Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Australian NBA Tourism: NBA Summer Leagues and other Pro-am Summer events

For International fans traveling to the States during the Off-Season there are still opportunities to catch NBA Action and quality Basketball in the Summer. Various Pro-Am and brand sponsored events regularly feature NBA Stars and other famed streetballers. NBA Summer Leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas also offer a limited set of NBA Teams showcasing upcoming stars.

My outlet store pickups from Summer League 2009
Find more at #30HGtees on the '30 Home Games' Instagram
Whilst I've had the pleasure of seeing NBA players in action at home (Sydney 2000) and abroad (EuroBasket, FIBA Americas) my only taste of them Stateside was during the 2009 Summer League in Las Vegas.

Samsung NBA Summer League: Las Vegas

My friend JY*, a Die-hard Pistons fan recently checked out the 2014 NBA Summer League. He had the fortune to preview Rookies Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins before they take the League by storm. I quizzed him on the experience and asked him to share some thoughts on what to expect at NBA Summer League and the Stars we'll see in the upcoming Season. All Photos courtesy of JY*

Where did you stay and how long were you in Vegas. How much were the tickets?
I only attended 2 days due to family commitments. We stayed with the In-Laws who live relatively close to the stadium. At $28 a day (up to 4 games) I thought that was a bargain, definitely worth it so no need to approach the scalpers.
Australia's own Dante Exum facing down Giannis Antetokounmpo
Basically there are 2 stadiums - Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion (right next to each other). If the game you want to see is at the Cox Pavilion - book your tickets well in advance (limited seating). If your games are at the Thomas & Mack you can rock up on the day (plenty of seats).

[Ed: Scalpers approached us during my visit in 2009. As Re-entry with a stamp was possible, opportunists offered discounted Stadium Access with their replica stamps. I'm sure the system has changed.
The Thomas & Mack Center would later become infamous as it was the site of Paul George's gruesome injury a few week after Summer League play. The Non-regulation basket stanchion due to the Stadium's cramp spacing partly to blame for the freak occurrence.]

Giannis with an acrobatic layup
Any tips on players to look out for in Fantasy?
From the 7 games I saw, Giannis really stood out for me. Just an unbelievable athlete who had a LOT of confidence at both ends of the floor. He reminded me of Durant to be honest. Jabari reminded me of Melo, he had a lot of maturity and looked very comfortable with the ball in his hands during ISO plays. Great shooter too. Exum looked very comfortable too, great penetrator and fearless. I just think he'll get outmuscled by the bigger 2-guards, so best for Jazz to to play 'Run and Gun'. Tim Hardaway Jnr was an absolute scoring machine and was probably the most intense player I saw at the Summer League. Shane Larkin also made a big difference for the Knicks when he was on the floor, solid point guard and if Calderon picked up an injury, Larkin would be a Double Double player. The players I was disappointed in were Ben McLemore (quiet), Noah Vonleh (lacked activity) and Shabazz Napier (low points + assists) - I sure won't be grabbing these guys on my fantasy team!

Freshman Coach Derek Fisher speaking to his New York Knicks
How is Summer League Competition? Who would it appeal to?
100% this is for the nerds, definitely not enough star power there to excite the average fans. I honestly thought it was Disneyland though as there were plenty of coaches/players walking around the stadium and if you were lucky sitting in the stands with you! I'm also really interested in rookies and the other up-and-coming sort of players. Running into the likes of Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks was really cool. I went up to Austin Daye too, not the biggest name but an ex-pistons rookie.

#2 Pick Jabari Parker leading the Milwaukee Bucks
Any other brushes with fame in Vegas?
Coincidentally went to the PALMS one night and ran into a NBA Table Tennis fundraiser. Couldn't actually get in but saw Mike Bibby, Mike Dunleavy Snr and Dennis Schröder walk out.
[Ed: If you know your players, you'll have plenty of sightings. During my 2009 experience Walt Frazier hopped into our Cab after we were done with it. I congratulated Corey Brewer on a standout performance as he was cashing Chips at the Casino]
Philadelphia 76ers "Rookie" Nerlens Noel
Which teams stood out for you? Upset Detroit weren't playing?
I think the Jazz and Bucks have a lot of young talent coming through which showed at the Summer League. If the Bucks have Larry Sanders playing, I think they are a very complete team. Same with the Jazz, solid at all 5 positions. Given a couple of years who knows where these teams could be. McBuckets didn't play on the day I went which is probably the biggest disappointment as from previous games it appears he was a steal for the Bulls and gives them another good wing player in addition to Snell and Butler. It was OK, the Pistons played the smaller Florida Summer League. Overall the Summer League was an unbelievable experience for this NBA diehard, still yet to see a Regular Season game live after 20 years following the League. I would definitely return, the next item on the bucket list is to see a Pistons game for sure!

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As a Hoops nerd, I'd love to be a part of NBA Summer League or any of the Pro-am Events available during the Off-Season. Whilst I prefer the intensity of Playoff Basketball it's nice to celebrate upcoming talent and witness the future and potential of the NBA in casual surroundings. More often than not, they're also hosted in interesting parts of the Country.
I've compiled a list of annual Summer Events below
- Drew League (Los Angeles, August)
- The Seattle Pro-Am Basketball League (Seattle, August)
- Samsung NBA Summer League (Orlando, July)
- Samsung NBA Summer League (Las Vegas, July)
- Bobbito Garcia's Full Court 21 (New York City, August)
- Venice Basketball League (Los Angeles, July - September)

- Nike Hoops Summit (Portland, April)
Adidas Nations global basketball camp (Orange County, August)
- Under Armour Elite 24 (New York, August)

Find my other posts on American traveling tips from Australia:
- Australian NBA Tourism: Planning an NBA road Trip from outside the United States
- Australian NBA Tourism: NBA Summer Leagues and other Pro-am Summer events

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