Went to Vegas this week with a few bloggers of note - Steve Boese, Tim Sackett and Matt Stollak. Our destination had a nerd quality to it - The NBA Summer League, where professional basketball hopefuls convene to prove they have what it takes to be one of 450 players who play in the best hoops league in the world.
As it turns out, a lot of the NBA is probably no better at evaluating talent than the rest of us - and there's a lesson in that. Here's Part 2 of the story of the weekend as told through my Instagram account (enable pictures if you viewing this in email or just click through - captions and comments included with the picture).
From the NBA Summer League in Vegas, v4.0: They say "Culture Eats Strategy", so my pick for the strongest NBA culture on display at the Summer League Belongs to the Utah Jazz. This picture doesn't look like much, but the guys sitting courtside are 5-6 primary rotation players for the Jazz, including Donavan Mitchell, Dante Exum, Royce Young and others. Rudy Gobert is just out of this frame in the longest pair of pink slacks in North America. What's it mean when a team invites and gets most of their players to come to Summer League to support draft picks and players at the tail end of the roster? How would you feel if you were a couple of weeks in at a new job and people you considered to be high performers at the new company came to watch you work and were incredible supportive as you tried to learn? You'd run through the wall for that company - that's how you'd feel. Utah has to build culture because they are not a destination for Free Agents. They have to draft, develop and retain. You know - kind of the same thing you need to do at your company. They've managed to convince their tenured employees to be all in. We could all be a little bit more like the Utah Jazz at our companies, right? There are other strong cultures in the NBA (celtics) (kings... joking), but if you were buying low and trying to sell high on culture, you would buy Utah. Also, Grayson Allen update coming on Wed.... #utahjazz #summerleague
From the NBA Summer League in Vegas, v5.0: Like this post if you hate Grayson Allen. Like this post if you hate Grayson Allen. Meet Grayson Allen of the Utah Jazz. Loved by some, hated by many, Allen was picked by the Jazz with the 21st overall pick. As most of you know, Allen is one of the most polarizing figures in sports due to his Duke heritage and his tripping/sportsmanship issues while an undergrad. Things have gone well for Allen during the Summer league, but he can’t hide from his past. What do I mean by that? One of the things that was on full display this week was the fact that Grayson’s reputation proceeded his arrival in the NBA. Every guard he goes up against is aware of his penchant for chippiness, which means they are DETERMINED NOT TO BE PUNKED BY GRAYSON ALLEN. The result is every time Grayson is involved in the slightest tie-up physically, the opposing Summer League guard starts flipping the **** out and pretends (might be real at times) to want to fight him. Good times. The corporate equivalent of this is the guy who’s talented but everyone hates – so they start trying to take him down in every meeting, every presentation. He’s created his own prison. How have the Jazz dealt with this? They’ve put him in the equivalent of a Witness Protection Program, resting him/not playing him at all in 2 of the 5 games played so far this summer – even though he’s healthy. Allen’s going to get 10-15 minutes per game max this year for a good Jazz team and his reputation won’t be the same issue it is now, so Utah has decided to defuse the targeting of Allen this Summer by taking pressure off him. He’s already had a flare up with Trey Young and a Portland guard who was ejected for trying to bait Allen into a fight. Allen’s shown enough to make us think that Utah got incredible value at 21 overall. He’s a guy you love when he’s on your team and hate when he’s not. His veteran teammates have decided to love him from courtside. The Witness Protection Program is real, and Allen lucked out to be drafted by a franchise with a long view. Hit me in the comments on why you love/hate Allen. #utahjazz #summerleague
From the NBA Summer League in Vegas, v6.0: My last post in this series features a guy named Tark, a character in basketball lore all kids should look up to understand their hoops history. The picture above is me outside the Thomas and Mach center, at the Jerry Tarkanian statue. Jerry Tarkanian was the head men’s coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (local D1 program in Vegas). The UNLV program grew out of the desert as a result of this Armenian master, who was part promoter, part recruiter and part basketball coach. When you think of the college programs that led us to where we are now, there are only a few college programs that are truly foundational in nature. Consider this about Tark and UNLV: He created a brand that is partially responsible for bringing an urban game to the masses – there’s only two other programs/eras that can say that – the other two are Thompson’s Georgetown teams and the Fab Five at Michigan. All 3 programs in their time transcended sports and become embedded in pop culture. He was a master at teaching man defense and added full court pressure that become part of the brand at its peak. He understood the value of the live ball turnover before people knew what an LBT was. He grew a brand out of the desert in Vegas, and in many ways that history set up the path for the NBA to come to Vegas, both with the Summer League and the full time franchise you have to think is coming in the next decade under Adam Silver. He was one of the most colorful guys in the industry. That statue picture has him chewing on a towel during a game, which was his trademarked nervous tic. I decided to chew on my hoodie in the picture out of respect. I’ll leave you and shut down my Vegas IG coverage with a Tark quote. “The NCAA was so mad at Kentucky they gave Cleveland State two more years of probation." RIP Jerry Tarkanian (2015). KD out from the Summer League.