Jazz jumps into NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

Maybe time does heal all wounds.

Back in 2004, the Vegas Summer League was formed and its growth eventually led to the demise of the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. The Utah Jazz, which had supported the summer league event in its city, vowed not to participate in Las Vegas.

But the Jazz, which has had a connection to Las Vegas going back to the mid-1980s when it played some of its home games at the Thomas &Mack Center, has had an apparent change of heart. It will field a team for the first time when the NBA Summer League tips off its 11-day run July 11 at the Thomas &Mack and Cox Pavilion for what will be its 10th anniversary season of competition.

Utah had been competing in the Orlando Summer League.

“Las Vegas has always supported the Jazz, and it was clearly a consensus among my staff that Utah needed to be included,” said Warren LeGarie, who founded the summer league and helps run the event for the NBA. “I think it was just a matter of being persistent, and persistency won out.

“It’s going to be great for the fans in Utah to make the drive over to Vegas and watch the new players they bring in and the young players they already have. We expect it’s going to boost attendance a lot.”

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said it is important for the Jazz to develop its young talent closer to home.

“Having our training camp in Orlando was difficult for us, and we felt it was time to move forward,” Lindsey said. “We feel there’s a natural tie-in with Las Vegas, and it’ll be great for our fans to follow us and be able to see our young players. We’re very excited about the move.”

The Jazz will be one of 24 teams participating this year, up from 22 in 2013. Rejoining the summer league will be the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, while the Memphis Grizzlies have opted to play in Orlando, Fla. The 24th team will again be a select squad from the NBA Development League.

The format will remain the same, as all 24 teams will play three games followed by a tournament which guarantees each team at least two additional games. Golden State defeated Phoenix, 91-77, to win last year’s inaugural tournament.

“It was very popular with the players and the fans,” LeGarie said. “The players had something to play for and the fans knew that and they came out and supported it. With 24 teams instead of 22, it will have a better symmetry and it will make it easier to seed the teams.”

LeGarie said “Summer Dreams,” the recent two-hour documentary on the summer league which aired in prime time on CBS, helped raise the visibility of the event. He hopes it will generate more interest moving forward.

“I was surprised with how well done it was,” LeGarie said. “The individual stories had their own built-in drama to them and I think it represented what the summer league is all about, which is selling hope and optimism, whether you’re a player, a coach or even a referee.”

Tickets for this year’s summer league are expected to go on sale June 1 with the scheduled to be announced shortly thereafter. Daily prices will be the same as last year: $25 for adults, $15 for youth. That gets you into all of that day’s games.

Tickets for the July 21 championship game in the Thomas &Mack Center will be $20. Last year’s title game between the Warriors and Suns drew 7,357. LeGarie said the summer league has come a long way since 2004, including surviving the 2011 NBA lockout. With the 10th anniversary looming and the Jazz participating, he believes an already big event on the basketball calendar will get even bigger.

“We never take ourselves for granted,” LeGarie said. “But a lot of people have worked very hard to get us to this point, including (commissioner) Adam Silver. Adam believed the concept could work in Las Vegas, and his support over the years when he was deputy commissioner has been invaluable to us.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at 702-387-2913 or scarp@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.