Probably the strangest thing that has happened to me so far at Las Vegas Summer League is this dude waiting near the door while I was in the bathroom shortly after the Golden State Warriors' 71-70 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
As I walked toward the sink to wash my hands, he looked over his shoulder while at the sink and walked over to me and put his hand around my shoulder as I was trying to grab a paper towel.
"That was a great game," he said in an encouraging tone. "You guys played a great game tonight. That was the best game of the day."
The Warriors had just lost a tough one after LeDontae Henton's potential game-winning three at the buzzer improbably spun around the rim and out with him slapping the floor in disappointment afterwards. Henton had been hot in the second half, scoring 10 of his 13 points, but just didn't have luck on his side on that final possession.
But honestly, I was kinda over it — it's a summer league game and I was just going to go write up a quick summary of my notes while Bram Kincheloe was doing the real media thing in the locker room.
"Uh, yeah," I said, glancing quickly at his hand on my shoulder and then his smiling reflection in the mirror. "It was..."
"You guys are just really fun to watch," he continued as I tried to figure out why the hell he was making this such an intimate discussion. "You had a great season. And man, that championship was great."
"Yeah, it really..."
"It was just a really fun season," he went on as I just figured out that I was talking to me in this way because I was wearing my Warriors shirt from Fantasy T-Shirts with the last names of the entire roster on it along with a Warriors cap. "Congratulations. You guys did a great job."
"Yeah," I said, at this point sort of weirded out to the point of holding back laughter. "It was..."
"Just a great season you all had. Congratulations. You have a good one."
These are the things that happen at summer league.
Aside from this being the first time I had been personally congratulated for a title that I had no hand in winning — except yelling really loudly at Oracle during the playoffs — I suppose I really wasn't quite as moved by this game, which sort of tested my distinction between a game that was "exciting" and "good".
James Michael McAdoo led the team with 17 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but went just 1-for-4 in the second half after forcing a number of plays that just weren't there, driving into traffic without an outlet a few times, and making some preventable ball handling mistakes. A missed contested layup late with 12 seconds was a missed opportunity to put the Warriors up by 1 and put the pressure back on the Hawks.
I was hoping to see a bit from Kevon Looney today and did in terms of him getting nine shots. Unfortunately, he made just one of those 9. But if we accept that the numbers don't mean everything — or anything? — at summer league, it's far more important that he was able to use his length to change shots as a weakside and on-ball defender throughout the game, was active in helping the Warriors extend a few possessions offensively with exceptional quickness off his feet, and showed some solid instincts to go with some good physical tools. It's just that as we, the Warriors, and perhaps everyone who passed on him in the 2015 NBA Draft knows, he's just a few years away from being an impact player on a NBA roster.
Aaron Craft was probably the player that stood out to me the most, despite an unspectacular stat line of 5 points, 5 boards, and a team-high 5 assists. Craft was extremely active on defense and easily among the most vocal of a starting unit in which all five players were actively talking on defense as they called out screens, rotations, and even assignments during moments of confusion. It wouldn't have been quite so noticeable if they weren't by far the most vocal team of the night. And if you believe that talking does something to help bring coherence to a defensive game plan, that starting unit did a great job of closing out on threes and rotating as a team to recover out of help situations. Craft was a big part of that defensive effort though and if there's any takeaway so far it's that he's making himself more intriguing as a potential defensive pest off a NBA bench.
Yet it was the Hawks who clamped down late in the game, seemingly putting up a wall around the paint to hold the Warriors to just 33.33% shooting in the fourth quarter. In a somewhat familiar scene for Warriors fans, the team just couldn't create any high percentage shots in the fourth quarter as they let their four-point lead entering the quarter slip away.
However, the new friend I made wasn't the only one who was left excited by the Warriors' performance. The woman sitting next to me a few rows behind Adam Silver during the game turned to me and said it was the best game of the day sometime in the final minute. Trying to manage my frustration with everything that I hadn't been satisfied with, I just sort of politely smiled and nodded. And it ultimately was somewhat exciting, even though I hadn't even really been paying attention to the score until the final two minutes because...summer league.
But yeah, the Warriors and Hawks did ultimately give the fans in Vegas an exciting summer league show even if it wasn't necessarily good.