My good friend, Art Horne, asked some current and former NBA Strength Coaches to give their honest opinions on how mid-level major basketball players or other marginal players without a big reputation can make the most our of their Summer League opportunities.
Here is a link to Art’s site which has a basketball focus and funneled with content from some very excellent people.
1. Don’t be a dick.
–In the NBA, the only thing that matters is if you can fill up the stat sheet. If you can put the ball in the goal, dish out or board double digits, or lock somebody up, you can act however you want. The better you are, the more leeway you have in how you conduct yourself. Hopefully this isn’t too much of a surprise. But the lower down the totem pole you live, the less tolerance for foolishness there is. Every team needs to have 15 guys. It is not an insult to be number 15, but the truth of the matter is that there are more guys that be number 15 than can be 1 or 2. Don’t dress crazy. Don’t talk ghetto. Don’t ask the equipment guy for the 4th t-shirt. Be early and don’t give staff any trouble. Just show up and play hard. Don’t be noticed for anything except the court, and be a good person (even if you’re not in real life).
2. Know the plays
–Summer League has plays just like the regular season. And a lot of the plays are designed for the young guys that are guaranteed, not the guys trying to get a look. Summer League is more for them than anybody else. So if you screw up the plays or break the plays trying to get yours, that will piss coaches off. Even if you knock down shots, if you don’t let the play run through, or screw up the motion, that is a very easy way to stand out in a negative way.
3. Respect the staff’s time
–Don’t think for one second that the front office and coaches don’t ask the trainers, strength coaches, and equipment guys, even the ballboys about players. When there are tie breakers to be had, how players treat co-workers is on the report card. If you are trying to do whirlpools after practice and get in extra workouts, you are probably pissing off the staff that works 100 hour weeks all year and wants to get home to their families and time off. It may suck that you want to do everything you can to make the best of your opportunity, but remember that Summer League isn’t as much about the long shots as it is about showcasing and exposing the guys already in the mix. If rehab and training sessions are not part of the schedule, ask in a very non-entitled way the trainer or strength coach if we do anything like that in summer league. If the Strength Coach says, oh yeah, sure, then you’re fine. If the Strength Coach says, you know, we don’t really do much of that in the summer, or we just do that with the guys on the team for now, then don’t get pissy and just show up and play hard the next day. Maybe the hotel has a whirlpool or gym you can get your work in. It might suck or not make sense, but welcome to NBA Summer League. It ain’t about you.
4. Eat right
–2-a-days and the heat of Vegas or Orlando along with playing with the best competition of your life may be some of the biggest physical challenges your body has endured. McDonald’s is not the premiere choice to refuel your body. Spend some money, maybe more than you would prefer to eat better. Put down as much water as possible, and if you have a history of cramping, take more Gatorade or if there are any Gatorlytes added to the water or drinks. Salt your food unless you have a condition that says this isn’t a good idea. There will typically be “nutrition” bars available, and they are probably better calories than most college athletes are used to getting when left to their own devices.
–Defending takes heart and commitment. This is what can separate you from other guys with even better talent and skills. There is always room for guys that can defend. As a strength coach and athletic trainer, it is hard for me to comment or really know how to teach defense. I guess you just know it when you see it. It is being in great condition when you show up to Summer League and being very active with your hands and staying with your man’s hips. Miyagi said, “Always look eye,” but I think in basketball you always look hips. The hips don’t make fakes. Eyes, head, feet can all make fakes, but not the hips and midsection. Defense always gets noticed.