A six inch sub sandwich with mealy tomatoes, lettuce that’s turned white and lost its crunch, sweaty turkey and American cheese (because provolone was no longer an option) paired with a miniature bottle of Aquafina water is ten dollars.
While waiting in line for the sandwich at four in the morning inside of a hotel food court, you can do some of the most enjoyable people watching you’ll ever see. Here’s a group of middle-aged women, re-living the reckless days of their past. Here’s a group of guys who were very likely very sure they wouldn’t be coming home as a group of guys with no women accompanying them a few hours ago. They are definitely going home just as a group of guys now.
And here’s a guy who has had too much to drink. His head is rested on a table, next to his friend who has also opted for the overpriced, under developed submarine sandwich. But now he’s picked his head up. His struggle to pull it off the table makes it look like his skull weighs a thousand pounds.
Now he’s up, and he’s stumbling towards a garbage can. Most of his vomit makes it in. But vomiting into a cafeteria garbage can – the kind of garbage can with the swinging door that separates us from the garbage – isn’t easy. His head is pushed in like a tray. He finishes and returns to the table. No one in the cafeteria has flinched. No attention has been paid to him. His friend keeps eating his sandwich, says nothing and barely looks his way when he returns to he table.
Realities in Las Vegas are very different. That’s not a fact limited to hotel cafeterias either. I walked down the strip at 1 AM last night and found a group gathered around 15-20 people doing the Nae Nae dance in front of New York New York. After that came the Dougie. Some of the dancers were impressive. Others were drunkards on their way to Vomitville with Jimmy McHeavyhead from before.
Las Vegas Summer League, while with less debauchery, is another example of the distorted reality the desert presents.
Yesterday’s recap reflected the hope and promise of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and that was sincere and should be cherished by Bucks fans hoping for better days. But, as I noted, their performances were dotted by very high highs. The lows weren’t crushingly low, but there was certainly an unevenness to each of their performance. Giannis had five turnovers, Parker four. Each had some rough moments defensively. There’s just a general carelessness in the air during Summer League basketball in general.
It’s that unevenness that the Bucks are trying to address. That isn’t going to be a Vegas Summer League project either. That’s going to be a calendar year 2014 and probably 2015 project.
“This whole thing is a process,” said Bucks summer league coach Sean Sweeney after Friday night’s game. “When you’ve got young guys, whether it’s in summer league or during the season, it’s a process. One of the things that goes with the process is, you can’t skip steps.”
Even if Milwaukee had the next great duo in the NBA, Sweeney would be right. Steps cannot be skipped. The Very Young Bucks have to learn how to play every play, not just every few plays. This is true regardless of how good a young talent a player has. Look back to the ultimate example of building through the draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder were a bad team in 2008-09.
Durant, the prodigy, was firmly on his way to being one of the NBA’s great players. He averaged over 25 points, made 42% of his threes and grabbed 6.5 rebounds per game. Westbrook, he of the nearly untamable athleticism, had a ways to go to figure out how to be an effective NBA player, but still averaged roughly 15 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. Their talent could not be questioned and when those two paired with Jeff Green, it was hard to argue that Oklahoma City had as talented a young trio as anyone in the NBA.
The Thunder was at one point 3-29. The young guys had to get more consistent. They had to learn how to work together and play every night. No NBA team with Durant and Westbrook now could ever fall more than maybe a half dozen games under .500. They’re far better players now than they were then, but even if they stalled out developmentally, it’s hard to imagine their talents from 2008-09 matched with their minds of 2013-14 wouldn’t be vastly better than that 3-29 team.
Young guys just have to learn.
“You wanna first play at a really high, hard, high intensity level,” Sweeney said about the consistency the Bucks were looking for. “Make multiple efforts, give everything on both sides of the ball. Then you want to execute at a high level, right? And if you do those two things consistently, you’ll probably be pretty good.”