It was the Summer of ’13, and the Summer League Warriors and Summer League Suns were languidly loafing through warmups at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Wi-Fi at courtside was acting up.
The NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League has evolved from a modest six-team endeavor in 2004 to a 24-team extravaganza in 2017 — this year’s top draft picks, and free agents trying to catch on with the newly renamed G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce, start hooping it up Friday at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center. So where it always used to be something with the Summer League, it isn’t like that anymore.
The Wi-Fi usually works.
But it wasn’t working that night in the Summer of ‘13.
A technician who bore a faint resemblance to Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy, spent most of the evening poking around my feet and laptop. As a result, I wasn’t exactly paying rapt attention (not that I would have anyway) when the Summer League Warriors defeated the Summer League Suns 91-77 for what was their 14th consecutive summertime victory.
When that hard to fathom and ever harder to explain winning streak began, the Winter League Warriors still were mostly awful, coming off seasons of 26-56 and 36-46 and 23-43. During the spring of ‘13, Golden State finally showed some moxie, going 47-35 and making the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, where they lost to the Spurs in the conference semifinals.
A man named Kirk Lacob, who was a Warriors assistant GM, said there was a correlation to the Warriors’ success in the summertime and their turnaround during that 47-35 season.
The Warriors’ media guide said Lacob also played an integral role in relocating the Warriors’ D-League team from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Santa Cruz, California. So if one wanted to presume the Summer League Warriors’ success bred the same for the Winter League club — like through harmonic convergence or whatever — there it is.
But with all respect due Kirk Lacob for that Bismarck-to-Santa Cruz move, the Warriors’ unparalleled success in the Summer League was more like a phenomena that is hard to explain, such as crop marks in a cornfield or the popularity of Andrew Dice Clay.
Anyway, while the Nick Burns wannabe was poking around my feet and laptop during the Summer of ‘13, it was noticed that one of the Summer League Warriors seemed to be having a pretty nice game.
His name was Ian Clark, an undrafted free agent who torched the Summer League Suns for 34 points, which was one more than his career high at Belmont University of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Afterward, Clark said the Summer League sort of reminded him of playing hoops for the fun of it back home in Memphis, Tennessee. There are a lot of good players in Memphis, he said, and they’d choose up sides at the Southwind High gym. It was shirts and skins. No scouts. No guaranteed contracts.
Good luck in Istanbul, I said, or something to that effect.
As it turned out, Ian Clark totally bypassed the Turkish League. There were only D-League penances served in Boise, Idaho, and Bakersfield, California, where Ottoman isn’t an empire, but something one might put in front of a sofa.
Last season, the 26-year-old guard appeared in 77 games for the NBA champion Warriors. He averaged 15 minutes, seven points, two rebounds.
He also became Stephen Curry’s partner in one of the NBA’s most bizarre pregame rituals.
About seven minutes before every game, Clark and Curry do this routine where they pantomime other sports and military exercises — golf, volleyball, football, bowling, baseball, the launching of hand grenades. They do this five times, trying hard not to hit Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala, still warming up, with an errant fastball, gutter ball or launched grenade. Then Curry has to sink a 3-pointer, or they do it all over again.
They usually don’t have to do it again.
I read recently where Ian Clark, pride of Southwind Gym and Belmont University, had such a nice year coming off the Warriors’ bench that the NBA champs might not be able to afford him on the free-agent market.
Good for him.
Good for the Las Vegas Summer League.
Contact Ron Kantowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.