There’s a belief among some basketball people that what happens in the NBA Summer League doesn’t matter.
Try telling that to the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors arrived at Cox Pavilion last July seeing an opportunity for their young players to set the tone in attempting to change the organization’s losing culture. Since 1994, Golden State had two winning seasons and had made the playoffs once.
With Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli showing the way, the Warriors went 5-0 to win the unofficial summer league championship.
That winning spirit carried over to training camp in October. With the veterans getting more comfortable with second-year coach Mark Jackson’s system and the young players continuing their growth from Las Vegas, the Warriors went 47-35, finished second in the Pacific Division and beat Denver in the first round of the playoffs before falling to San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I think there’s absolutely a correlation from what we did in Vegas last summer to what we did during the regular season and into the playoffs,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said. “From day one, we were determined to develop a winning culture, so we made it a priority to win games in Vegas.
“The confidence our players got from the summer league carried over to training camp and became infectious.”
The Warriors, who begin play in this year’s summer league Saturday against the Washington Wizards at Cox Pavilion, might be hard-pressed to match last year’s run and win the inaugural tournament. Thompson won’t play as he gears up for USA Basketball’s minicamp at the Mendenhall Center this month, and Ezeli is recovering from knee surgery.
But Lacob hopes the culture of success that was nurtured last summer is maintained in the next 11 days.
“It’s a different roster,” Lacob said, noting the return of Green and Kent Bazemore, along with Scott Machado, Cameron Jones and Lance Goulbourne, who played last year for Santa Cruz, the Warriors’ D-League team. “We have more experience this year. The goal is to have them work on their game.
“We also want to take a good look at our D-League guys and see how they compete. So the focus is a little different than a year ago.”
The Warriors also want to see what they have in Nemanja Nedovic, their first-round draft pick. Lacob hopes the 22-year-old, a 6-foot-4-inch guard from Serbia who has represented his country’s national team, can begin a successful transition to the NBA from the Lithuania Pro League, where he played last season.
“It’s going to be big for him,” Lacob said. “He’s experienced in Europe, and we think this is a good way for him to get acclimated to the NBA and to American culture. It doesn’t get any more American than Las Vegas.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.