David Thorpe’s Tales from L.A.
The Terance Mann show, James Harden whispers, and a Scottie Barnes reunion
BY DAVID THORPE
Each summer, former UCLA player Rico Hines’ famed “Rico Runs,” as they’re popularly known, draw a diverse group of NBA players to UCLA’s campus for some 5-on-5. In some respects, the Rico Runs are like Summer League: Games might feature a few established NBA players alongside guys hoping to get a look into training camp. By far, though, there’s more talent at the Rico Runs on any given day because the league’s middle class gets somewhat represented.
The sidelines are stuffed with NBA coaches, executives, and insiders—along with several young players, some still in college, hoping to get pulled into a game if not enough NBA players show. At any time, there might be 20-or-more NBA players active in three games across three shrunken courts, side by side, separated by what felt like three inches. Evaluating anything is challenging, and mostly unfair, as the tight spacing means loose balls constantly interrupt games. Moreover, half the teams are composed of players who have never paired up before, and no one is coaching.
Yet, there was also incredible play, because let’s face it: As pickup games go, these three courts often feature more talent in August than anywhere on Earth. Even though many guys have been resting prior to the Rico Runs, in some cases guys go hard—like it’s a real game. So, there’s no shortage of big dunks, deep 3s, and ankle-breaking moves with so many gifted players.
Simply put, it’s both beautiful and hard to watch.
Terance Mann ran Los Angeles
One side court is the losers’ court, for teams who have yet to win. The winners from the losers’ court jump to the opposite side for a chance to make it to the center champions’ court, where a team stays until it loses. The outer courts lack 3-point lines, but the champions’ court squeezes in an NBA arc. It’s cosmetic, though: All shots are worth one point, and each game is played to seven buckets. To seal a win, a team must close the game with a made free throw; miss after the seventh bucket, and the game continues.
Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and Scottie Barnes were in the gym along with a gaggle of younger guys (some under a full contract, some on two-way deals) and Exhibit 10 hopefuls for Toronto. The Sixers had the same thing going, headlined by new acquisition Mo Bamba and returning big man Paul Reed—both could play a much bigger role this year in Philly—as well as undrafted rookie Terquavion Smith (on a two-way deal). One day there was also a team of Clippers led by Terance Mann that featured Kobe Brown, Brandon Boston, Jordan Miller, and Kenyon Martin Jr. (a regular, I was told, with or without a team). Independents included the Wizards’ Delon Wright and the retired Serge Ibaka, who is still an impressive player in this setting.
From what I saw over three days, though, Terance Mann was hands down the best player.
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