His name is Billy and I still hate him. I spent no more than four days of my life with him, nine years ago. I don’t even know his last name, but thinking about him makes me want to grab a lighter and the nearest bucket of kerosene and drive straight to his house. I’m deranged, I know. And somewhat lucky I don’t know where Billy lives, because jail doesn’t seem like a very fun place.
Billy was the “point guard” on my team at Hoop Mountain basketball camp during the summer before my senior year of high school. I put quotation marks around the term point guard because he played the position like Allen Iverson did, except without anything resembling talent or athleticism.
If you’ve ever played at a high school basketball camp attended by college coaches interested in recruiting for their programs, you know how the pressure of impressing important people can make certain players certifiably insane.
The extra pass is little more than a myth at recruiting camps. Whoever grabs a defensive rebound is just as likely to dribble to the opposite three-point arc and launch a contested jumper as he is to throw a solid outlet pass and sprint his lane in transition. The quality of basketball decreases significantly because naive high school players think the path to a scholarship includes launching as many ill-advised jump shots as possible. I’m (thankfully) far enough removed from camp basketball that I’ve lost count of the number of times I contemplated murdering a camp teammate.
Billy was at the top of my hit list.
“YOU’RE NOT IMPRESSING ANYBODY OUT HERE BY BRICKING 27-FOOTERS, YOU SLOW-FOOTED, 5-FOOT-7 ASSHOLE!!!!” I may or may not have shouted at him on multiple occasions.
NBA Summer League hoops can provide many of the same challenges. Summer leaguers aren’t looking to impress college coaches, but everyone who participates in summer league has something for which to fight. Some are looking for a roster spot. Others, a training camp invite. The more established players and high draft picks are hoping to prove themselves worthy of rotation minutes and maybe even a starting spot once the regular season arrives. Nobody can afford to be complacent at summer league because players who can afford complacency spend their summers elsewhere.
Somehow, the Summer Celtics have managed to focus on playing basketball the right way. They are 6-1, with their eighth contest coming at 6:30 p.m. ET this evening against the Sacramento Kings (JIMMER!!). Only three Celtics summer leaguers (JaJuan Johnson, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo) possess guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season, and summer league team success is as valuable as a bounced check. Still, the Summer Celtics make the extra pass and share the basketball. They play like they are interested in securing the top seed in an imaginary postseason.
“We had Orlando and coming to Vegas, I think that gave us kind of like an edge, because we had chemistry already,” Kris Joseph said on Monday, according to ESPN Boston. “We played a whole week together, so it’s great. We came out here, all we’re trying to do is win basketball games and we’ve been able to do that so far.
“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to play basketball. If you start thinking [about securing a roster spot] you can start to get a little overanxious. I’m just trying to play ball the way I know how, the way I’ve been doing it, and that’s what it’s been so far, just playing well, playing within myself and the team concept.”
Joseph doesn’t have a guaranteed contract. Neither does Moore, though his could become guaranteed by Sunday. Dionte Christmas, to my knowledge, doesn’t even have a training camp invite yet. Johnson, Sullinger and Melo are fighting for regular season minutes. Jamar Smith, Jonathan Gibson, Stephane Lasme, Larry Owens and Craig Brackins are all fringe players hoping for another chance at a roster spot, or maybe a better overseas gig. Sean Williams, like Moore, has a non-guaranteed contract of which he is trying to prove worthy.
For so many reasons, this team could resort to the high school camp, anything-goes mentality. Instead, it has focused on winning games. The Celtics have assembled a roster of players who realize the team isn’t looking for stars. Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers want role players who can defend, share the ball and preferably hit shots when the opportunity arises. They want winners, not necessarily explosive scorers — though that would help, too.
I’ve enjoyed watching the Summer Celtics. Partially, that enjoyment stems from there being no other basketball to watch during the summer. I love the summer for beaches and tans and girls who look damn cute in tiny shorts, but watching SportsCenter in July can be enough to make me want to stick nine-inch nails through each one of my eyelids. There’s only so much baseball a sane man can swallow. But even if I weren’t so basketball-starved, the Summer Celtics are enjoyable. Moore is rock steady, Christmas continues his surprise run at making an NBA roster, Joseph has established himself as a legitimate, well-rounded talent, Sullinger and Melo have done nothing to dim our hopes, and the remainder of the Celtics play hard on a consistent basis. It’s like watching the 2012 Celtics all over again, except they’re considerably less talented and don’t have any championship hopes to use for motivation.
The motivators at summer league are different — improvement, impressions, and maybe, for the lucky ones, a chance to make an NBA roster. The Summer Celtics have channeled their hopes and aspirations into team play, which is the best way to impress Ainge, Rivers or any of the other evaluators present at the summer league games.
If only Billy had channeled his emotions in the same mature manner. I know it’s crazy to hate someone I barely even knew for nine years, but I wish you could have seen that selfish bastard’s shot selection.