Lakers 110, Trail Blazers 98. And with that the Lakers are your 2017 Las Vegas Summer League champions. Laker Nation, how are you feeling today? Based on what I saw last night, you’re feeling pretty good. No, you’re feeling damn good.
How amped are Laker fans? People were lining up outside the arena before the game started. In Las Vegas. In July. In triple digit heat. On a Monday night. They were dropping “DEE-FENSE” chants in the fourth quarter. I thought the roof was going to come off of Thomas and Mack when Kyle Kuzma hit from deep at the end of the third quarter. That barn hasn’t been that loud since Larry, Stacey, and Greg were killing it on the court and Tark was on the sideline.
That wasn’t a summer league game, for Laker fans, that was a basketball game, a rock festival and a borderline religious experience all rolled into one. I haven’t seen Laker fans that fired up since, I can’t remember when. This was like Showtime and the Kobe-Shaq days all rolled into one. And after missing the playoffs for four straight seasons, I can’t blame them. Those four years must’ve felt like forty years to Laker fans, especially lately when the only thing they had to cheer for were the Clippers losing.
And they won the championship game with Lonzo Ball, the unanimous Summer League MVP, on the bench with a calf injury. Then again, who needs Lonzo Ball when Alex Caruso is carving up defenses and dropping Dream Shakes on fools? Or when Matt Thomas, the pride of Iowa State, is killing Portland from deep.
And yes, all of this comes with a giant caveat: it’s summer league. And lot of times what happens in Las Vegas Summer League stays in Las Vegas Summer League. Everyone knows that. And nobody’s going to confuse Alex Caruso with Jerry West, even though Laker fans were acting like the Logo was crossing up and blowing past guys. Just like nobody’s going to confuse beating Portland’s summer league team with beating Portland’s actual team. Or Houston. Or San Antonio. Or Golden State. Or any of the other monsters in the Western Conference.
But something did happen over the last few days in Vegas. All the hype and excitement wasn’t over Caruso and Thomas, as nice as they looked. This is about Lonzo and what he did when he played. 16 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and a block per game. But it’s not even about that. It’s about the freaky dimes he was dropping. Just ask Lakers summer league coach Jud Buechler, who said, he is “already one of the best passers I’ve seen at this level. [Those are] kind of big words, but he can really pass the ball. He just gets the ball, looks up, and has that incredible natural ability to put that ball right on the money.”
I don’t know if the Lakers are back, but I know Laker fan is. Their car flags are out and Laker honk is feeling it. And if they show out for a summer league game like that, it’ll be interesting to see how it looks and feels once the regular season starts. Esp. since Ball won’t be doing it against some summer league scrubs, but rather all league alpha’s looking to put him in his place and shut his old man up.
In the meantime, I’m just glad Laker fan didn’t take to the streets after adding another banner to their rafters last night.