LAS VEGAS (AP) — In Las Vegas, there’s always a big show happening.
Welcome to the stage, Paolo Banchero. He’s about to have his opening night.
NBA Summer League starts Thursday in Las Vegas, with Banchero — the now-former Duke star forward who was the No. 1 pick last month — set to play in the opening game when the Orlando Magic take on No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr. and the Houston Rockets in the first contest of the 11-day showcase.
“It’s great,” Banchero said Wednesday as the Magic wrapped up practice in one of the two UNLV arenas where games will be taking place. “You know, I get to come out here, have all these people come watch, watch me put on a show. I love when big crowds are out, when all the cameras are out, that’s when I play my best. So, I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be fun.”
The crowds do come for these games; in 2018, Summer League set a total attendance record of 139,972 and in 2019, a per-day average record was set of 12,199 fans. That’s all pre-COVID, of course, and the league is hoping this summer league — even with the pandemic still very much happening — is back to those sorts of numbers.
And a glitzy matchup to get things started, two of the top three picks in the first game, seems fitting.
“I want to feel like I played hard all week, no matter how long I’m there, no matter if I’m making shots, missing shots, I want to know that I was out there competing, out there listening, out there learning,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, all this is new to me.”
He’s not alone there. For most players taking part over the next 11 days, this is new. Some have played in Las Vegas before, maybe in AAU games, or high school, or in college. A few have even participated in Summer League before — but there are some who are seeing Las Vegas for the first time as well.
“I’m looking forward to walking around and seeing some things,” Miami rookie Nikola Jovic said. “When I have time.”
Every NBA team has a summer squad in Las Vegas, all set to play five games. The first four games for each team will go into standings that will determine which two will play on July 17 for a title, though the trophy can be viewed as an ancillary part of Summer League.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Chet Holmgren shined in his summer league debut, scoring 13 of his 23 points in the first quarter to help the Oklahoma City Thunder build an early 20-point lead en route to a 98-77 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.
The No. 2 pick in the draft also had seven rebounds, four assists and a Salt Lake City Summer League-record six blocks in 24 minutes. Holmgren, a versatile 7-footer from Gonzaga who averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and ranked fourth nationally with 3.7 blocks per game, finished 7 of 9 from the floor and 5 of 5 at the free throw line.
Holmgren made 4 of 5 shots in the first quarter, including three 3-pointers. He sat out the first six minutes of the second quarter before finding Jalen Williams for a dunk to make it 42-22. Holmgren made six straight shots after missing his first attempt.
Jalen Williams, the No. 12 pick out of Santa Clara, added 17 points to help Oklahoma City spoil the debut of new Utah coach Will Hardy. Josh Giddey finished with 14 points and 11 assists.
Oklahoma City closed the third quarter on a 10-0 run for a 78-50 lead.
HEAT 94, WARRIORS 70
Serbian forward Nikola Jovic scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds on Day 3 of the California Classic in San Francisco.
Jovic, the No. 27 overall pick, was 5 of 7 from 3-point range and shot 9 of 16 overall. Six of his rebounds were on the offensive end, helping the Heat to a 47-23 edge on the glass. Jovic has played for Mega Basket in the Serbian league, averaging 11.7 points on 43% shooting in that league this past season.
“I’m just happy we won,” the 6-foot-11 Jovic said. “My performance, you know, I’ve been working my whole life to play here (NBA) and I did good.”
Gui Santos, selected by Golden State with the 55th pick, had 12 points and five assists. The 6-8 forward from the Novo Basquete Brasil league was 3 for 3 from distance.
KINGS 87, LAKERS 75
No. 4 pick Keegan Murray scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, and Sacramento finished the California Classic unbeaten after beating Los Angeles.
Murray, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 23.5 points a game, also had seven rebounds and three steals. He was 9 of 16 from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range.
Max Christie, a Michigan State guard selected with the 35th pick, had five points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles. Christie, the 6-foot-6 shooter and wing defender who left East Lansing after just one season, was 1 of 6 from the field.
GRIZZLIES 103, 76ERS 99
Jake LaRavia, the No. 19 pick out of Wake Forest, made four of Memphis’ 15 3-pointers, and the Grizzlies won the opening game in Salt Lake City.
Memphis led by as many as 17 points. The Grizzlies made 7 of 9 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished 15 of 30. Memphis also had 29 assists on 37 made field goals.
Philadelphia had the ball down 101-99 with 15 seconds left but Jaden Springer had it stolen by Kennedy Chandler. Ziaire Williams made two free throws with 0.1 seconds left to seal it.
No. 23 pick David Roddy, a 6-6, 255-pound forward from Colorado State, scored four points for Memphis. Roddy was the Mountain West player of the year after averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists this past season.
Paul Reed led Philadelphia with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Memphis star Ja Morant sat courtside.