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Why I Love (To Hate) NBA Summer League

It’s NBA Summer League season, and I want to be excited about it. Really I do. But for me, it’s easier said than done.  In just a few days, the Jazz will make their debut at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas after participating in the Orlando summer league and their own Rocky Mountain Revue in past years. There are several reasons why summer league could be of interest to fans. Let’s go over them.

1. You’ve Been Suffering Withdrawals Since The Regular Season Ended

As I write this, it is July 9. The Jazz wrapped up the regular season well over two months ago on April 16. That’s a long time to get by without watching Jazz basketball! Sure there have been some exciting developments with the search for a new coach, the NBA Draft Lottery, the draft itself, and now free agency, but that doesn’t compare to on-court action.

2. Summer League Provides The First Chance To See The Rookies Play

As you know, with their two first-round picks in last month’s draft the Jazz selected Dante Exum and Rodney Hood. The first chance to watch them play something that almost resembles NBA basketball is in summer league.

3. You Want To See If The Returning Vets On The SL Team Have Improved

This year’s Jazz summer league roster features five players who were with the team at the end of the 2013-14 season: Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert, Ian Clark, Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy. Of the five, everyone but Murphy saw game action with the Jazz. It’s interesting to see how the returning guys play during summer league. It’s a good chance for them to show management and the coaching staff that they’ve worked on things that were discussed during the season-ending exit interviews.

4. Viva Las Vegas!

At least this year, playing in the Las Vegas summer league gives fans the opportunity to make the trip and see the Jazz play in person. This is a change from the last few years as the Orlando league only allows members of the media inside. So if you were looking for a reason to go to Las Vegas (as if you really need one), there you go!

Now let’s talk about some reasons to not get excited about summer league. These reasons  outweigh the reasons to be excited about summer league for me most summers.

1. The Level Of Play Is Well Below That Of What We Get During The Season

In reason two of why you might be excited about summer league, I mentioned that summer league play almost resembles NBA basketball. That may be too kind. In summer league, there are players who are under contract with an NBA team and those who are not. The guys with contracts are at summer league to improve, and in the case of the recent draftees, get their first taste of professional basketball.  The free agents are there to impress front office personnel and either score a contract or at least an invitation to training camp in the fall. In their quest to impress, these free agents are sometimes prone to trying to make a lot of individual plays. Also consider that the summer league roster only has a week or so of practices together, so may not all be on the same page yet. It make for some nearly-unwatchable ball at times.  Mike said it well on Twitter:

2. People Will Overreact To Strong and Poor SL Performances

If you spend a fair amount of time keeping up with Jazz info on Twitter or message boards, you WILL see powerful overreactions to summer league performances. “[Player] is a bust! Why did the Jazz draft him?”, or “[Player] is the next Jordan!” These types of reactions annoy me in a big way.  Sure, summer league performances shouldn’t be discounted altogether, but they should be taken with a grain of salt.

3. It’s Hard To Pay Attention To So Many Unknown Players

As fans, we tend to become familiar with the players on our favorite teams. We recognize them and their strengths and weaknesses and can help out our spouses/and or friends during games who don’t follow the team as closely as us. During summer league there are a lot of players who you’ve likely never heard of. In many cases, you’ll only ever see them play during summer league or the D-League. So even though you’ll root for the Jazz to win their summer league games, it’s hard to take much interest in guys who probably have no future with the Jazz or even the NBA.

Every year, I vow to watch all of the Jazz summer league games. Every year I usually make a liar out of myself by not making it through the first game from beginning to end.  But I’ll give it another try this year.  Speaking of which, you can watch the first three Jazz summer league games on KJZZ if you’re in Utah. Otherwise you may be able to see the Jazz play on NBA TV.

If you want to go to Vegas to watch some games, you can buy tickets here.

Also, before the Jazz leave for Las Vegas, they’ll be holding an open practice tomorrow night at EnergySolutions Arena. If you get there early you may even get a free t-shirt featuring the new Jazz rookies. It should be fun!

How do you feel about summer league? What do you like or dislike the most about it? Let me know in the comments below.



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