LAS VEGAS -- The NBA Summer League schedule started earlier this week in Orlando, but the true spectacle begins Friday afternoon in lovely Las Vegas when 24 teams begin a 10-day stretch that will feature 60 freakin' games of exhibition basketball. For the casual basketball fan, this isn't anything special. For the basketball aficionados among us, however, Friday's action is the unofficial start of the 2012-13 basketball season.
Not only will 13 of the 14 lottery picks be in action at the Thomas & Mack Center this week, but there are a ton of players looking to put themselves on the map as they try to earn a legitimate NBA opportunity.
No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis wasn't selected for a spot on Team USA for this year's London Olympics, but could be added ue to an injury to Blake Griffin. If not, he'll be in uniform when the New Orleans Hornets take on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday evening. The new-look Washington Wizards -- featuring draft picks Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky -- will tip off the action on Friday afternoon against the Atlanta Hawks. The Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats will match up later in the evening, too, as Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist get their first looks since being drafted in the top five last month.
Aside from the well-known names from college, however, players that have toiled in Europe and the NBA Development League are looking for their first opportunity as well. Brian Butch will attempt to show he's healthy and ready to help the Atlanta Hawks, Daniel Orton will try to show the Toronto Raptors that he wasn't a mistake and even Reeves Nelson -- a player that was kicked off of the UCLA squad amid numerous allegations -- is attempting to make his way back on the map by way of a Summer League invite with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Though the former names are ones that are going to earn most of the publicity as the week rolls on in Las Vegas, the latter names are just as important when it comes to Summer League action. They are the players whose careers count on a few good games in the middle of the desert with the glares of NBA decision-makers coming down on them from all angles, and they're the players that, if they're unable to come away with a guaranteed contract, will have to decide whether they want to continue chasing the dream with lesser play in the D-League next season or if they'd rather take themselves off of the NBA map -- at least for next season -- with a trip to Europe.
Combined with last year's top college stars and the random players from Europe and the D-League grinding for a roster spot this fall, there are plenty of coaches looking for their first opportunity as well. Former NBA players Tyronn Lue and Mark Bryant served as head coaches this week in Orlando and there are quite a few other up-and-coming coaches with similar solid opportunities coming up this week in Vegas.
All of this is why it's so easy to fall in love with Summer League. Not only is the entire basketball world converging in Las Vegas, but there are new players looking to prove their worth, old players looking to prove they deserve an opportunity and young coaches looking to do a bit of both over the next ten days. Whether or not they're able to take advantage of the opportunities is a whole 'nother story -- a story that we'll keep constantly updating right here at SBNation.com this week with live updates from Las Vegas.