View Full Version : Seeking These Five Answers in Summer League

07-06-2003, 11:48 AM
Seeking these five answers in summer league

By Chris Palmer
ESPN The Magazine

It's that time of year again when promising young players must forgo summer relaxation in favor of improving their games. It's when long shots with only a halfcourt heave of a chance get to put on NBA practice jerseys that double as summer league uniforms and try to impress a general manager or coach. But the summer is really all about the new guys -- the rookies. From the can't-miss studs to the guys who came out a year too early, last month's draft picks are still on a high from getting their picture taken with David Stern. Prepare to wake up from your dream, guys. Summer league starts now.

This is where we find out who can actually run the point, who can't read defenses and who needs three or four more years of seasoning. Other than the start of the regular season, this is one of the most intriguing stretches of the NBA calendar. We get to see who can actually play. But to our young rookies, don't get too excited if you hold your own, because this isn't really the league just yet. Sure, you will see bigger, smarter, faster, stronger athletes than you've ever seen before, but rest assured, it gets much tougher come November.

You have to start somewhere, though, and playing well in summer league is always a good sign and will answer many questions. Here are five questions we should know the answer to at the end of the summer.

1. How will LeBron James react when he finds he can't beat up on pros the way he did high school kids? LeBron has met every challenge of his young career and passed with flying throwdowns. But those were high school challenges. He will regularly get double-teamed by players his size and who are just as strong. There will be no 5-foot-10 choir boys to post. In high school, he dominated the paint; in the pros, he will spend considerably much less time there. There will be those who won't hesitate to throw him a 'bow. He won't get calls. There will be times frustration will get the best of him. It isn't that much of a stretch to say that LeBron has a little bit of primadonna in him. But he'll quickly realize that the pros is no place for an overhyped rookie to act like he's already been there and won that. If he puts his head down and plays his game, he'll be headed in the right direction. Listening to Paul Silas will be huge. He knows a little bit more about the NBA than LeBron.

2. Can Dwayne Wade really play the point? Because that's why Miami drafted him. The good news is Wade is an incredibly versatile performer who did everything Marquette asked him to do. He ran the break, hit the three and did actually spend quality time at the one. But Wade is a two guard. There's nothing that says two guards can't create for others. Unfortunately, turning twos into points is an experiment that almost never works in the NBA. See Larry Hughes. But Wade is closer to the Gilbert Arenas mold, a 6-4 slasher with a natural ability to hand out the rock. Pat Riley must get all tingly inside when he dreams about a Wade/Caron Butler backcourt (We'll save Eddie Jones for another day). For now, Wade has a ton to learn. His first test: bring the ball up court against pressure.

3. Will Maciej Lampe make 'em pay? He says he will. The Polish Nowitzki can speak five languages but he'd better let his play do the talking when he suits up for the Knicks this summer. He was projected to go as high as No. 5 on draft night but fell a whopping 25 picks when FIBA issued a statement the day of the draft that he had not been cleared to play because a $1.8 million buyout in his contract had not been reconciled. But the matter has been worked out and Maciej will wear No. 30, so he won't forget what happened on draft night. His biggest task will simply be learning the pro game and not getting caught up with trying to be Dirk, his idol, on his first day in class. He'll have to learn the spots in the Knicks' offense where his jumper will come easiest as well as defensive footwork and positioning. In August, he can worry about more important things, like getting his driver's license.

4. Will the Bulls finally settle on a point guard? This is less of a summer league question than it is a testament to the Bulls' constant rebuilding. Another summer is here and the Bulls have another rookie point guard. Three years ago, they brought in their point guard of the future in Jamal Crawford but he played like his time was the distant future, so they drafted Jay Williams with the No. 2 overall pick last year. They played together with mixed reviews until the last month of the season when both players looked like All-Stars in the making. Now Williams' career is in jeopardy because of an unfortunate motorcycle accident and Crawford seems to be forcing a trade by skipping voluntary workouts with the Bulls. Enter Kirk Hinrich, the energetic floor general from Kansas who no one has any real idea as to how he'll actually do. One thing's for sure, Hinrich's performance will dictate how the Bulls draft next year.

5. A Devean George or a Jeff McInnis? Which would you rather have? Each summer both of these species of player can be seen at the league's three official summer leagues. A Devean George is someone who plays like an All-Star in the summer when the pressure is considerably less compared to the regular season. He routinely teases his coaching staff with highlight-reel dunks and fills up the stat sheet like a young Scottie Pippen but seems to run around with his head cut off during The 82. On the other hand, a Jeff McInnis uses summer league to make a name for himself. One day, he'll work on his post game. The next day, he bombs from the outside. Another day, it's all penetrate and kick. By the end of the summer, the McGinnis will put it all together for a 52-point, 11-assist, seven-rebound game and have it carry over to the regular season. The real question any GM wants answered this summer is "Do we have a George or a McInnis?"

Chris Palmer is a senior reporter for ESPN The Magazine.

07-06-2003, 01:11 PM
i am really curious about the summer league this year, not only with the mavs players, but also with how lebron and others are going to react. it will be our first glimpse of how they will do in the nba this year.

unfortunately, i don't have nbatv. anyone who does or who goes to the games, i am expecting a report. i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif

Tony tha Mavs fan
07-06-2003, 02:02 PM
I used to have NBA.tv till Comcast took over............ But this years summer league will be well worth watching, debuts of Lebron, Carmello, Millicic , and the debut of Josh Howard in a Mavs uniform.