Friday, July 18, 2008
Give me Mo
Every team in the NBA, except for the Boston Celtics, has a Summer League team. Some play in Orlando, most play in Las Vegas and even a few travel to Salt Lake City. Teams consider these leagues a chance to get new and developing NBA roster players some early tick before training camp. Summer League also presents an opportunity to check out a number of players not currently under NBA contract. On the flip side, it's a great chance for guys trying to catch on in the NBA to show they've got the skills to play in the best league in the world. Morris "Mo" Finely is one of those guys.
Finley has already carved out a nice career for himself in Europe. Growing up in Lafayette ("We say 'La-Fette,'" Finley told me), Alabama, Finley played his college ball at UAB, then made the trip overseas to pursue a pro career. He was the No. 2 scorer last season in the top league in Italy, Serie A, averaging 20.3 points for Solsonica Rieti. His success last season netted him a new contract with two-time defending EuroLeague champion, Montepaschi Siena. So basically, Finley is playing for the best professional team in the world outside of the United States. Not too shabby.
It's obvious that Mo Finley has skills, though he hasn't had much of a chance to showcase those talents. Jerryd Bayless and Petteri Koponen have played almost all the available minutes at point guard, as the Blazers goal in Las Vegas is to get both players as many minutes as possible, but Finley, who would like to return someday to play in the United States, has nothing but good things to say about his Summer League experience.
"It’s been fun. This is my first year getting a chance to do Summer League so I’m very excited," Finley said. "I’ve very thankful that they asked me to come. A lot of time once guys go over to Europe, teams here tend to kind of forget about those guys a little bit."
Talking to Finley for a few minutes, it becomes easy to see why the Blazers invited him to play in Las Vegas despite already having at least two point guards on the roster. He's about the nicest guy you'll ever meet, so much so that he thanked me for interviewing him. That doesn't happen much in the NBA. Don't get me wrong, we've got a lot of great guys playing in Portland, but they would still rather not answer questions unless they absolutely have to. That's just the way it is.
Finley, along with fellow guard JR Pinnock, even sacrificed some of his free time, in Las Vegas of all places, to help out with a basketball camp for kids put on by the NBA.
"I think it's a good thing for the kids," Finley said, "because when I was a kid, no NBA player ever came to talk to me, Summer League roster or regular season roster. I didn't see NBA players."
If being a great guy won you a job in the NBA, Mo Finley would be a starter for a long time. But that ain't the way it works, and rightly so at that. Then again, having game while also displaying humility and character never hurt anyone.