Ryan Greene/Las Vegas Sun
Monday, July 12, 2010 | 2:10 a.m.
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Every year, the NBA Summer League is full of unproven rookies and veteran free agents hoping to catch someone's eye, helping lead to fulfilling the dream of landing on a real NBA roster.
Typically, each team only has maybe one roster spot to gun for.
Oddly enough, that's not the case for the team considered now to be the odds-on favorite to win next year's NBA title.
For the Miami Heat, the number is undefined, but it's clearly caught the attention of those on the team's summer league squad, which opened up its five-game Las Vegas schedule Sunday night with a thrilling 77-72 triumph over New Orleans at the Cox Pavilion.
The Heat, of course, provided this summer's top sports headline last week by securing commitments from Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, helping to form a star-studded core of free agents that could change the NBA landscape for years to come.
However, on the other hand, Miami had to clear loads of salary space to fit all three contracts under next year's $58 million cap.
Outside of the Big Three, the only other player the Heat has under contract heading into next season is third-year point guard Mario Chalmers.
"These guys aren't naive," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who watched the organization's Summer League squad run from a third-row seat behind the bench. "Maybe we can uncover another Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony — names like that who have come through our system in the summer and not only earned spots on our team, but made our rotation."
Haslem and UNLV grad Anthony are both potential options to come back to the Heat this summer as free agents, but in the meantime, everyone wearing the red and black in Vegas this week is under close watch.
On Sunday night, a couple of them emerged.
Leading all scorers was guard Kenny Hasbrouck — a former Siena standout who earned a 10-day contract late last season with the Heat, but never logged a minute of game action.
Hasbrouck racked up 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and cashed a few clinching free throws in the final minute. But he also scored a huge rebound and steal late with the Heat still training, and registered a beautiful kick-out assist to Jon Scheyer for what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with just over a minute to play.
"Coming into it already before all of this stuff happened, the motivation was already high," he said. "This is everybody's dream, I'm pretty sure, so we're all working pretty hard to get it.
"Once all the stuff went down, that added just extra motivation to play with two of the greatest players in the world. So you just want to do everything you can possible to help the team win."
Scheyer is another likely top candidate for a roster spot, having already drawn rave reviews from the Heat brass after a strong showing at mini-camp.
In his pro debut, the former Duke gunner who led the Blue Devils to the 2010 NCAA title in March got off to a shaky start, but hit the game's biggest shot with the trey from the right wing off of Hasbrouck's dish. It was his only 3-point connection in three tries, but Scheyer was a perfect six-of-six from the free throw line and finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"I got the jitters out in the beginning," he said. "You want it so bad, obviously. I had a bunch of open looks, and I was going to be really mad at myself if I didn't make that last one. It was about winning, we got the win and I was happy to contribute."
Another key contributor for the Heat was veteran forward Shavlik Randolph — another Duke product — who had 18 points and six rebounds.
Meanwhile, six players on the Heat bench never got to take off their warmups, but chances are that the minutes will continue to spread around over the team's final four games in Vegas.
"They understand the landscape of what's just happened," Spoelstra said, "and the possibilities that might be ahead with our roster."
Sunday's other action ...
— The most anticipated rookie debut was a smashing success, as the Cox Pavilion was packed to capacity for the first pro performance put in by Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who was the top pick in last month's NBA draft.
Wall, who won national Player of the Year honors in his lone season at Kentucky, put his speed in the open court on display while registering a team-high 24 points to go with his eight assists in an 84-79 victory over Golden State.
He also had a strong connection with former UNR center JaVale McGee, who turned several of Wall's passes and lobs into 21 points of his own.
— In the day's first game, Denver Nuggets second-year point guard Ty Lawson ran circles around the New York Knicks in a 100-90 win, improving the Nuggets to 3-0 in Summer League play.
Lawson had a game-high 28 points to go with seven assists, five steals and three rebounds. Teammate Coby Karl — son of Nuggets coach George Karl — had 22 points and seven boards.
— Former UNR standout Luke Babbitt made his pro debut and led five Portland Trailblazers in double figures with 13 points in an 84-67 blowout of the Houston Rockets.
Fellow UNR product Armon Johnson had eight points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists in the win.
Monday's game to watch ...
It's a tie between a pair of nightcaps.
At 7 p.m. at the Cox Pavilion, Blake Griffin will lead the Los Angeles Clippers against John Wall and Washington. Griffin was the top pick in the 2009 NBA draft and lit up the Summer League a year ago, but missed his entire rookie season to a knee injury.
Meanwhile, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center, Memphis takes the floor for the first time after going 5-0 in last year's Summer League. Leading the way, surprisingly, is third-year star guard O.J. Mayo, who is playing in Vegas to get experience as the Grizzlies' new point guard. Mayo made his pro debut with the Grizz in Las Vegas at the 2008 NBA Summer League.