Summer league coaching lessons

Key takeaways for new coaches David Blatt, Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr

Updated: July 25, 2014, 3:29 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

Derek FisherGarrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesKnicks coach Derek Fisher spent the summer league teaching his players a new system.

A common refrain you'll hear at summer league is "it's just summer league," the idea that somehow the action on the court is invalidated by the very nature of the competition: witless rookies, semi-interested second- or third-year players and the remaining churn of nameless wonders who jack shots up with no regard for human life in an effort to get noticed by an international club willing to cut a check.

While some of those archetypes might actually exist, summer league is much more than that. It's a training ground, an experimental laboratory for rookies to find their way, an avenue for older players to try out new roles, and a means for hopefuls to snag a training camp invite.

But the experimentation doesn't stop with the players: On the sidelines, new coaches like David Blatt of the Cavaliers, Steve Kerr of the Warriors and Derek Fisher of the Knicks are trying to get their feet wet in a head role. And while summer league doesn't afford them the circumstances to figure out the obstacles of coaching LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Carmelo Anthony, respectively, it's a great opportunity to figure out their philosophical approach to coaching the game. Even though it's not personnel-driven -- most of the guys they'll coach won't even be on the roster on opening night -- there are still lessons to be learned at summer league.

Here's a look at key lessons each of the three new head coaches, as well as one new assistant, learned during summer league.


David Blatt | Cleveland Cavaliers
Key lesson: The rules

It might sound silly, but something as simple as "can we do that?" regarding a rule might not be clear, even for people who have followed the game closely. Example: Can you make a substitution during a 20-second timeout? The answer is yes, if you called the timeout, or if the team that called the timeout made a substitution as well.

Little nuances like that are the small bumps in the road an experienced coach who is new to the NBA, like Cavaliers coach David Blatt, might come across.

"I'm coming from a different set of rules ... and the best thing I can do is immerse myself in that and take my hits," Blatt said. "Nothing earth-shattering, just knowing the rules and what goes and doesn't go. [Being at summer league] has helped me a lot."