Mavericks open summer league against Bulls in hopes of forming good habits

THE NBA Summer League, which the Mavericks kick off Friday in Las Vegas, is a remarkable creation.

It brings together about 400 basketball players, most of whom will have little or no success in the NBA.

And yet, it is an event.

Cable networks love it. Fans crave it at a time in July when football has yet to return, and unless you’re a die-hard baseball fan, sports entertainment is hard to come by.

And it’s fun.

“Those guys aren’t making $40 million,” said Greg St. Jean, Jason Kidd’s assistant who serves as the Mavericks’ summer league head coach for the second straight season. “But at the end of the day, it’s just basketball and we try to make it as enjoyable an experience as possible.

“These guys are fighting for their professional life. And so there is a level of intensity defensively a bit higher than what they are perhaps used to. We want to give them a great experience, an NBA-level experience, because then we can assess them properly.

While only a few of the Mavericks’ 14 summer roster will return for training camp in the fall, that doesn’t mean it’s not a meaningful event — for the players and for the teams.

And, of course, it’s not just the Mavericks who are evaluating their talent. All 30 teams and their front-office players will be present at the summer league matches. The Mavericks open play Friday at 3 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center against summer league team Chicago. It will be televised on ESPNU.

The game started on Thursday and will continue until July 17. Each team will play at least five games.

“Everyone is fighting for something,” said Moses Wright, the sophomore big man who spent last season on a two-way deal with the Mavericks and was named to the G-League first team. . “For me, I will not be Luka (Dončić). I have to come here and whatever role they tell me to play, I have to do it at the highest level. If they tell me to jump over a building, I have to find a way to do it.

That’s the goal of the summer league for players: to find a way to impress coaches and general managers. There are exceptions. The top draft picks usually play a game or two and everyone is looking forward to their performances.

Winner? It’s zonte. But that’s not really the bottom line.

“We’re looking to create habits,” St. Jean said. “We got our second-round pick in Jaden Hardy here. We are looking to give him a good base to go in September when the season starts.

“At the same time, it’s a great time for evaluation. At the end of the day, wins and losses, we’ll find out. We will compete. Obviously, everyone likes to win. It makes things more enjoyable, but ultimately we want to create good habits.

Hardy, who grew up in Henderson, Nevada, a short drive from the Las Vegas Strip, knows summer league well. He watched it every year growing up.

Now he’s in.

He’ll try to replicate what Oklahoma City rookie and No. 2 draft pick Chet Holmgren did in his Salt Lake City summer league debut on Tuesday. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

“I feel like the first two days of training camp have been really good,” Hardy said. “It was fun. We’re ready to go.”

And fans are ready to see what he has in store for them.

Twitter: @ESefko

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