SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz Summer League began Monday night with four teams at EnergySolutions Arena as the second such event of the offseason, but actually more as an extension of the grandest of all, the Las Vegas session.
The return of Summer League to Salt Lake City, after several years away, is the result of the Jazz initially approaching Warren LeGarie, the executive director of the Las Vegas gathering, four years ago. The conversations not only led to LeGarie also running the Utah schedule, but also with Salt Lake City purposely linked to Sin City: the four teams here were also required to be there, the games here would be directly before the games there to help logistics and promotion, and the locations are only about a 75-minute flight.
“I think Utah’s always had a desire to continue with Summer League,” LeGarie said. “When our league [in Las Vegas] grew exponentially, it sort of got in the way of this one, which was unfortunate. … At this point, they’re here to stay. As long as its viable, it’ll continue.”
The Celtics, 76ers, Spurs and host Jazz are here for doubleheaders Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, before they head to Las Vegas for the start there Friday with a schedule that includes 23 NBA teams and a D-League Select squad. Meanwhile, the Orlando event — not run by LeGarie — began Saturday and continues through Friday with 10 teams, including two from the host Magic.
“We’ll never knock out Orlando because there’s a certain number of teams that prefer that atmosphere,” LeGarie said. “And as long as certain coaches and management have houses there, Orlando will continue. So we’re not looking to knock out Orlando, we’re trying to serve the basketball community. And clearly there is a strong basketball community [in Salt Lake City.]”
The difference is atmosphere in that the Orlando event is closed to the public and held in the Magic’s practice gym, while the Utah games are played in the home of the Jazz and the Las Vegas schedule in the arena that hosts UNLV and a smaller adjacent facility as well. The “certain coaches and management” is a dig at Doc Rivers, a Central Florida resident who pulled the Clippers out of Las Vegas and joined the Orlando summer league.
Rivers said he prefers Orlando as more of a businesslike setting.