Summer League is heating up in Las Vegas with NBA squads hunting for gems out in the desert. This is the time of year where basketball fans can relax and dream about the budding potential of young players. The Golden State Warriors have deployed their summer squad to the Thomas & Mack Center/Cox Pavilion featuring their two 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
planning on overreacting to summer league this week— J. Kyle Mann (@jkylemann) August 8, 2021
Dub Nation will be tuning in intently to get more clues on how the youngsters are developing, something that used to be an annual tradition before the Dubs destroyed the NBA on their way to five straight NBA Finals. Back during the time when the Dubs were a downtrodden franchise that stayed in the lottery, summer league was HUGE for the fans.
For GSW supporters who’ve been around long enough, there’s a good chance they’ll recall the 2009 Summer League as one of those exciting times that promised hope during a depressing era for Bay Area hoops.
In fact, if I could build a time machine I would go back to that summer in Vegas to tell them those exhibitions were supremely important to the “Rise of the Golden Empire” timeline because the greatest player in Warriors history was lacing his kicks up. And because Warriors fans are generally an astute and visionary bunch, they’d probably nod in emphatic agreement.
I’d say, “Oh cool! You already know that future legend is here right now, huh? This is awesome. You know what, on the count of three let’s say his first name name together!”.
They’d eagerly grin with anticipation as I counted down. 1...2...3!
Ghosts of a summer league past
Stephen Curry was drafted by the Dubs in 2009 and made his Golden State debut that summer in Vegas. But that summer league’s biggest basketball buzz belonged to his teammates Anthony Morrow and Anthony Randolph. And for good reason!
Randolph, the 6-foot-11 project once called the “key to the Warriors season”, blew the roof off of LVSL with a 42-point tour-de-force against the Chicago Bulls. He was running and dunking on them boys like a man possessed. It was performances like this that had folks claiming he was a “combination of Kevin Garnett, Josh Smith, and Lamar Odom.”
And then there was Morrow, a sharpshooting sophomore who had just finished a rookie campaign where he led the NBA in 3PT efficiency and set the record for most points scored by a rookie in their first game. He went berserk in Vegas, scoring 47 points against New Orleans and setting the record for most points in a summer league game.
Both Anthony’s lighting it up at the same time sure made it seem like the Dubs had struck gold. Here’s an excerpt from the Las Vegas Sun describing the impact those two had that week:
Randolph and Morrow were two the unquestioned stars for one of the most entertaining teams at this year’s summer league. Rookie guard Stephen Curry also generated plenty of hype coming in, and certainly didn’t disappoint, finishing the five-game run by averaging 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest.
Randolph finished by averaging 26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2.2 steals, while Morrow’s numbers included a 24.7 point average over 3 games, firing at 50.9 percent from the floor and 60 percent from deep.
DOMINATION. Unfortunately those Dubs never were able to break through together when the games actually counted. Randolph was eventually shipped out in the deal that brought in David Lee. The comments from that GSOM thread provide a pretty good idea of how the fanbase had believed in his potential but were tired of waiting on him to deliver on it as the team floundered.
Morrow was moved in a sign-and-trade to the Nets, a move that was not well received by the GSOM gang at the time (check out Sleepy Freud’s disgust at the Warriors not retaining Morrow’s services).
And much like most things that happened during that bleak era, Dub Nation’s hopes for those two summer league legends were crushed into dust by reality. Fortunately, that Curry guy turned out to be arguably the greatest point guard in NBA history. How awesome is it that Kuminga and Moody get to work on their games knowing they’ll get to join forces with a killer like Curry, along with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?
In closing, let’s take one last look back at that summer via this 2009 recap video from the Warriors, documenting Curry’s first contract signing and the joy those young men weaponized during a wild week in Vegas.