SACRAMENTO — The California Classic sounds like a horse race at Golden Gate Fields, or perhaps a cocktail featuring fresh grapefruit juice and agave nectar. Who knows, it may be both of those things. But it was also an NBA Summer League preliminary event, with the four teams from California — the Warriors, Lakers, Kings and, um, Miami Heat (just roll with it) — playing round-robin games at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
NBA Summer League is a strange production. It’s not as big-time as MLB spring training or the NFL preseason, because established stars don’t participate at all. The Warriors’ best players in a 77-71 win against the Lakers on Thursday afternoon were center Marcus Derrickson (24 points, 11 rebounds), guard Omari Johnson (15 points on 6-of-10 shooting) and small forward J.P. Tokoto (nine rebounds off the bench). If you have heard of them, give yourself credit. If you think any one of them will be on the Golden State roster in December, give yourself a karate chop to the neck.
And yet you can’t call Summer League worthless, because careers are launched here. Last year’s scoring leader was Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, a premonition of his dynamic rookie season. The Warriors’ Jordan Bell, another outstanding 2017-18 rookie, grabbed 16 rebounds in a game last summer. Young Stephen Curry had a five-steal game in 2009, followed by an eight-assist game the next day. Little Draymond Green set the Warriors’ Summer League record with 52 total rebounds in 2013.
“You got a mix of high-level college guys that are coming out, as well as some lottery picks that will be playing major roles on teams,” acting Warriors coach Willie Green said Thursday. “So you’re getting the best of the young core that’s moving toward the NBA, and even G League guys. … That’s what Summer League is about. It’s about a chance to get to see guys play in the systems that they probably will play in in a couple years.”
However sparingly that might be. Jacob Evans III played just under 7 minutes Thursday. The Warriors’ first-round draft pick took one shot and missed it. He recorded zero points, zero rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot, then retired to the bench. After the game, Green — normally one of Steve Kerr’s assistants — reported that Evans “got banged up a little bit.”
“I think he may have got his ribs bruised up a little bit,” Green elaborated. “Not sure how serious it is, but it was enough to pull him.”
Evans’ status is unclear as NBA teams pack up their satellite camps and head to Las Vegas for the bulk of the Summer League slate.
He is one of three summer Warriors likely to make the roster this year, along with center Damian Jones and power forward Bell. And Evans is the least-known of the three quantities. After three days of basketball, he remains a blank slate.
Evans missed Monday’s game against Miami with a toe injury that he suffered in practice last Friday. He returned to play against Sacramento on Tuesday and impressed analysts with his feisty defense and penetrating drives to the hoop; he also made just 1 of 5 attempts from the 3-point line, and displayed a jerky shooting motion that had folks whispering about mechanics. Thursday he turned in that nearly empty stat line, but found ways to make his presence felt.