If I’ve learned one thing from this year’s summer league, it’s that there isn’t much difference between the guys who make it and the ones who don’t. Just ask Matt Janning.
The spindly, 6’4,” baby-faced killer out of Northeastern earned himself a big, fat DNP-CD yesterday. So how did he respond?
By utterly dominating today’s 91-72 Celtics win, of course, scoring just about every way possible and snatching rebounds like he was a center. Janning is bad enough to be benched for an entire game, but good enough to dominate a court full of players who are very nearly NBA-caliber. Janning’s performance today was the NBA summer league at its finest; the league provides an opportunity for overlooked collegians and grizzled vagabonds to show their worth. One day, Janning probably went home from the C’s game crying. The next, he just might have earned himself an invite to some team’s training camp.
If you were to watch the game, you would have been certain that the one guard under contract to the Celtics was Janning — Oliver Lafayette spent the whole game camouflaged, completely blending into the background. While Janning was busy creating the highlight of his life, Lafayette and Tony Gaffney — two other player under contract with the C’s — performed like average players… at best. They both did some good things, don’t get me wrong — Lafayette is smooth going to the hoop and Gaffney continued to impress defensively — but this was Janning’s game.
Janning was supposed to head to Las Vegas to play for the Phoenix Suns’ summer league team. Now he’ll probably stay in Orlando; he’s been asked by the Celtics to stick around. Apparently, they didn’t mind his 20-point, 8-rebound performance. And it wasn’t just the stats that were impressive; it was the way Janning got them. He hit tough shots from outside. He handled the ball nicely. He got past defenders and into the lane, finishing at the rim. He dunked. Wait, he dunked? He looks like Gordon Hayward’s little brother! Yes, he dunked, as surprising as it was. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Janning had a guaranteed deal for next year.
And that’s what summer league has taught me. The gap between players who make it and those who don’t isn’t an ocean, and it isn’t a river — it’s more like the creek in my neighbor’s backyard. If that. One more DNP-CD for Matt Janning and he would have been headed to Las Vegas tonight, sulking from a miserable experience in Orlando, wondering if he was good enough to compete at the next level.
Instead, he’s flying high after what was probably the best experience of his life. Janning was given an opportunity today and seized it like a drowning person latches on to a buoey. A kid from Northeastern, busting some ass in a Boston Celtics uniform. That’s something special, isn’t it?
And just imagine: He wasn’t good enough to play yesterday. He was this close to being completely overlooked by the Celtics.
But not anymore. Today was Matt Janning’s day to put his name on the map. And I assure you, NBA GMs took notice.