The Grizzlies’ Summer League banner doesn’t matter. But Brandon Clarke does

NBA: Summer League-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

We have that and more in Wednesday’s NBA newsletter.

Congratulations to the Memphis Summer Grizzlies for winning Las Vegas Summer League! It doesn’t matter. Here’s some evidence, if you need it.

But Brandon Clarke’s emergence in Summer League as the event’s best player? The specter of him teaming with Jaren Jackson, Jr. for the next six or 10 years? The fact that he played so well without No. 2 pick Ja Morant pulling attention off of him? That does matter.

Clarke was one of the older players in the 2019 NBA Draft at age 22, and that’s worth noting. But this is not an issue of a 22-year-old with loads of high-level experience just outsmarting his more raw opponents. Clarke showed special tools in Vegas in addition to the smarts gained from experience at San Jose State and Gonzaga.

Some players dominate Summer League and fall off the map. But even those we associate with jokes about former Summer League MVPs — Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson come to mind — end up having productive, quality careers. (Has any player in the last two decades had a stranger career than Nate-Rob?)

Clarke sure looks like he has staying power. So do a couple of non-Zion Pelicans. Ricky O’Donnell’s top 11 rookies from Summer League runs down the full list of youngsters to get excited about after Vegas. So while the banner doesn’t mean much for the Summer Grizz, Clarke showing he belongs in the NBA means more than enough.

To Normalcy

Great piece by Candace Buckner in the Washington Post on how now that women are more common on NBA sidelines, the goal is make it all seem normal. This is important, and I do think we sometimes undercut it by focusing on firsts, on breakthroughs. The news hook is always the first of something — the first women to be a full-time assistant head coach, the first non-WNBA player to be a coach on an NBA staff, the first woman in basketball operations in an NBA front office.

We’ll spend a lot of attention when an NBA team eventually hires the first woman as head coach, as we should. But progress isn’t all tied up in that. Progress is in the ninth, 10th, 11th assistant, the second, third, fourth head coach, the fifth, sixth, seventh front office official. Familiarity breeds acceptance, and while there hasn’t been much negative reaction within the sport (at least visible to us) every step toward equal opportunity will get us closer to the sought after boring future of normalcy.


Billy Witz in the New York Times on all the attention on Bronny James.

Matt Ellentuck explains why he believes the Washington Mystics and Las Vegas Aces are cursed.

A tribute to Jerry Sloan before he’s gone.

Scott Cacciola embedded with the Croatian national team at Summer League.

A’ja Wilson x Liz Cambage SLAM cover story.

Chris Murch on the sky-high pressure on the Clippers to win a championship.

How well are players using their growing power?

How Summer League became the Comic-Con of basketball thanks to the amazing retro jerseys on display.

The Wizards’ new local broadcast crew involves both Caron Butler and Drew Gooden.

Dan Devine on Andre Iguodala’s future.

Anthony Davis will be on the cover of 2K.

538’s retooled but not complete projections for next season really like the Rockets and Sixers.

Adam Mares on how the Nuggets are the real Trust The Process team.

Giannis learns how to Milly in the Year of Our Lord 2019.

And finally: pay up, Shaq.

Be excellent to each other.

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