Friday, July 7, 2017

Boston Celtics 65 at Utah Jazz 68 (NBA Summer League) - July 6, 2017


I have stopped actively following the NBA for a couple of reasons. First, basketball is the least appealing of all sports because it is so predictable; 14 of 15 playoff series were won by the favourite (#5-seed Utah beating the Clippers at #4 was the exception, and not much of one as both teams had 51 wins). Second, ESPN has made the NBA their primary focus in an effort to recoup their investment in the league, which is turning out to be a disaster for everyone but the players. With cable subscribers dropping and all this money to pay the NBA, ESPN had to lay off over 100 employees back in April, including a lot of high-priced, on-air talent. In order to keep the NBA buzz alive during the offseason, there are now more stories on ESPN about the NBA than MLB. So there is no need to actively search for info on the league; I get all I need through a quick glance at ESPN.com or a few minutes of sports radio. Including the blockbuster free agent signing of Gordon Hayward, who left Utah for Boston. Well, listening to all the hype, it sure seemed like a blockbuster signing.



Anyway, since I don't follow the Association, I didn't even know that the Utah Jazz Summer League is taking place this season. Only a brief mention of it on SportsCenter got my attention, and when I checked the schedule, I found out that the last day of the 3-day tournament happened to be the day before I flew out of Salt Lake City. I altered my schedule, moving an Idaho Falls minor league game to later in the trip, and drove from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City, arriving in time for the second game Thursday night. The league is played at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah (above), also home to the Utes.



For those of you not familiar with the summer leagues, they are used to bring together draft picks, some second-year players, and unsigned free agents so teams can get a look at their younger kids and possibly pick up a new prospect. There are three leagues, with Las Vegas the main one, while Orlando and Utah have smaller contingents. This year in Salt Lake City, the 76ers, Celtics, and Spurs joined the Jazz, with each team playing the other once. There are two games per day, and $8 gets you in the door for both of them, though you can sit closer for $15. The hardwood is not changed for these games, although an NBA 3-point line is added.



I arrived about a half-hour before the second game of the evening was scheduled to start and had to drive around for 20 minutes looking for parking. Attendance here was much higher than I expected, even with the upper tier closed (below) but there was a concert that night at nearby Red Butte so I was able to make use of the free parking there.



At halftime, I did a quick tour around the venue, taking pictures of some of the trophies that the Utes have won over the years.



Their best year in recent history was 1998 when they lost the final to Kentucky, but they do have one national championship to their credit, won back in 1944.



As you might expect the quality of play was rather low, even though a couple of top picks were on the floor. That's Jayson Tatum, the 3rd overall pick for Boston, guarded by Utah's Donovan Mitchell, the #13 pick.



The games consist of 4 ten-minute quarters, but this one still moved slowly with all the fouls (39 total) and two timeouts per quarter. I was able to move down low, but even then had trouble staying intrigued. Boston led 54-46 after three periods, but Utah used a 14-4 run to erase that lead and held on for a 68-65 win.



With the victory, the Jazz clinched the "championship" with a 3-0 record.

Notes

Although Hayward obviously is not playing, that did not stop a fan from bringing a sign calling him "Betrayward". In an unrelated note, Utah draft beer is not allowed to be above 4% ABV.

All four teams are also playing in the Las Vegas Summer League, along with 20 other clubs.

Best,

Sean

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