NBA’s summer season starts on Saturday in Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s impossible to know what to expect from Markelle Fultz’s first taste of NBA games.
His three most recent predecessors in the No. 1 overall draft pick club all had wildly different experiences. Andrew Wiggins put on a high-flying display and led everybody in scoring. Karl-Anthony Towns was too nervous and committed nine fouls. Ben Simmons missed the majority of his shots and had cramps in both legs.
And now it’s Fultz’s turn.
Summer League — a three-city, 17-day, 93-game extravaganza for the NBA where results will soon be forgotten — is back. It starts Saturday morning in Orlando, where eight teams will play over six days. Utah’s four-team event begins Monday, and then most of the NBA heads to Las Vegas starting July 7 for the glitziest of the three leagues.
Fultz is set to debut Monday in Utah when Philadelphia plays Boston, a matchup of teams that swapped draft picks in a move that allowed the 76ers to grab the Washington point guard .
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Fultz said. “Just to get a chance to play with these guys, get a feel for the game, the NBA calls and everything like that.”
Summer League rules are slightly different than the NBA ones. Quarters last 10 minutes, not 12. Overtimes last two minutes, not five, and if a second OT is needed it’s first-to-score-wins. Players get 10 fouls before being disqualified, instead of the typical six — No. 1 pick Greg Oden infamously was whistled for 19 fouls in his first two summer league games 10 years ago.
Many eyes will be on the top picks, like Fultz, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball (who will debut in Las Vegas) and Boston’s Jayson Tatum (who starts in Utah, the same game as Fultz). But 30 NBA teams will be scouring rosters looking for a gem who has somehow slipped through the cracks, like Miami did last year when it signed Rodney McGruder to a three-year deal last summer.
McGruder wound up starting 65 games for the Heat last season, guarding everyone from LeBron James to Paul George and narrowly missing being elected to the All-Rookie team.
“It takes guys like Rodney McGruder to win games,” said Heat captain Udonis Haslem, another Summer League alum who played his way onto Miami’s roster through his summer performance in 2003 and has been there ever since.
Here’s some of what to know going into Summer League:
ORLANDO: The eight teams going to play in Orlando starting on Saturday are Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, New York, Oklahoma City and the host Magic. Orlando’s Jonathan Issac, the No. 6 overall pick, will be the highest selection in this year’s draft class there. Other top picks include No. 8 Frank Ntilikina (Knicks), No. 9 Dennis Smith (Mavericks), No. 12 Luke Kennard (Pistons) and No. 14 Bam Adebayo (Heat). No. 11 pick Malik Monk (Hornets) is expected to miss summer league with an ankle injury. All teams play five games and a champion is crowned, but the games are not open to fans.
UTAH: The Jazz host San Antonio, along with Boston and Philadelphia, with the games this year at the University of Utah instead of at the Jazz facilities because of ongoing renovations. Everyone plays three games, starting Monday and ending Thursday, but there’s no official champion. The teams take the July 4 holiday off.
LAS VEGAS: A record 24 NBA teams are going to Vegas, and they’ll all play at least five games. Attendance records were set last year, and Ball’s debut on July 7 when the Lakers meet the Clippers is almost certain to draw a huge crowd. The championship game is July 17.
DOUBLING UP: All four teams from the Utah league are going to Las Vegas as well. Also doubling-up this summer are Orlando participants Miami and Dallas, who will fly to Vegas on July 6 and play their first games out there on July 8.
FAMILY MATTERS: The debut of Indiana rookie T.J. Leaf will be delayed a day. The No. 18 pick is missing the Pacers’ opening game in Orlando on Saturday for a good reason — his brother is getting married. So Leaf’s first appearance with the Pacers is now likely to occur Sunday.