One of the casualties of last fall’s NBA lockout was the cancellation of the annual summer league in Las Vegas. But with a new collective bargaining agreement in place, the NBA will be back at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center from July 13 through July 22, with 23 teams expected to participate.
"We’re excited to be back," said Warren LeGarie, the San Francisco-based agent who partners with the NBA to run the summer league. "Sometimes you take things for granted, and not having the summer league last year was tough for us and the fans. We really missed it."
The NBA on Monday was finalizing teams and ticket prices. But LeGarie said both Los Angeles teams — the Lakers and the Clippers — have committed to Las Vegas, and as was the case the previous two summer leagues, a team of select players from the NBA Development League will compete.
"We might have room for one more team," LeGarie said. "We don’t want the product to suffer."
The Vegas Summer League, which LeGarie began in 2004 with six teams, has become an important event on the league calendar. The owners schedule their summer meetings at the Palms in conjunction with the league, and Las Vegas is a place where general managers, coaches and scouts enjoy gathering to evaluate the talent on display. Even the teams that aren’t participating usually have someone on hand.
In recent years, some of the game’s current biggest names have played in the summer league, including Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, John Wall and, in 2010, Jeremy Lin, who was a free agent trying to make the Dallas Mavericks’ roster.
"Las Vegas has been wonderful to us from Day One," LeGarie said. "We believed the city would support the summer league, and they have. I don’t think missing last year because of the lockout will hurt us coming back this summer. Television ratings are up for the regular season. Attendance is solid in a lot of places. I think we’ll be all right."
The biggest change is the date. In previous years, play began right after the July 4 holiday. But this year the summer league pushed back its start by a week because of the NBA’s condensed season and the need to give drafted players time to assimilate with their new teams, along with the fact that USA Basketball will be practicing at the adjacent Mendenhall Center during the earlier dates.
"We’re happy with the new start date," LeGarie said. "We think it fits in well with everything else that’s going on basketball-wise in Las Vegas.
"The truth is, some of the general managers were concerned that the players who got drafted needed a chance to catch their breath and get acclimated with the coaches and the system, and get themselves in better shape before the league started."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.