Basketball / NBA

Summer League players help boost NBA abroad

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After an NBA Board of Governors meeting earlier this week, commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media, and that gathering in New York included an assessment of the rise in Japanese players during the ongoing NBA Summer League.

The commissioner also commented on the positive impact that having the Croatia and China national teams at the Summer League in Las Vegas can have for the sport.

“Could you speak about how this could be a great stepping-stone for aspiring players in Asia as well as for the league and the global expansion of the NBA?” a reporter asked on Tuesday.

“We’re very encouraged that — sort of in part in my response to the last question about that fact that we have two national teams here, and there are a lot of international players who are now using this as a platform to, in essence, try out for our teams,” Silver told reporters. “The fact that we have four Japanese players here, we have numerous international players representing probably well over 20 countries here, is really impactful for the league.”

First-round draft pick Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards, Yuta Watanabe (Memphis Grizzlies two-way player) and free agent hopefuls Yudai Baba (Dallas Mavericks) and Makoto Hiejima (New Orleans Pelicans) have appeared in Summer League games. Hachimura’s 25-point game against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday was the latest heaping of good news for Japan hoop fans.

And remember this: Never before have there been as many Japanese players competing for NBA teams.

“When you sit in the arena and watch these games, this is the closest thing there is to NBA competition,” Silver commented. “It’s sort of a hybrid of what our G League is.

“You have some top-notch talent out there on the floor together with players who are giving everything they have as a showcase to see not only if they can make an NBA team at the beginning of the season, but this is scouting also. Invariably, as teams need to replace players, injuries, other issues as the season goes on, this is where they have their notes, their video, from having seen them play against top-notch competition.

“So we think, again, there’s enormous global interest, interest in Japan as well from the Summer League. We think it’s a really wonderful thing.”