The Southern California Summer Pro Basketball League opens its season tonight at Loyola Marymount with a matchup of interest to Laker, New York Knicks and Nevada Las Vegas fans.
Former Laker coach Pat Riley, who became the Knicks coach last month, is expected to be in the Albert Gersten Pavilion stands to watch former UNLV guard Greg Anthony lead a squad of Knicks rookies, free agents and veterans play the NBA Vets at 7:30 p.m. Park Plaza and KJLH, two teams from the league's free-agent division, meet in the second game.
The Lakers begin summer play at 6 p.m. Monday against the Knicks. Laker players Elden Campbell, Tony Smith and Irving Thomas are expected to be joined on the roster by former Clipper guard Jay Edwards, second-round draft choice Anthony Jones and two names familiar to Pacific 10 Conference fans, Andrew Vlahov (Stanford) and Keith Owens (UCLA).
Jason Matthews, a former St. Monica High standout who was a four-year starter at Pittsburgh and the Big East's career three-point shooting leader, is also expected to play for the Lakers.
Bo Kimble returns to Loyola Marymount when the Clippers open against the Lakers Aug. 1. Loy Vaught and Jeff Martin are also expected to play, along with first-round draft choice LeRon Ellis and second-round selection Elliot Perry.
The most intriguing players on the Clipper roster are Igor Miglinicks, a 6-foot-5 guard from the Soviet National Team, and 36-year-old free-agent center Tree Rollins, who is hoping to play a 15th NBA season. Rollins, who spent 11 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, was released by the Detroit Pistons earlier this month.
The Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and Seattle SuperSonics will also field teams. The Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Washington Bullets will sponsor a combined team and the Cleveland Cavaliers have a half-interest in another squad.
The league also includes the Canadian Olympic team, featuring former Laker and Clipper Mike Smrek, and seven teams in the free-agent division, made up of players who have played professionally overseas, in the Continental Basketball Assn. or selected from a tryout camp.
In a sense the entire league, which runs through Aug. 11, is an extended tryout camp, with players hoping to win invitations to NBA training camps or roster spots in the CBA or overseas. Those with NBA experience use it to develop facets of their games that they are unable to work on during the regular season.
The league has had many success stories over the years. Bill Walton launched a 1982 comeback in the league after missing two NBA seasons and went on to resume a career that would see him play a key role in helping the Celtics win the 1986 NBA title.
Marc Ivaroni had played in Europe, but returned to compete in the 1982 summer league. His play helped him earn a contract with Philadelphia and he started alongside Julius Erving on the 76ers' 1983 championship team.
Tonight's opener gives L.A. fans their first opportunity to see Riley and Anthony as Knicks. Both are being counted on heavily to help the Knicks attempt to advance past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1973 NBA title.
Riley, who coached the Lakers to four NBA titles before becoming co-host of NBC's "NBA Showtime" for a season, watched assistant Paul Silas guide a group of rookies and free agents and three members of the Knicks' regular squad to two victories over a similar collection of 76ers in the Knickerbockers-Kutsher's Summer Shootout on Wednesday and Thursday at Monticello, N.Y.
Anthony, a 6-2 guard and the 12th player chosen in last month's draft, has yet to sign a contract, but increased his Lloyds of London permanent disability insurance policy to participate in summer drills.
"I can only get better; it can't hurt me," Anthony told Newsday after the first day of the team's rookie and free-agent camp at Purchase, N.Y. last Sunday. "I'm in it for the team. I'm like everyone else here. I'm fighting to get better. The way I see it, we have a new coach and a new system. I'm on a new level. I need all the jump start I can get."
The NBA Vets also have their share of familiar names in Corey Gaines (UCLA, Loyola Marymount), former Clipper Ken Bannister, former Laker Larry Spriggs and Cliff Robinson, a USC standout in the late 1970s.
Other players who have committed to play in the league include Laker guard and former Inglewood High standout Byron Scott, Clipper forward Danny Manning, Indiana Pacer guard Reggie Miller, Pooh Richardson (UCLA, Minnesota Timberwolves), LaSalle Thompson (Indiana Pacers) and Leon Wood, the former St. Monica High and Cal State Fullerton standout.