NBA Idol: The yang of the Summer Rotation-rie League and why it's the Hoops Mecca

Call me crazy, but I'm about to make an analogy between this and Sin City! (via upload.wikimedia.org)

Poor Man's Commish here again (Twitter handle for daily hoops thoughts: @poormanscommish), for the fourth straight year from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Before I delve into the Warriors' Summer League antics, I thought it would be best to revisit why I and many others like myself make an annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of Hoops.

Perhaps it is because I have spent the last two years eye-witnessing and having a special sense of ethnic pride and attachment to Jeremy Lin's journey in the process of becoming a pro (the movement).

Actively partaking in this journey with as many front row seats as possible, I've learned that the NBA is perhaps not as distant as I once thought.

Instead of six degrees of separation, it's become one or two or three.

NBA Summer League certainly helps in this regard.

Two years ago, I offered a laundry list of reasons why I love to attend Summer League, from the closeness of experiencing the actual size, strength, and speed of the players to the curiosity and second-guessing of player development.

With a year's "internship" of following draft prospects from itty-bitty Internet streams of college games on my laptop to the press-row access of Portsmouth (a report which is terribly overdue), to actually walking the podium at the NBA Draft (during pre-broadcast mic checks, a report of which is also terribly overdue), I've come to realize this:

The importance of the Draft, and therefore Summer League, and therefore the role of rotation players in the NBA, should not be underestimated.

However, the term "Summer League" suggests sloppiness. In fact, buried in American culture perhaps due to our public school system, the notion of something happening in the summer automatically makes you dismiss it as subpar. While that's still certainly the case with Summer League games, this ugly misshapen rock tends to disguise perhaps essential, unbreakable crystalline elements underneath.

Therefore, I would like to de-emphasize the word "Summer" and introduce the league's real purpose. The development of future NBA rotation players. 

It's the American Idol for the NBA. Each Summer League game is like an episode from some random city where people line up outside the local stadium to audition in front of Randy, Paula, and Simon (talking old school, here!). Heck, there are even some William Hungs! Yep, you remember Ron Artest's brother. How about Kevin Durant's brother?

Of course, you'll get your "destiny" stars, like KD himself or Tyreke Evans. These stars can hit a note and keep it. They are true idol contestants.

But the overwhelming majority of the players showcased at Summer League are those rotation players. Check the list of Summer League MVPs: Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, Jerryd Bayless (the verdict on Blake Griffin is still out). And those are just the MVPs!

For a definition of Rotisserie League, I offer you this from Wikipedia:

Magazine writer/editor Daniel Okrent is credited with inventing it, the name coming from the New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Francaise where he and some friends used to meet and play.[7] The game's innovation was that "owners" in a Rotisserie league would draft teams...

So there you have it. NBA owners and GMs get together in the beginning of summer and form these rosters of potential rotation players (surrounding the top draft picks).

It's the Summer Rotation-Rotisserie League.

In conclusion, I shall hereby refer to NBA Summer League as the Summer Rotation Rotisserie League, or simply the Summer Rotation-rie League.

Hoops Mecca

Before the beatwriters and ESPN/TNT talking heads start building that impenetrable wall that separates NBA players from their fans.

The almighty arena: Let the detachment process begin!

Nowhere else can you get such access to NBA players.

Before the scantily-dressed cheerleaders, fireworks emanating from the scoreboard, and dazzling plethora of corporate colors on that very high tech thick strip of LCD between the nosebleeds and the lower bowl inflate the value of the presentation to mythical status.

Before the players get too far along the path of detaching themselves from the real world with their private jet-setting in the special sections of airports already pre-screened by the TSA, and the paychecks having a surreal number of zeros, signed by billionaire tycoons.

At NBA Summer League, you can literally walk up to any player and ask him a question. Brian Chase, backup point guard for the Warriors, sitting over there by himself, checking out the final stats on a sheet of paper? He might even be a little lonely over there. Most of these guys appreciate being approached before they leave their five days of fame, ready to depart the homeland and hustle whatever they can out of this amazing global sport, on foreign soil to boot.

Even the first-round draft picks haven't yet figured out where their fan base lies. Kentucky fans would do much better here in Vegas in July than in Houston, Washington, or Sacramento in the middle of January. At Rotation-rie League, it's a good time to catch them before your face becomes even further blurred in their vision. A shaking of hands with Patrick Patterson here at Cox Pavilion, maybe even on consecutive days, is more likely to be some kind of meaningful short-term memory than a fleeting anonymous high-five down the ramp at Toyota Center.

And then there are the luminaries. The owners, the GMs, the scouts, the assistant coaches, the trainers, the agents. They're all here in support of their little diamonds in the rough -- some of these diamonds might not be so little by the end of the calendar year, you'll see.

The TV broadcasters, the writers, the bloggers. They're all human beings here. Like Tom Cruise at a family reunion, you can't hide the fact that you're 5'7" when you're not onscreen. I might even be taking you to the hole for an and-one at the Bloggers 5-on-5 Showdown!

Want to setup an interview with Brent Barry after he just finished color commentating on NBA TV? No problem, go and ask. That's what the guys at The No-Look Pass did.

Oh, and there's no losing! I mean, there is still a winner and a loser to any given Summer League game, of course, but losing a game never felt so irrelevant. The only true winning and losing going on here is for NBA roster spots. And really, it's for tryout spots for those roster spots, heading into training camp.

Where else can you find not one fan leaving the arena angry?!

Well, I better stop it right here before I start convincing myself that Summer Rotation-rie League is actually better than the NBA season itself.

But I bet if you asked someone who walked to the real Mecca, spent a few days absorbed in the religion amongst like-minded people who also sought full immersion, then went back home to real life, they might wonder:

Is there perhaps a ying-yang relationship behind all of this?

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