NBA teams have been notified that the Las Vegas Summer League is incorporating an NCAA-tournament style bracket that will crown a definitive champion, sources say, with an incentive beyond bragging rights to win it all: the winner has their additional expenses for playing longer covered by the league.
The recompense is an important component because teams are looking at their line-item expenses more than ever these days and the costs of having a Summer League team is one of the biggest. One general manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is the second-biggest item on his budget, topped only by the cost of preseason training camp. Teams, on average, bring with them a 40- to 50-person contingent that includes players, coaches and support staff. The league schedule is held over 10 days but teams often come in several days early for a pre-league mini-training camp.
That, the GM said, is one reason why the Orlando Summer League has grown from six teams to 10 since it started in 2007; East Coast teams, in particular, find it less expensive. A second reason is that it is operated by the Orlando Magic in their practice facility and is open only to media and team personnel. There is a report that the OSL also intends to switch to a tournament format.
The Las Vegas League remains the premier event, in part because both hotel and practice-court accommodations are easy to procure. It also provides extraordinary access to the public. Since its inception in 2004 with six teams, the LVSL has grown exponentially; last year 24 teams participated and 22-24 are expected again this year. Held on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus, games are played in Cox Pavilion and the Thomas&Mack Center on slightly staggered starts. The two buildings are connected and not only can fans gorge themselves on eight games in a day for one price, but they can rub elbows with GMs, coaches and players as they make their way in and out of the venues.
That, of course, creates a conflict. For the NBA, which owns and operates the league, it is tremendous summertime exposure and good-will development with its fans. But some teams see those elements as a distraction from the job at hand, which is developing and evaluating their young talent and coaching staffs, since the summer games are not merely for assessing rookies and potential training camp invitees. It’s also often where assistant coaches and athletic trainers get a chance to show they’re capable of handling the head job. Then there’s the story of Jeremy Lin, who found his way into the league as a late addition to the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team and delivered an eye-catching performance against No. 1 pick John Wall. If not for that, chances are good Lin never would’ve even received a training camp invitation. His story, and the chance to witness it, is why the Las Vegas League has become such a major attraction to fans, sponsors and TV viewers.
Previously, every Las Vegas Summer League team was guaranteed five games and organizers accommodated them with staggered starts and finishes to their schedules. Under the new format, all competing teams will begin play within the first or second day of the schedule and have three specific games. The top teams will then be granted a bye while the remaining teams face off. The winners then advance to an eight-team, single-elimination playoff series. The hope is that the heightened competition and suspense will draw a TV audience that potentially could offset the cost of two weeks in Las Vegas.
Been waiting for them to have a tourney like structure for the Summer League so that there is an actual champion.
I think that this is a great idea. I like how they want to pick up the quality of play and coaching. This has the potential to be a very positive way to run the summer league.