Basketball is back...well, the Vegas version at least.
The Bucks kick off their summer league schedule Monday night at 7 pm central time, opening a stretch of five games in seven nights against the Mavericks. You can watch all the games live or on replay with NBA Broadband, and I'll be in Vegas next weekend to report live from the final two games. We'll also be posting game threads around tip-off for anyone who wants to chat while they watch (of course you do!).
The Mavs have dropped their first two games but have an intriguing roster, with impressive French second year PG Roddy Beaubois joined by 1st round combo guard Dominique Jones and porky-but-productive rookie big man Omar Samhan from St. Mary's.
Here are some of the storylines I'll be watching for this week...
Big men start their education. Vegas is generally a little man's league, so it probably doesn't bode well for the Bucks' hopes of winning that their only "name" players are Larry Sanders and Tiny Gallon. As we saw with Brandon Jennings a year ago, it's the guards who generally dictate play while the young big men tend struggle to adapt to often tight officiating (warning: young refs in training). Thankfully, the normal foul limits are loosened in Vegas, with 10 fouls allowed before you're forced to hit the showers. So even if Sanders and Gallon struggle with the physical nature of the (sort of ) NBA game, they do have a bit more margin for error. Unfortunately, the Bucks' lack of NBA talent at the PG position also won't help the big men on the offensive end.
While Gallon also intrigues me, Sanders is the guy most of us will be watching most closely. Tom Enlund writes that the Bucks are hoping his talents can be put to immediate use.
"He's got a great feel for rebounding around the basket," Boylan said. "He gets his hands on a lot of balls. He's very, very good with his timing and his agility. He moves gracefully for a man of his size. He covers a lot of ground, and that's going to be a great asset for him especially at the defensive end because he can cover up for a lot of mistakes. Having the combination of he and Andrew (Bogut) out there, two guys who can be big around the basket, is going to be significant for us this year.
"Offensively, he's raw. He still has to learn a good, solid low post move. I think he's really got some good tools, and I think eventually he'll be a much better shooter than he is right now."
Local boys James and Franklin added. This week would be a lot more fun if Brandon Jennings was in uniform to lead the offense, but there's a good reason for his absence: he's one of the few rookies who performed well enough last year that the Bucks decided it wasn't worth risking an injury. Unfortunately, 37th overall pick Darington Hobson also is expected to miss out due to a groin injury he picked up last week, denying us the chance to watch the versatile 6'6" guard run an NBA offense. While the Bucks will no doubt be adding a point guard to back up Jennings, Hobson might yet be tasked with the role of the emergency/third string PG. The last two years the Bucks have carried three point guards going into the regular season: Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions, and Tyronn Lue in 2008 and Ridnour, Jennings, and Roko Ukic in 2009.
With no other PGs on the real roster at the moment, the Bucks have been forced to go with an unproven group of free agents to man the point in Vegas, with former Marquette star Dominic James and UWM's Ricky Franklin serving as late additions to the Vegas roster. They're joined by athletic former UAB combo guard Paul Delaney, who was a bit player on the Bucks' summer squad last year. Ironically, Delaney was a last-minute replacement for James (ankle injury) in 2009. So everything's coming full circle.
Pressure on Jackson. Wide-bodied power forward Darnell Jackson is technically already on the Bucks' roster, but his non-guaranteed minimum salary means he's got plenty to prove in Vegas. Picked up off waivers from Cleveland at the end of last season, Jackson probably has an uphill battle to make the regular season roster given the Bucks already have about six guys who can play the four. John Hammond said as much on WSSP, stating that the Bucks would have 14 guys once they add a backup PG. Officially the Bucks already have 14 players on the roster, so it sounds like Jackson isn't being counted on to make the final cut.