I was watching a few minutes of one of the Vegas Summer League games, and for the most part, the stands were empty. Except for the times when a marquee name like O.J. Mayo or Eric Gordon is playing, most of the games have been like that.
Here’s my idea: Instead of a destination summer league (Vegas, Orlando), let’s have a small mini-season. Same roster rules apply, with rookies, no-names, and a few young NBA players rounding out each team. The mini-season can be over two weeks and can include only local teams. So the East, for example, could be New Jersey, New York, Boston, Philly and Washington. Or maybe you could break it up the same way the NBA divisions are broken up. The teams would travel between each other’s cities, but play in secondary local markets or smaller venues. In other words, the Celtics might play in the Hartford Civic Center, the Knicks at Long Island University, Philly at St. Joe’s, and so on. Knicks fans would definitely go check out Danilo Gallinari if they could without having to fly to Vegas, right? Same with Chicago and Derrick Rose, Milwaukee and Joe Alexander, and so on. And the fact that every summer league roster has a few local guys who are either from that team’s area or played college in the area would bring out fans as well.
The travel would give the rookies a quick prep course on life on the road in the NBA and fan interest would be greater. If your team played a summer league game near where you live, would you go watch?