The Nuclear Testing Museum (operated by the Smithsonian) in Las Vegas is little different than most other museums. They have a special exhibit relating to Groom Lake, commonly known as Area 51, and you must swear an oath of secrecy before you enter. They said that they had ways of finding out if I leaked any of the things I learned, but I'm really excited about the special sports development program using Alien DNA extracted from grey aliens who were kept captive in a bunker at the Area 51 facility after they were captured in Roswell, New Mexico in the late 40s. I'm sure it won't hurt to share one item I learned about One of their biggest assets (called 'Project 21') which was relocated to the U.S. Virgin Islands nearly 40 years ago and ... hang on a sec, there's someone at the door.
The Spurs didn't play on Monday, July 13 in the Las Vegas Summer League, but lots of basketball still went on in the Thomas and Mack Center. Mark Barrington was there, and also took a little side trip to find out some state secrets.
Monday, July 13, was my third day in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, but the Spurs weren't playing, so I thought I'd start my day by chasing down something I'd heard about at a museum near my hotel.
As I was saying ... The Area 51 exhibit is a pretty interesting display of press reports and artifacts related to UFOs and various odd and exotic aircraft that may or may not have operated out of Groom Lake. There's no alien sports program. I made that up. Got it? Okay.
The rest of the museum is devoted to the Nuclear Test Range in Nevada, where bombs were tested both above ground and underground. The original program to select the site for the Nuclear Test Range was named 'Project Nutmeg', so Manu Ginobili may have been involved. The exhibit is curated by some charming gentlemen who actually worked on the site, and were willing to share any information not still classified. And they're surprising strong for their age. They have quite a few interesting exhibits with real instruments, full size bombs (non functional, or so they say) and an actual nuclear rocket engine. I really recommend seeing it if you make it to Vegas. It's a bit pricey at $22 but worth it.
I made it to the Thomas and Mack Center at around 3:00 pm for the start of the game between the NBA D-League Select team and the Atlanta Hawks. This looked at first like it might not be the blowout that the NBADLS (I'm not going to type the entire name every time) had against the Wizards. The Hawks had Glen Robinson III, Deandre Kane and Edy Tavares, who all looked really good in the first quarter as Atlanta pulled to a 21-20 lead after one 10-minute period. Hasheem Thabeet didn't look quite as bad as he had in the first game for the Selects, he's the same height as Tavares, and they played each other pretty much to the same level, except that Tavares wasn't a number two pick in the NBA draft.
Glen Robinson used his strength and size to bully the DLS team, but wasn't able to consistently dominate. Justin Dentmon had another really good game, and he pretty much led the team to dominate the second quarter and the Selectees pulled ahead by 50-34 at the half. Dentmon seems to have an NBA-level game, but at nearly 30, time is running out for him to get onto a roster. He's lightning quick, and has a good shot and handles, but his height at 6' 0" works against him in the pros. His career might be overseas.
At halftime, the PA cranked up the Village People's 'Macho Man', and it was time to move on. I could tell that the Selects were on their way to easily beating the Hawks and I wanted to catch a bit of the game between the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.
The Warriors Summer League team isn't quite the juggernaut that the big team is. In fact, they were being routed by the Kings when I came in, and it only got worse as extended garbage time wore on in the second half. I particularly enjoyed watching Matt Stainbrook on the Warriors, who wears glasses and looks like a cross between Kurt Rambis and Matt Bonner. He doesn't look like a basketball player but his game actually isn't that bad. He lumbered up and down the court and got to the right position on defense and tried hard, even executing the Chumbawumba defense once.*
I honestly didn't see anyone on the Warriors Summer League roster that looked like an NBA player, but I wasn't there for the whole game. David Stockton (any relation?) looked really good for the Kings, and former Spur James Anderson looked to be quick and ready to play. Cauley-Stein wasn't out there for the end of the game but he recorded 5 blocks. The game was no contest, and the Kings ended up winning it 90-71.
Then it was time for the big event: there are two teams at the Summer League that could be called superteams (by Summer League standards), and they are the Knicks and the Lakers. Also, the Lakers are pretty much the home team for Las Vegas, as it is the closest NBA city, and the arena was full and the excitement level was high. It was as crowded in the Thomas and Mack Center as I had seen it in the entire time I have been there. Instead of the buzzer going off and the teams just unceremoniously holding the jump in center court, there was a young lady who sung the national anthem and Alex, the Spanish League scout next to me, and I stood up and held our hands over our hearts as the Star Spangled Banner was sung in operatic fashion.
People have been asking me, is Kristaps Porzingis a good enough player to be drafted as high as he was? Disclaimer: I'm not a professional talent evaluator, but I think that Porzingis is going to be really, really good. The thing he lacks right now is muscle mass, as he doesn't look strong enough to bang with most NBA centers, but he was just fine against Tarik Black in this game. He ended up against Julius Randle on some switches, and held his own, even though Randle is really quick.
The Knicks pulled out to a quick 19-5 lead in the first quarter, but the Lakers got back in the game with superior guard play in the second, as Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell carved up the paint with crossover moves and quick passing. Russell looked like he was a good choice for the Lakers at the third pick and he will probably play for them a lot this year. But some of the passing was too quick, and the overall sloppiness of Summer League reared its head with too many turnovers, but still the Lakers were able to cut the deficit to five, trailing 36-31 at the half.
After halftime, the Lakers came back and were able to pull within one point with just under nine minutes left in the third on a pair of free throws from Black. But Jerian Grant and Cleanthony Early began to heat up and that was as close as they got. The Knicks got good play from almost everyone on their team, and only Clarkson, Russell and Randle played well for the Lakers. Porzingis seemed to not be on the same minutes restriction he was on against the Spurs and came in late and had an excellent block against Clarkson.
Louis Labeyrie frustrated the Lakers on defense, and earned the emnity of the crowd by aggressively shading Clarkson and Russell on drives to the basket, earning loud boos whenever he got the ball. Anthony Brown and Larry Nance Jr. also were decent for the Lakers, but didn't score enough to keep up the Knicks onslaught. The Knicks ended up winning 76-66 and the crowd left unhappy.
As we were filing out, I noticed that a mariachi band was playing, and it started to feel a little like home. It was another good day of basketball, and the sun was going down as I walked back to my room. I looked up and could see that a few stars were starting to come out. Or were they UFOs?
Tuesday is my last day at the Summer League, and the Spurs play the Portland Trail Blazers. Because of travel arrangements, I hope to post that story very late. I hope you've enjoyed reading these as much as I've enjoyed writing them. See you tomorrow.