NBA Summer League
BASKETBALL never stops.
Three NBA-sanctioned summer leagues were completed from July 1 to 15.
First off the bat was the California Classic Summer League held in Sacramento. The Miami Heat topped the three-day, four-team competitions with a perfect 3-0 record. The LA Lakers, who put up a 15-man roster with no recognizable names, finished second at 2-1. The host Kings were third at 1-2 while the Golden State Warriors hogged the cellar with three losses in as many games.
Then there was the Utah Summer League in Salt Lake City, a four-team mini tournament hosted by the Jazz. The Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Jazz registered identical 2-1 records but the Grizzlies were declared the champion via a tiebreaker. San Antonio wound up second and Utah third. The Cleveland Cavaliers dropped all their three assignments to finish dead-last.
The third, and most prestigious of the three summer leagues, was the MGM Resorts Las Vegas Summer League in Nevada. That’s because all 30 NBA member clubs – plus the national teams of Croatia and the People’s Republic of China – took part in the 11-day festivities.
Each of the 32 teams played four preliminary-round games with the top eight qualifying for the single-elimination playoffs. The 24 non-playoff teams each had one extra appearance in the consolation round.
China went 1-4 during the Las Vegas Summer League, losing to Miami (103-62), Sacramento (94-77), Milwaukee (84-67) and Phoenix (94-64) and beating Charlotte (84-80).
In the consolation games, No. 32 Indiana beat No. 9 LA Clippers, 86-75; No. 31 LA Lakers (the 2017 LVSL winner behind then-rookie and tournament MVP Lonzo Ball) edged No. 10 Golden State, 88-87, for their first win in the tournament; No. 11 Oklahoma City downed No. 30 Croatia, 69-68; No. 12 Phoenix routed China, 94-64, with Ailun Guo leading three Chinese double-digit scorers with a game-high 15 points and China completing the tournament with a 1-4 record, having lost to Miami, 103-62, Sacramento, 94-77, and Milwaukee, 84-67, and winning over Charlotte, 84-80; No. 28 Cleveland defeated No. 13 Sacramento, 98-96, in OT; No. 27 Philadelphia beat No. 14 Toronto, 108-102; No. 26 Portland (the 2018 LVSL champion) blasted No. 15 Milwaukee, 99-84; No. 25 Atlanta beat No. 16 San Antonio, 80-72; No. 24 Charlotte downed No. 17 Utah, 84-74; No. 23 New York, the team tipped by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook oddsmakers to win the LVSL title, crushed No. 18 Washington, 103-87; No. 22 Orlando defeated No. 19 Chicago, 85-73; and No. 20 Houston beat No. 21 Denver, 105-96.
In the end, it was Memphis, the lowest-seeded playoff team (No. 18), that emerged triumphant in the 15th annual LVSL, defeating No. 3 seeded and erstwhile unblemished Minnesota, 95-92, in the championship game at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Grizzlies, who wound up with a 6-1 record, earlier whipped No. 1 seed Boston, 94-88 (after losing to the Celtics, 113-87, during the prelims), in the quarterfinals and No. 4 New Orleans, 88-86, in overtime, during the semifinals to arrange a titular showdown against Minnesota, which blasted No. 7 seed Brooklyn, 85-77, in their own pairing. The Nets reached the Final Four with a 105-85 upset of No. 2 seed and formerly unbeaten Detroit in the quarters.
In the finals, Memphis got 15 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three blocks from Canadian Brandon Clarke, an incoming NBA rookie who added the MVP game award to his earlier tournament MVP citation.
Clarke, 6-foot-8, 22-year-old power forward out of San Jose State (2015-17) and Gonzaga University (2018-19), was selected 21st in last month’s NBA draft by Oklahoma City before the Thunder shipped his rights to Memphis.
Earlier, the Grizzlies won the Utah Summer League crown in Salt Lake City via a tiebreaker.
NBA basketball comes alive again in three weeks’ time as the USA Basketball training camp is set for August 5-9 in Las Vegas in preparation for the Americans’ participation in the FIBA Basketball World Cup from August 31-September 15.
China, of course, is the host of the 32-nation World Cup. The U.S. is the defending titlist and is sending an all-NBA contingent.
The Americans currently have 20 NBA players on their roster and the list will have to be trimmed to a dozen before the WC games begin.
For sure, new LA Lakers teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis won’t be in China but the U.S. team to be coached by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs will have the services of back-to-back NBA scoring champion James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Kyle Lowry of the newly-crowned NBA champion Toronto Raptors, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics, Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers, Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
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