LAS VEGAS—The first time was the charm.
The Spurs, led by history-making coach Becky Hammon, defeated the Suns 93–90 at the Thomas & Mack Center on Monday to claim the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League title.
Hammon, a former WNBA star, is the NBA’s first female full-time assistant coach and the first female to serve as a head coach in Summer League. The 38-year-old Colorado State product, hailed for her high basketball IQ, was named to coach Gregg Popovich’s bench last season. Under her guidance, San Antonio went 6-1 in Las Vegas, shaking off to an opening night loss to New York to win six straight games and capture the title.
“You never know what your journey has in store,” Hammon said afterward. “You just work hard and keep your nose to the grind. You do things the right way, you treat people the right way, and good things happen. ... I’m just thankful that [Popovich] trusted me with the guys in that locker room, and that those guys trusted me back.”
The Spurs became the third champion in Summer League history, joining the 2013 Warriors (who beat the Suns) and the 2014 Kings (who beat the Rockets). Prior to 2013, the Las Vegas Summer League didn’t employ a knockout-style tournament.
Jonathan Simmons, an undrafted guard who has spent most of the last two seasons with San Antonio’s D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros, came off the bench to lead the Spurs with a team-high 23 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Simmons, 25, was named Championship Game MVP three days after signing a multi-year contract with San Antonio.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Simmons said. “I was able to to get a contract, win Summer League and then win MVP, that’s outstanding. That’s a shock, it’s a blessing.”
A tight contest that was tied at 39 at halftime opened up in the final period, as San Antonio ran off a 13-0 run to build a double-digit lead.
As confetti fell following the victory, Hammon received congratulations from the Suns before donning the red Summer League championship T-shirts, reading "Victory in Vegas," with her players.
“She’s a player’s coach,” Simmons said of Hammon. “Guys my age all like a player’s coach. She did a great job with us. She was solid the whole way. She did what she was supposed to do. ... It’s always good to be a part of history. This day will go down in the books for years to come. … I love her. I barely know her and I love her already.”
When Hammon emerged from San Antonio's locker-room celebration, she was soaked in Gatorade and quick to quip that Popovich would recommend a stronger drink.
“He’ll tell me to go get a nice glass of wine somewhere,” Hammon said.
Summer League MVP Kyle Anderson scored 15 points and added seven rebounds, but his four assists provided some of the night’s best highlights. Backing down a defender in the post, Anderson threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to set up a layup in the second quarter. Then, during the fourth-quarter push, Anderson threw a beautiful touch pass ahead of the defense for another easy bucket. Treveon Graham added 22 points for San Antonio.
Phoenix fell to 5-2 with the loss despite a solid night from Mike James, who shook off a scary fall to finish with a game-high 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists. T.J. Warren chipped in 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., Spurs executive R.C. Buford, and Spurs guard Danny Green were among the notable names in attendance.
The Spurs entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, knocking off No. 10 Brooklyn, No. 2 Boston and No. 14 Atlanta on the way to the final.
The Suns qualified for the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, beating No. 24 Milwaukee, No. 17 Chicago and No. 4 New Orleans along the way.
Anderson was named Summer League MVP and included on the All-Summer League First Team, along with Seth Curry (Pelicans), Norman Powell (Raptors), Doug McDermott (Bulls), and T.J. Warren (Suns). The All-Summer League Second Team included Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Larry Drew II (Pelicans), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), Noah Vonleh (Blazers) and Alan Williams (Rockets).