Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Pro League

It is truly sad, what has happened to the Long Beach Summer Pro League. This used to be the best (OK, the only) basketball anywhere during the summer. Ten or twelve NBA teams plus other teams filled with the likes of Baron Davis, Penny Hardaway and Bo Outlaw (always Bo Outlaw) would fill the Pyramid from noon until 10 PM. It was a summer basketball orgy.

Most importantly, it was a chance to get a glimpse of the Clippers. Being a perennial 'young' team, the Clippers were always one of the best teams to watch in the SPL. I've seen Lamar Odom, Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson, Keyon Dooling and Darius Miles - all on the same team! From about 5 feet away.

Not to mention the future NBA stars. I often wonder how scouts can get it so wrong, if their job is to watch guys play and evaluate talent. I watched Amare Stoudemire play in one SPL game and knew he was going to be the NBA rookie of the year, yet 10 days earlier he had been drafted 9th overall, behind such NBA luminaries as Nikoloz Tskial;jkdkladsjfda and Dajuan Wagner (I wonder where Dajuan is?) One of the reasons I was so excited about Vladimir Radmanovic on the Clippers is because of the times I saw him light up the SPL. (And sometimes you get it wrong... I watched Chris Bosh in the SPL and thought he'd never be strong enough to play the NBA 4.)

But since the Clippers defected to Vegas, Baby, the SPL is a shadow of it's former self, and not just to Clipper Nation. This year's edition features all of 4 NBA teams. As it happens, all 4 of the teams made the playoffs last year, so the HIGHEST draft pick we could see in Long Beach is Oleksiy Pecherov of the Wizards, the 18th pick. (The Rudy Gay/Shane Battier trade can't be completed until after the 12th, so Rudy is not yet a Grizzly; I doubt we'll see him in the LBC this summer.) Oh, and by the way, the Mavericks are sending their 'B' team, with the 'A' team going to Vegas. It's summer league! The 'A' team usually has 4 to 6 guys that can make a roster, and at least 6 free agents that have NO CHANCE of making an NBA squad. So what does that make the 'B' team?

Meanwhile, the Vegas league features 16 NBA teams, the top two overall pick in Andrea Bargnani of the Raptors and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Blazers, the Clippers (including 2 games of Shaun Livingston) and a lot more gambling.

Still don't believe me that the Long Beach Summer Pro League is on its last legs? Check out the SPL web site, and compare it to the Vegas League web site.

Look, I'm not going to go into some rant about the good ol' days. Things change, and it's not really a shock that 16 NBA teams are hanging out in Vegas in the off-season, right? (Although you'd think they'd want to be some place a little cooler, like average highs below 110, but I digress.) It's just sad - for me, since I live 10 minutes away from the Pyramid. I'll still go, of course. I can check on Andrew Bynum's progress, and Bo will probably be there on a FA team. But the glory days are over (way over).

Which leaves me with two words: