It will be tough for the NBA Summer League to outdo last year, when the top two draft picks and a record 22 teams participated, drawing record crowds every day at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center.
The first two picks in this year’s draft, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Miami’s Michael Beasley, are in the summer league in Orlando, Fla., so the hype in Las Vegas will focus on Memphis guard O.J. Mayo and Minnesota forward Kevin Love, former Pacific-10 Conference stars who spent one year in college.
Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick out of Southern California, and Love, the No. 5 selection from UCLA, are no strangers to Las Vegas, having competed in summer high school tournaments here a couple of years ago. Now, they are about to get their first taste of basketball at its highest level.
"We have a terrific lineup. Mayo and Love will both play," said Warren LeGarie, the sports agent who began the summer league five years ago and helps the NBA run the event, which begins Friday.
LeGarie acknowledges that the summer league benefited from good fortune last year, when top draft picks Greg Oden and Kevin Durant played, the fan-favorite Los Angeles Lakers competed and the event added the Thomas & Mack as a second venue.
"Part of our world is luck and timing," LeGarie said. "Last year, everything fell perfectly into place.”
Twenty-one teams are competing this year, with the Charlotte Bobcats making their first appearance in Las Vegas. They replace the world champion Boston Celtics, who decided to take the summer off. The Toronto Raptors, who played here two years ago, have returned.
The summer league remains a fan-friendly environment. There will be autograph sessions, exhibits and interactive displays.
But for the participating players, it’s serious business. Jobs are on the line for free agents looking to earn a spot in training camp. Also, the learning process begins in Las Vegas for rookie first-round picks (nine of the first 14 selections in last month’s draft are participating).
As an added incentive, two players who distinguish themselves during the summer league will earn spots on the Select Team, which will scrimmage Team USA daily at Valley High School during its pre-Olympic training camp, which runs from July 21 to 24.
• NOTES — UNLV’s representation at this year’s NBA Summer League comprises Louis Amundson (Golden State), Wendell White (Los Angeles Lakers) and Dalron Johnson (New Orleans). Former Bishop Gorman High School star C.J. Watson also is on the Warriors’ roster. … NBATV (Cable 318) will televise 23 summer league games.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.NBA SUMMER LEAGUE WHEN: Friday through July 20 WHERE: Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center TEAMS: Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Golden State, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto, WashingtonTV: NBA TV (Cable 318) TICKETS: $20 all-day general admission, $100 courtside seats PAST CHAMPIONS: New York and Dallas (2007), Houston (2006), Cleveland (2005), Phoenix (2004)