It was the end of the fourth quarter of a blowout Tuesday when Magic coach James Borrego called a timeout. There was nothing much to play for. The game had long been decided as the Heat comfortably held a double-digit advantage.
This though was a learning moment for a young team. A chance to teach something to a number of players who would be suiting up in the regular jerseys when the regular season begins.
There was also a little matter of the standings.
Typically overlooked in the Summer League, the results mean something now. In Orlando and Las Vegas, the Summer League will crown a champion for the first time. In Orlando, the league is determining standings by following an old ABA style of awarding points to the team that wins each quarter and three points to the team that wins the game.
That has created several interesting scenarios like the one that occurred at the end of Tuesday's Magic-Heat game.
"It's great, we play every quarter like it's the end of the game," Borrego said. "We try to win every quarter. It's a focus for us just like it is the fourth quarter. We pay attention to it. It gives our guys a focus each quarter to try to win it. We weren't successful tonight, but it does help us treat it like a real game, a fourth quarter game every quarter."
That extra repetition is certainly in line with what Summer League is really about. And even in blowouts, there are still teachable moments for young guys and a reason to play hard to the final whistle. If this is all about learning, then the Summer League's competitive element has been a success.
Of course, it is also good to get those competitive juices flowing. That also tends to help teams get the best out of players.
"It was great, it was fun to see the guys trying to win that last point,"Jazz coach Sydney Lowe said. "That's what's interesting. People were wondering about the points system in the summer league and I told them it's going to be fun. It's going to be interesting. It was fun to watch these guys get excited about making a basket at the end or getting a stop at the end. It was fun to watch."
There is certainly a point of pride ongoing for these players. After the Magic became the first team to lose all seven points in a single game against the Heat, Maurice Harkless called it "embarrassing." Jeremy Lamb, who scored 32 points Wednesday in a win over Philadelphia, said he had not thought about it much but winning is always important and a player's competitivenes starts to kick in when the score gets tight or something is on the line.
That might very well have been the point of this whole system.
There are still overarching goals that a team has to accomplish during this time.That is getting young players an opportunity to play more and gain confidence, instilling the basic foundations of the team's culture and plays and getting a hard look at the team's draft picks.
Winning is a nice reward, but it is not necessarily the end goal.
"It's not about the championship, it's not about the final day," Thunder coach Rex Kalamian said. "For us, it's more about the consistency of how we play, just trying to put our rules in, trying to emphasize certain things defensively and offensively, trying to create habits.
"We know that there will be a lot bigger games ahead. It's nice to win, don't get me wrong. We want to win every time we step on the floor. The outcome of winning and losing is way down the list compared to: Did we execute offensively and defensively? Did we learn today? Did we communicate with each other? And did we improve as a team and an organization? If we do that and we can say yes to all those checkpoint, then we are in good shape."
With the Thunder and Rockets set to meet in Friday's championship game (12 p.m. NBATV) by virtue of their accumulation of points and perfect record, it is safe to say that both teams have achieved both their goals of getting players experience and exposure and winning.
For the players, these points mean something, even if it is just the point of basic competitiveness and building the feeling of winning.
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