Summer league rocks to own tune


Now that they have run the table again, in a different format with a playoff bracket and everything, it’s almost too easy to compare the NBA Summer League’s Golden State Warriors with author Roger Kahn’s “Boys of Summer.”

You’d have to do it without Duke Snider patrolling center field, without Cox, Reese, Robinson and Hodges from third to first. Without Newcombe on the bump. But you still could do it.

I suppose you also could liken these youthful Warriors to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” only without the Deadhead sticker on the Cadillac.

Again, too easy.

I prefer to think of them as the second coming of Mungo Jerry, the one-hit-wonder British band that made foot-tapping music by blowing into jugs and plucking on banjos.

To paraphrase: “In the summertime, when the weather is high, they can stretch right up and touch the sky; when the weather’s right, they’ve got winning, they’ve got winning on their mind.”

Let the foot tapping begin.

Thankfully, the summer league Warriors, who defeated the summer league Suns 91-77 in the NBA Summer League final Monday night for their 14th consecutive victory here, don’t sport giant Afros and mutton-chop sideburns like the lead singer from Mungo Jerry. You simply must check out the YouTube video.

Before the summer league started, a fellow named Kirk Lacob, the Warriors’ assistant general manager, said there was a correlation to the Warriors’ success here last summer and their success during the regular season.

Success in the summer league breeds confidence, he said, and confidence carries over to training camp and beyond. Lacob said this though most guys on the Warriors’ summer league roster generally wind up playing in places such as Istanbul and Santa Cruz, Calif.

People in sports talk about confidence a lot. I think confidence is the new intensity.

Apparently, confidence doesn’t always carry over in the other sports such as baseball, because whereas the Kansas City Royals won the unofficial Cactus League championship with a record of 25-7 in spring training, they now are officially 45-51 and trail the Tigers by eight games.

Is there a scintilla of truth to what basketball people say about confidence in one setting breeding success in another? Well, there are a lot of scintillas in an NBA season, not to mention a lot of TV timeouts. I suppose anything is possible.

If Ian Clark, an undrafted free agent out of Belmont in Tennessee, is able to sink a 3-point shot with a hand in his face in front of a nice crowd of 7,357 at the Thomas Mack Center in July, perhaps he can do it in front of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City in April or May or June or whenever the NBA season finally ends.

Provided he’s not playing in Istanbul or Santa Cruz, Calif.

But most people, even basketball people, believe that what happens in Las Vegas during the Summer League mostly stays here, just as what happens in the Cactus League during March mostly stays there, in Surprise and Sun City and Peoria and Scottsdale and Chandler and Mesa. Especially in Mesa, because that is where the Cubs train.

Perhaps the summer league Warriors just play better defense than anybody else. Maybe they just want it more.

When Cameron Jones split the Phoenix defense for an old school 3-point play with 5:40 remaining and the outcome still in doubt, a couple of the Warriors’ bench-sitters leaped into the air and flung towels around.

You don’t often see that during the summer league.

The summer league, at first blush, seems mostly about guys sinking enough jump shots to make a team in Istanbul or Santa Cruz or, heaven forbid, Bakersfield, when the weather turns cool.

It’s also about basketball people who wear long shorts and short socks being able to scout a bunch of guys in one place. A pretty cool place, I might add. Way better than Santa Cruz or Bakersfield or any of those other D-League outposts with a Denny’s and a truck stop on the interstate.

There also are a lot of women who wear tiny skirts with high heels who hang out at the summer league. I’m not exactly sure what purpose they serve, other than to make blowouts seem more interesting.

But maybe there’s something more to NBA-sanctioned summertime hoops than that, and providing live programming for NBA TV for 10 days.

Maybe there’s something more genuine. Something more pure.

Remember when you were a kid, and sides were chosen, and you played hard and you wanted so badly to win, though there really wasn’t anything at stake other than the satisfaction derived from beating the Shirts when you were with the Skins?

Maybe the Summer League is like that to a small degree.

Afterward, Ian Clark, who scored 33 points for Golden State — one more than his career high at Belmont — said it was like that, to a small degree. He said when he was younger, most of the top players in Memphis would get together and choose up sides at the gym at Southwind High School. It was mostly Shirts vs. Skins.

Those games were pretty good, Clark said. Good players. Lots of confidence. Lots of intensity at the Southwind High gym.

It must have been the kind of place where in the summertime you could stretch right up and touch the sky.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.