Summer League Gallery: Vegas

Lakers.com spent four days in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, enough time to catch L.A.’s draft picks from the past two seasons with some extra credit along the way:

Lakers.com manager of new media Ty Nowell starts the trip by checking his camera at LAX so we can shoot video in Vegas. Nonetheless, I complain about the extra time we’ll have to wait at baggage claim upon landing.

This airport tray for laptops and personal belongings at the security line featured a french bulldog that is apparently owned by Mark Cuban. This is more meaningful because Ty made my own french bulldog into a desktop background (see below) with the Lakers 2011-12 schedule.

Lyla is a pretty big Lakers fan; she always likes to hear the voices of Bill Macdonald and Stu Lantz on the TV.

With Darius Morris warming up in the foreground for L.A.’s first game, GM Mitch Kupchak chats with his former boss Jerry West, who is sitting next to his son, Ryan (a scout for Kupchak). One of the best things about summer league, for reporters at least, is the easy and immediate access to front office executives.

The fountain show at the Bellagio is always aesthetically pleasing, and for many recalls the famous Oceans 11 scene. L.A.’s summer league crew wasn’t feeling similarly euphoric, however, after being blown out 91-50 in the opener by a talented Golden State squad.

The Lakers played better basketball in their second game, an 84-72 loss to Sacramento during which we focused on No. 55 pick Darius Johnson-Odom and his potential to help the senior squad on defense. While finished the story, we enlisted the help of a buddy to find the best burger/shakes place in Vegas, and he recommended Holstein’s at the Cosmopolitan. As you can see from Ty’s “Campfire Smores” shake (a warm up to “The Longhorn” burger [Beef Patty Topped With Texas Smoked Beef Brisket, Whiskey BBQ Sauce, Creamy Cole Slaw & Dill Pickle]), it was awesome.

The obvious highlight of the trip. No explanation necessary.

The hotel at which the Lakers stay in Vegas is close to the corner of Koval Lane and Flamingo Road, a.k.a. where 2pac was shot and killed in 1996. It’s still sobering driving by, just like it is driving through Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles, where Biggie Smalls was shot. Of course, both rappers remain in heavy rotation in NBA locker rooms.

L.A. suffered another blow out loss in their third contest, falling 106-56 in a disjointed effort against Miami, but on the bright side, this gave us some time to catch up with Kupchak on Steve Nash and more.

Assistant coach Chuck Person’s team bounced back with a better Game 4 against San Antonio despite a 92-81 loss. Darius Morris was terrific, making all nine of his field goal attempts en route to 24 points in just three quarters of action.

Before recording a podcast with us, hoops legend Bill Bertka – L.A.’s Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant – put in some serious work at the hotel fitness center. There’s nobody more fun to talk to about basketball than Bertka, who’s rightfully revered in the NBA universe.

There’s no basketball relevance to this Marilyn Manson picture in the Hard Rock Casino, unless you want to compare L.A.’s first and third games to the feelings it evokes. But the Lakers did manage to get some positivity from a team standpoint thanks to a 75-69 win over the Clippers in their fifth and final contest. Even though winning games isn’t the primary goal of the Lakers in summer league since they’re simply looking to develop players for the senior roster, getting the one at least kept songs like “Beautiful People” off iPhones on the plane ride home. You know, if any of the players had any Manson on their playlists … OK they likely don’t. But you get the idea.

Alas, we’ll be back in Vegas for an October 19 preseason game against Sacramento. Thanks for following along, folks.