I promise not all of my posts are going to involve making analogies to non-basketball-related topics, but I can think of no better way to describe my first ever viewing of a summer league game than to say this: You know when you watch a movie on DVD and then afterwards, go to the Special Features and play all the scenes that didn't make it into the final cut? You start to gain a renewed appreciation for things like background music, editing, and all the spit and polish that go into transforming the raw footage into the finished product. Well, that pretty much describes my feelings about watching this game. This was definitely not an ESPN-caliber broadcast. Between the loud, wind tunnel-like noise in the background, not knowing who many of the players were, and a PA announcer who did a far better job delivering advertising pitches than he did calling the game, I found this game to be extremely difficult to follow. And I can't imagine playing in an almost-empty arena was loads of fun for the players either. So this game was certainly not sports entertainment at its finest, but that wasn't really the point to begin with. This was about getting an early glimpse at a player in need of redemption, two newcomers looking to strut their stuff, and several guys hoping to impress someone enough to catch their big break into the NBA.
Since the game was so hard to follow, I'm finding it difficult to write a coherent analysis of it. The score wasn't displayed on the screen, the broadcasters had an annoying habit of running replays after a made basket in such a way that it caused the viewer to miss the next made basket, and other than the aforementioned PA announcer (who somehow managed to get 15-syllables into Pape Sow's last name), there was no in-game commentary to speak of. To complicate matters, NBA.com didn't have the in-game play-by-play going either, so if I missed a play (which happened many times as I was having to check the roster often to see which number belonged to who), I was pretty much out of luck. Still, I think I caught enough to get a general idea of who had a good night and who didn't, and with the help of the finally-published boxscore to help fill in the blanks, I will now attempt to write some thoughts about a game that was far more about evaluating talent than it was about entertaining the masses, or even about winning.
So who left the biggest impression? At the top of the list would have to be Marcus Banks who set a new summer league record with 42 points, including 23 in a fourth quarter comeback effort that fell four-points shy. Banks shot 13-19, including 4-5 from three, and got to the line 14 times, making 12. In the fourth quarter, it looked like he was channeling Eddie House of 2005-06 at times. It seemed like anything he threw toward the basket went in. He also made a lot more attempts to get his teammates involved (especially early in the game) than his three assists would indicate. Like the rest of the team, he was a bit turnover-happy and foul-prone, but many of those mistakes seemed to be the product of guys trying a little too hard to make a good impression. Overall, if Banks could somehow find a way to recreate this performance for about 15 minutes a night during the regular season, that contract of his would start to look a whole lot better (or at least, a lot more tradable).
As for the Suns players not named Marcus Banks, I'd have to say that for the most part, nobody really stood out as overwhelmingly awesome. There were some nice plays from several guys, the most memorable of which was a terrific steal and dunk by DJ Strawberry in the first half. Alando Tucker played solidly, and finished on a high note with back-to-back jumpers (including a 3-pointer) in crunch time. His rebounding could have been better, and his free-throw shooting (2-6) was downright abysmal, but it seemed to me like his jumper might be slightly better than advertised. As for the other Suns, Otis George showed some promise with his hustle and rebounding, and Ron Hale scored 11 points (mostly on free throws) in only fifteen minutes of action. But other than Banks, it was a trio of Cleveland players who shined the brightest. Darius Rice shot 8-11, and looked like the best player on the floor for much of the game. Dwayne Jones had a 6-7 shooting night of his own for 18 points to go with his 9 rebounds. PJ Tucker got to the line nearly as often as Banks. While both teams ended up with 26 turnovers, it seemed like the Suns got hurt the most by them. The Suns had a 13-point deficit with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter before Banks began his scoring barrage.
Compared with Kevin Durant's 4-19 in Seattle's game against the Knicks or Mike Conley's 2-7 in the Grizzlies' game against the Pistons (not to mention Greg Oden's rough debut a couple of nights earlier), I'd say our guys held their own pretty well for the most part. But I guess I was hoping to see DJ Strawberry tear it up and all but guarantee himself a spot on the roster, or maybe witness a monstrous breakout game from someone totally unexpected that would reveal an obvious diamond in the rough. In that regard, I was a tad disappointed, but only a little. I'm glad Marcus Banks had a great game, even if it was only against summer league competition. Of course one could argue that a player with five years of NBA experience really should dominate under these circumstances, but I have to think it had to have felt good to see the ball go into the basket time and time again. Hopefully, he can build on this game and grow his confidence a little heading into the season. As for me, I'll probably watch a few more of these things before I write off the entire experience that is summer league ball as an outright assault on the visual and audio senses. I refuse to pass judgment on the basis of only one game. If nothing else, it gives us bloggers something to write about while we're waiting for the season to start.