Summer glare shines on rookies

While the basketball world awaits LeBron James’ announcement today about his future, several high-profile NBA rookies are eager to start making a statement about theirs.

Eleven of the 14 lottery picks in last month’s draft are in town for the NBA Summer League, which tips off Friday and runs through July 18 at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center.

Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn thinks the hoopla surrounding James and the league’s other big-name free agents could be a boon for the summer league, which along with rookies features second- and third-year players and low-level free agents.

"I think it will enhance the summer league," Kahn said. "Everyone’s been talking about the NBA. I’ve never seen anything like it where it is dominating the conversation."

Sacramento Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof agreed.

"It’s great for basketball," Maloof said. "Here we are, less than a month from NFL training camp, and no one’s even talking about football. The NBA is dominating the airwaves. I think all the excitement about free agency will carry over to the summer league."

Golden State Warriors general manager Larry Riley said the summer league creates its own vibe and level of interest.

"I don’t think free agency affects how we approach things with the summer league," Riley said. "We’re watching and evaluating players to see how they best fit in with what we do. That never changes."

Some of the top players in action will be No. 1 overall pick John Wall, who will make his debut with the Washington Wizards on Sunday against Golden State, No. 4 selection Wesley Johnson of the Timberwolves and No. 5 pick DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings.

The Lakers, who open play Friday, are expected to have their two 2010 draft picks — forward-center Derrick Caracter and forward Devin Ebanks — on the floor.

The Heat, who along with Atlanta are competing in the summer league for the first time, will field an all-rookie roster that includes second-round draft picks Dexter Pittman and Jarvis Varnado and free agents Kyle Singler from Duke, D’Andre Bell from Georgia Tech and Davon Jefferson from Southern California.

Kahn said the summer league is critical in the development of young players.

"You want to see them get as much experience and exposure as possible," he said. "Not just on the court during games, but at practice, at shootarounds. I’m looking at it as an opportunity to see our guys grow."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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