July 10. And tickets aren't cheap: $28 for an all-day pass for adults, $18 for children 12 to three years old and senior citizens 65 and older.
"I'm shocked how many people come to the games," Casey said.
Casey noted the off-court benefits of summer leagues. There are coaches meetings, owners meetings, rules committee meetings. Casey spoke to a national high school coaches association. NBA TV tries out job candidates in front of and behind the camera.
"It's turned into a mini convention," Casey said.
Then there's the ever-present marketing component. Summer leagues keep the NBA in sports fans' minds. In John Calipari parlance, the NBA can "own" July.
"Keep people engaged and excited to buy season ticket packages," Buckner said. "Anything that drums up interest and attention is a plus."
Former UK player Keith Bogans was a McDonald's All-American in the Class of 1999. Or when many of this year's lottery picks (Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles) were pre-schoolers.
Yet, Bogans, now 35, was playing in the Las Vegas Summer League for Portland.
"My goal is to just be around the game," he told The Associated Press. "I'm in the best shape of my life."
Bogans has not played in a NBA game since January of 2014. The Trail Blazers think of him as something of a player/coach who can mentor young players.
But Bogans does not think of himself as a coach, at least not yet.
"I still want to play," he said.
Through Friday, Bogans made only one of nine shots (zero of seven from three-point range) in Las Vegas.
If this is the end, his NBA playing career ended less than ideally. He was let go by the Boston Celtics amid speculation of being unhappy about a lack of playing time, a demand to be traded and a heated argument with Coach Brad Stevens on the team bus.
"That was totally made up," Bogans said of the supposed argument with Stevens. "I read that story and that was a lie. Everything I read in the paper was a lie. I never talked to you (reporters). So for you all to speculate and say I blew up on the bus, I felt bad about that because that was all lies and that made me look bad with the rest of the NBA community."
Bogans noted that he shook hands with Danny Ainge (the Celtics President of Basketball Operations) and Stevens upon seeing them in Las Vegas and holds no ill will toward the Celtics.
Former UK player Josh Harrellson participated in the Las Vegas Summer League in hopes of catching the attention of an NBA team.
Harrellson, one of the heroes of UK's surprise run to the 2011 Final Four, had played in 75 NBA games (New York, Miami and Detroit). His last game was on Feb. 1, 2014.
Surgery to repair two bulging disks in his back interrupted his NBA career, The Associated Press noted in a story last week. He hoped the summer league would lead to a new contract.
"It's about getting out there, showing people that I'm healthy, that I'm back and that I'm just myself," Harrellson told the wire service. "They know what I can do. They know I can play. I needed to show them I can still run."
The back surgery led to speculation that Harrellson's career was finished. But he said after two days, he was able to walk without pain. He played in China last season.
"I think I'll get a camp invite," he said. "My main goal is to get a contract out of this. Even if it's a partial, just something."
Through Friday, Harrellson averaged 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in Las Vegas.
How quickly they forget
Tubby Smith came to Lexington recently to visit Van Florence, who is being treated at UK Chandler Hospital.
Of course, Florence was the Man Friday to numerous UK basketball coaches and long-time president of the Committee of 101 service group. He retired in 2009. And Smith was UK's coach for 10 seasons beginning with 1997-98.
Smith re-routed a trip from Texas to a July 4 family gathering on the East Coast in order to visit Florence.
A visitor to another room happened to see Smith in the hospital hallway. "You look so familiar," the person said.
To which, Smith coyly responded, "I hear that."
Not able to stand the suspense any longer, the visitor asked a direct question: "What's your name?"
Smith identified himself.
Baseball's All-Star Game promotion about fan voting on each team's best four players ever prompted a thought: Who would be on UK basketball's Mount Rushmore?
As the New York Yankees' "Franchise Four" was obvious (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle), so, too, is UK's:
1. Adolph Rupp. The Founding Father of UK basketball. No Rupp, no Big Blue Nation.
2. Cliff Hagan. Like Rupp, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. A five-time NBA all-star, he later was UK's Director of Athletics.
3. Frank Ramsey. Like Rupp and Hagan, a Hall of Famer. He played on seven Boston Celtics teams that won NBA championships. The Celtics retired his No. 23 jersey.
4. Dan Issel. Like Rupp, Hagan and Ramsey, a Hall of Famer. The program's all-time leading scorer.
The Yankees' list had to leave off such luminaries as Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, Whitey Ford and Mariano Rivera. So, too, a limit of four excludes such UK all-timers as Ralph Beard, Pat Riley, Cotton Nash, Kyle Macy, Jamal Mashburn and Joe B. Hall.
Former UK player and assistant coach Dwane Casey has been in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. Fortunately, the games are indoors. Casey noted that the temperatures outside regularly exceeded 100 degrees.
When the person on the other end of the cell phone conversation noted that at least it was dry heat, Casey scoffed.
"Heat is heat," he said. "I don't care if it's dry or wet."
Stat of week
Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal on Friday:
The mission to send the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto cost $720 million.
The projected cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, which is scheduled to open next year, is $1.027 billion.
To Derek Anderson. He turned 41 on Saturday. ... To John Pelphrey. He turned 47 on Saturday. ... To Hall of Famer Frank Ramsey. He turned 84 on Monday. ... To CBS broadcaster Verne Lundquist. He turned 75 on Friday. ... To Bernard Cote. He turned 33 last Sunday. ... To Rick Barnes. The new Tennessee coach turned 61 on Friday.