“If last year’s NBA Finals offered all the carefully choreographed dullness of an overbudgeted, Oscar-begging prestige picture, the summer league offers more of a Live Free or Die Hard vibe: lots of explosions, very little coherence, and a few legitimate oohs and aahs,” writes David. Sans that annoying guy from the Apple commercials, too.
If you’ve ever played in a pickup game, you’ve played summer-league-style ball. You’ve almost certainly never seen it played this well, though”and chances are you haven’t seen it at all.That’s a shame, because summer-league games are exceptionally entertaining”a hyper-speed assemblage of fast breaks and often-dazzling one-on-one offense, interspersed with the odd blocked shot, 3-pointer, or errant pass. That lack of structure leads to sloppiness”most games in the Vegas summer league averaged about a turnover a minute”but it also lends these barely coached contests an endearingly casual quality. If you’ll forgive me for pointing out the obvious, NBA players, even marginal NBA players, are very good at basketball. Watching them play pickup ball, in which defense is secondary and creativity is king, is thrilling.It’s no accident that the Knicks’ Nate Robinson was the MVP of this year’s Vegas summer league.
In the NBA, Robinson is an inefficient ball hog. In the frenetic summer league, though, his worst tendencies”the inability to slow down or pass up a shot, ever; a predilection for jumping before deciding whether to pass or shoot”become crowd-pleasing, stat-stuffing pluses. For the same reasons that Robinson annoys Knicks fans, he’d be a lot of fun as a pickup teammate; he is the ultimate summer-league player.