Wolves: Summer league is place of dreams, or just a workout
Steve Aschburner, Star Tribune
July 15, 2005 WOLF0715

A word to the wise among those attending the NBA summer league games at Target Center over the next five days: It might not be a good idea to saunter up to the Indiana bench to welcome back Pacers forward Ron Artest.

It would be an especially bad idea to do that while wearing a Pistons cap and jersey.

Then again, given the hype of Artest's participation in these raggedy, rookie-driven July exhibitions -- his first game action since Nov. 19, night of the notorious fan/player brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills -- the Pacers bench might be cordoned off by yellow caution tape.

That a veteran player such as Artest would take part in games primarily staged for job seekers and talent sniffers adds a little zest to the activities today through Tuesday at Target Center. Trust us on this, though: Most of the names on the six summer-league rosters will be unfamiliar to most fans. Most will stay that way, too.

Indiana Pacers guard Ron ArtestMichael ConroyAssociated PressAs for Artest, controversial even before his role in the melee last fall and subsequent season-ending suspension, his bosses are hoping for a nice, low-key, rust-scraping, headline-avoiding performance.

"It's not about him getting 30 points," Indiana assistant coach Dan Burke told the Indianapolis Star earlier this week. "It's more about playing in the team framework and working on his game, improving his game and not getting hurt."

Each team and every player in these games brings an agenda.

For the Wolves, hosting the event for a second consecutive summer is a convenient, fairly cost-effective way to do some hands-on coaching and evaluate a lot of prospects on their roster -- and the others.

"There was an opening for another [summer league], and it's convenient for the teams in the Midwest to get here," said Kevin McHale, Wolves vice president of basketball operations. "I don't think we're making a 10-year commitment to this. We'll look at it again after this one."

For a player such as Jamison Brewer, who has spent four years mostly sitting for Indiana and New York, coming to Wolves camp was another stab at the dream. "People say I'm a vet, but I'm young, too," said Brewer, 24. "I learned a lot. I feel it's my time now, man. The main thing in the NBA as far as a point guard, you've got to be a leader and vocal and know how to run a team. I feel like I'm where I need to be."

For Bracey Wright, the Hoosiers shooting guard who slipped to No. 47 in the second round, this is a chance to prove people wrong. Wright has been working at point guard this week, trying to find the skills more suited to his size.

"Everybody who didn't draft me made a mistake," he said. "I said I was going to make any team that I went to. I bring too much to the table to just fall by the wayside. Come October, I'm going to be on a roster right here."

For Rashad McCants, the Wolves' lottery pick, there is no pressure to find work. His contract is guaranteed, just like his 2005-06 roster spot. But limping around with a groin pull was not part of the plan. "It's hard, but it's fun," he said. "You can talk to the guys and tell them what they can't see but you can from over there on the sidelines."

For John Lucas III, there is the added burden of a famous NBA name and the family business -- playing point guard.

"I would love to fill my father's shoes," said Lucas, who played at Baylor and Oklahoma State, then the Las Vegas summer league with Cleveland. "When I was younger, everybody tried to play their best game against me. That made me stronger mentally and better on the court."

For Ndudi Ebi, the 2003 first-round pick about to enter his third and final guaranteed season, this summer apparently is about defense.

"Defense, defense, defense," he said. "I'm going to wake up -- defense. I'm going to go to sleep -- defense. I'm going to dream defense. Defense, defense, defense. I'm all about defense. I'm not even worried about offense. I'm willing to die to play defense. Defense, defense, defense."

For Wolves coach Dwane Casey and his incomplete staff, this is a chance to develop a work style and to find court time that slips away quickly once the real season starts.

"Summer league is really for guys to improve," Casey said. "I don't get too up or too down about summer league. It is a laboratory for teaching and for guys to get better.

"Competition is good, but teaching is the real thing they're going to need."

Steve Aschburner is at saschburner@startribune.com.

Beautiful, just beautiful. Stir the pot...pot-stirrer. (guy really needs lesson from Kravits tho)