You have to respect the smart people who run the NBA.
Through the years, they have turned what should be the league’s deadest of periods into the most wonderful time of the year. The Toronto Raptors probably haven’t stopped celebrating their championship yet, but the league charges on to the second season, which is comprised of a double-dip of entertainment.
First, we have free agency, which opens on Sunday at 5 p.m., Dallas time, six hours earlier than previous years. At that time, we’ll start to find out who are the hungriest eaters in the buffet line and what tasty treats they pick from the spread.
And what a spread. Often there are teams with plenty of cash to throw around and only a few palatable choices to spend it on.
Not the case this year. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker – is that enough K-power for you? – all could be landing with new teams (or not) when the frenzy begins and teams can officially start negotiating and agreeing to deals. Signatures cannot happen until July 6 when the moratorium lifts, the salary cap is set and teams can fill out their rosters.
Everybody knows the teams that have money to spend. Four in New York and Los Angeles alone. Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Indiana and Boston all have plenty of dough to spend.
It’s going to be fantastic theater watching these teams scramble for the top talent. The aforementioned players are the headliners. But the second tier of players also could make huge news.
In some years, many of those supposed secondary players would be considered A-listers. We all know who they are and they could be terrific additions that could help reshape the league for the next year or five. We’ve been hearing rhetoric about the proceedings for weeks.
Now it’s time to see what happens. The list of free agents seems to go on forever. It’s top heavy. And deep, too. A perfect storm for teams with money to spend.
How does this impact the Mavericks? We’ll have to wait and see, but proprietor Mark Cuban has said this is his time to go to work, so expect an active week or two.
Meanwhile, as if that wasn’t enough to keep our minds and Twitter accounts occupied, the NBA’s summer leagues, primarily the one in Las Vegas where every team, plus two international teams, will have a squad participating, starts the day after the Fourth of July and runs for 10 days.
The Las Vegas Summer League has become a thing. In fact, it takes over as a sports focus even while baseball has its annual All-Star break. Football is a few weeks away. Even the women’s World Cup will be over.
Think about that. An event featuring some 300 basketball players – 75 percent of whom, or more, won’t be on NBA teams in November – captivates fans for more than a week. I remember the Celtics and Lakers summer rosters meeting in Vegas a a couple years ago and the Thomas & Mack Center was sold out with some 18,000 fans.
For summer league players.
Bird and Magic weren’t walking through the door, but Semi Ojeleye and Josh Hart were.
Last July, a record 139,972 watched the summer league over 12 days. This year, it’s a day shorter, but with No. 1 pick Zion Williamson expected to play on the first day, great turnouts are expected.
And rest assured ESPN and NBA TV wouldn’t be showing every single game in the event if ratings weren’t justifying it.
The Mavericks don’t have a lot of marquee names involved. Isaiah Roby, the second-round draft pick whose trade from the Detroit Pistons was made official earlier this week, will participate, but second-year player Jalen Brunson will not. He has nothing left to prove in summer league after a dynamic finish to his rookie season.
The combination of the summer league in Las Vegas, where most of the movers and shakers in the league, player agents and NBA officials will be huddled in close proximity to each other, and the onslaught of free agency truly makes it the center of the basketball universe.
And that’s why this really is the most wonderful time of the year.