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BLAZERS WIN SUMMER LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
The Blazers emerged from 11 days in Las Vegas with the first-ever Summer League championship rings.
THE BLAZERS ARE YOUR 2022 @NBASummerLeague CHAMPS 🏆
Jul 17, 2022
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I've only covered one Summer League championship game. It was 2016, and I had made a return trip to Las Vegas for Team USA training camp ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The final game of Summer League happened to be on the same day that national team practices started, and it happened to be featuring the team I was covering at the time, the Bulls.
Chicago won the Summer League title that year on a Denzel Valentine buzzer-beater, and afterwards, Valentine gave one of the greatest quotes I've ever heard in almost 10 years covering the NBA.
Valentine was asked how big a deal the title was, given that it's only Summer League.
His response: "Anyone who says that has never won the Summer League championship."
The 2022 Portland Trail Blazers can now count themselves in that exclusive group following a Sunday afternoon 85-77 win over the Knicks that caused me to break my long-standing "No watching Summer League games unless I'm there in person" rule.
The Blazers become the second franchise, along with the Sacramento Kings, to have won the Summer League title twice since the NBA started crowning a champion in 2014. They're practically the Lakers and Celtics of Las Vegas.
The last time Portland won the summer title, in 2018, they followed it up that season by making the Western Conference Finals. That group included a freshly-drafted Anfernee Simons, who earlier this month signed a $100 million contract with the Blazers.
Portland emerged from 10 days in the desert victorious despite losing lottery pick Shaedon Sharpe within the first five minutes of their Summer League opener. It was the Jabari Walker and Trendon Watford show. Given the Blazers' lack of size beyond Jusuf Nurkic, Watford has a legitimate shot to be the backup center once the season starts. Walker impressed the organization enough to earn a real-deal NBA contract, not a two-way, after being selected No. 57 overall in the draft.
After the Bulls won that Summer League title in 2016, Fred Hoiberg took to wearing his "Victory in Vegas" t-shirt in practice the following season whenever he felt he needed to show us beat writers who was in charge. The Blazers can do him one better.
For the first time ever, the Summer League champions are being given real rings this year. The first time Walker scores 20 in a real NBA game this fall, don't be surprised if he wears the ring to the podium.
For the first time, rings will be handed out to the Summer League champions. We got an exclusive look on NBA Today. What do you think?
Jul 8, 2022
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Details of the parade route have yet to be announced.
In case you missed it…
A deep dive into all of the complicated dynamics of the Blazers' ownership situation. There will be a lot more coming on this topic in the next few months; I expect the team to be sold, likely to Phil Knight, within the year.
The latest episode of the podcast, with Erik García Gundersen, covering Summer League and Damian Lillard's contract extension.
The Blazers officially signed Walker to a standard NBA contract.
For paying subscribers, my column from Damian Lillard's press conference after signing his two-year extension last weekend.