On this day one year ago, while everyone was gathering at picnics and barbecues awaiting the Independence Day fireworks, I was on an airplane returning from Salt Lake City where I had just attended my first Summer League . . .
If you haven’t been, Salt Lake is a beautiful city with great architecture and a rich culture. The Mormon Temple is a sight and their Capital is a sight worth taking in.
But I wasn’t there for the city as a whole. I specifically went because for three days the San Antonio Spurs had a concentration of players participating in a three-day tournament.
Over the first three days of July I joined press gaggles as we interviewed players, I sat with journalists who I admired, and I gained some insight into the craft of sports writing. What these men and women do as a full time profession intrigues me, and I was fortunate to be invited to participate.
For those who don’t recall, this was the first look at the newly drafted trio of Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson, and Quinndary Weatherspoon. The 2018 Silver & Black draftees Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu were there, although Metu was sidelined with a foot injury. The current Spurs two-way players Drew Eubanks and Ben Moore were on also the roster. In addition, there were some G-League Spurs like sharp-shooter Jeff Ledbetter who was also part of the 2018 Austin Spurs G-League Championship. There were some NBA hopefuls including Thomas Robinson, who was making a push to return to the NBA and utilizing Summer League as a launch pad.
Simply wandering around the arena was enough to make journey worthwhile, but sitting court side was icing on a gargantuan cake, an experience any true fan would cherish. Talking to the players, Coach Ahern, the training staff, and media representatives gave a immense amount of insight. A crash course in the behind the scenes of basketball.
In the end, it was but a small sample of what Las Vegas Summer League could look like. And a microcosm of a basketball season. Many of these players did not make the NBA but found homes in the G-League as well as overseas.
But even during three days in early July, it was clear that Lonnie Walker IV was ready to take the next step, Keldon Johnson was going to be a force with which to be reckoned, and Samanic had the raw materials for another key Spurs draft.
I even got my picture in the paper. Well, sort of. That’s yours truly under Luka Samanic’s elbow.
Happy 4th of July, Pounders. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay logical. This will pass and we will once again enjoy Spurs basketball, the NBA draft, and the new offseason highlight- Summer League.
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