Summer League isn’t the be-all-end-all, but it does provide a nice platform for NBA rookies to dip their toes into the water.
The mid-August experience was no different for a pair of Oklahoma City Thunder second-round picks in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aaron Wiggins.
Both players flashed at times across OKC’s five games in Las Vegas, but the most important thing was just getting into the flow of life in the NBA, said OKC interim Summer League head coach Kameron Woods.
“We threw a lot at them in a short amount of time. (We) tried to stretch those guys so they’re taking on a lot of information and they’re also playing a lot of games and playing a lot of minutes,” Woods said during a Zoom press conference at the conclusion of Summer League. “So the biggest thing I tiro from them was just their ability to carry over game by game and the mental ability to be able to get to the next game and wash the other one away.
“I think those are skills coming out of college that are really important to learn and try to engrave in those guys, and I thought they both did a really good job of that.”
Wiggins will have to walk the tough path of gettin this two-way deal converted into a full fledged NBA contract with the Thunder, but he said the experience in Summer League has helped him start the adjustment process.
“That’s the dream growing up, playing with the best players in the world and against the best players in the world. So obviously, everybody out there is really talented,” he said. “The physicality is completely different, the speed of the game is a little bit more different… There’s a lot that’s different in terms of transition from college to playing pro basketball, but (I’m) just continuing to play my position, play my role and get better every day.”
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Robinson-Earl will have his own battles to fight in Year 1 with the Thunder.
Though he won’t have to fight for a spot on the roster off of a two-way deal like Wiggins, Robinson-Earl will get put in tough spots every night as he bounces between a stretch 4 and a stretch 5, much like Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby and Aleksej Pokusevski did a season ago. But Robinson-Earl isn’t intimidated by the challenge, and he said he’s going to rely on his basketball upbringing, especially his time at Villanova, to help him grow throughout the season.
“I think Villanova does a great job developing versatility and just being prepared for the most difficult situations,” he said. “I might be in one situation one night, a different situation another night, but just always having an open mindset and a great attitude and just controlling what I can control.”
Regardless of how the actual games went, Woods said he was just proud of the progress OKC’s second-round duo made in Vegas.
“They had performances where it showed and even in the performances were they might not have thought they played well, there were things they were able to get into the game that are like the most important things,” Woods said. “Being able to carry over some of the mistakes they may have made, or being able to see plays that they didn’t see the play before or the game before.
“And so again, credit to those guys. I thought they handled this week really well and they were able to take on a lot of stuff that we were throwing at them.”
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