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10 things to know for NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

The NBA’s Summer League has become a Las Vegas sports staple, but some fans will be visiting for the first time.

Here’s a primer on what to expect.

1. One event, two arenas. The Summer League, which takes place Thursday though July 17, is played at the Thomas &Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, with games usually going on simultaneously. Tickets are mostly general admission, so fans can walk back and forth between the venues. Because both arenas are connected, fans don’t have to go outside into the 100-degree heat.

2. Which arena is better? They’re just different. Cox seats only 3,000 people, so it can fill up pretty quickly, but there really is no bad seat. The Thomas &Mack seats more than 18,000, and finding a place to sit isn’t a problem unless Zion Williamson is making his debut.

3. It’s more than just basketball. Yes, you can sit in the same seat for eight hours and watch games if you want, but there are plenty of things to do on the concourse if you want to mix it up a little bit, be it trying a pop-a-shot game or getting a player’s autograph.

4. Don’t forget to eat. Summer League sessions are long, so there’s a good chance you’ll eat dinner while sitting in Section 105. There are several dining options to choose from on the concourse. They include the typical hamburgers and pizza fare, along with healthy choices.

5. The earlier, the better. To see the stars of the future, such as No. 1 overall draft pick Paolo Banchero with the Orlando Magic, it’s best to catch the early sessions before teams start shutting down those top players.

6. Look for surprises. One of the joys of Summer League is seeing players shine who were taken late in the first round or even the second. Then when that player becomes an All-Star, you can tell your friends you were the genius who first recognized his talent.

7. Keep an eye on the front row. NBA players like to see what the next set of talent looks like, too, and Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo have been known to make their way to the games as well as many others. And if you hear a roar and the Lakers are playing, there’s a good bet LeBron James has just entered the building.

8. Speaking of the Lakers. Las Vegas is a Lakers town, and probably will still be one even after the city eventually gets its own team. So arriving early for those games is important if you want to get a closer view of the action.

9. Later games are worth watching, too. Even if most of the top prospects are sidelined later in Summer League, it’s still worth showing up to see the tournament. It takes on a playoff feel with the players going all out to claim the championship. Careful reading too much into which teams win the championship; the Sacramento Kings claimed last year’s title.

10. You never know when some history will be made. Aces coach Becky Hammon coached the San Antonio Spurs to the 2015 Summer League title, and then there was the earthquake in 2019. OK, the last one might not be such a great reason to go, but it was memorable.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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