NBA Summer League is a magical place where fresh new draft picks get for the first time to don the colors of the team that deemed them worthy of playing professional basketball. It’s a place where second-year players get to look way better than their rookie counterparts as they show off the new skills they’ve been working on. It’s a place where end-of-the-bench players like Dwayne Jones and Manny Harris can look like All-Stars. And for over-obsessed basketball fans of teams that failed to make the playoffs like myself, it’s where we can get our basketball fix for the summer.
Simply put, the NBA Summer League is two weeks of basketball ecstasy.
OK, so that’s overstating it a bit but the fact is that I love Summer League and I won’t listen to anyone try and tell me otherwise. I paid the $15 for the Summer League Live app on my phone without thinking twice. I can’t get enough Cavaliers basketball, and even if it means watching a team where 75% of the players won’t make the real roster then so be it. They’re wearing wine and gold and they have “Cleveland Cavaliers” across their chest and dang it that means they’re my team.
The Cavs are bringing 11 guys on the summer league roster this year. The team is headlined by second-year players Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Joining them is Kevin Jones who hung on with the team last season at the end of the bench and in Canton. The other player who’s previously worn the Cavs colors is Chris Quinn. If you don’t know who that is, it’s OK. That just means you weren’t paying attention to the team late in the season in the 78 meaningless minutes that he spent on the court. He has a non-guaranteed contract with the team for next season but after the signing of Andrew Bynum I’d bet that he won’t be brought back.
The obvious downside to this year’s Cavs Summer League squad is that in a summer where the Cavs actually had two fairly high draft picks, including No. 1 overall, we are deprived of seeing those players on the court. Anthony Bennett is still out recovering from his shoulder injury. He should be back by training camp though. Sergey Karasev is unable to play for the Cavs because he’s still overseas playing international competition for his native Russia. Supposedly he’s tearing it up over there though I am unable to locate any actual stats to back up that claim. I saw it on Twitter though, so it must be true.
However, do not be disheartened. Because even though we don’t have Bennett or Karasev, we’ll get to see Carrick Felix in action! That’s right folks, the No. 33 pick in the draft that you never heard of before June 27th will be in uniform in Las Vegas for the Cavs. So if that doesn’t get you to tune then, well, probably nothing will.
The rest of the roster is filled out by a bunch of guys whose names look mildly familiar but I couldn’t tell you much about them. You can see the full roster here on the Cavs website. One name that should look very familiar though is that of Justin Harper. Ah yes, Justin Harper. The prodigal son has returned. If he sounds familiar it’s because he was actually “drafted” by the Cavs two years ago in the second round and then traded to Orlando for two future second round picks. A lot of Cavs fans freaked out about this and thought we could have used him on the team. The reality is that the Cavs didn’t really pick Harper…Orlando did. It’s just the goofy nonsensical way that draft-day trades work in the NBA where it seems like it was actually Cleveland who picked him. Well anyways, Harper didn’t last long on Orlando’s roster and now he’s trying to hang on in the league and he’ll be playing for the Cavs this summer. So for anyone who freaked out about it then, you have your chance now to see what Mr. Harper is really made of.
The only other player I’ll mention, and it’s just because I actually watched him play a couple times in college, is Kenny Kadji from Miami (FL). Kadji went undrafted despite a pretty good senior season on a very good Miami team. Kadji was one of the undisputed leaders on that team along with point guard Shane Larkin. Kadji’s downfall in not getting drafted is probably because he doesn’t do any one thing great. He’s also 25 years old. But he has a fairly nice rounded game. He can run the floor, rebound, play inside, and shoot threes. And considering that the Cavs don’t exactly have a small forward on the roster that’s worth getting excited about, I’m mildly excited to see Kadji play. With that said, he’ll probably be terrible.
What I’m really looking forward to more than anything is Dion Waiters. I’m a big supporter of Waiters and really like his game. He’s been working hard this summer to improve his shooting and other aspects of his game. It’s very inferior competition but nonetheless I’m excited to see how he looks out there after several months of work on his craft.
Summer League this year is a little different than in past years because there’s an actual tournament now with a champion and everything. So, much like the MLB All-Star game, THIS TIME IT COUNTS. The Cavs will play three games and then be seeded for the tournament. They play the Lakers on Friday, Grizzlies on Sunday, and Pelicans on Monday.
I’d give you the times for those games but there’s a bit of confusion on that front. Both the Cavs website and the NBA website have times listed as Pacific Standard Time, which is confusing enough. The problem is that they have different times listed for the games. For instance, Friday’s game against LA is listed as 8:00 on Cavs.com and 5:00 on NBA.com. If I had to guess, I’d say that the times listed on the Cavs site are actually EST. So take that for what it’s worth. All I know is that for someone like me who lives in the Central Time Zone, this is wildly confusing. Why can’t we just have one time zone? We can adjust our lives to have work days that don’t go from 9-5. It’d just be so much easier to not have to mentally change TV times to the time zone you’re living in. And with new technology sometimes they’re automatically changed, but sometimes they’re not. Which only adds to the confusion. But most of you probably live in Cleveland so this doesn’t matter to you at all.
Well, whatever time the Cavs play, tune in and check out the exciting Summer League action. You won’t regret it…maybe.
 Honestly I don’t know if it was $15 or not. It could have been $55 for all I know. I wasn’t paying attention when I paid for it. All I knew was that I needed it. My crappy cable company (that I have now cancelled) doesn’t offer NBA TV so I have to go to such lengths to get my Cavs fix. Such are the struggles of my life.