LAS VEGAS -- Rows of fans simultaneously popped out of their seats, again and again, raising both arms to flex their biceps, a gaggle of meathead peacocks showing their appreciation for Warriors guard Kent Bazemore, the most intense and entertaining player at summer league.
The double flex was a staple of Bazemore's towel-waving antics last season. Now that he's emerged as the heart and soul of Golden State's summer league team -- and, yes, this squad does defy the summer league stereotype by consistently playing with both heart and soul -- he's finding himself on the receiving end from an adoring swarm of Golden State diehards.
In a fairly dramatic victory over the Lakers on Saturday, the Warriors' second comeback win in three days, Bazemore's play was simply magnetic. He leaped over the scorer's table on one play, and the flexes were right there in response. He threw down a hammer dunk in transition -- not the first time this week -- and up went the flexers again. Down the stretch of the fourth quarter, he got to the free-throw line, nailed a mid-range jumper and banked in a runner; by that point, dozens of fans decided it would be easier to simply remain standing and keep their continual two-arm tributes to Bazemore going at regular intervals.
All told, Bazemore finished with a game-high 26 points and scored 10 of Golden State's final 13 points to send the Warriors into the summer league semifinals on Sunday against the Bobcats. Should they prevail, they would face either the Heat or the Suns for the summer league championship on Monday. The 5-0 Warriors appear to be the solid favorite among the final four, thanks largely to Bazemore, who is averaging 19.6 points (fourth-best in Las Vegas), 5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Bazemore is a natural successor to the Jerryd Baylesses and Josh Selbys of the summer league world, capable of creating a shot just about whenever he pleases and unafraid to let it fly at a moment's notice. But he is a bigger, longer, more competitive version than many of the other shoot-first guards that have dominated this summer circuit in previous seasons, and his most redeeming quality might be his lack of a short-term memory. No matter how many of his dunk attempts end with blocked shots or hard fouls, Bazemore keeps unleashing his right-to-left crossover, eager for the possibility of a poster and undaunted by the potential of more physical punishment. No matter how many times he turns the ball over (seven against the Lakers), he brings the Warriors right back down into their offense, eyeing the next possible opening.
Come training camp, Bazemore will have a different challenge, trying once again to find a way to crack into the Warriors' deep perimeter rotation that includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Toney Douglas. That said, coach after coach in Las Vegas this week has preached the importance of immediate and consistent energy from their reserves, and that is clearly not a problem for Bazemore. What's more, the on-scene impact of his play would seem to suggest that he falls into the "You can't keep him off the court" category, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been viewing "The Kent Show" firsthand this week. Golden State's fans are clearly riding high after a carefree and electric run through the 2013 playoffs and a solid offseason that saw the addition of Iguodala. No other group comes close to matching the size and enthusiasm of the Warriors fanbase in Las Vegas. While it goes without saying that Golden State's success here pales in comparison to the franchise's bigger picture, Bazemore is giving a long-suffering group plenty to cheer about as they keep their months-long party going deep into July.