No one told them, apparently, that it was actually the off-season.
The Rocky Mountain Revue—the annual NBA summer league taking place on the Salt Lake Community College campus—doesn’t exactly showcase the league’s finest players. It serves primarily as a place for rookies to learn their new team’s system, and for journeymen and undrafted free agents to show off their game in front of scouts. Most of them are younger than the arena’s time-out soundtrack—seriously, “Get Down Tonight”?—and even more of them won’t see the inside of an NBA arena unless they buy a ticket. The results of the games matter just as much as pre-season exhibitions—maybe even less, if that’s mathematically possible.
Still, the Jazz faithful fill the place when their team’s summer incarnation—one of the seven teams who choose to participate, either instead of or in addition to a league in Las Vegas earlier in July—takes the floor. They come to catch semi-established players like Brown and forward Paul Millsap work on their game. They come to get a preview of the new draftees like Fesenko and guard Morris Almond, cheering when Almond hits a three-pointer not just because of what it means in the game they’re watching but because of what it might portend for the franchise’s future. And they come to get a look at future stars on the other teams—even if many of them on the roster, like Atlanta’s Al Horford and Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas, never play a minute.
They got to see Durant on this night, though, and plenty of him. From the moment he hit the floor for warm-ups, the building was nearly as much about him as it was about the Jazz. In what was expected to be his only RMR appearance between playing in the Vegas league and heading off to practice with the U.S. National Team, the #2 overall draft pick played significant minutes. And despite often being out-played by teammate and fellow lottery pick Jeff Green, Durant led all scorers with 29 points, mostly as a result of the quickness that gets him to the free throw line. In this way, the Rocky Mountain Revue is the closest Utah sports equivalent to the Sundance Film Festival: an opportunity to be in proximity to people who soon will be far too famous to be anywhere near you.
It was more than a little strange to find the Revue so heavily promoting the Utah Flash, the new Orem-based NBA Development league franchise that will begin serving as the Jazz’s “minor league” affiliate. Much of the Revue’s appeal is the play of guys whose energy conveys a fight for their professional lives, rather than the NBA’s glut of guys whose “I’m a star, where’s my paycheck” mentality can be so grating. Come November, the Flash will be like a six-month Rocky Mountain Revue—minus the #2 overall draft pick, and minus the roar of fans for whom love of the Jazz never has an off-season. (Scott Renshaw)