The Las Vegas Summer League may have more teams, games, and even allows fans in the stands, but the Orlando Pro Summer League--which continues today--is every bit as important. Teams looking for a strictly basketball experience for their summer squads seek out the Orlando Magic's no-nonsense league, which they host in their practice facility. This year, the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and Utah Jazz will all attend.
I'm Evan Dunlap, known as Ben Q. Rock at Orlando Pinstriped Post, SB Nation's Magic blog, and I'll be there to cover all 20 games this week for SB Nation.com. Here's what's on tap tonight. The games are available on NBA TV, but you can watch the action streaming on NBA.com for a fee, if that's more convenient. Check back in this StoryStream for updates after every game.
Game 1: Thunder (2-1) at Magic (0-3), 1 PM - Even without power forward Serge Ibaka, who injured his left ankle on Tuesday and won't play the rest of the week, the Thunder hold an embarrassing edge over the Magic in terms of talent, boasting seven other players likely to make the final roster this season. In Daniel Orton, Orlando has but one player with a guaranteed deal, and he hasn't made a basket since Monday. Orton, who readily admits he is out of shape, faces the challenge of defending the active, athletic Byron Mullens. It's likely that Paul Davis will continue to play big minutes in relief of Orton. Additionally, look for James Harden to continue his parade to the foul line. Orlando's lack of perimeter defense or athletic rim protectors should ensure he has another high-scoring game.
Game 2: Pacers (2-1) at Celtics (1-2), 3 PM - Perhaps no team has it going on quite like the Pacers this week. Lance Stephenson is one of two rookies to put together three solid games this week, and for long stretches Josh McRoberts has looked like the most skilled player on the court. This athletic club faces a less talented, but still hardworking, Celtics group led by Luke Harangody, who is making a strong case for inclusion on the First-Team All-League squad at week's end; he joins Stephenson in that group of true standouts I just mentioned. Can Indiana, for all of its athletic gifts, keep the Celtics' guards out of the lane? If Jaycee Carroll and Matt Janning get it going again, the Pacers and Celtics could finish the day with identical records.
Game 3: Jazz (1-2) at Nets (2-1), 5 PM - Utah has a nasty habit of falling behind early, necessitating big comeback tries too farfetched to actually succeed. The Nets can exploit that, with the top backcourt of any team here. Terrence Williams and Damion James have raised eyebrows here with their strong play. I do think this is a game where Utah's Gordon Hayward can break out, though, given the touches. A last-resort option rather than featured player through the first three days, Hayward has the skills to escape the Nets' perimeter defense, or at least to draw enough attention away from his teammates so he can create easy looks for them. New Jersey's Derrick Favors will try to take James Augustine down to the low post, but I doubt he succeeds.
Game 4: 76ers (2-1) at Bobcats (2-1), 7 PM - Evan Turner and Favors seem to be engaged in a private contest to see which of the two can impress the least. A disaster on offense so far, his task gets no easier today, with Charlotte's Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, Alade Aminu, and P.J. Tucker potentially checking him at various times today. Given the difficulty he faces there, it's easy to imagine another game in which Philly relies on its non-roster guys early, and then turns the offense over to veterans Jrue Holiday and Marreese Speights when it's desperate for a bucket. If the game gets sloppy, with poor shooting percentages and silly turnovers, highlights could result: Turner, Holiday, Henderson, Brown, and Aminu all know how to finish the break.