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June 17, 2019

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For former MWC standouts, summer league minutes are at a premium

Cummard, Wade, Adams and Nevill are among those simply waiting their turn

Wink Adams

Sam Morris

Former UNLV guard Wink Adams (3) defends in the closing moments of New York’s 96-73 loss to Detroit on Wednesday afternoon in NBA summer league play. Adams went scoreless with 2 rebounds and an assists in 7 minutes of play for the Knicks.

Click to enlarge photo

Lorrenzo Wade, center, watches the action during the NBA summer league. The San Diego State product and Cheyenne High grad has registered just 11 minutes in 4 games so far with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Not walking off the court after a game in dire need of a shower is a new feeling for Lee Cummard.

The former BYU guard — who last season ranked in the top 10 in the Mountain West Conference in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots, field goal percentage and free throw percentage — left Cox Pavilion on Wednesday evening as clean as he was when he arrived.

In his second game as a member of the Phoenix Suns' summer squad, he played three first-half minutes. In his first game this week, Cummard finished up with a "Did not play" next to his name in the stat book.

This comes just months after completing a senior season for the Cougars in which his 32.8 minutes per game ranked fifth in the league.

Now, he's down the totem pole, behind former first-round picks and other free agents who the Suns have placed ahead of him in the rotation.

"I mean, everyone wants to be out there," he said. "It's a new experience to have to sit through some games and come off the bench cold and rusty to try and get in the flow, but it's part of the game, part of the business, and that's what's expected of you.

"I just kinda do what I'm told. Be a good teammate like I always am, cheer the guys on, when I get in there play hard and knock down shots."

So while he's not necessarily playing in the games, at the same time, he's "playing the game" of professional basketball.

Somewhere out there — whether it be in a lesser league in the United States or in any number of spots across the Atlantic — there's a spot in the pro ranks for Lee Cummard.

He hasn't let himself get down about it.

Following Wednesday's game, which Phoenix dropped to Toronto, 74-73, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge — a former Brigham Young great — joked to Cummard in passing, saying, "Hey, tell them to play you some already."

Cummard gave a lighthearted response in Ainge's direction, saying, "Well then, tell your old teammate to put me in there." He, of course, is referring to Suns summer league coach Dan Majerle, who played alongside Ainge in Phoenix in the early 1990s.

The same experience this week is being had by several guys who headlined in the Mountain West Conference last season and are now leaving their warmup tops on for the most part during summer league contests.

Former UNLV guard Wink Adams, who left the program this spring as its sixth all-time leading scorer, saw his first action as a pro Wednesday afternoon for the New York Knicks in their second summer league game.

He played a minute here and a minute there, then saw a few minutes at the end of a blowout loss, going scoreless with two rebounds and an assist.

Luke Nevill, a 7-foot-2 center and the league's Player of the Year at Utah, has a point and a rebound to his credit, playing a combined nine minutes in his first two games with New Orleans.

San Diego State product Lorrenzo Wade, one of the MWC's most well-rounded performers in recent years, has two DNPs and eight points on his stat sheet, having played 11 total minutes in two appearances.

It wasn't exactly what the Cheyenne High grad planned for when he knew he'd be making his pro debut in his hometown.

"I was under the impression that coming in here, I'd have a great opportunity to play," the always-honest Wade said. "I went to practice, worked as hard as I could, tried to pick up everything ... things happen sometimes. You can't really stress it. When you get that opportunity to go out there, you'd better capitalize on it.

"It's been somewhat frustrating. I didn't play the first game, I played two minutes the second game, nine minutes the third game, didn't play (in Wednesday's) game. Fortunately for me, the times that I have been out there, I've been pretty efficient, so I can't complain about that. Whenever my number's called, I have to make sure I'm ready."

Wade is correct in talking about the importance of producing when you know your minutes will be minimal.

During his 11 minutes of run, he's scored 8 points and is 3-of-5 from the floor, giving him a nice piece of silver lining to hold onto.

But with scouts and front office folks from nearly every NBA franchise on hand for each game, plus several scouts from foreign ball clubs, what players like Wade and Cummard do when they're not on the floor is just as important.

Anyone can pull off a quick Google search and find out the hoops resumés of the guys at the end of the bench during the summer league, however body language is being watched, too.

"I haven't pouted or moped," said Wade, whose 4-0 Milwaukee squad is arguably the best at this year's summer showcase. "I'm happy during the games for my teammates. After it's over, I may have my moments, but while we're here, it's about the team. It's not about me.

"It's really a job. It has a totally different feel than college basketball. I really don't know what to say about it. It can be somewhat frustrating. You can have high moments and low moments. I'm not a guy that's just happy to be here. I feel that I can contribute on a team, but it is what it is."

Wade and Cummard both said that a so-so summer league experience won't dampen their spirits, as they each plan on still playing somewhere next season no matter what.

While playing overseas isn't what Wade said he'd envisioned for himself, he won't close any doors just yet.

Cummard this week sought the counsel of former BYU teammate Trent Plaisted, who for the second consecutive summer is playing for the Detroit Pistons in Vegas.

"We went to dinner last night," he said. "I think the biggest mistake, in what he told me, is guys try to do what they're not capable of. Everyone knows what you can do already, so you just have to go out and do it well. I'm a shooter. I have a high basketball IQ. Like me, for instance. That's what I need to go out and do, play hard, play smart, knock down shots and make people around me better.

"I have some goals set for myself next season, whether that's overseas or here. I just want to continue to play."

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