NBA Summer League ready to tip off

Basketball junkies, rejoice.

The NBA Summer League is back, after last year’s battle over a new collective bargaining agreement resulted in the lockout of players and forced the cancellation of the annual event on the UNLV campus.

From today to July 22, there will be 60 games featuring a record 24 teams – 23 NBA squads and the D-League Select team. Today’s slate of four games at Cox Pavilion begins with the Atlanta Hawks playing the Washington Wizards at 1 p.m.

"We’re thrilled to be back," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. "It’s a time for renewal, a chance to once again showcase the top draft picks and the top young players. We’re hoping this year’s summer league will be an opportunity to keep the momentum going from the playoffs and the (NBA) Finals."

Silver said there was never any danger of the summer league not returning to Las Vegas once the lockout was settled in December. The first event, with six teams, was here in 2004.

"The owners know it is part of doing business," he said. "They enjoy coming to Las Vegas; we’re holding our summer board of governors meeting on (Thursday) at the Encore. They like to watch the games and see the new players. We never thought of not returning."

Silver said he didn’t know if the day will come when the entire league participates in Las Vegas.

"We keep increasing the number of teams," he said. "But, ultimately, it’s an individual decision that each team has to make."

Six of the previous eight overall No. 1 draft picks have played in Las Vegas, but that trend probably will end this year. Anthony Davis, the top overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets, was scheduled to play in the league until Thursday, when he was recalled to the U.S. Olympic team.

The 6-foot-10-inch forward from Kentucky will replace Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin, who suffered an injury to his left knee late in practice Wednesday.

Even without Davis, the Hornets will be well represented by fellow lottery pick Austin Rivers, drafted No. 10 overall, and Darius Miller, who played with Davis at Kentucky and was taken No. 46. The Hornets’ first game is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday against Portland at the Thomas & Mack Center.

If Davis had played in the summer league, he probably would have found himself playing second fiddle to Jimmer Fredette, a lottery pick in the 2011 draft. The former Brigham Young All-America guard is listed on the Sacramento Kings’ summer league roster, and the recently married Fredette will undoubtedly draw crowds whenever Sacramento plays.

The Kings face Charlotte at 7 p.m. today at Cox Pavilion, and look for Fredette to get a lot of work at point guard as the Kings try to develop his skills at the position.

Silver said he knows a lot of people missed the summer league last year. But he hopes today’s return will lessen whatever lingering anger remains.

"We know not having the summer league in Las Vegas impacted a lot of people in many ways," he said. "We apologize to all our great fans of Southern Nevada."

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

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