Bumps and bruises of summer leagues

Posted: July 18, 2014

LAS VEGAS - The breakneck speed with which these Summer League games are played gives coaches and scouts an easier way to evaluate the talent on the floor. Everyone is trying to make that spectacular block. Every rebound is a survival of the fittest battle, and there is more diving on the floor for loose balls than you will see most of the season.

The style, while it sort of fits into the way 76ers coach Brett Brown wants his team to play, has been costly to the Sixers this summer. In the Orlando League, second-round pick K.J. McDaniels was starting to play well before he went down with an ankle sprain. Nerlens Noel also tweaked an ankle in Orlando, then did it again to the same ankle on Monday. Tuesday, toward the end of his 21-point performance, rookie Jordan McRae came from behind late in the game to try and block a layup attempt. He went down hard, luckily only sustaining what has been diagnosed as a sprained ankle.

McRae and McDaniels sat out last night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, as did Noel.

"I've tried to explain to these guys a lot the last couple of weeks that these guys are new to this, that they are getting evaluated on everything, not just if they can score 20 points a game," said Summer League coach Chad Iske. "It's, 'Can they pick stuff up fast?' Once you get into a regular season and these guys want to get signed to 10-days [contracts] or want to make a team, you don't wait around for it. It's a man's game once you come up here and you have to be responsible for what you have to know and you have to figure it out quickly. A lot of it is a good crash course for them. How they take care of their bodies, making sure they get extra treatment in, extra hydration, make sure they eat right, get plenty of sleep. All of that is important and they have to learn to understand it."

In the meantime, the bumps and bruises and sprains must be dealt with, even for those who have never been hurt before, like McRae.

"First time I've ever been hurt or ever had to sit out [part of] a game," he said yesterday after the team's morning shootaround. "I thought it was broken because I've never been hurt before so I didn't know how it felt. But I'm all right. Playing hard is something you have to do. It's the Summer League, everybody is out here playing hard. If I had to chase down someone like that again, I'd do it again."

Every player here would.

Christmas in Summer

Temple alum Dionte Christmas finally got his first real taste of the NBA last season when he played 31 games for the Phoenix Suns. It completed a journey that had him playing all over Europe and with many NBA teams in the summer. But without a guaranteed contract heading into this season, the work is never done. So for the umpteenth time, the soon-to-be 28-year-old is competing in an NBA Summer League.

Christmas is with the Phoenix entrant, trying to impress head coach Jeff Hornacek enough to warrant an invitation back. Though he proved himself a valuable asset last season with his hard work and willingness to do whatever was asked, Christmas knows nothing is a given in his profession.

"Actually when we had our exit meeting that was one of the first questions that I asked. I actually wanted them to let me play in Summer League," Christmas said. "I didn't play as much this past season and I thought it would be good for me. They got some draft picks, we still have a lot of young guys from last year and I thought it would be a great chance for me and a great chance for the team.

"For me, there's no security, not in this league at all. The coaches said it the best, that there are 60 new guys coming in every year. I don't have a 4-year deal, no guarantees. Mine was a 1-year deal with a team option for the second. So it's never security for me, as of right now. Even when I am secure I don't think anything will change. I'm just a hard-working guy and I'm very competitive and I just want to do what's best for the team. Any chance I get to help the Phoenix Suns out or to help myself out with whatever team I'm with, I'm down for it."

Whatever happens, Christmas knows he will be playing in a league somewhere in the world, whether it be overseas or in the greatest league there is. No matter the uniform he wears, his attitude and style of play won't change. It's the only way he knows. The Philly way.

"I'll get some time off in August, see what these guys [Phoenix] want to do with me, hopefully keep me," he said. "I'll head back to Philly for a little bit, but then it's time to get right back into it. If you have a dream that you want to reach, there's never any real off time."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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