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Magic elects to end summer league

Magic elects to end summer league

By John Lombardo, Staff Writer

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The long-standing NBA Orlando Pro Summer League will be shuttered in 2018 as an increasing number of NBA teams turn to Las Vegas as their offseason showcase.

The Orlando summer league has been operated by the Orlando Magic since 2002, with the exception of 2005 and 2011, and between six and 10 teams have participated. But with the explosive growth of the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, the Magic has decided to disband its summer event.

Eight teams played in the weeklong Orlando summer league this past July at Amway Center, including the Magic, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Miami Heat.

The Orlando Pro Summer League featured eight teams in 2017, including the Pacers and Heat.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Teams were notified earlier this month that the Magic is closing the league.

“We determined that we are best served in participating with the majority of the league in Las Vegas,” said Alex Martins, chief executive officer of the Magic. “The Las Vegas event has become a big event in the summer months and the NBA world is centered on it. We thought it was in our best interests to move there.”

NBA teams increasingly use the summer league as a developmental tool for rookies and first- and second-year players, while league executives increasingly see the event as a way to increase and extend fan interest in the NBA during the summer.

The closure of the Orlando Pro Summer League likely means that the Las Vegas summer league next year for the first time will have all 30 NBA teams participating. The Utah Jazz also operate a four-team summer league that last year featured the Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs. Those four teams last year also participated in the Las Vegas summer league, which is operated by Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall in partnership with the NBA.

A Jazz spokesman said that while no detailed disussions have been held, the team intends to host its summer league again in 2018, with the event returning to Vivint Smart Home Arena.

NBA officials would not comment on any summer league issues.

Last July, the 11-day Las Vegas summer league featured a record 24 NBA teams and 67 games. The event saw its gate increase 17 percent to a record 127,843 fans at games played at the Thomas & Mack Center and at Cox Pavilion. TV viewership of all 67 games broadcast on ESPN and NBA TV also reached an average of 227,000, up 29 percent from 2016. The rise of fan interest this past summer was driven by Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, who was one of the eight top-10 draft picks to play in the Vegas league.

The Vegas league’s higher profile and increased competition due to the participation of top NBA rookies is drawing teams like the Hornets that in the past played in Orlando.

“The exposure is great,” Hornets President Fred Whitfield said of the Vegas summer league. “Our plan is to go there next year. Between sold-out crowds, the TV exposure and the best players in the draft, it makes a lot of sense.”


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