Quick Lessons Learned from the 2014 #NBASummerLeague

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'm back from the now annual trip to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with most of the 8 Man Rotation (Steve Boese, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun).  The trip was filled with good food, conversation, music (in the form of Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails in concert) and, of course, basketball.  So, what can be gleaned from a 3 day trip watching exhibition basketball?  You can read Steve's take here and Kris' take here.   Here's mine:

"You'll be pleased" is the new "Fine."
Over burgers at Bobby Flay's Burger Palace, discussion turned to reference checks and performance reviews.  A little less than two years ago, K.D. wrote that "neutral is the new negative," meaning that if the person giving the reference is only sharing basic info, the candidate is not likely to be a star at your organization.  Further, like "awesome," "fine" has become overused and lost any authenticity when it comes to praise.  If a person says an applicant or performer is "fine," are you buying that he or she is of quality?  So, what did the group settle on as an authentic phrase of praise?  "You'll be pleased."  For example, to Atlanta Hawks superfan K.D., "You'll be pleased with 1st round draft pick from Michigan State, Adriean Payne."   

EVERYONE is looking to make an impression
Not only are players looking to become one of the chosen 450 to make an NBA roster, coaches are trying to move up the ranks, and refs are trying to make the big show.  But, even behind the scenes, moves are trying to be made.  You have the overenthusiastic announcer trying to show off his chops, "Dennis Horner from the Corner!" 
"P.J. Hairston with the flush!"  You also had the singer of the national anthem.  Who was he?  Not sure?  Did he do a competent job?  Yes.  Was he paid?  Probably not.  But, like the HR blogger being told that writing on a blog will give him/her valuable "exposure," I'm positive someone somewhere gave the singer advice that such a performance will lead to gigs down the road.

EVERYONE thinks they know talent
Rodney Hood, formerly of Duke, and now part of the Utah Jazz...not a fan.  Here's his stats for the 5 summer league games he played:

Game 1: 3-of-13 from the floor, 1-of-10 from 3, nine points
Game 2: 11-of-16 from the floor, 7-of-10 from 3, 29 points
Game 3: 1-of-9 from the floor, 0-of-2 from 3, three points
Game 4: 7-of-11 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, 19 points
Game 5: 2-of-8 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, seven points 

Needless to say, I pointed out his shortcomings rather loudly during his mediocre game 5 performance.  Who took exception?  The trio of 10-year-old boys in front of me who knew he was the best player on the court.

If the three takes regarding the 2014 Summer League are not enough, feel free to listen to the 27-minute HR Happy Hour podcast summing up the weekend here 

True Faith HR Replay: Why #HR Should Care About the NBA Summer League

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 14, 2014

On Thursday, I will join three of my colleagues behind the 8 Man Rotation in Las Vegas (we always leave one behind to keep it going in case something befalls the rest of us) for two to three days to catch some NBA Summer League action.
Why do we want to head to the desert in summer time to spend 8-10 hours a day in a gym watching exhibition basketball when those games don't matter?
Because, in actuality, the games DO matter....for those playing.   In his piece on Grantland, Steve McPherson describes what it is like for those involved:

These are guys who have worked their entire lives to be one of the 450 players in the top basketball league in the world. Guys who spent their whole lives being one of the best basketball players in any situation they ever found themselves in. And now it’s just the grind. They’re simply looking for their shot.
The ones hoping for that shot are almost universally flawed in one way or another: undersized or stuck between positions; not good enough at one specific thing to be useful to a team; dogged by problems we can’t even see, the kind of stuff many of us carry around.........
But for these players — who are among the top one or two percent of basketball players in the world — it’s their big chance. Not to become something they’re not, but to see their years of work turn them into what they’ve always been striving toward.

Those playing over these few days in Orlando and in Las Vegas are no different than the applicants to your organization.  They're polishing their resumes,  taking your work sample test, engaging in your role play or simulation, trying to impress you enough to take a chance on them.

For us watching, it will be passing entertainment...but for those involved, it will be all too real, with stakes that truly matter to them.