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July 18, 2019

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As always, plenty to watch at NBA Summer League

Duke Basketball

Nell Redmond / AP

RJ Barrett, left, hugs Zion Williamson after Duke beat Florida State for the Atlantic Coast Conference title in Charlotte, N.C., March 16, 2019.

The NBA Summer League tips off today in Las Vegas, with 83 games set to be played over a tightly packed 11-day schedule at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.

All 30 NBA teams will be represented, and as usual most of the top draft picks will be making their professional debuts. Some of the more intriguing storylines:

Enter Zion

Zion Williamson is the most hyped rookie to enter the NBA since LeBron James, and the concept of a “summer league” has come a long way since James made his first appearance at a tiny gym in Boston in July 2003. Williamson’s first game will be a madhouse, with a ton of media and television coverage and a capacity crowd at the Mack (the first two days’ worth of games are already sold out).

Williamson and the Pelicans will square off against New York and No. 3 selection R.J. Barrett in prime time on opening night. It figures to be one of the most exciting games in the 15-year history of the Vegas Summer League, and when Zion throws down his first official NBA dunk, it will be a moment to remember.

New Orleans Pelicans schedule

July 5 vs. New York Knicks, 6:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 6 vs. Washington Wizards, 6:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 8 vs. Chicago Bulls, 6:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 10 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 4:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

Hometown kid

Former Centennial superstar Troy Brown showed promise in his rookie season, as the No. 15 pick in the 2018 draft averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 52 games. Now the Wizards want him to take a big leap forward in Year 2, and that begins at Summer League.

Look for Washington to put the ball in his hands and let him prove he’s capable of dominating the rest of the first- and second-year players in Las Vegas. If Brown can do that, it should bode well for his development heading into a potential breakout season in 2019-20.

Washington Wizards schedule

July 6 vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 6:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 8 vs. Brooklyn Nets, 2:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 9 vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 8:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 11 vs. Atlanta Hawks, 3:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

Stars in the house

Anybody who is anybody makes an appearance at Summer League. Two years ago, LeBron James sat courtside for the Los Angeles Lakers’ first game, and people presumed (correctly so) that it was an indication of James’ interest in joining the team as a free agent. There might not be as much palace intrigue this season, but the star power will be there.

The Lakers always bring a huge fan contingent to Vegas, so their first game on Friday should be a must-watch. If James and new teammate Anthony Davis are going to stop in to support the young guys, that would probably be the game. And when Brooklyn takes on Dallas on Friday, don’t be surprised if the Nets’ new superstar tandem of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are in the building.

Los Angeles Lakers schedule

July 5 vs. Chicago Bulls, 4:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 6 vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 4:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 8 vs. Golden State Warriors, 8:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 10 vs. New York Knicks, 6:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

Brooklyn Nets schedule

July 5 vs. Dallas Mavericks, 4 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 7 vs. Croatia, 1 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 8 vs. Washington Wizards, 2:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 10 vs. Orlando Magic, 2:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

Rebel rooting

UNLV fans usually have plenty of former Rebels to cheer for in summer league, and this year it'll be Kris Clyburn, who is hoping to turn heads as part of the Milwaukee Bucks' roster. Clyburn played three years at UNLV and won praise for his determination and defense, and as a senior he even boosted his scoring to 14.1 points per game. As Milwaukee didn't add any draft picks this year, there aren't any must-play rookies who are slotted in ahead of Clyburn; if he plays well, he should get court time. 

Milwaukee Bucks schedule

July 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 12:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 6 vs. Atlanta Hawks, 2 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 8 vs. Toronto Raptors, 4 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 10 vs. China, 8 p.m., Cox Pavilion

Familiar faces

Believe it or not, Charlotte could be an interesting team to follow in Las Vegas as the Hornets’ summer roster is made up of players that should be familiar to the local crowd. Charlotte used the No. 12 overall pick in the draft to take P.J. Washington, a forward who previously starred at Findlay Prep, and though he won't play in the summer due to injury, the Hornets also scooped up former UNR guards Cody and Caleb Martin (Cody via a second-round draft pick, Caleb as an undrafted free agent).

Charlotte Hornets schedule

July 5 vs. Golden State Warriors, 6 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 7 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 12:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 8 vs. China, 8 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 10 vs. Chicago Bulls, 2 p.m., Cox Pavilion

The Dauminator

One local observer will no doubt be interested in following the Portland Trail Blazers throughout summer league — UNLV head coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Mike Daum starred for three years under Otzelberger at South Dakota State, culminating in a 2018-19 senior campaign that saw Daum post 25.3 points per game. That has earned the forward a summer contract from the Blazers, and if Daum can produce anywhere near his college level over the next 11 days, he will have a chance to catch on in the NBA.

Portland Trail Blazers schedule

July 6 vs. Detroit Pistons, 12:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 7 vs. Houston Rockets, 7 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 9 vs. Utah Jazz, 3 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 11 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion

Big curiosity

With former Findlay Prep center and current Denver Nuggets draftee Bol Bol sitting out Summer League due to injury, the title of “biggest curiosity” now goes to Tacko Fall.

Fall was a modest producer during his four years at UCF, averaging 10.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, but at 7-foot-6 his size made him a fan favorite in the NCAA tournament. The Boston Celtics took a flier on Fall as an undrafted free agent, and now he’ll get a chance to prove his height will make him an effective NBA player. Either way, the fans will be on his side.

Boston Celtics schedule

July 6 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 2:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 8 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 4:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

July 9 vs. Denver Nuggets, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion

July 11 vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 7:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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