The NBA just does this whole offseason thing the right way. Aside from the NFL, where fans will guzzle down information on a daily basis regardless of time of year (seriously, NFL Live is a daily show on ESPN even during the deadest of coverage periods), the Association has made sure to keep its supporters constantly in the know.
An incredibly long, roughly nine-month season - if we're counting preseason all the way through the end of the Finals - is followed nearly immediately by a draft night set in New York City, which is proceeded by the July 1 opening of negotiations between players and teams and a July 11 moratorium lift where players can actually sign on the dotted line. And before we get to training camps and preseason games in future months, we find ourselves here with the NBA Summer League fully underway. And as the nerd in all of us basks in the drama of free-agent negotiations and appreciates more and more what truly is the hilarity of the New York Knicks, we actually get a chance to watch a little basketball here in Vegas. For those of us who still cringe at the thought of that Game 6 in Oklahoma City a little over a month ago, this couldn't have arrived soon enough.
This little summer exhibition in Vegas has grown immensely in popularity in recent years, and these days every blogger and their dog (and judging by the constant pictures on Twitter, I'm led to believe EVERY blogger except me has some sort of dog) descends upon Sin City. I remember when it was a chore finding box scores for Summer League games if you wanted to keep up with your team, but with every game televised on NBA TV and every team covered journalistically from all kinds of angles in the Twitter-verse and blogosphere, there's no shortage of information.
So tune in to PtR for the remainder of the Spurs' time in Vegas, because I'm going to be writing and tweeting my face off. As usual, this site has done a great job with analysis of San Antonio's roster this week, but here's a small primer before the team's first game against the Hawks this evening.
What to watch for:
Kawhi Leonard's progress
It hasn't been all that long since the unceremonious ending to San Antonio's season, but this is a setting where any progress the 20-year-old Leonard has made will be evident. After spending most of the 2012 season as an off-ball beneficiary of the action of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili, Leonard will be thrust into a lead role for the Spurs, giving him the opportunity to showcase his skill set alongside members of the roster seen more commonly overseas, in the NBA Developmental League or in college. If what we've heard from Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford is any indication, we should be seeing much more of Leonard in the role of ball-handler. I'm especially intrigued to see how he fares in the pick-and-roll game. Of course we know how prevalent this sequence is within the Spurs offense, so it'll be interesting to see how well he can adapt to a role unfamiliar to him, at least thus far in his brief NBA career. After all, to a certain extent, this will be his team before too long.
The rest of the players:
There are some names worth keeping an eye on, most notably Spurs 2012 draft pick Marcus Denmon, 2011 pick Cory Joseph and British stash-away Ryan Richards. James Anderson is on this team despite not being an active member of the Spurs roster, while Derrick Byars and Eric Dawson, two players who saw time in San Antonio last year, will be playing for a roster spot somewhere, whether that be in Austin or elsewhere around the league. Richards is an interesting prospect for a fan base starving for a young, athletic big man to help usher in the post-Duncan era. Whether or not he can be that in any capacity remains to be seen, but this will at least provide San Antonio fans the opportunity to watch his game and develop crazy theories on how he might fit in going forward. One more name to keep an eye on is JaMychal Green. The 6-foot-8 undrafted rookie forward out of Alabama has nice size and great athleticism that had an impact on both sides of the ball in the SEC. Obviously he's a long shot to make the Spurs' roster, but no one would make the argument San Antonio's frontcourt is especially athletic. There have certainly been past Summer League gems, so you never know.
Vaughn has been someone who Popovich values greatly during Jacque's time in San Antonio, both as a player and coach. His intelligence on and off the court has been evident as he has risen in the ranks of Pop's brain trust. But with Spurs top assistants seemingly flowing through a revolving door yearly as their services are desired elsewhere in the league, it's not much of a surprise that Vaughn's name was brought up in the Orlando Magic's quest for a new head coach. Will a good Summer League performance influence that decision? Probably not. Teams know enough about potential coaching prospects long before they appear in Vegas during the summer. And with Brian Shaw emerging as the possible lead candidate for that position, it's more than likely we'll see Vaughn back in San Antonio next season. Don Newman already took an offer to be Randy Wittman's top assistant, so I'm sure Pop would prefer not to lose two of his guys this offseason.
Anyway, it's nearly game time, so sit back and enjoy and keep reading Pounding the Rock all week long.