Trees Are Dancing Drunk with Nectar

A post by Shoals over at FreeDarko yesterday got me thinking about why I care to watch summer league. The games really tell nothing about player development, there’s some pretty awful basketball, and especially poor or great performances don’t accurately predict futures. I mean, Skita was twice a summer league phenomenon, and Pierre Pierce is scoring in bunches by pulling the kind of ballhog antics that he’ll never get to try if he finds his way onto an NBA roster.

Yet I’ve still found myself drawn to the games anyway, so there has to be something bringing me there outside of the fact that it’s basketball and it’s on tv (baseball usually fills my summer sports fix just fine).

The most obvious reason for my interest is that this year is the first time I’ve really been able to watch the summer league, so the novelty factor is pretty strong. They’re not quite NBA games, but there’s something interesting about watching NBA-type talents (and in particular the rookies) play in half-empty volleyball gyms. It’s like finding a feed of an exceedingly good pickup game, except there are coaches and people pretend to run plays.

There’s also the thrill of watching former college stars try to make the league even though it’s clear that their careers should have ended after their senior seasons. This is cool on a psychological level, but I’m having more fun watching guys like Toby Bailey for the sake of seeing what they’re up to now. Bailey looks more like Morris Day than anyone ever should without trying (or maybe he is trying!), and it’s incredible.

As a Warriors fan, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I watch their summer games with intense excitement over the impending takeover of Marco Belinelli, someone Carter and I love to death and have talked about in almost every post for the last three weeks. At the same time, though, I’m getting less excitement than I expected out of watching Kevin Durant and Greg Oden go through the motions. Despite the fact that Bellinelli’s a member of my favorite team, there’s no clear reason why I should want to watch him more than Durant or Oden; those guys are objectively better. Likewise, while there’s certainly a strong desire inside me to watch Marco play in the non-YouTube world, it’s not like these games are going to tell us anything incredibly significant that won’t show up in three months when the real games start. Intense curiosity is definitely worth a lot, but there has to be something else.

In his post, Shoals writes that “the purpose of college ball is to deliver players into the league with some nascent version of how their complete game might look,” but I think it also gives us a chance start formulating a greater narrative for each player’s career, so that the eventual NBA success or failure makes sense in the context of his basketball career. We’ve all heard about or seen Oden and Durant enough for seven players’ worth of background info. Marco is something else entirely, a man who exists only in YouTube highlights, debatably relevant Euro stats, and breathless comments about his hot girlfriend. Watching him play in these games gives us some picture of what he might become, but it also provides us with a first plot point to apply to his greater narrative. At the end of his career we can say “He came to America and immediately kicked everyone’s ass, showing us that his success was never in question” or “He came to America and immediately kicked ass, giving false hope to those expecting him to help push the Warriors into the first tier of the NBA.” That might not amount to much in ten years, but right now it seems mandatory if I want to watch Marco and Yi (and Rodney Stuckey, if I ever get around to watching the Detroit game I taped) in the way I enjoy watching everyone else.

Some random notes:
- Couldn’t be happier about the Marco Explosion. I definitely don’t expect him to do anything close to this as a rookie, but it seems like he’ll contribute if only becomes he moves exceptionally well without the ball and can hit open jumpers.

- Looks like Greg Oden will miss the rest of summer league with tonsillitis, and it’s just as well given all the uproar over two meaningless games featuring refs that call everything. This particular injury, though, adds to the mounting evidence that Oden is the biggest dork (not geek, that would be Duncan) to ever be the #1 overall pick. For extra fun, check out the opening paragraph of the AP article: “Portland-area hospitals may wish to stock up on ice cream for the arrival of a very big patient.” Gotta love AP writers feeling the need to compensate for not always getting a byline.

- The salary cap has been set at $55.63 million, with the luxury tax threshold at $67.865 million. I don’t want to do the math to figure out what that means for any number of teams, but putting it up here makes me feel legit. (The following video is long, but it will reward you.)

- Stronger chance EEE will end up playing for the Bucks than originally thought. All the coolest things that could have happened this summer (Kobe trade, KG trade, EEE starting WW3) are starting to seem less possible by the day. These guys really need to stop teasing us so often.

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