When I first started writing about the Hornets in April 2007, it was little more than uninformed, inconsistent scribbling on a random Wordpress page. I'd always been a Hornets fan and I'd always enjoyed writing, but both of those things were enjoyable diversions from my (vastly) different academic and professional pursuits.
Even when I joined SBNation in 2008, even when ESPN Radio had me on to discuss Game 7 of the Spurs series, even when I interviewed Marcus Thornton over the phone, the "finish writing, get back to real life" feeling never really went away. So, suffice it to say, the events of this past weekend were more than a little surreal for me.
When we (Brain and myself) arrived in Vegas, we sat around in the 110 degree heat for about an hour, waiting for SBN's Seth Pollack to finish up with the game he was covering so I could get my credential. I wasn't prepared for how massive a gathering summer league really is. On the way up, I'd studied the Hornets' summer league roster, attempting to memorize Armon Bassett's college or Sean Sonderleiter's face so I wouldn't be caught off guard. I knew the John Walls and Marcus Thorntons would be there, but for the most part, I expected an ocean of obscurity. Instead, summer league turned out to be the July destination of everyone, everywhere, and that's only a slight exaggeration. As we sat outside, melting, there went Anthony Randolph, there went Alvin Gentry, and oh look, there was Monty Williams.
Over the next three days, we'd see Mark Cuban, George Karl, John Thompson, Nate McMillan, Don Nelson, Adam Silver, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Carlisle, Henry Bibby, Sam Cassell, ESPN's David Thorpe, TNT's David Aldridge, DraftExpress' Jon Givony... that's just a small sampling of people I can remember off the top of my head. And it's not just that a ton of people were there; the insanely accessible nature of Summer League is what stands out most. Imagine all the NBA people you can think of, gathered in one place, willing (for the most part) to talk to anyone that comes up to them. It truly is the mecca of basketball.
Funnier still is how quickly the shock wears off. When John Wall rocketed a pass that took out a cameraman a foot away from me on Day 3, it barely registered (though I did begin to fear for my laptop around turnover #5). Simply seeing Monty Williams late Friday afternoon made the trip feel complete. Sunday evening, he was saying hi to me, (miraculously) remembering my name, and we all laughed as Kevin Arnovitz made fun of his pants.
On Friday night, we watched New Orleans play Golden State; sitting courtside with a laptop is, surprisingly, not a great way to watch basketball. Between random trips to Wikipedia and Basketball Reference, I probably watched 5% of what actually happened on the floor. So my post game questions for Collison and Thornton were way more general and box-score based than I would have liked them to be.
But I also got a chance to talk with Monty Williams, off the record, after most of the media (Jim Eichenhofer from Hornets.com and John Reid from the Times Pic were there) had left. We talked about the offensive and defensive strategies he wants to implement this season, the rookies, the birth of his fifth child... Overall, let me just say, Monty is an awesome, awesome guy. Maybe that's not a professional thing to write now that I've been credentialed, etc. But it's an observation I'll make nonetheless. I'd read so much about him being a likable guy, and I can absolutely relate to that now. He's thoughtful, and there's just an immense steadiness about him. Perhaps it's irrational- we still need to see how the x's and o's and W's and L's shake out- but I feel good about Chris Paul's New Orleans future with Monty Williams at the helm.
On Sunday evening, I had a chance to talk with the rookies, Brackins and Pondexter. Neither played extremely well over the first two games, but they're both personable guys and seem to understand the hard work they'll need to put in to become NBA contributors. I'll post those interviews as soon as I can.
I'd be remiss to end this post without mentioning all the awesome media and writers I met. Dennis Rogers, head of Hornets PR, Ridiculous Scott from RU, Rob Mahoney from the Two Man Game, Spencer Hall from Salt City Hoops, John Krolik from Cavs the Blog, Rey from the No Look Pass, Seth Pollack- the SBNBA manager, Mike Prada from Bullets Forever and SBN editor, Sam Amick from AOL Fanhouse, Adena Andrews from NBA.com, Marc Spears from Yahoo! Sports, Kurt Helin from Forum Blue and Gold are a few that immediately come to mind. And Posting and Toasting's Seth Rosenthal achieves the rare feat of being funnier in real life than an already funny online persona.
An amazing, amazing weekend. Just a couple days after the LeBron Decision Special made us all sick, the young talent of summer league, the fans that trekked in from all over the country to watch Jeremy Lin, the hours upon hours upon hours of basketball, and the humility of a guy like Monty Williams quickly reminded me why I started this blog in the first place. Go Hornets.