The delight of the Summer League Randos
There are end-of-bench concerts to be won. First-round rookies, of course, discover some things, but they operate with considerable leeway, slipping through any gears they might need in a regular season that they’re almost guaranteed to make. What could Jonathan Kuminga show the Warriors that would make them think of him differently? It’s been established time and time again that anything other than rank incompetence in the Summer League doesn’t mean much. Steve Kerr will see what Kuminga can do in the first two months, registering bench minutes against a relatively engaged NBA competition, and go from there. For overall pick # 7, Vegas is essentially a warm-up for training camp.
No, it’s the marginal players who are interesting. They’re trying to prove their mettle as the 11th and 12th man, which is a confusing task because the ideal 11th man is someone who can step in when your ninth man is injured and do things on the edge of the rotation: space it on the ground, give a big defensive effort, place screens, take some rebounds. Contribute, but also stay away. Anonymous people usually try to achieve this by getting close to 2006 Kobe Bryant, or at least Lou Williams striving for a sixth man of the year. They get something approaching open fire and it goes up. Coaches are struggling to lend a certain structure to the Summer League – Horns! back cuts! —but it’s hard to ask someone who’s playing for their career in the United States to fit into the flow of the offensive and do the little things that probably won’t get them a cut. place in the list. You can get away with Nick Collison Stuff only when you are literally Nick Collison, when the property loves you, and your contract is for another three years.
So here are the guys: Kenneth Faried and Gary Payton II and Brandon Knight. Here’s an assortment of second-round players, Duke Fires, and Midwestern college stars best known for football or their journalism program; and the temporarily stripped Europeans are pretty much sure to return to Turkey once this is over; and wow, Michael Beasley, who is hopefully doing well. On the horizon of hope, they strive to score a point or to mark the spirits. Jalen Suggs will be fine. Even if it’s done, it won’t be treated as such for a few years. Gary Payton’s kid’s NBA clock is about two minutes from midnight.
Can we talk about Latvian Bleach Blonde who became a meme on Monday night? Her name is Jānis Timma, and that means as much to me as it does to you, but her journey up to this point – which, again, I just looked up last night; I had never seen this man in my life, it’s fantastic.
He was drafted in 2013 by the Grizzlies with the very last pick of the night. At the time, he was playing in his native country for BK Ventspils, which finished second in the Latvian Basketball League and were champion of the Baltic League, a kind of EuroLeague-type competition involving, finally, clubs from Baltic basketball but also, because there are only three Baltic States, clubs from Sweden, Russia, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. (The Baltic League closed in 2018.) Timma won the LBL with Ventspils the following year before moving to VEF Riga, then Zenit Saint Petersburg, Baskonia – which oddly doesn’t seem like anything to do with the small subsidiary of the Athletic Bilbao of the same name — Olympiacos; and finally Khimki Moscow, where last year he scored seven points per game with 35.6% of shots with 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26 games. He performed alongside Alexey Shved, Greg Monroe, older brother of Dāvis Bertāns Dairis and Devin Booker (no link). Just to cram it all into the record: He was also once traded for Luke Ridnour.
When we talk about experience, we usually mean losing several times in the second round of the playoffs. Janis Timma a experience. You haven’t lived until you’ve played ball in the Basque Country, where all towns have five X’s and three G’s in their names and the two biggest sports are soccer and hiking. I can’t imagine what that is for a 6ft 8in Latvian soaked in tattoos, but I really like the effort.
Anyway, Timma was pretty good Monday night as the Warriors fell to his Orlando Magic in overtime. He scored 11 points, six boards and two blocks, flashed a few serious range. I can’t tell you what that means, although I would bet, given that Timma is 29 years old and has just had a bad year in Russia, her chances of success are extremely long. He’s in Vegas to show off, and he’s in Vegas to stand out and be speechless. He’s a star for one night in the middle of August. Dave Letterman once fell in love with Carson Daly’s late night program: “Have a show at 1:30 [a.m.] It’s almost exactly like not having a show. Around 2 a.m., Timma landed a few one-liners.
It’s as meaningful as it gets, at this time of year. A singular hike launched by forces beyond his control and choices that we can only guess, wearing the number 62, managing to drain a few blows on a limit competition before probably disappearing forever. If Summer League has any use, it’s that, a taste of the extreme weirdness that the NBA regular season doesn’t quite tolerate. Jānis Timma is too perfect and probably not talented enough for this world. But it will do so in a pinch. In fact, it will delight us positively.