No Entry: Summer League With Sean Banks, Part II

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image via www.nba.com

The following is the second part of a three part series following Sean Banks at the Las Vegas Summer League. Part 1 is available here.

 

Sean Banks is determined.  I talk to him before the game and its pretty clear that he plans on doing anything he can to make a difference.  They're up against the Los Angeles Lakers, which isn't a bad team, but isn't a great one either, beyond Coby Karl.  Banks isn't going to make it onto another summer league team, so he's got to make it count on this one. And he's running out of games.

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One assistant coach told me a little bit about what it's like in the Summer League.

"You're not one of the rookies or guys on contract? Then it's stressful as hell."

In the Summer League, you're trying to play together, but you don't want to make your teammate look too good.  You don't want to rush shots, but you don't want to be invisible either.  And while the crowds are small and the NBA guys seem to look at it as a vacation, for most of these guys, this week could determine the difference between $30,000 a year and $500,000 a year.  So yeah, things are a little tense.

 

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Banks enters the game in the first quarter, and it's pretty apparent defense is where he's concentrating.  A lot of players in the D-League and at summer league stand around.  Banks is energetic and trying to get up in his man's grill.

He promptly airballs a three.

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Being 6-8, thin, fast, and athletic has its advantages and disadvantages.  One of them is that in the Summer League, for a team desperately short on big men and wings, the Raptors want to see Banks play a lot at the small forward, and some even at the 4 spot.

"I've never played the four in my life.  But when your coach tells you to play the 4, you play the 4.  But it's hard because I'm coming in cold, with not a lot of minutes, and playing a position I haven't played before."

The "cold" phenomenon is something that I've heard a lot.  Players will get called up to the NBA, and then sit, for long stretches.  Then when they're brought in, they're nervous and cold, unsure of what they're doing.  Not exactly a recipe for success.  It's how it is, but that's one of the effects.  It's not like these guys that have been consistent shooters in their careers are all of a sudden unable to hit wide open jumpers.  Wide open is wide open.  But getting into a comfort zone is hard for a lot of players.  There's no room for error when you're not in the league. Ever.

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Banks' athleticism is evident as he's able to slice across the lane, getting past his man and into the lane.  He doesn't have the vision to notice Mata-Real coming across the lane, though, and gets rejected.  His shot isn't on.  He's sticking with his man, but in Summer League, it's hard to tell who's blowing assignments.  The Raptors aren't talking to each other as much on defense as the succesful teams are, and it shows.  Still, they're hanging in there. And Banks is at least getting minutes.  But he needs to do something to show his talent.

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His former coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Dan Panaggio is quick to answer when I ask about Sean's strength on the court.

"Transition.  No question.  He's great in transition.  He's so athletic, and he's got such great power for his size.  He's able to hurt you in so many ways.  You get that kid out and run, and see what happens."

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With 6:12 to go in the second, the Raptors get a turnover on a blown drive by the Lakers.  They kick the outlet pass ahead, and again ahead to the streaking Banks.  He catches it and turns to drive, but the corner transition defender steps up on him. Banks dribbles behind his back, catches, drop steps, absorbs the contact draws the foul, and knocks down the layup for the and-one.  The crowd, which had been dead silent lets out a collective "oh."

Banks misses the free throw.  Typical.

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Banks is still sticking with his opponent, and the coaches are shouting out encouragement.  His teammates seem to like him and are smacking him playfully.  He drives to the basket, blows by his defender, and draws the foul.  This time, he knocks them both down.On defense, he's able to apply pressure on the double team in man-help, and still get back, thanks to his length.  He's looking better than he has all week.

Four possessions later, he's on the left wing.  Lucas drives, but seeing as how he's about two feet tall, has to dish to Banks in the corner.  Banks wasn't expecting it, and looks to give it to Graham, who has a clear shot.  Graham instead rotates to the key. Banks tries to dribble out of it, but the defense has collapsed and is now applying the double team.  Graham slices inside, even though the interior pass is cut off. Banks tries to force a pass to the outside shooter. Coby Karl's played in the NBA. He's too smart, too long, too athletic for that, and snatches it out of the air.

Banks is pulled on the next stoppage of play.

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The Raptros are surging, up by 9 in the 3rd. Banks comes in with a lot of energy, hustling. The result is help on the double, and then Banks out in transition. He loops around the defense, and as the defense tries to cut off Lucas, he lobs it to BAnks, who skies from just outside the paint and dunks with authority, giving the defender his own spot in one of those questionable Nike ads. 

The coaches are constantly talking at Banks, which is an improvement from the quiet treatment he's gotten for most of the week.  He responds to it with more hustle, and doesn't have any unbelievable gaffes.  He finishes with 9 points on 3 of 6 shooting in 25 minutes.  Not great, but a definite upswing, and something to feel better about. He's relieved after the game.

"Coaches talking to you is a good thing.  When they're not talking to you, you know you're doing something wrong.  I felt like I was able to get out in transition and do the things I do well.  I've just to keep my mind focused and not get so rattled. Those turnovers (4) were dumb.  I can play better than that. I know I can play better than that. "

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Banks had a good day.  Now it's back for a cab ride over to the Palms, and a call to his son.  Having a kid has impacted him more than anything.

"I'm still new at this, being a father.  But it's something I want to be good at.  Basketball comes and goes.  But I've got to be a good father."

After that it's trying to grab some food in a casino that only affords opportunities to get into trouble, with nothing close nearby.

"It's hard being out here, because, if I want to go get something to eat at night, I have to walk or take a cab. So if I walk, and a coach sees me, he's like 'What's he doing out walking around at night in Vegas?' I don't want any trouble, I'm just hungry."

He's got one more game to prove himself.  It's unlikely he'll sleep well.

Next, Banks has one more game, but has to get playing time to make an impact, and we finish our story about where Sean's headed.

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