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Summer League Day 6: Positive Externalities

The Wolves were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Summer League Tournament but that is only one side of the story.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — The story of the day at Summer League is never the game itself. The externalities are what make this event. Whether it is Zach Lowe standing within spitting distance of Vlade Divac, Jason Kidd eating a hot dog, or Adrian Wojnarowski wearing an ESPN backpack, my eyes are constantly drawn away from the internal, the game itself, and back to the external, the basketball world as a whole.

The Wolves games have actually been some of the most entertaining but that entertainment pales in comparison to the joy of peering along the sidelines of Thomas and Mack Arena here in Las Vegas. Today, the sideline featured a noticeably tuckered out Tom Thibodeau who let out numerous yawns while sitting in La-Z-Boy mode—legs reclined and hands folded on top of his belly. Thibs was just chilling watching hoops. And really, that’s what Summer League is: chill, with a side of seriousness.

This afternoon, the Wolves were eliminated from the Summer League Tournament by the Golden State Warriors 77-69, but the relaxed sentiment abides. Even with the team being removed from contention, the utility of this event remains the same for the Wolves. The brass of the organization will keep watching unsigned players (whose teams are not eliminated) and they will continue to have sneaky meetings in the depths of a place called “The Redd Room” here at Thomas and Mack.

The Redd Room profiles as a fancy high school lunch room. Much like my previous understanding of lunchroom experiences, there is self-service style food to be had and no shortage of social cliques. But that isn’t to say the cliques are exclusive. Commingling is ever present, I’ve never seen so many handshakes/daps. Each clique’s big wig rolls from one end of the room to the other saying “what’s up” to the other pillars of the basketball world. For the Wolves, their group — emblazoned with polos that feature the new logo — greets former Wolf point guard Darrick Martin, who now coaches the Reno Bighorns, with a smile and quick conversation before both sides move on to another chat. Every team has their own Darrick Martin with tons of overlap leading to something that looks like an extended family here in Vegas.

It is pretty clear that the value of this event is first and foremost networking. Networking that supersedes the value of any on-court performance. At this point, game four of Summer League, the Wolves roster is well understood. Not much left to be imagined.

We already knew C.J. Williams was probably the Wolves best player before he led the team in scoring today with 19 points. But his scoring did nothing to change the idea that Williams is just a G-League player effectively using a big brother skill set at 27 years-old against his opponents who are up to 8 eight years his junior.

We knew Perry Ellis was a plodding big man who would struggle at the next level. Today, he may have banged his way to post production but the reality is that this is all he is, even if he has improved his jumper.

Marcus Paige is too small to play in the NBA. It was known that Paige won’t be able to function in an NBA flush with athletic seven-footers. And that was on display today as Paige cooled off shooting 1 for 9 on two-point field goals. This week did nothing to change the reality of Paige being on the outside of the NBA looking in.

While the games are pretty fun to watch, we know that’s all they are, games. None of these players will ever be anything important to the Wolves.

Through this, we will quickly forget names like Deonte Burton and Raphiael Putney but we should not forget the Summer League as a whole. Summer League was important in a chill sort of way. The games may have seemed pointless but the externalities were a joy. Another Summer League for the Wolves that was full of positives both philosophical, on the sidelines, and economical, in The Redd Room.