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For Some NBA Veterans, Summer League is Last Chance U

Surrounded by rookies and young guns in Las Vegas, a handful of well-known NBA names are looking to give it one more go.

The nearly two-week-long event that is NBA Summer League is mainly staged to showcase basketball’s top rookies and rising second-year players. But it’s also a venue for veteran NBA players to show they can still play the game.

For some of these vets, hooping at Vegas Summer League represents their final shot at playing professional basketball. To continue living out their lifelong dreams a while longer. If you’ve ever watched Netflix’s Last Chance U docuseries, the dynamic you’re looking at is a familiar one.

With that in mind, Boardroom spoke with four NBA veterans who have combined have made more than $200 million on the court during their careers about why they’re in Vegas this summer, what they still have to prove, and why they would rather compete for an NBA team’s final roster spot when they can shine overseas.

Michael Beasley
SF/PF, Portland Trail Blazers

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, “B-Easy” has played 11 NBA seasons for seven different teams. He hasn’t played in a regular season contest in the league since logging 26 games for the Lakers in 2018-19, however, and figures to be able to make more money overseas in China than he would for the veteran minimum in the Association.

The 6-foot-9 forward has the same cheery, outgoing demeanor as ever, and he sees Vegas about the opportunity to get better, show he’s still in shape, mentor some younger players, and show fans that he still loves the game.

“I feel like you can’t put a price on your dreams,” Beasley told Boardroom. “So the NBA is a lot of our dreams. I still have some things I wanna accomplish, personally, team-wise.”

While the Chinese Basketball Association offers more money and a larger role, COVID-19 has impacted his thinking on playing so far from his family.

“Everybody’s got different journeys, different perspectives on life. My perspective is through the lens of my kids,” the former member of the Heat, Timberwolves, Suns, Rockets, Bucks, Knicks, and Lakers said. “So as much as I can stay home, I will. I would rather take a pay cut to see my kids grow up. In China, the time difference is crazy. I love China, don’t get me wrong, but I love my kids more.”

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Jordan Bell
PF, Atlanta Hawks

  • Age: 26
  • Drafted: No. 37 overall by the Bulls, 2017
  • Career on-court earnings: $4,874,463

Bell started 13 games at center in his rookie season out of Oregon, helping the Golden State Warriors win the 2017-18 NBA title. In two years with the Dubs, the team was 24-8 when he played in the postseason. But he’s only played 35 games since that two-year run, including stints with the Wizards, Timberwolves and a second stint with the Warriors.

Just like Beasley, playing at Summer League is all about opportunity. He’s playing not just for the Hawks, but for all 30 teams, coaching staffs and general managers in attendance watching the action. And while he could probably make more money overseas, the 6-foot-8 Bell isn’t ready to make that transition just yet.

“The NBA is about what have you done for me lately,” he told Boardroom. “With COVID and everything else, people haven’t seen me in a while. So it’s about seeing me play hard and doing whatever it takes to win.”

Those two attributes — playing hard and being a winner — are what Bell believes make him stand out from the pack and are most likely to bring him back to a regular role on an NBA roster.

“People want someone to do something and do it consistently,” the 26-year-old said. “Those are things  I bring that you can’t really teach.”

Kenneth Faried
PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers

  • Age: 31
  • Drafted: No. 22 overall by the Nuggets, 2011
  • Career on-court earnings: $56,855,817

The Manimal averaged more than 11 points and eight rebounds per game over eight NBA seasons, most notably with the Denver Nuggets. After spending 2018-19 with the Rockets and Nets, Faried went to China before COVID hit.

Now, he’s out to prove that he still has the skills and capability to play at the world’s highest level after two years out of the league.

“Not a lot of people got to see me, so it kind of stopped a lot of things and the progress of the way I was going to get back into the NBA,” Faried told Boardroom. “So I just decided, hey, let me show I can still play. And what better place to show it than Summer League? I still have the same motor. I’m still the same person, but with a bit more of the intangibles.”

After playing one month in China, Faried felt like he shouldn’t really be there because of the pandemic. But in December, prior to the start of last NBA season, there wasn’t really an available training camp to help him latch onto a team.

But now, the 2011-12 All-Rookie selection feels it’s the right time to show everyone he’s still got it.

“I could give you whatever you need that night, especially defensively and rebounding, because that’s who I am,” Faried said. “I love to play the game physical, love to be in the paint. The money isn’t what I’m worried about. I don’t care about the money. I care about basketball. I want to play in the NBA.”

Brandon Knight
PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets

  • Age: 29
  • Drafted: No. 8 overall by the Pistons, 2011
  • Career on-court earnings: $79,134,209

After going to Detroit in 2011 as a top-10 Lottery pick and later relocating to the Bucks, a productive run led to a trade to Phoenix, where Brandon Knight signed a five-year, $70 million contract. Knee issues have hurt the Kentucky Wildcat over the last couple of seasons, however, where he bounced around Cleveland, Houston, and Detroit.

But with career averages of 14 points and four assists per game, Knight is ready to prove he can still be an NBA contributor.

The Nets showed interest in him before last season, he told Boardroom, asking him specific questions about his injury situation. He was handed the chance to play at Summer League with Brooklyn and took the opportunity.

“Any time you get a chance to play, it’s a blessing,” Knight said. “I was in a situation where I couldn’t walk for months because of surgery. So, who am I to say ‘oh, I’m not going to play Summer League?’ I don’t care how I look to other people. For me, it’s a stage to be around basketball. I love basketball and the Nets are a great organization.”

Knight is another candidate to make more money and see more of the ball overseas. But that’s not part of his thinking as he puts in work in Vegas.

“Not to be funny, but I don’t need to play basketball for money,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have made good money in my career, but it’s never been about money for me.”

“I can go anywhere and make more money. I tell people all the time, I’ll play for the Nets for free; any team for free. I like being around the game. I’ve made money in my career. If money is your focus, you’ll never be happy. So I do it because I love it. And when you love it, money follows after that.”

About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.