LAS VEGAS (AP) Summer play is a grind for the Miami Heat.
They like it that way.
Miami is one of eight teams doubling up on summer leagues this year, and when the biggest one in NBA history opens on Friday in Las Vegas – all 30 franchises are sending a club to the primary summer league for the first time – the Heat think that getting three games under their belt already will be a big help.
The first summer league hosted by the Sacramento Kings, the California Classic, came to a close Thursday. Golden State beat the Los Angeles Lakers 77-71, and Miami topped Sacramento 86-76.
Later Thursday, play in the Utah Jazz Summer League wraps up with Memphis facing San Antonio and Utah squaring off with Atlanta.
The Heat flew cross-country for their summer league training camp in Sacramento, doing so because playing in the second league ensures that the team will appear in at least eight summer games instead of the five that are guaranteed to teams who play only in Las Vegas.
And they saw players get better in the three Sacramento games, perhaps giving them – and the other seven clubs that played in the early leagues – a leg up on competition they’ll see in Vegas.
“I’m not interested in playing guys five minutes one game, five minutes the next game,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “I’d rather play a guy 15 minutes in one game and sit him in the next game so we can get a rhythm. And you can get better in the gym by yourself, but playing organized basketball is the best way to improve and these guys get three weeks of that.”
Starting Friday, every summer game left on the NBA schedule happens on two courts at UNLV. Unlike the Sacramento and Utah leagues, there’s a true playoff system in Las Vegas and a champion will be crowned on July 17.
For all eight teams that have played this week, it’s a quick turnaround to get ready for Las Vegas. Most of the eight teams get Friday off, the lone exception being Golden State – which meets the Los Angeles Clippers in the 10th and final game on the Las Vegas opening-day slate.
The main attraction on Day 1 in Las Vegas is the 9:30 p.m. EDT game between Phoenix and Dallas. The Suns have No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton set to make his debut, though it’s almost certain that Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic – the No. 3 pick and whose European pro season ended just days before the draft – will not play in his team’s summer opener.
Ayton will likely see a few NBA stars when he gets to Vegas. He’s already been blown away by a WNBA star – Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi.
When he met her, with Taurasi walking over to greet him as he went through a weight-room session, even the NBA’s No. 1 pick was star struck.
“She is the Michael Jordan of the WNBA,” Ayton said.
Doncic still hasn’t gotten the clearance to sign his contract and hasn’t participated in a live practice with Dallas’ summer club yet.
“We’re getting close to getting those things done, but we’re not there yet,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “But he will be in Vegas. He is going to continue to ramp up his workload.”
WARRIORS 77, LAKERS 71
Marcus Derrickson led the way for Golden State (3-0) with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Omari Johnson scored 15 and Gian Clavell added 10 for the Warriors, who gave Damian Jones and Jordan Bell the day off.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 14 points and handed out eight assists for the Lakers. Moe Wagner scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Nick King also scored 13 and Jeffrey Carroll added 11 for the Lakers.
HEAT 86, KINGS 76
Justin Jackson scored 26 for Sacramento (1-2). Harry Giles and Cam Reynolds each had 11 points for the Kings.