CRAWFORD | Bringing NBA summer league to Louisville is worth a shot
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I don’t think an NBA franchise is coming to Louisville anytime soon. With the Milwaukee Bucks potentially shopping a move, Louisville isn’t apparently even in the conversation. That’s reserved for Las Vegas and Seattle.
So be it.
Here’s what Louisville should be in the conversation for — at least for now.
Summer league basketball.
No market in the country watched the NBA Draft in greater numbers on television than Louisville. No market in the country watches the NCAA Tournament with bigger ratings than Louisville.
Last October, this city packed 20,074 fans into an exhibition game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Miami Heat at the KFC Yum! Center.
After touring the arena, New Orleans coach Monte Williams told WDRB’s Rick Bozich, “It’s big. I didn’t expect the size. The locker rooms are really nice. It seems like a place where you’d have a professional basketball team. It’s a great facility.”
After the game, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said: “What a great basketball town. Our guys enjoyed playing in front of the fans.”
Tell us something we don’t know.
The NBA has three summer leagues going. One in Orlando, another in Utah and a third that will start in Las Vegas on Friday. They aren’t big productions.
One week and 10 teams in Orlando. Four days and four teams in Salt Lake. Twelve teams and 11 days in Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, a handful of folks in the Magic’s practice gym watched former University of Louisville guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith go head-to-head. Siva was hot early (he finished with 7 points and 7 assists). Russ Smith, after making one beautiful pass after another in the first half only to see teammates miss shots, went full-on Russdiculous in the second. He wound up making the game-winner in a sudden-death second overtime — after beating Siva for a jump ball — to finish with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
The Harrison Twins played against each other on Sunday in Orlando, and Dakari Johnson was in action. Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear and James Young are playing out in Salt Lake, along with, presumably, Trey Lyles. Montrezl Harrell will get it going Friday in Las Vegas.
There’s room for one more summer league here in the Eastern U.S. And there’s no city in better position to host it than Louisville. We have an NBA-caliber arena sitting downtown doing nothing.
Look, Orlando has some of the nation’s most famous theme parks. Las Vegas has, well, Las Vegas. There’s a ton of stuff to do in those places in the summer.
You know what we’ve been doing in Louisville this week? We’ve been watching NBA Summer League games, that’s what.
There are a ton of obstacles barring the NBA from coming to Louisville. Maybe those will be addressed over time.
But one thing that shouldn’t take time is an effort to bring summer league games to our downtown arena. We have a sports commission, we have city leaders, we have the most rabid basketball fan base of any larger city in America.
We have a Sports Commission. We have backers of basketball in Louisville. We have an Arena Authority. We have local government that is supportive of efforts to bring business to town.
It’s too natural a fit not to pursue.
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