Another edition of Las Vegas Summer League begins today and the Phoenix Suns will send... a squad.
This iteration won’t be impressive, and won’t even include any true prospects for the future. There’s not even a 21-year old Jalen Smith, let alone a 19-year old Devin Booker. Heck, there’s not even a 19-year old Archie Goodwin (or is that God-win?)!
Let’s take a walk down memory lane for the Suns at Vegas Summer League.
Do you remember when...
Marcus Banks sets the record!
Marcus Banks came out of nowhere — from deep on the Suns bench, actually — and dropped 42 points for the Summer Suns in one game and then never took the court again.
The 24-year old 6’2” Banks had signed a four-year, $21 million contract the summer before, right after Steve Nash had won his second straight MVP as the upstart Suns made the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year, to give Nash some rest after he’d played a career-high 35.8 minutes per game.
But Banks had had a bad year, playing only 11 minutes a game in a 2006-07 season where the Suns had been on a mission to win the whole thing. By the next summer, he was on the outs and an appearance at Summer League, in a town where he lived in the offseason, seemed appropriate.
42 points later, he became a Summer League legend.
After this, Banks’ career find of fizzled out. He never could score consistently, and never became a real floor general either. He was traded to Miami, then went to Toronto, and only got seven more NBA starts from there on out.
P.J. Tucker earns second chance on NBA life
While Banks’ career kind of ended after that 42-point game, P.J. Tucker’s career was just getting re-started.
Tucker, a little-known 27-year old American who hadn’t played in the NBA in five long years, used that seven-game summer stint to create a second chance at the NBA with the Summer Suns in 2012.
Tucker joined a youth-loaded Summer Suns team that featured recent first round picks Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Archie Goodwin and Kendall Marshall. Led by coach Dan Majerle, the Summer Suns made the championship game, falling just short against the Golden State contingent.
Along the way, this guy fresh off the boat from playing in Germany — quietly winning the MVP trophy of his league, by the way — made a huge impression on Majerle and the Suns. Tucker averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds and just under 2 steals per game, and they signed Tucker to a full NBA contract soon after SL ended.
Local media still fondly recall being invited to a small office at the arena to gather around the desk and interview the little-known Tucker.
Eight years, $57 million, 581 regular season starts, 58 playoff starts, four ‘Dan Majerle Hustle Awards’, two seasons with the 7th-most minutes played in the league, and to top it all off: an NBA Championship with the Milwaukee Bucks later, you say that Las Vegas Summer League was a dream-maker.
Tucker just signed a $33 million contract with Philadelphia that will pay him through his age 40 season.
Devin Booker too good for Summer League
Another loaded Summer Suns squad was headlined by 19-year old Devin Booker, coming off an All-Rookie season with the big squad. He was joined by a trio of fresh draft picks Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as well as young teammates as they created a serious buzz in their first two games.
I still remember watching that game against the Celtics in Vegas that was broadcast on ESPN. That was the best Suns squad I’d seen since the Morrii debacle threw the team into the abyss for a bit. Excitement was high, and that was mostly thanks to Booker’s 26 points per game (2 games). He played 33 of the 40 minutes each time before being benched for the rest of SL to avoid injury and give more time to guys trying to make the team.
Welcome to the NBA, Amare
Young Amare Stoudemire is, somehow, one of only two Suns players in history to average more than 20 points per game (over 2+ games) in Summer League.
Amare did it all the way back in 2002 at the Rocky Mountain Revue, a collective hosted by the Utah Jazz each year since the late 80s that predated the 2004 birth of the Las Vegas Summer League.
The Suns were a regular at the Revue, which hosted a varying number of teams each year.
The only NBA teams that did not send a team to the Revue at least once were the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. Many future NBA superstars have played in the Revue, including former MVPs Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki; Amare Stoudemire, Zach Randolph, Robert Horry, Carmelo Anthony, John Stockton, Thurl Bailey, Greg Ostertag, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. Most of the Jazz’ draft picks and free agents played in the Pro-Am or Rocky Mountain Revue during its history as well as many other first round NBA picks. Several future NBA coaches also got their start at the Revue.
Amare’s dominance began back at this Revue. I wish I could find some game tape, but YouTube failed me.
How about you guys?
Who was your favorite Summer League iteration of the Summer Suns?