In the July background of the big free agents in the NBA vying to get their next massive taste of multimillion dollar nectar, and in many respects at the polar opposite end of it, is the NBA's Summer League.
The Summer League takes place in separate sessions in Orlando and Las Vegas, and serves the dual purpose of giving the actual drafted rookies their first taste of wearing gear with the letters "NBA" on it while also giving rookie free agents and D-League vagabonds a chance at their American Idol moment, where maybe, just maybe, they get noticed by somebody who matters.
Well, Summer League got underway this weekend in Orlando, which is the locale the Rockets' have chosen to send their team.
(By the way, is there a bigger swing in "work boondoggle" potential than Vegas and Orlando? Hey guys, in your free time, you can head to the Spearmint Rhino or take a ride on "It's A Small World." Poor Orlando league participants.)
So the Summer Rockets got started this weekend, and the Summer Rockets took on the Summer Pistons in the opener for each of these summer teams.
If you look at the Summer Rockets' roster, most Rocket fans be hard pressed to come up with a fun fact about 80 percent of these guys, but there are a few familiar names on there. There's point guard Isaiah Cannan, last season's only drafted rookie who saw playing time. There's Robert Covington, a name on the roster for a chunk of last season.
But perhaps the most intriguing name (and perhaps most familiar, because of recency) is 2014 second round draft choice Nick Johnson.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year last season on a stout Arizona squad, Johnson took a back seat on draft night to his younger, but more highly touted Wildcat teammate, Aaron Gordon (fourth overall selection to the Orlando Magic). But make no mistake, Johnson can play. Good bloodlines (his uncle was former Celtic great, the late Dennis Johnson), good versatility, solid leader, plays both ends.
Oh yeah, and apparently Johnson really likes to embarrass people by dunking in their faces! And we LOVE that!
BOOM SHAKA LAKA!!
A couple interesting things about that play:
1. The scouting report on Johnson mentions his plus-level athleticism. Certainly, his leaping ability is certainly on full display there, but the most impressive part might be the hand he uses to dunk. Johnson is a natural righty. For him to throw down like that, in traffic, with his left hand is uber-impressive, especially when said traffic is a seven foot big man. Speaking of that....
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2. The recipient of the Johnson facial is center and former Rocket Tim Ohlbrecht, who was a backup big on the Rockets' 2012-2013 roster, or as we call it here in Houston the pre-relevance days. To be fair, that team did have James Harden so maybe they were the early relevance days. Whatever the case, I like to see this dunk as a metaphor for the new age, soon to be championship level Rockets flushing out the days of win totals in the low 40's.
With Jeremy Lin rumored to be basically gone in a trade as soon as the need to do so arises, Johnson is a likely candidate to get some of Lin's minutes.
This was certainly a "feel good" start for the rookie.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.